Wednesday, April 27, 2005

SuSE 9.3 Linux fails home-use test

While everyone is expecting that SuSE 9.3 will be the next generation of GNU/Linux distro that offers more comformance to home users, they probably will be disappointed by the next review by The Inquirer. They have a conclusion that Suse 9.3 might be good for the techies to play with, but it is a long way before it is any good for real home users. Here is the full articles :

Review OS still for techies

By Nick Farrell: Monday 25 April 2005, 10:25
SPINSTERS at Novell have been pushing the latest version of Suse 9.3 Linux as suitable for home users. However after a frustrating weekend, I can safely report that there is no chance of it ever being remotely useful for home users for some years to come.

Windows has its hold on home users because it is easy to install, there are few things that can go wrong, and if they do the average person can work out what to do.

Suse 9.3, which the Novell spinsters tell me can do all that and more, fails on every one of these points.

Firstly installation. Windows can take up to three quarters of an hour, you know something is happening because things move and pictures change. There were a few moments in my hour-long installation of Suse 9.3 where nothing happened, I was sure I had broken it.

There are three phases to the installation. The first from the boot-up disk downloads the core components. Then there is a reboot, which if you are not careful and have a Windows partition on the machine, will download the wrong operating system in the middle of your reboot.

If you do get through to the second reboot, and there is no indication which icon you have to press to do that, then Suse will download a list of software which it thinks you will need.

For a home user this list is crucial, because, as I found out later installing other programs is a complete and utter arse.

Not included in this list was a Suse flagship product, called Beagle which is supposed to search your hard drive and keep track of things for you.

How new users will know to look for this program if it is not installed in the default settings is beyond me.

Suse then asks you if you want to install any upgrades. Normally everyone would press 'yes''but Suse's upgrade process is more complex in comparison to anything they have seen from the Vole. You have to chose a place to download it from, you have to select the upgrades, etc. It was all a bit scary.

After it boots up it looks very pretty. Apparently you are able to chose between KDE and Gnome desktops on this version of Suse. Once again telepathy is required to work out how to do this. I ended up with KDE, but I don't know how.

Thw whole process assumed a lot of knowledge and this is where Suse falls down, at least for this ignorant user.

Now with the screen open, the fun starts. I opened the default media player and a little warning comes up saying that due to legal reasons some videos will not play.

There is a helpful suggestion in the warning that gives you a web site to pick up the missing codecs. The warning is completely right. In fact I could not find a single video that the player would play – the borked player could be made to be of no use to man or beast.

So I am left with having to download a player and codecs off the interweb.

In Windows if you want to download and install a program you go to a site, download it and Windows, or the software will install it for you.

Not so with Suse. You download a program, extract it yourself and, if you are lucky, you can then use something called Yast to do it all for you.

And don't bother trying to look at the installation read-me notes either. They are just advertisements for the idiots who designed the software and tend to go into great details about the licence agreement, which, as most users tell you, isn't as important as getting the software going. After two frustrating hours, I still didn't have video and gave up.

Next, I wanted to test this Beagle thingee since it had not been loaded by default and used Yast to install it. Nothing happened. Yast told me Beagle was installed, but there were no icons, nothing in the tool bar and nothing downloaded where I could access it. I then spent an ironic three quarters of an hour searching for the search software, before I gave up.

Don't get me wrong, Suse did some very nice things. It was faster and cleaner than Windows. 9.3 was able to find all the hardware I had successfully (although I had to download an extra driver to run my Nvidia graphics card).

If I installed it on my mother-in-law's machine and she used it for the Interweb and penning her poetry on the new look OpenOffice I suspect she would be very happy.

But anyone who wants to upgrade software, install stuff which is not on the disk, let alone play games is going to be frustrated.

My problem is that I really wanted Suse to be what it said it was on the tin. However someone not familar with Linux is left with the feeling that it is all like a secret society, where bits of information are assumed or given on the nod to the select few.

On this showing, Linux remains something for techies and it seems that Novell may have had its common sense gland removed in suggesting that its latest version is useful for home users seeking to share in the Linux experience.

Suse has no useful help material, no wizards, and it does some bizarre things that I have no idea how to fix.

For example, even when I shut the thing down, it insisted on rebooting itself.

And before the flames start and claim that I am a moron for not being able to get thing running properly, I should point out that I have had no trouble with every version of Windows since 3.1. Also I was able to guess ways to get the software to work that an average home user wouldn't.

Suse 9.3 might be good for the techies to play with, but it is a long way before it is any good for real home users.

Source: The Inquirer