• OpenSUSE Tumbleweed progress report

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    As you may have seen in my previous post, I’ve decided to give OpenSUSE Tumbleweed (with KDE Plasma) a serious try as a daily-driver OS. Since I moved to Linux starting in 2015 (I used both Windows and Linux for a while; it was probably 2016 that I moved to Linux exclusively), I have mostly stuck to the Ubuntu world, with one notable exception before now. I moved to Fedora briefly when I could not get KDE Connect to work in the descendants of Ubuntu 20.04.

    I liked Fedora and adapted to it fairly quickly, but several things made me pine for my old home in Ubuntu derivatives (Neon, specifically). Dnfdragora was nowhere near as good as Synaptic, as far as package managers go. Fedora took a long time to boot compared to Neon, and the SELinux security package was very annoying and intrusive, compared to the AppArmor (used by Ubuntu and related) that just does its thing behind the scenes without getting in the user’s way.

    When I found a way to make KDE Connect work in Ubuntu 20.04, I moved back (and reported my fix to Ubuntu and KDE, where I had filed bugs about the issue). I stayed with Neon until the release of Ubuntu 22.04, when I moved to Kubuntu, which is very close to Neon in most ways. Neon takes about six months to rebase on the new Ubuntu LTS after its release, and I just did not want to wait. But then I had to wait for the newest version of KDE software, which is pushed out to Neon as soon as it is released.

    That quandry made me realize that my previous preference for avoiding as much change as possible, an attitude that came from my Windows using past, was no longer accurate. From the moment I upgraded to Kubuntu 22.04, I was thinking about installing new PPAs and updating things beyond what Ubuntu’s repos offered.

    What I really seemed to want was a rolling distro, one that rolls out new packages as soon as they are released rather than the usual Ubuntu model of releasing updates every 6 months (every 4th one being a LTS). The prototypical rolling distro is Arch, along with its derivatives (like Manjaro), but I wanted to stay within the .deb or .rpm package format worlds, and Arch does not use either of them.

    The reason for this preference is relatively simple: My printer’s driver comes in .deb and .rpm format only, and while it is possible to get it working in Arch (via their AUR or manually), the driver being restricted to those two format illustrates  that any given software I may be looking for in the future is probably going to be offered in those formats too. Ubuntu, using the .deb format, comes out on top there… its large number of users means that if a given Linux program is available as a package for one distro only, it is probably Ubuntu. There are many Ubuntu derivatives downstream (Mint, Neon, Pop!OS), as well as Debian itself upstream, and they benefit from that also.

    RPM, though, has a lot of support too. It stands for Red Hat Package Manager, so of course it is used by Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux, Fedora, and CentOS, which are some heavy hitters in the Linux world. It is also used by OpenSUSE and SUSE’s enterprise offerings.

    OpenSUSE fixes a lot that I didn’t like about my previous foray into the RPM world when I used Fedora. The YAST2 package manager is great, on par with Synaptic, if not actually better. YAST2 itself is a full suite of admin tools, and they’re really good and useful. They’re developed by and for SUSE/OpenSUSE.

    OpenSUSE also uses AppArmor, and perhaps because of that, it boots about as quickly as Kubuntu.

    I have been using OpenSUSE for a few weeks now, and while I did have some rough patches, it is now running quite well. I’ve come to really like YAST, and there are a few modifications the OpenSUSE devs make that really make life easier.

    One controversial thing about recent Ubuntu is that it dropped the native .deb installers for Chromium and Firefocx from its repos, replacing them instead with the oft-hated Snaps. This prompted Mint to start offering a native .deb of Firefox in its own repos (until then it had just used Ubuntu’s version)… but that Firefox is still not optimal for users of KDE Plasma, as Mozilla has refused to make Firefox integrate with KDE the way it does with Gnome. By contrast, Chromium and derivatives integrate into KDE perfectly well with no modifications.

    OpenSUSE has developed a patch to make Firefox integrate nicely with KDE Plasma, and even though it is open source (and thus available to other distros), none of the .deb-based distros have picked it up. For that reason, I’ve been using OpenSUSE’s Firefox in Neon and Kubuntu for a while now.

    It isn’t all that hard to get the OpenSUSE Firefox in Kubuntu, but it is more effort than just installing it from the package manager. To do this, one need only download the MozillaFirefox .rpm from OpenSUSE, then use the alien command to convert it to .deb format (sudo alien –scripts package.rpm), where package.rpm is the name of the package to be converted. When it finishes, just install it in Ubuntu, and do the same procedure with the kmozillahelper package from OpenSUSE.

    Each time Firefox updates, the whole procedure, other than the bit about kmozillahelper, has to be repeated.

    How sweet would it be to have that fixed Firefox be the one in the repo? With OpenSUSE, I have that!

    The KDE devs, some time ago, decided that allowing the Dolphin file manager and Kate/Kwrite text editors to run as root was too much of a security risk, so they put in code to block that. This has proven to be quite limiting compared to distros that do allow root access, which is most of them.

    KDE relented in the face of withering criticism, but only partly. By setting a couple of environment variables in the launch command, it was possible to bypass the root-blocking. This means that the out-of-box installation of KDE-based distros won’t have an option in the context menu for running as root, which is a pain in the butt if you are just starting with a new distro or if you are using a live session.

    OpenSUSE patched this bit out, and they have the Open as Root option in the context menu in Dolphin like most other distros. They did the same with the KDE text editors Kate and Kwrite too.

    It’s nice to have a distro developer/maintainer that will make these changes. They’re much needed, but no one else seems to be interested.

    On the negative side are the kernel options, or lack thereof. In Ubuntu, the distro repo contains every kernel they have ever released, and they have multiple different kernel versions that are actively maintained at any given time. They also offer low latency versions, if that is your preference.

    OpenSUSE Tumbleweed (the rolling distro; the Leap series are non-rolling periodic releases) is ideologically opposed to allowing older kernels. It’s a rolling distro, so you get only the newest of everything, kernel included. That’s unfortunate if you need an older version for testing or compatibility purposes, like when I want to use Veeam backup, which is not fully compatible with the 5.18 kernel in OpenSUSE. I can only make a file-based backup with Veeam (on a running PC) now, since the veeamsnap module can’t be used. I ran into the same issue with Fedora back in the day… even though Fedora was not the rolling release version, it is almost like a rolling distro in that it pushes out most new packages right away, like a rolling distro.

    Other than that, SUSE is doing everything I had Kubuntu doing. I’m no Linux guru… I know some things, but I am very aware of the limits of my knowledge. OpenSUSE even has their own version of Ubuntu’s prime-select package, which makes switching between the Intel and nVidia GPUs in a laptop like mine easy. SUSE’s is even better, from what I have seen so far, as it is faster and that it works with bbswitch to completely turn off the nVidia GPU in Intel mode (for lower power usage).

    I did have to fiddle around a bit to get my WINE (via Lutris) programs working properly with it, and I am not completely sure what fixed it, but it works great now. All of the drivers to get things like the keyboard backlight working (from Tuxedo Computers) either have .rpm versions or work well when converted by alien.

    Other than the backup issue, SUSE is working great, to the point that I am considering switching the order of the listed OSes on my .sig below. I will have to see if any of the drawbacks to rolling releases ever manifest for me (in other words, breakage). I will always have the ability to roll it back, as I make sure I have backups or snapshots of the old setup!

     

    Dell XPS 13/9310, i5-1135G7/16GB, Kubuntu 22.04, OpenSUSE Tumbleweed
    XPG Xenia 15, i7-9750H/16GB & GTX1660ti, Kubuntu 22.04, OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

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