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Giving OpenSuse 12.1 a shot December 5, 2011

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux, Photography.

In our course through life, we all end up finding things that we enjoy and that we like to keep around. Linux and photography are two things that have added to my enjoyment for a long time. I remember when the first KDE was announced and the first time I actually tried it in a distribution called Mandrake (now known as Mandriva). As for photography, I have enjoyed it since I was a little boy thanks to my parents old Yashica SLR. I now use a digital SLR and like to get the most out my pictures. So, when I read about some of the features in OpenSuse 12.1, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. You can download it from here. I decided to use the Live KDE version.


Installation was not complicated, and could have been easier if it wasn’t for the preexisting data partition that I wanted to preserve. So, setting up the partitions the way I wanted took me a few minutes, but in the end it did exactly what I wanted. Really, installation of a Linux system is so simple these days that I don’t think there is much that needs to be said about it. Lets just move on.


This part is interesting. OpenSuse now allows you to set it up as a “Rolling Release”. The advantage of a “Rolling Release” system is that you don’t just get system updates, but also system upgrades. Of course, there are limits in how much can be upgraded this way, but a well implemented rolling release distribution can keep its users up to date, with the latest and greatest, for years, without the need of installing a new version of the OS. This is very convenient and practical. So, I decided to go ahead and do that for OpenSuse 12.1.

To set it up as a Rolling Release, you need to change the repositories that the OS uses to get its updates from. The instructions on how to do it are found in the Tumbleweed portal of OpenSuse.

Once that is done, you may want to add additional repositories. These repositories contain software that, for one reason or another, is not included in the base OpenSuse ones. Note that there is a special pacman repository for those using the Tumbleweed setup. However, the instructions for adding this repository did not work for me. I know I must be doing something wrong. This is what I entered in a terminal as root (it is all one line):

zypper ar -f -n packman-essentials http://packman.inode.at/suse/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/Essentials

I finally got it added by reformatting the command as follows (again, it is all one line):

zypper ar -refresh http://packman.inode.at/suse/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/Essentials packman-essentials

To install Dropbox I temporarily enabled the “contrib” repository.

After that, I simply went into YAST and launched the Online Update to make sure I had the latest.


Of course, the main feature of OpenSuse 12.1 is KDE 4.7.2 itself. If you have never used KDE, I certainly recommend that you do. I don’t think there is any other desktop with the conveniences and polish that KDE offers. Here is the way my desktop looks right now after I added an extra panel and a desktop widget for the weather (and oh yeah, I set one of my pictures as the wallpaper).

I don’t want to turn this into a KDE review. So I am just going to mention a few of the new things that I have noticed from this release.

For example, there is a new widget (I have placed it in the top panel) called “QuickAccess Browser” that is certainly handy. You can see it in this screenshot. It is the folder with the little star.

It allows you to quickly get to a folder and launch a file or folder from it, complete with right mouse funtionality. Nice and simple. It seems so obvious after you use it that you wonder why no one else has done this before. (If someone did I apologize for not noticing.)

Another small but very much appreciated new feature is the addition of a breadcrumbs feature to Kickoff the application launcher. This makes it easier to navigate through your application menu.

But, for me, the absolute best feature of this release is the inclusion of digiKam 2.2.0. It has many new features compared to the 1.9 version I have been using up to now. For example, it now has face detection support, image versioning, new features related to metadata, new RAW decoding settings, and much much more. I can’t wait to start exploring some of these.

And if that wasn’t enough, the guys at OpenSuse have configured and enabled color management throughout the system and in all the applications that support this.
Color Management

This is a very important feature for photographers because it allows them to match the output of their printers to what they see in the screen. Most people will probably not appreciate this feature much since most people never notice. But, for serious photographers this feature is a must have.

So there you have it. In spite of the economy and the political mess of the world, Linux keeps on advancing and improving. One of those things in life that is good to have around.