openSUSE 13.1 Available Now!

The latest release of openSUSE is now available.

Go forth and download!


A Month With Linux: Don’t Hold Your Breath

I have some friends who are going to roll their eyes at this post and then have a hearty laugh at my expense.

They probably have already laughed because they can quote this post verbatim. It is not outside of my normal behavior.

Basically, don’t hold your breath on me ever completing the “One Month With Linux” thing. If it ever happens, it is not going to be for a long while.

This does not mean, however, that I’ve settled on a single computing platform. Oh no, we could never have Bob finally settle on something and free that part of his consciousness for more important things! That would be too nice!

That’s for a different post.

So, I’m going to continue to count down the release of openSUSE 13.1 because this release is a test bed for what SUSE is going to do with SUSE Enterprise Linux 12 and I think it looks like an excellent release. I’m going to continue to use OS X, Linux and (gasp) sometimes even Windows because at least the first two have their strengths and weaknesses.

I won’t really talk much about Windows.


My Problem with GNOME 3: Follow Up

Here is a follow-up to my earlier post. Thanks goes out to Phil Wels for getting me the needed screenshots so that I can finish the comparison.

These screenshots were gathered from an 11″ MacBook Air with OS X Mavericks and the latest Firefox. Since Apple added an explicit full-screen mode since OS X 10.7, I have two images for comparison (and you can find the GNOME 3 and GNOME 2 screenshots in the old post).



I can definitely understand why Apple added the full-screen mode. When you split things up you get the following numbers:

  • Windowed content height: 660 pixels
  • Full-screen content height: 704 pixels

That’s a big difference.

Even more significant (in my eyes) is that it validates my gut feeling from earlier. OS X, even when using a regular Firefox window, shows more content than GNOME 3 (and even a few pixels more than GNOME 2). When you take into consideration the full-screen Firefox, then it gets to be ridiculous.

If I did my math correctly, you get the following:

  • openSUSE 13.1 GNOME 3: 634 pixels or baseline
  • SLED 11 GNOME 2: 23 pixels or 3.63% more
  • OS X 10.9 (windowed): 26 pixels or 4.10% more
  • OS X 10.9 (full-screen): 70 pixels or 11.04% more

You can see the advantage full-screen has on OS X 10.9. Of course, this matters the most on the smallest of screens (in height), and 768 pixels is about as small as they come … but it does show much GNOME 3 does crowd out content more than GNOME 2 and OS X.


My Problem with GNOME 3

I’ve had openSUSE 13.1 installed on a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 for the past weeks and it has worked pretty well. I’ve used the GNOME desktop mainly because it has the ability to call up a search box with a single button (the Windows key on this laptop). That allows me really easy access to most functions I need to accomplish.

However, GNOME 3 has bugged me more than a little bit for one major reason and I’ll use some pictures to illustrate it.



Notice the subtle difference? Here are two more pictures to illustrate a little bit better.



It is really subtle and only noticeable on a small screen (like the X220’s 1366×768).

The usable area for a Firefox window in openSUSE 13.1 GNOME is 634 pixels high. On SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) it is 657 pixels high. While that difference of 23 pixels (give or take a few, I was just cropping the images in Acorn) might not seem like a lot, on a screen where pixels are at a premium it can make a sizable difference in just how it feels. The SLED desktop, at least in this instance, just feels a little less cramped.

Now, this is an extreme case, obviously, but it makes a difference. Smash such large toolbars on the top of the screen feels oppressive in a way that the SLED one does not. GNOME 3 overall just feels a little bit heavier than GNOME 2 at the moment on these screen sizes. On larger screens, obviously, the differences are not as drastic.

At this point I should state that GNOME has taken a decidedly Apple-ish approach here with Apple’s persistent toolbar along the top of the screens. I don’t have an exact analog with which to test it with to see how Firefox fares on, say, an 11″ MacBook Air which has the identical screen resolution. I’ll try to have a friend screenshot that soon so I can pull it apart.

The point of this was not to bag on GNOME 3, but to point out one difference I have noted so far between the openSUSE GNOME 3 and SLED GNOME 2 design directions and the feeling I have when using them. It is interesting, at least.


A Month With Linux: Some Shortcomings

Sorry to report, but I am not starting it yet. Recently I’ve been playing around with the latest release of OS X, 10.9 Mavericks, and it almost derailed this entire project of mine. However, I still have plans to go ahead with it and at the moment I am using the pending release of openSUSE 13.1 as a milestone where I will need to make a final decision as to which distro I am going to use and which month I am going to devote to this little project.

Instead of just sitting around, though, I am going to post what are some things holding me back from just jumping in and doing this. Warning, this is completely and totally biased and just my opinions. I have been running an Apple-exclusive household for a few years now and I find Apple’s hardware and software to fit most of what I want to do very well.

However, I philosophically fall in-line with the open source community and would consider myself an advocate for those communities as well. Keeping all of that in mind, I really want to see things get more than just better, but great for Linux and open source.

  • Email clients are routinely a pain in the butt. I know that “webmail” is the default way for most people to consume their mail, but I like having a single program where I am able to bring in all of my disparate accounts and access them at the same time. Sadly, from what I can find, no one is really interested in a the same unified inbox as Apple’s can provide. I need to dig more into Thunderbird, but the lack of sane defaults kills me sometimes. I think that email clients are considered dead by a great many developers, and that is too bad because there is a ton of room for excellent email clients on Linux.
  • Lack of native applications is a pain sometimes. This might have more to do with the fragmentation of the Linux distributions more than anything else, but it really forces you into the browser for a great many things. I like the looks and feel of a truly native application, but on Linux the options just are not there for the sort of really excellent native applications I have become used to having on OS X and iOS.
  • I hope someone can help me with this one, but I have a hard time getting file system compatibility between Windows, OS X, and Linux machines. I know that FAT can work, but FAT has limitations I run into far more than I want. If someone has a modern file system I can use to make an external hard drive portable between Windows, OS X, and Linux I would love to hear it. I have some training materials along with disk images I would love to be able to move between those three operating systems.
  • For openSUSE, the lack of an openSUSE-specific theme for GNOME is kind of disappointing. OS X has a very distinctive look and feel, Windows has a very distinctive look at feel (don’t get me started on 8), but GNOME is GNOME is GNOME is GNOME … which might not be a terrible thing. The hard part is that I thought openSUSE/SUSE has an excellent theme for GNOME 2, but now it looks too “samey” for my taste.
  • Don’t worry, I won’t leave KDE out of this. The hoops you need to jump through to get some sort of “super button” on your keyboard is disappointing. For GNOME I just tap the Windows key and it brings up my search box. Not so in KDE. While I understand the philosophy behind it (and I spent two hours looking into it one day), it is still frustrating to not have a simple button I can push to bring up their menu.
  • KDE also has options for pretty much everything. I understand wanting to give people choice but … I guess it just doesn’t jive with my needs as much.

That’s a sampling. No deal breakers in there and definitely the opinions of a person who wants openSUSE to be more like OS X, which is a ridiculous thing to want.

With all of that said, I will still give it a try, and maybe some of it will grow on me over time. Still hoping some designers get the itch and really try to see how far they can bend GNOME to make a really attractive-looking openSUSE theme.

Another wildcard in all of this is what SUSE is going to do with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 12. While openSUSE has moved to having KDE be the default desktop, SUSE has not announced anything yet. If they move from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3, maybe there will be some work done there. If, however, they move to KDE then I think I might need to move on as well and learn to love modifier keys.