openSUSE Leap 15.1 | Upgrade and Fresh Install Successes

openSUSE review titleEvery review I do is from a biased lens as an openSUSE user and this will be no different. I will be taking a biased look openSUSE Leap 15.1. I’d like to say this will be completely objective… but it won’t. openSUSE is the operating system of choice for nearly every aspect of my life for its technical merits as well as the awesome community that supports it.

This is my experience installing and upgrading openSUSE Leap 15.1 on physical hardware and a Virtual Machine. The applications on each machine vary based on their purpose so feel free to look at specific machines I have set up with openSUSE here.

Fresh Installation

I performed one fresh install of openSUSE Leap just to see if the installer has had any noticeable changes. The biggest and most welcome difference I could spot was the side bar installation step. This is something I have seen on many other installation tools and I am quite pleased to see it with openSUSE. It takes the mystery out of where you are in the process.

For a full, step-by-step walk through on installing openSUSE here.

I want to make one other note about a positive, remarkable change in the installer that I appreciated. Before committing to the installation, there is an option to adjust the CPU mitigations based on your needs. I left it at “Auto” to let the smart folks at SUSE and openSUSE determine what is needed for me.

Offline Upgrade

The first and recommended method of performing an upgrade to an existing system. I performed the upgrade on three systems so far without any issue. All of these were upgrading from 15.0 to 15.1. A wonderful trait openSUSE has is that the upgrade process is very straight forward.

On the boot screen, select Upgrade instead of Installation.

openSUSE Leap 15.1 Upgrade 0.png

Upon starting up the installation, you are greeted with the License agreement. Should you agree to it, next will begin the process of System Probing

Next, unless you have a tremendously complex system setup, you will be presented a location to perform the update. The installer will parse through the previously used repositories and give you the option to edit and or toggle the status for the upgrade.

The easy thing to do would be to let it automatically remove the old repositories and start fresh. For one two of the upgrades, I decided to go in there and change out any references in some of the repositories from 15.0 to 15.1 and toggle the repository active.  I had to resolve one set of conflicts that required a change from the Packman repository to the openSUSE official repository. Just reading the prompt will easily guide you through it. It should also be noted, even if you make the “wrong decision” it can easily be fixed at a later time.

If the installer recognizes an active network connection, you will be asked if you want to add online software repositories. No is an option but if you say yes, you will be given a list of suggestion online repositories.

After you select Next you are given a final installation summary with the option to make some tweaks and adjustments and a final opportunity to bail out.

Very nicely, this installer is the most verbose and wonderful output I have ever seen. It gives a fantastic, current status of what exactly is going on and how many packages with an estimated time left broken down by source.

After a reboot all three systems were functioning without a single glitch. It was simply fantastic.

Online Upgrades

I have one machine that I neglected to update to 15.0. It wasn’t a machine that was heavily used. Mostly just for my kids’ education activities that don’t require Internet access. A summer went by and I didn’t really think much about that old laptop. When I turned it on and realized it was still on 42.3 and had NOT been updated, I thought I would do an Online Upgrade. Since I really had nothing to lose and only smiles to gain. I went into the YaST module to manage the Software Repositories to change out any repository references that had “42.3” to “15.1”. Then, I ran the command in terminal

sudo zypper dup

After some time, this crusty 13 year old Dell Latitude D830 completed the Distribution UPdate, I rebooted the computer and it was, without a single glitch. I was rather impressed that it worked so well. I mean, of course it worked well, this is openSUSE but to be without a glitch or having to “faff” with it at all was quite surprising.

What I Like

The sheer durability of Zypper as a package manager and how it handles all the packages is absolutely astounding. I will concede, that APT, DNF or EOPKG may be just as good but that hasn’t been my experience with APT and I haven’t tested DNF or EOPKG as thoroughly. What I can say with the utmost confidence is that Zypper can do pretty amazing things when it comes to system package management. The interactive nature of it allows me to make the best decision upon any conflicts that may arise. Zypper is simply fantastic and has, as of recent become one my favorite applications.

Going from openSUSE Leap 15.0 go 15.1 was nothing special our outstanding. They both look the same, outside of some performance improvements. Visually, it’s the same, it functions the same.

When performing a fresh installation, I appreciate that you can choose your CPU mitigations depending on what you see as your threats. This is of course an expert function and for shlubs like myself, “Auto” is probably the best choice.

What I Don’t Like

Setting up the network with the openSUSE installer for wireless is a bit of a challenge. Not an issue for me because I prefer to plug into a proper Ethernet port. It is becoming more common to buy laptops that do NOT have a proper port due to whatever silly reason like cost reduction. Oh, sure, Ethernet on consumer grade machines is probably a complete waste for most but I am very much a fan of a “hard line” so perhaps I am the minority. I would prefer a more automatic process or something that presents itself for the user more approachable. This would eliminate some complaints I have heard about the installer.

The partitioning tool would be improved if the summary gave you a graphical representation of what was going on along with the written summary and perhaps some sort of easy buttons for new users. It should also be noticed that this is quite possibly the best tool for setting up a more complex arrangement of partitions just not the best for new users.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE 15.1 is an incredibly boring and unremarkable update to 15.1 or even 42.3 for that matter… which is fantastic, absolutely fantastic. True to form of openSUSE, nothing radical happens from version to version, just steady improvements to the underpinnings of the operating system.

The overall experience with installation and upgrades and using openSUSE, in general, is very positive and thanks to the Open Build Service along with the openQA, the experience of installing and upgrading openSUSE uninterestingly consistent. With this fantastically predictable behavior, openSUSE is most certainly where I want to stay. The operating system remains a reliable partner in your computing experience allowing you to do more interesting things on top of it. openSUSE frees you up to make, produce or develop to your hearts content.

References

openSUSE 15.1 Release Notes

Download openSUSE Leap

openSUSE Open Build Service

openQA

 

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Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU/KVM on openSUSE Tumbleweed

One of the beauties of a rolling distribution is that sometimes you are forced to use a new piece of software… My regular Virtual Machine application, VirtualBox was non-functional for a few days due to a kernel update and some sort of mismatch with the kernel driver or something… The positive is, I got to know a new Virtual Machine Application, Libvirt with QEMU/KVM. Quite honestly, I am not even sure what to call the application stack. The application is virt-manager which is libvirt and the application title bar is Virtual Machine Manager so maybe it goes by them all or I can’t make heads or tails out of the name.

Installation

I found I had to install a few things to make this work.

sudo zypper install libvirt qemu virt-manager libvirt-daemon-driver-qemu

Setup

Set up my first virtual machine. After doing a little reading and digging to figure out what was the best solution for me in my use case, which is, on a desktop testing other distributions or software in a virtual machine. This is how I set it up.

Initially, you have to Add a connection. Depending on how your system is out of the gate, or if you canceled this operation. Here is how you get back to it.

File > Add Connection…

Virt-Manager-01-Add Connection

For my purposes, I am using the QEMU/KVM user session as the Hypervisor. I also selected the Autoconnect tick box to ensure that when I started Virt-Manager, it would make this connection.

Next step is to create a new virtual machine. Since I am installing from an ISO, I selected the first option. If you are running a 32 bit version of Linux, you can select that architecture instead. Although I have not played with this as much, my understanding is you can use other CPU architectures here as well.

Virt-Manager-02-New VM

Unless you have already selected the media, it is at this point you can Browse to select the ISO you have downloaded.

Virt-Manager-03-New VM

Select the Brows Local button at the bottom of this window to search your file system for the ISO of choice.

Virt-Manager-04-ISO

The application will generally automatically detect the distribution, if it is not detecting it you can manually search or find a “similar” upstream project.

Virt-Manager-05-ISO

Next step is to set the memory and CPU. I elected to use two CPU cores.

Virt-Manager-06-Memory and CPU

The next step is to either select or create a disk image. In this case, I am using the default Create a disk image for the virtual machine of 32 GiB. It should be noted. Unlike VirtualBox, these disk images are static allocations for the size you set. They do not dynamically size based on the amount of used space on the virtual disk.

Virt-Manager-07-Storage Volume

The final step you are ready to begin the installation. Modify the name, customize the configuration and change the network selection if you see fit. I just use the Usermode networking. For my purposes this works fine.

Virt-Manager-08-Summary

Upon selecting finish, a new window will open and the ISO you selected should boot up. Since openSUSE booted just fine, any good operating system will work similarly.

Virt-Manager-08-GRUB Boot

Configuration

When you open but not begin running a Virtual Machine you have the ability to make modifications to the Virtual Machine Hardware. As compared to VirtualBox, it feels like you have a lot more control and also a lot more ways to have the VM misconfigured and not behave as you would like. Your mileage my vary.

 

Should you want to make changes to the number of CPUs, Memory or any of the graphics and network settings can be adjusted to suit your needs. I did not alter much of anything here. In order to make the video adjust as I would like in Plasma, I set the Display Spice type to Spice server and Video model should be set to QXL.

 

This will allow me to take full advantage of whatever screen real estate I have available.

Virt-Manager-16-Adjusting Plasma for monitor.png

This is also the part of the post you can point and laugh at my old, non-high-DPI screens to which I will respond, “my old hardware still works, thank you very much.”

What I Like

Qemu with Libvirt just feels much faster than Virtualbox. It has a kind of raw, running on “bare metal” feel as opposed to that slightly sluggish virtualized feel to which I am more accustomed. I do appreciate this performance enhancement. I do have to preface that this is not the experience I get from all desktop environments but Plasma does run quite well.

The interface, although initially a bit overwhelming, is pretty great. I am not going to go into detail on all the features as most of the time, the defaults work well for my use cases.

I don’t have any issues with any updates that roll down breaking this utility. I am not completely sure of the technical reasons as to why but it seems as though this project is less affected by updates to the Linux Kernel.

What I Don’t Like

Virtual Manager is a GTK application so it is not as nice looking as the Virtualbox Qt, although at the time of writing this, I see there is a project on Github called qt-virt-manager.

There isn’t an option to have a dynamically resizing disk so I have to be more careful with the number of disk images I keep on my primary drive in my /home directory. Thankfully a little bit of symbolic linking to a 3rd, removable, drive and all the qcow2 files are available. It is a bit of extra work but worth it for the reliability and increased performance Virtual Machine Manger provides.

The name of this application stack is a bit confusing. I don’t really know what to call it. I learned of it as Libvirt, libvirt is the name of the directory that houses my virtual machine drives (~/.local/share/libvirt). Just knowing Libvirt didn’t answer how to get it going as it wasn’t called that in the repositories so a bit of searching and reading documentation I was able to get it all together in my head and take some notes. So, I think the confusing name and the barrier to entry did make it a bit challenging but I appreciated the journey to get me to this point.

Final Thoughts

Virtual Machine Manager is a great, reliable tool that appears unaffected by changes of the affects of a rolling distribution. It is, in some ways, a bit more difficult to set up, but once you understand that the “Add Connection” portion and set up the QEMU/KVM user session, the simplest Hypervisor. You are good to go. There is so much more you can do with Libvirt and it’s components. I am only barely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Although the disk allocation is not as convenient in Virtual Machine Manager, it is easy enough to manage using additional storage and it also keeps me from allowing too many unused machines from littering my computer.

Ultimately, this won’t keep me from using Virtualbox but it does give me another tool to play around with and try stuff out. I am very appreciative of everyone involved in making this tool reliable and easily used for the average Linux user. I am especially grateful that this application stack is more tolerant to the rolling release model that is Tumbleweed.

Reference

Virt-Manager on openSUSE Software

Qt Virt-Manager on Github

KVM/QEMU hypervisor driver

Feren OS | Review from an openSUSE User

FerenOS review title

I haven’t been able to do one of these in a while but it is always fun to try out other distributions and experience another example of how to answer that user experience question. As part of the BigDaddyLinux community. I have given Feren OS a spin to see how it goes for me, the biased, well entrenched openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation is done by what looks to my poorly trained eye to be the Calamares Installation Tool. This is, in my opinion, one of the most user approachable installation tools I have used. Clean, not clumsy and but yet not so basic that you can’t configure it to your liking.

Feren gives you one option when it starts. Live Media mode. You can play around with it or go right into the installation.

The installation is straight forward and works quite well. When the installation tool starts up you get an animated wheel while it “warms up” or whatever, presumably detecting bits about your system and starts you off to select your language.

Next you need to select your location and keyboard layout. This auto detected my location and keyboard layout.

For the partitions I used to erase the entire disk because for this purpose, erasing the disk works fine. Next, I entered my user information. There isn’t an option to add multiple users and I am unsure if you were to do an upgrade if you would be able to pull in previous user information or not.

The installation process provides an installation summary that includes everything you just selected, Location, Keyboard Layout and partition layout. After you select “Install” it will give you one final opportunity to bail out.

During the installation you aren’t given a slideshow of distribution propaganda, just one image to stare at. I would have liked to have had details fly by the screen during this process. Not that most people would care about that sort of information but I happen to like it. When the installation is complete, selecting “Done” will have the system reboot.

First Run

I really meant to nab the Plasma version of Feren OS but instead seem to have snagged the Cinnamon version and in keeping true to my form… I just went with it. Cinnamon is a fantastic desktop environment and since I haven’t played around with it during my last Linux Mint journey, this was a good refresher.

My overall impression of this spin of Feren OS is that it is a kind of re-imagining of the Cinnamon desktop, set aside the technical shortcomings of Cinnamon as it is based off of Gnome Shell and is encumbered with the single thread process limitation, it just looks fantastic. The Cinnamon developers have done a great job of mashing up the visual capabilities of Gnome into a more familiar desktop paradigm with which many are familiar. No one can argue that that Cinnamon (or Gnome for that matter) don’t have a kind of pleasant, well polished smoothness to it with the right level of desktop effects as to not distract you but also give you that plush Corinthian leather interior feel.

The package selection of Feren OS is undoubtedly satisfactory. There will always be the debate as to what should be default as part of the installation but I am not going to belabor this point. It has all that you need to do the basic computing tasks, a browser and LibreOffice.

Theme switching is much like you would expect in Cinnamon but with Feren OS you get a nice dark spin on that GTK theme that is much needed. I still wonder why light themes exist…

An interesting feature is this very user friendly browser selector application. If you are not satisfied with having only Vivaldi or Firefox, you can try another by selecting the install button

FerenOS-14-Web Browser Manager

What I Like

Feren OS is a good looking desktop. Cinnamon seems to work very well and I like the theme customization options provided. The key selling point to Feren OS is the theme configuration settings. It is truly effortless and

The Browser Manager is a great tool that gives you a great tool to select additional browsers as you desire. I like the ease of which you can install and uninstall them. Well done!

The installation process is seemingly painless and I appreciate any installation that is painless. I can’t say that any of my hardware is odd enough to cause issues with any any distribution I have tried as of late.

What I Don’t Like

I didn’t dig into it enough to find things I didn’t like about it. Aside from the default choice being Cinnamon which is GTK and Gnome Shell 3 based and my personal preference is to shy away from GTK and Gnome, it is quite nice. I did have some issues with Cinnamon launching and going into a “fallback mode” but this is in a beta stage and from my understanding, a known issue.

Since this is based in Linux Mint, it does use APT for the package manager which is not my preference. That is a nitpick issue but also saying, I would like to see a Feren OS with an openSUSE base, specifically on Tumbleweed.

Final Thoughts

In testing these various distributions of Linux. I have come to a loose conclusion that what makes a distribution for me, at least initially, that what makes it appealing is not so much the default theme and appearance but rather, how quickly I can modify the theme and tweak the interface to my liking. Cinnamon, especially the Feren OS Cinnamon is very close to my liking and with a few clicks, I can modify the theme to not trigger a headache.

Feren OS is easy to install and the provided applications make it easy to get along very quickly. It looks nice and the defaults appear to be sane. The only thing in which I struggle a bit is trying to understand the the unique selling point and ultimate goal of Feren OS but I can certainly see that the theme chooser is probably it’s greatest selling point. After seeing how the “classic” version of Feren OS is set up. I will be checking out the Plasma version in the coming months. If the developer can make GTK sing a Qt version will be even better.

In the end, would I leave my beloved openSUSE for Feren OS? No, I would not. I did enjoy my time in Feren OS, I enjoyed the way the desktop is customized. I do hope that this one-man show keeps going with it. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop his distribution.

Further Reading

Feren OS Home

Calamares Installation Tool

LinuxMint 19.1 | Review from an openSUSE User

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