Not long ago, I was in the openSUSE Discord off topic chat room… or channel… whatever the terminology is, and the reasons for using openSUSE came up because someone needed a reminder. It was probably more tongue and cheek than anything but it is good, from time to time, to reflect on your decisions and ask yourself whether or not those decisions are still correct.
After doing a little reflection as to why I use openSUSE, what is its unique selling feature, I would say there are multiple and those reasons likely change in rank based on your particular use case. For me it is the combination of the tools plus a few herbs and spices that provide to me a reliable and stable base upon which I can rely which enables me to learn, experiment and potentially break it with multiple fail safe features to easily restore it to a pre-fiddling stage. I get freedom to fiddle with openSUSE without the catastrophic consequences of breaking it. It is quite literally everything I want out of a computer operating system.
Here are some of the features I think make it “Fantabulous”, today, in 2019.
BTRFS done Right
Although it seems like it gets a lot of flack on in the Linux world, BTRFS is a very reliable file system when implemented by [open]SUSE. There were other distributions that didn’t implement it well and a meme was born, riddled with falsehoods that it was not a reliable file system to use. Several tech media pundits still continue this meme… maybe they should use a distribution that knows how to harness the power properly. Keep in mind, not everyone can drive a submarine properly.
So what makes BTRFS great is that it is a copy-on-write file system supported properly by the Linux Kernel. The way openSUSE implements it makes for a fantastic snapshot system that allows me to effortlessly roll back the system should there be any issues with an update or if I decide to muck about on the system, I can roll the thing back to the last working state of the machine. Super handy and it has gotten me out of a bind more than once. It is as simple as booting into the last known working snapshot and running
sudo snapper rollback... like it never even happened.
Open Build Service for All
The Open Build Service is a fantastic feature of the openSUSE Project. This is not only the place that builds all the software for openSUSE it is also a place where community members can build and share software from their own home projects as well as help out with experimental and potentially the official repositories. If you have experience in building your own RPMs or any software packages for that matter, OBS not only alows you to do so but it does all the hard work of checking for dependencies while giving you the opportunity to share your hard work with the community of users.
One step cooler, you can also use the Open Build Service to target other distributions too. It supports Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and Arch to name a few. It also supports several processor platforms too beyond 64bit x86 that is most common. There is a fully supported (on Tumbleweed) 32 bit x86 as well as the likes of ARM and several different PowerPC platforms.
Interestingly, you can even target an AppImage with the Open Build Service which is a nice additional feature. It makes me think, if more projects used the Open Build Service, it would be a lot easier to keep AppImages of your project up to date.
YaST – Yet another System Tool
In all my computer-life experience, there has been no other system control panel that is anywhere as good and comprehensive as YaST. To just call it a “system control panel” does not do it justice as it is so much more.
You can, quite literally, do just about every bit of system configuration from here. Every tool here is not only exceptionally useful but works quite well. The user and group manager is top notch for managing such things. Recently, the Boot Loader module has become even more useful as of late by allowing you to select your CPU Mitigation posture.
Since there are so many tools, it makes for a rather lengthy, albeit well organized, list of modules. If you don’t want to browse through the list, there is the search option that will filter down the options as you type. You really couldn’t make something so complex as managing your system any easier and this is such a well done suite. This is essentially the same system tool that manages the installation of openSUSE so it is highly improbable that this tool will ever get neglected. Whether you run a Qt, GTK or Terminal only based system, you can access the same tool with all the same powerful features. From bow to stern, YaST is clearly a well designed, well engineered, flexible tool that does not get the credit it deserves. It is another reason that openSUSE absolutely Fantabulous!
By far this is the best package manager I have ever used. This is the package manager that is like an agent that works for your success. If you are coming from the Debian world, you can use APT just as you would and there are aliases already built in to direct you to the equivalent Zypper action but with the Zypper refinements.
When doing an installation or upgrade, the clarity of your interactions with the system is the best I have used. I use Tumbleweed primarily and when you are pulling down updates it is very useful to know what is being installed, upgraded, removed and additional notifications about actions post install, like requiring a reboot to take advantage of a new kernel. Zypper provides a very comprehensive summary of any actions and if there are any conflicts you are presented with a list of options where you direct Zypper how to proceed.
If you are tinkerer and you mess with your system to the point that you break something, not only do you have the integration with the BTRFS snapshot system that allows you to roll back but also, if you are running Tumbleweed, invoking
sudo zypper dup in the terminal and the way Zypper analyzes your system, it will essentially re-baseline your packages to the latest set and assuming you didn’t destroy your configuration files too badly, you will be back up and running.
Note: this is not a 100% solution but I would say, with great confidence, that will solve the problems you create by sticking your “nose-pickers” where they don’t belong 99% of the time.
I find it almost shocking that some distributions haven’t taken the time to put together a wiki for their distribution. openSUSE has one of the best wikis out there. Like any wiki, sometimes the information does need a new coat of polish and when I come across something, I do try to take the time to fix it. I have used the wiki a lot and because I have gained so much value in the wiki, I have felt compelled to continue to add what little I know into it as I know that when I need that information again, I and many others can refer to it.
It is great to see that openSUSE has made it a point to make knowledge management an priority. It is most certainly an important for users to get answers and guidance for a variety situations.
That Green Chameleon
It is often stated that marketing in Linux isn’t great. Say what you will, but by far the coolest of the Linux distribution’s mascot is the openSUSE Chameleon who’s name is Geeko. The logo and everything around logo is a welcoming friendliness that is unmatched. I can’t see any other Linux distro’s logo dancing in a music video or in computer animated shorts. When you see that logo, it is unmistakably [open]SUSE, it is not at any risk in being confused with anything else. I even appreciate merchandising of that logo into plush toys to begin the introduction of openSUSE to my children at a young age. The closest thing to a lovable distribution mascot is PuppyLinux but last I checked, there aren’t any plush representations of that mascot.
Whenever I have had a less than stellar day, a glimpse of that logo brings just a bit of a smile to my face and I think, “…can’t stop the SUSE…”
The openSUSE community is an extremely helpful and friendly group of people. Sure, like any community that is as big as it is, you are going to have a character or two that is going to require “extra grace” but that is going to happen anywhere there are large groups of people.
I have had numerous instances where people in the community have helped me solve problems, even built software packages so that I could get a thing working. Should you have to report a bug, the community members work with you to get the problems resolved. Even if you don’t really know what you are doing and are willing to answer the questions asked, you can create a useful bug report. You will not only help the project but will also learn something in the process.
The official openSUSE forums is a great place to go for help and the openSUSE Sub-Reddit has a lot of the same people there helping out as well. I have received so much help from the forums over the years and I do try to help others out there as much as my skill level can provide. In the 8 years I have been using openSUSE as my regular distribution, I have never received the “RTFM” on a question. Every time, they have helped me discover the problem to a greater depth and find the true solution.
The openSUSE Discord server is a good time. Not only can you get technical help but you can interact with other openSUSE contributors, developers, members and a full range of enthusiasts. It is a great way to see how the sausage is made, as it were, and flavor it the way you like.
There are several more reasons that I believe openSUSE to be so fantabulous but for the sake of not turning this into novel about my near unhealthy obsession over openSUSE, I will leave it here. Going down this thought bunny trail of Linux distribution reflection, I have further cemented my personal reasons that I have chosen openSUSE as my primary distribution of choice.