TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
SuSE SLinux

SuSE Linux Offers Easy Conversion

Plenty of Features, too

By Jim Bray

Tired of the crashing and burning of Microsoft Windows?

Maybe it's time to try Linux.

Linux is available in many versions, but I've just been trying SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional, a nice, stable version of the open source operating system some people say will kill off Microsoft. I doubt that it'll seriously erode the Windows marketplace soon, but regardless of that Linux does offer a lot of power and flexibility.

SuSE comes on 7 CD's or one DVD and includes a bundle of five manuals. This can be quite intimidating, but SuSE has split the books up into various topics so you may not need to pore over each one of them individually.

There's an overall reference manual (for those who wear overalls, I presume), a quick install manual, "Networking with SuSE Linux," Applications (because a pile of applications comes with the product), and a Configuration manual.

The Linux OS is evolving well, and each new version of the "Kernel" (SuSE 7.2 uses 2.4.4) ups the features and compatibility ante over previous ones.

A kernel is to an OS what an engine is to a car, in that it's the core element that makes the system work. The kernel provides functions such as memory management, device access (i.e. keyboard, mouse, USB, printer, video, etc), and a bunch of other services that computer programs need.

The current Kernel adds USB support for most mice, keyboards and printers and up to 64 gigabytes of RAM (now that's a pile of RAM!). It's also Pentium 4 compatible (SuSE says the system's also tweaked for AMD-powered PC's) and features a more optimized network interface, fewer bugs (hooray!), a more powerful firewall system, and better hardware support.

One thing I don't want to lose when moving to any operating system is the type of customizable GUI ("Graphical User Interface") that Microsoft does so well with Windows. Fortunately, SuSE 7.2 includes GNOME (v 1.4), a very customizable and friendly interface, as well as KDE 2.1.2 (including Konqueror Web Browser, which now supports Netscape plug-ins like Flash, RealAudio and RealVideo). In short, you get a choice of desktop environments.

The nice thing about such interfaces is that, rather than having to learn a bunch of commands that hearken back to the olden days of DOS (when computers were young and the world was wide-eyed and innocent), you can point and click on icons to move around and operate programs. I did DOS - and the old Apple OS and another system called CP/M - back in those days and I don't miss any of them.

The GUI's help make the transition to Linux for Windows/Mac people - which is most of us - much easier, but don't get too cocky: you're in for a learning curve anyway.

But there's more to an operating system than the OS itself: you need software to run on it. Most Windows and Mac software hasn't been converted to Linux yet, so if you're going to make any use of the Linux system, you need stuff like Office suites, Web development software, and the like.

Fortunately SuSE throws in some 2000 applications and utilities that, were you to buy them separately for the Windows or Macintosh environment, would cost you plenty of after tax bucks. You'll probably never use a lot of them, but they're there if you want or need them.

You get productivity applications like GIMP and ImageMagick, which are image manipulation programs similar in purpose to Adobe Photoshop and Corel PhotoPaint, and Star Office 5.2 - a complete "Microsoft Office-type" suite that handles word processing, spreadsheets, and the like.

There's even HTML editing software, databases, audio and video editing software, and a selection of "mini-apps" like CD, MP3, and MPEG movie players, as well as a bunch of demo software.

When installing SuSE it complained there wasn't room for a Linux partition on my hard drives, so I had to resize my Windows 2000 partition to make room for it. Products like PartitionMagic make this easy, but unfortunately it isn't included with SuSE. Fortunately, I had a version of PartitionMagic lying around…

Perhaps one of the nicest features of SuSE Linux Professional 7.2 is its price: it's a comparatively paltry $70, which makes it a pretty cheap way to decide if Linux really is for you.

If it isn't, Windows XP will be out soon…

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy

January 31, 2006