Sunday, October 28, 2012

At Work with Linux: openSUSE 12.2 + Cinnamon on a Latitude E6510

I've been spending far too much time with this over the weekend, but then, I figure why not. This is one of the few times I can install Linux distributions with impunity. So I grabbed a DVD ISO of the latest openSUSE, version 12.2.

Funnily enough I installed the Gnome 3 desktop (Gnome 3.6 according to the openSUSE site) rather than the KDE desktop. After messing with the latest Gnome 3 desktop while I had Fedora running I actually liked the underlying technology, if not the visible implementation. When openSUSE finished installing I found I liked it's implementation a bit more than Fedora's, primarily for such little touches as a computer shutdown entry on the far upper right drop-down user menu.

In the end I would up installing Cinnamon 1.6.1 as my desktop. I would have done the same under Fedora 17, something I'd already said I would in an earlier post. With Cinnamon I finally have a desktop with a minimal touch that reminds me a bit of the Metro desktop and Google webpage designs.  The background may look a little wild, but that's the background, and it adds a bit of bright color to what would be a dull and gray desktop without it.

In spite of how I've been able to tune openSUSE and how it now looks, I may not keep it on the machine. It has a few problems rendering text, such as the following example:
Look at the visual garbage in the search bar and the text on the Bookmarks bar beneath the search bar. I see the occasional but regular corruptions on other applications, such as the Gnome terminal and other applications that render text. Long experience leads me to believe this is a graphic driver problem. This is the only distribution I've seen have this problem so far that uses the Nouveau open-source graphic driver. Oh, and it doesn't handle the E6510's Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN WiFi card, either.

One other issue that really annoys me when installing any modern distribution is where Open Java 1.7 (Iced Tea) is shoved down my throat. I have a hard time blocking its installation as well as removing it when it sneaks into the installation. One bad dependency is with Libre Office. I so want to use it, but if I use the distribution supplied version I get that unwelcome version of Java. I had thought that Libre Office would have removed Open Office's Java dependency, but I guess I was wrong. To get what I really want I have to install Oracle's version of Java, then go get the Libre Office RPMs and install them by hand. I also remove a lot of game and cutesy utilities along the way. Why is this cruft being installed on what ostensibly was supposed to be a software development desktop? It still takes too much time to fine tune a distribution, and the defaults for many key tools are always one to two major releases behind, or else of lesser quality than the official release (Java in particular). I certainly don't mind tweaking and fine tuning, it's the time wasted removing unwanted installed bits that annoys me.

I'm glad I've had this opportunity to experiment with several of the major distributions (RHEL 6.3, Fedora 17, Ubuntu 12.10, and openSUSE 12.2). There's a lot of polish all the way around, and the promise of Gnome 3 is beginning to show up on the desktop. I just wish Cinnamon were included as well as an alternative.

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