openSUSE Tumbleweed [Snapshot 20161204] Review

Dec. 15, 2016, 6 p.m.

by ORDINATECHNIC

Slightly over a year ago, openSUSE wisely merged its Factory development branch and the not widely used Tumbleweed rolling branch to create a new stable and viable rolling release, also called Tumbleweed, while still maintaining Factory as a separate development branch and a basis for Tumbleweed snapshots. The new Tumbleweed immediately solved one of the issues I had with openSUSE's regular releases -- with one year between releases, software available in the default repositories could get somewhat dated, especially with respect to desktop environments. With Tumbleweed, this is no longer an issue, as Tumbleweed always offers the latest available packages, including kernels and desktop environments on par with Arch, and sometimes even before Arch if optional repositories are used.

Of course, unlike Arch, there isn't a sudden breakage after an update -- this usually happens when using AUR packages or a change by upstream developers requires manual intervention. This convenience of not having to manually intervene after some updates or the processes required to make Arch usable (installing packages from the AUR, which is itself a chore when using the default officially supported process)[1] doesn't mean that openSUSE Tumbleweed is not suited to those who want knowledge of the inner workings of Linux. In fact, although openSUSE will work out of the box for beginners -- except for the lack of proprietary components, especially the GNOME edition which will install GNOME software by default, one gets the most out of using openSUSE and will only appreciate its strengths by knowing how it works.

The stable rolling release matched with the openSUSE's holistic and rational design, administration power, and flexibility, among other characteristics, makes it an excellent distribution for desktop/laptop users. With a small 128GB limit on the primary SSD of the new Acer V15 Nitro Black Edition, I had to be very selective as to the distributions that would have their root filesystems installed permanently on this disk. That I chose openSUSE Tumbleweed as one of the two distributions I installed to this disk gives an indication of my esteem for openSUSE Tumbleweed.

Review

Before discussing the characteristics of openSUSE that apply to both its regular releases, Leap -- currently at version 42.2, and its rolling release, Tumbleweed, I'll discuss Tumbleweed specifically, and how it differs from Leap (I imagine this is what most readers of this article are interested in).

In the early days of the present incarnation of Tumbleweed -- after the merge with Factory -- it shared the same artwork and theme of the openSUSE regular release, at that time 13.2. When Leap came into existence, it had its own new artwork in the form of a logo, a GRUB theme, a Plymouth theme, and a desktop background, while Tumbleweed was stuck with openSUSE 13.1 artwork and no logo. In recent months however, Tumbleweed has been getting the attention it deserves in this area with its own set of artwork and its own logo.

  • slide 2
    The Tumbleweed Default KDE Plasma 5.
    Notice that as in openSUSE 13.2 the desktop background seems to be a stylization of geckos scales.
  • slide 2
    The openSUSE Tumbleweed GNOME Default Desktop
    The GNOME edition uses the same background as Plasma and Cinnamon.
  • slide 2
    The openSUSE Tumbleweed GNOME Default Theme
    Note the custom Firefox start page which includes an animated openSUSE gecko mascot. The search box incorporates an additional search engine which searches the openSUSE Software Portal.
  • slide 2
    The Tumbleweed GNOME Default Theme
  • The Tumbleweed GNOME Default Theme
  • The Tumbleweed GNOME Default Theme
  • The Tumbleweed GNOME Default Theme
openSUSE Tumbleweed Artwork and Default Themes.
After months of using 13.2 or Leap 42.1 artwork Tumbleweed finally got its own artwork.

So now Tumbleweed has its own look, distinguishing it from Leap, but it has always been distinguished by a different purpose from that of Leap in that it seeks to improves the experience of desktop/laptop casual users, enterprise users, and less casual users, such as developers, who want the latest software. If you've read my reviews of 13.1 and Leap 42.1, the single most important issue I had with openSUSE was that software became outdated before the next regular release -- although optional repositories could be used to update some software. Tumbleweed also seemed to carry more software in its default repositories than Leap, at least around the time Leap 42.1 was released. In my review of Leap 42.1, I found that a very common and important program like Filezilla was not included in the default Leap repositories but was available in Tumbleweed's default repositories. Fortunately for Leap users, this seems to not be the case anymore, but the version available for Leap is much older -- as of 1 Feb 2017 filezilla-3.24.0-1.1.x86_64.rpm is available in the basic OSS repository for Tumbleweed, but only filezilla-3.12.0.2-1.1.x86_64.rpm is available in the equivalent Leap 42.2 repository (there is no Filezilla package in the Leap 42.2 updates repository).

As another example of the freshness of Tumbleweed software, openSUSE Tumbleweed made KDE's Plasma Desktop 5.9 (5.9.0), which added many new features, available in its January 31 2017 snapshot -- on the same day KDE announced the release of this version of the Plasma desktop, which was also the same day Arch made Plasma 5.9.0 available. Arch, however, was quicker in updating to the next minor version -- 5.9.1, a bugfix release -- adding it to its repositories on February 7, 2017, again on the same day KDE released it.

Tumbleweed completely solves the problem of outdated software through the rolling release model, but not at the expense of stability or by creating a high risk of breakage after updates. The only cost, as others view it, to openSUSE's model of providing timely software might be a large download when there is a large number of updated packages. Some on the internet see the snapshot method of rolling updates, where all packages are built together even when some of the actual software doesn't have an update, results in an excessive number of packages to download. On my recently retired Lenovo V570, which had eight distributions installed, so I didn't use a particular distribution regularly, there might have been an occasional update with over a thousand packages to update. Despite the complaints this isn't unusual in other rolling release distributions either. Recently, on the new Acer V 15 Nitro where I am using openSUSE almost exclusively, there may only be at most about two hundred updated packages per week and sometimes none.

Always having current software in Tumbleweed but without a loss in stability may be due to SUSE's openQA automated testing tool and the building of all packages at once together, and releasing updates as snapshots. According to the openSUSE Tumbleweed Portal:

The Tumbleweed distribution is a pure rolling release version of openSUSE containing the latest stable versions of all software instead of relying on rigid periodic release cycles. The project does this for users that want the newest stable software.

Tumbleweed is based on Factory, openSUSE's main development codebase. Tumbleweed is updated once Factory's bleeding edge software has been integrated, stabilized and tested. Tumbleweed contains the latest stable applications and is ready and reliable for daily use.

It is indeed reliable for daily use despite the warning on the openSUSE Tumbleweed Portal regarding proprietary kernel modules:

Due to the fast pace of kernel upgrade on Tumbleweed, 3rd party kernel driver modules may not be fast enough to catch up with the latest kernel version. In the unlikely case that your kernel driver module does not work on Tumbleweed, please consider using openSUSE Leap instead.

Please remember to also re-compile and re-install these third party drivers with every kernel upgrade on Tumbleweed; this includes the proprietary graphics drivers.

NVIDIA proprietary driver generally works very well with Tumbleweed.
and other warnings and dauntingly complicated instructions on other pages of the openSUSE wiki concerning Nvidia drivers. This was the reason that I had initially used the second slot on the SSD for Manjaro, thinking that it would more reliably and conveniently handle the updates of the Nvidia/hybrid graphics. But then I discovered the openSUSE Build Service Bumblebee repository for Tumbleweed which contains packages to automate and simplify the building, installation, and update of the necessary kernel modules for the proprietary Nvidia driver for use with Bumblebee -- which I discuss in openSUSE Tumbleweed (Snapshot 20161204) Nvidia Hybrid Graphics -- without having to use Nvidia's installer, which needs to be run after each kernel update. I was impressed with how simple the configuration of the Nvidia/Intel hybrid graphics was compared to Ubuntu, and that the simple setup had better graphics performance than both Ubuntu and Manjaro in that the framerates when using the Nvidia processor were the same as with the Intel graphics processor, unlike in openSUSE where, according to glxgears, the framerates were ~40 times higher.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how well openSUSE Tumbleweed worked as a platform for web development -- for using the nodejs system in particular, a very important tool for web developers. The latest versions of the relevant packages are available in Tumbleweed which is not the case with Leap. And unlike with Ubuntu everything was available without having to resort to external sources, and unlike with Manjaro some ancillary components did not have to be installed separately.

  • A comparison of the default OSS repositories of Leap 42.1 and Tumbleweed.
    The latest production use version of nodejs (nodejs6) is available in openSUSE Tumbleweed repositories as well as an older more stable version (nodejs4).
  • The Leap 42.2 Update repository.
    Only nodejs4 is available in the Leap repository, although it has been recently updated to a new minor version.
  • A zypper search for nodejs
    The latest production use version of nodejs is available in openSUSE repositories as well as an older more stable version.
The latest production use version of nodejs is available in openSUSE repositories as well as an older more stable version.
An example of of the advantage of Tumbleweed: nodejs6 is available directly from the openSUSE Tumbleweed repositories. Compare to Ubuntu 16.04 and openSUSE leap where only nodejs4 is available from default repositories.

Tumbleweed specifically solves the problem of outdated software in Leap for users who want or need the latest software, but besides the very latest in software all the time, everything about Tumbleweed is the same as Leap -- the fundamental strengths of openSUSE generally apply to Tumbleweed. It has the same holistic design, where all of the tools work together, whether GUI or command line, and the parts don't seem to be disparate parts randomly put together; it also has the same rational design, administration power, and flexibility as the regular release openSUSE. These strengths are evident when considering its comprehensive system configuration utility suite of programs called YaST, available in GUI and command line forms, its zypper command line package and repository manager program and its configuration files, and that although it offers the GUI and command line forms of YaST components, it also allows the user to administer the system through the traditional method of editing configuration files.

The YaST suite of system configuration programs is openSUSE's most important distinguishing feature. Aside from Mandriva and its descendants' Control Center, which is much, much less feature complete, to my knowledge no other Linux distribution has anything like it. I would even dare to say that YaST makes a computer with adequate system resources running openSUSE -- in terms of subjective feel -- somewhat of a successor to the professional and polished UNIX workstations of the late 90s made by Silicon Graphics (and not Apple, ironically, which uses a UNIX core).

The Main Screen of the YaST GUI.The YaST suite of system administration programs is unique among Linux distributions. It allows users to configure every aspect of the openSUSE system.
The Main Screen of the YaST GUI.
The YaST suite of system administration programs is unique among Linux distributions. It allows users to configure every aspect of the openSUSE system, even remotely. The openSUSE installer is actually part of the YaST system and includes some of the modules. The modules included in a default installation are not the complete set of available YaST modules.

YaST begins to impress at installation because the installer is part of the YaST system. Many of the components of YaST in the installed system are available in the installer, such as the YaST Partitioner. It is evident that the YaST installer and the installed YaST suite are aimed at enterprise system administration. This may be undesirable for some potential users who want the absolute in simplicity, but for users who want a fine tuned installation where many options are configured during installation while using a GUI installer -- for example, data partitions that should be included in /etc/fstab with all fstab options set and not after, who have an interest in learning more about Linux, or appreciate computer user power, YaST is a great installer. Even users who may want simplicity may appreciate the other major aspect of the system that can be preconfigured during installation -- the software that should be on the system, including multiple desktop environments. The YaST installer allows users to select every bit of software that should be included in the installed system, either from the 4.7 GB install media or if the network is configured from the normal repositories. (See the slides of the installation on the next page).

  • YaST ncurses Running in Konsole.
  • slide 3
  • slide 3
  • slide 3
  • slide 3
YaST curses Mode Running in Konsole.
The YaST suite can also be run in interactive mode in a terminal, a mode useful for administering a system remotely. Unfortunately the keyboard controls indicated by the program except the Fn keys didn't work in my installation of Tumbleweed.

After installation the YaST module that will be used by most people who prefer GUI programs for package management will be the Software Management module. A close second may be the Software Repositories module. Since these are discussed in some other pages on the site (review of 13.1, review of Leap 42.1, and introduction to openSUSE repository management), I'll mention some others that are useful but may only be used rarely. In all cases these GUI tools greatly simplify some system administration tasks and do so in a way that is not possible in other distributions.

One such module is the Sudo module, which allows the configuration of sudo. This module does not simply add a user to the sudo group, but allows the same configuration of sudo as can be done manually by using visudo to edit the configuration file /etc/sudoers as mentioned in the Arch Wiki page on the configuration of sudo.. The slides below show some of the screens of the Sudo module.

  • slide 1
    The Rules for Sudo Section of the YaST sudo Module.
    Note how the structure of what is found in the /etc/sudoers configuration file is reproduced here.
  • slide 2
    Adding a New sudo Rule.
    Adding a rule here will add a rule to the /etc/sudoers configuration file.
  • slide 3
    Adding a New sudo Rule.
    Adding a rule here will add a rule to the /etc/sudoers configuration file.
The YaST Sudo Module.
The YaST sudo module, as the name implies, allows system administrators to manage sudo. In this series of slides I am enabling sudo privileges for my user (brook).

Some of the other modules in the YaST suite include a module for managing users and groups, a module for managing systemd services, a module for modifying kernel settings, and a module for configuring the bootloader.

  • Managing auto login in the YaST Users and Groups Module
    YaST Users and Groups Module
    Managing auto login in the YaST Users and Groups module.
  • slide 2
    YaST Users and Groups Module
    The Groups section of the module.
  • slide 2
    YaST Users and Groups Module
    Displayed users and groups can be filtered by type. Note that my user is in the bumblebee group added by command line as discussed in the Nvidia Hybrid Graphics article but could have been added using this YaST module.
  • slide 2
    YaST Users and Groups Module
    The Default Settings for New Users section of the module.
  • slide 2
    YaST Users and Groups Module
    The Authentication Settings section of the module. Note the Help popup window which is available in all screens of all YaST modules.
  • slide 2
    YaST Widows Domain Membership Module
    Users on networks with Windows might find this helpful.
  • Configuring the default window manager using the <samp>/etc/sysconfig/</samp> editor
    YaST /etc/sysconfig/ Editor Module
    Configuring the default window manager using the /etc/sysconfig/ editor.
  • slide 1
    YaST /etc/sysconfig/ Editor Module
    Setting the default display manager manager using the /etc/sysconfig/ editor.
  • slide 3
    YaST Systemd Journal Module
    By default this module shows the entries since last boot.
  • slide 3
    YaST Systemd Journal Module
    Filtering options are available to select areas of the journal that are of interest. Considerably easier than using the journalctl command and its options in a terminal to find the source of a problem.
  • slide 3
    YaST Kernel Settings Module
    The PCI ID Setup section of the module must be for advanced users.
  • slide 3
    YaST Kernel Settings Module
    This section of the module allows adjusting the IO scheduling. Unfortunately the module doesn't seem to be able to set scheduling per disk.
  • slide 3
    YaST Bootloader Settings Module
    This module can install or reinstall the firmware bootloader and adjust settings.
  • slide 3
    YaST Bootloader Settings Module
    Kernel command line options can be set here.
  • slide 3
    YaST Bootloader Settings Module
    Some other GRUB options can be set here.
  • slide 3
    YaST Hardware Information Module
    Another example of openSUSE's professional and polished feel provided by YaST is the Hardware Information module.
  • slide 3
    YaST Hardware Information Module
    The display processors are displayed here with the Nvidia device expanded.
  • slide 3
    YaST Hardware Information Module
    All PCI devices are shown here.
  • slide 3
    YaST Services Manager Module
    The Services Manager module allows users to manage systemd services using the equivalent of running the systemctl program with the commands enable, disable, start, and stop.
  • slide 3
    YaST Services Manager Module
    The Services Manager module also allows users to display the detailed status of a service with the equivalent of systemctl status servicename.
Some of the YaST System Administration Modules.
YaST gives openSUSE users the option of administering the system with a comprehensive set of GUI tools or with the traditional approach of editing configuration files, and where required running programs that use these configuration files in a terminal. In my opinion this set of tools gives the impression that openSUSE has the same level of professional polish as UNIX workstations in their time.

The above set of slides show some of these YaST modules in use. All of these modules give the openSUSE user power and ease of use not available to users of other distributions, where configuration files must be edited manually and related programs that use these files run in a terminal. The availability of this suite of programs doesn't mean that the traditional methods are not available, giving openSUSE users flexibility that to use an all in one but modular GUI tool to administer the system or perform administration tasks from a terminal.

Anyone who has used another Linux distribution would agree there is nothing like it in any other distribution and would also realize all of these modules do nearly the same thing that can be done by editing a configuration file and/or running a program in a terminal. For example, the same thing that can be accomplished using the Bootloader Settings module can be done by

  1. installing/reinstalling the GRUB firmware bootloader in the ESP partition using
    grub2-install --target=x86_64-efi
  2. editing /etc/default/grub to for example add kernel command line options
  3. running grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg in a terminal to update the configuration
Another example from the above slides is the Systemd Journal module. One could run
journalctl --since="2017-01-01 15:56:37" --until="2017-01-21 15:56:37" | less
and then use the less pattern matching command &tpm to filter lines that contain "tpm" to produce the same information shown in slide 10, but it isn't as pretty as the output from the module.

The capability and robustness of YaST modules versus command line methods are not equivalent in all cases. Some modules may not be as robust as performing tasks in a terminal. The journalctl program, for example, has many more options in what data to display and how to display it compared to the equivalent YaST module. But the modules do simplify and improve the workflow of many system administration tasks. And again they are just an alternative to traditional methods.

The other significant element of openSUSE that demonstrates its excellent design is the command line package and repository management program (see screenshots on the next page) and its supporting infrastructure of configuration files and backend libraries (one of which, the dependency solver libzypp, was adopted by Fedora a few releases ago). The zypper program is well integrated into the relevant YaST modules. Unlike in Debian and Debian based distributions there is only one command line program that does everything (Debian has recently added a wrapper to the many apt-* commands to simplify its system) package management and repository management related. Its command line structure of commands, arguments, and options are intuitive, rational, and complete. See the reviews of openSUSE 13.2, openSUSE Leap 42.1, and the introduction to openSUSE repository management for examples. Even some more advanced tasks related to package management can be done directly from the zypper command line or the YaST modules such as repository prioritization without the complex apt pinning process of Debian. An openSUSE user may never have to look into the its Debian analog of /etc/apt/, /etc/zypp or edit any of these files in these directories. I've only had to do this once when adding the Opera's RPM repository instead of using zypper and this was due to Opera mishandling GPG keys.

The only file(s) that may need to be edited is one or both of the zypper related configuration files but only for general one time configuration of how zypper works. In my case I've only needed to edit the /etc/zypp/zypp.conf file to modify the number of and which past kernel versions to preserve during updates as a precaution against breaking the Nvidia for Bumblebee kernel module and to enable delta packages.

The core design of openSUSE is very good, but what about other less important aspects that some might care about such as theming, and usability and convenience adjustments. openSUSE doesn't do much in these areas. It usually has a very unique and original desktop background and Plymouth theme. Leap 42.1 used the striking gecko filament light bulb (this is used as the KDE startup background in this Tumbleweed installation snapshot), 13.2 used what seemed to be an abstraction of a gecko's scales as a desktop background which was also incorporated into the Plymouth theme. A little more work is done in the Plasma desktop with custom shell and window decoration themes, but these are usually just color adjustments to the stock theme provided by KDE. Other desktop environments are just stock besides the background.

Something that openSUSE does that I haven't seen in other distributions that specialize in KDE are special root profiles for the Konsole terminal and Dolphin File Manager. These profiles even have dedicated launchers. Strangely openSUSE does this only fore KDE Plasma and not Gnome, even though Gnome is also one the two prominent choices on the desktop selection screen; other desktop environment choices are only displayed after selecting other or selected from the software to be installed section later in the installation sequence.

As I mentioned in my openSUSE 13.2, openSUSE traditionally implements new Linux technologies and sometimes contributes to these projects. In that review I mentioned it was one of the first distributions to support UEFI and Secure Boot as well as systemd. Lately it has been the first to implement the btrfs filesystem, which allows the creation of system snapshots and allows booting into and rolling back to an existing snapshot.

The few times I used this feature, I found the ability to boot into a previous snapshot and rollback the system very impressive. In one instance while using openSUSE Tumbleweed I made a series of changes which broke some components of Plasma 5. I used the boot into an existing snapshot feature to boot into a snapshot which had a desktop environment installed which I had uninstalled after making the snapshot. What impressed me about this was the scale of the restoration, this wasn't just one or two files in a few directories, but from the aspect of what is visible to the user the entire system was different, and from the aspect of what is invisible every change to every file in the root file system was restored.

Although the Snapper/btrfs capabilities are useful, and work well as long as adequate hard drive space is allocated for the root file system, I chose not to use it in this installation of Tumbleweed for two reasons. First, the amount of disk space that should be allocated for btrfs is twice the disk space of what is necessary for the actual files, and in my case, there is not enough space on this Acer V15 Nitro's 128 GB primary SSD to preserve the preinstalled Windows 10 and install the root filesystems of the two Linux distributions I chose for permanent installation (data, home folders, and partitions for installation of Linux distros on temporary basis are on a second mechanical hard disk). Second, I don't know enough about whatever negative impacts there are to an SSD when using btrfs -- and how to mitigate these -- as opposed to the more typically used ext4 filesystem.

It seems that the aforementioned strengths openSUSE possesses is the result of its maturity -- it began in 1992 as SUSE -- and its basis as an enterprise operating system, with an interest in serving the needs of enterprise users and administrators. After SUSE was purchased by Novell and the openSUSE project was split from SUSE, openSUSE (and other distributions -- e.g. through the openSUSE Build Service) benefited greatly from Novell's support. During the time openSUSE was under the control of Novell the openSUSE infrastructure developed. Parts of this infrastructure are:

  • OBS (openSUSE Build Service)

    • The openSUSE Build Service is the public instance of the Open Build Service (OBS) used for development of the openSUSE distribution and to offer packages from same source for Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, SUSE Linux Enterprise and other distributions..
    • The OBS provides optional repositories that users can add to get specialized, alternative, newer, or proprietary software. Some OBS repositories are for software packaged by upstream developers. openSUSE also allows and supports repositories created by ordinary openSUSE users.
  • Documentation Resources

    • https://doc.opensuse.org
      • This URL is the gateway to the formal openSUSE documentation -- an actual set of books -- available for consumption in many formats.
    • https://www.suse.com/documentation
      • This URL is the gateway to the formal SUSE documentation portal covering the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop as well as SUSE's other enterprise products.
    • https://en.opensuse.org/Main_Page
      • The openSUSE wiki is not as comprehensive a reference as the Arch wiki, and in it is in need of some serious maintenance and reorganization, but it has some very useful articles, such as the one regarding Nvidia and Bumblebee.
  • SUSE Studio

    • SUSE Studio allows users to create a completely custom image of various types including a live ISO image of a SUSE based distribution for many platforms including VMs.
One of the most helpful parts of this mature infrastructure for me has been the OBS which provided the Nvidia for Bumblebee proprietary driver for my current computer. This particular OBS repository allows openSUSE to adhere to its FOSS principles or legal compliance while giving users the option to benefit from the performance of the proprietary Nvidia for Bumblebee drivers.

Unfortunately, over the years (I started using openSUSE while it was still SUSE in 2002 with a gap between 2005 through 2012) I've noticed that the attention that parts of this infrastructure were receiving has been inconsistent and were much better in the Novell days and steadily declined. The formal documentation that began as a set of complete books that came with the SuSe box set, and then available in many electronic formats were sometimes very outdated. With the release of Leap 42.2 though, it seems that everything has been updated. The wiki, however, remains very outdated, incomplete, and in need of reorganization. When I experienced the touchpad problem mentioned on the next page -- which was also an issue when I used Manjaro, I had to resort to the Arch wiki to learn about the issue and how to modify Xorg configuration files to remedy it.

The Main Screen of the YaST GUI.The YaST suite of system administration programs is unique among Linux distributions. It allows users to configure every aspect of the openSUSE system.
The Leap 42.2 Release Notes.
The release notes address a little of the issue but neither the openSUSE formal documentation or the openSUSE wiki provide comprehensive solutions to the issue as well as does the Arch wiki..
This is understandable as openSUSE can be considered the free version of a commercial product that provides resources to assist enterprise administrators with an online knowledge base that fills the same role as the wiki. But still, these.

Despite openSUSE's excellence in its fundamental design, power, flexibility, mature infrastructure, and adoption and contribution to cutting edge Linux features, it does suffer from some issues. Generally applicable to all releases and editions of openSUSE since 13.1 there have been many minor issues:

  • The installer usually has had some issues, although the current installation had no problems. My worst experience with the openSUSE installer was with the installation of 13.2. After the project decided to discontinue the live ISO (SUSE Studio is available for making a custom live ISO) the installer reliability improved for the regular release edition. Tumbleweed installation, however, continued to have issues. After successfully installing Tumbleweed in mid-2015 another installation in late-2015 was impossible because the installer switched to an ncurses type interface but not actually doing anything. I had to resort to installing Leap then doing a zypper dup to Tumbleweed. Fortunately, the current installation of Tumbleweed completed without any problems. (See the screenshots on the next page.)

  • The Plymouth boot animation is sometimes not properly configured sometimes displaying three dots and other times displaying three question marks on a blank background instead of the actual animation. This is usually resolved after additional the next boot or after an update.

  • Packaging sometimes has problems such that file conflicts occur during updates requiring the user to chose whether to keep the old or new version of a file. The conflicts are not with configuration files where zypper will save a new version of the configuration file with an rpm.new extension.

This installation of Tumbleweed in particular has seen its own specific problems.

  • One is a major annoyance in openSUSE's build of the KDE Plasma environment's Baloo file search and indexing system which I haven't seen with other distributions. At very short regular intervals Baloo causes the system to become completely unresponsive. The only solution that has worked for me has been to kill the associated processes baloo_file and baloo_file_extractor immediately after logging into Plasma. This is unfortunate because the file indexing feature is used by the Plasma Search widget to produce search results impressively quickly. Manjaro's Plasma and Ubuntu's Plasma from the default 16.04 repositories or the Kubuntu backports PPA don't have this problem.
    • slide 1
      The Baloo processes displayed in htop and the KDE System Monitor.
    • slide 2
      The packages associated with Baloo File Search. Deleting Baloo related files would delete the Plasma desktop.
    The implementation of Baloo in openSUSE Tumbleweed's Version of Plasma Is Very Problematic.
    The frequent periodic system unresponsiveness caused by Baloo will annoy everyone who uses Tumbleweed's Plasma.
    Another possible solution, which has been mentioned on some forum, may be to modify the ~/.config/baloofilerc file to change the setting first run=false after the system has been completely indexed. I made this modification to the config file which did not resolve the issue. The killing of the Baloo processes could of course be placed in a script and automatically executed using the KDE System Settings Module Startup and Shutdown.
  • I was also annoyed by touchpad performance with respect to palm detection when typing. The choices of which of the available Xorg input drivers to enable for the touchpad and the configuration of the chosen driver in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/ could have made a difference. This issue may have been exacerbated by my decision to select Plasma, GNOME, and Cinnamon desktop environements during installation. There is a little more on this issue on the next page.
  • The only other issue I've noticed in this specific installation Tumbleweed has been a problem with repository metadata during a major snapshot update that brought Plasma 5.9.0 to Tumbleweed, preventing zypper from successfully updating the package index. This type of issue is extremely unusual and has never happened in the almost two years that I've used Tumbleweed.
    konsole terminal showing the output of a zypper refresh command.
    Konsole Terminal Showing the Output of a zypper Command Resulting in an Error.
    This error caused by a problem with the repository metadate prevented an update to the installed Tumbleweed. This problem was resolved by openSUSE within two days the next time I attempted to update.
  • Most of these problems are minor annoyances with the exception of the Baloo problem which is more serious and needs the attention of openSUSE's contributes to KDE and openSUSE's packagers. Along with the other minor problems I've mentioned that apply to openSUSE in general, this is an indication that there needs to be additional quality control by the project. I've also noticed that there isn't a true separation between Tumbleweed and the regular releases, or there isn't a separation where there needs to be, as indicated by some non-user visible files still referring to 13.1. This lack of separation may be related to some of the little issues.

    Despite these problems, I have been happy with using Tumbleweed for more serious activities since the middle of 2015, somewhat regularly on the retired Lenovo V570 and HP EliteBook 8450w, and almost exclusively on the Acer Nitro V15 Black Edition. It's always had current software without the breakage that sometimes occurs with Arch and its derivatives when depending on the AUR for software and the occasional unbearable inconvenience which comes with Arch. It doesn't have any of the problems of Sabayon, another rolling distribution that I found unusable long term. Only Manjaro comes close to Tumbleweed as being a permanent installation for daily use. However Manjaro, although it installs and configures the proprietary Nvidia hybrid graphics automatically at installation, did not properly configure the driver such that frame rates weren't improved by using the Nvidia processor. openSUSE however, after one simple process to install the optional packages from the OBS impressively impressively handled the installation, configuration, and subsequent updates of the proprietary Nvidia hybrid graphics with a proper configuration giving significantly improved frame rates when using the Nvidia driver.

    openSUSE is a great distribution, and will remain as one of the two permanent distributions on the primary SSD. Hopefully the quality control that leads to the small issues I mentioned will be improved.

Quick Facts

FeatureAvailability
Architecturex86_64, x86, ppc64, ppc64le
Installation MediaGnome, KDE, Rescue CD (requires network) Live ISOs for x86_64 and x86;
Full DVD and Net Installer for x86_64, x86, ppc64, ppc64le
ISO EnvironmentsKDE and GNOME for x86_64 and x86; SUSE Studio can be used to create a completely custom live ISO with persistence, even customized for use in many types of virtualized environments
Desktop EnvironmentsKDE or Gnome are the main page options; Mate, Xfce, and Enlightenment are second page options; Patterns exist for LxDE, LxQt, Xfce, and Mate; Cinnamon can also be specified separately in software selection.
Package Formatrpm or srpm (source rpm)
Package ManagementYaST Software, YaST Repositories, and YaST Software Update GUI and zypper command line are primary, PackageKit and Apper are also used; GNOME Software is installed with GNOME editionrpm is a low level tool similar to dpkg that is almost never necessary

Download Options

The main software.opensuse.org page is reserved for package searches and as a starting point for installation of the current version of Leap offering in addition to documentation resources and basic installation instructions, direct link, metalink, BitTorrent, and mirror selection for the Leap Full DVD installer; and direct link, metalink, and mirror selection for the Leap Net installer. This page is also reachable by following links the Leap side of opensuse.org.

The Tumbleweed side of opensuse.org leads to the Tumbleweed Installation Portal.

  • The Tumbleweed download page.
    This is not as full featured as the main openSUSE software page which has resources for starting a Leap installation.
  • The Main openSUSE Software Page.
    This page offers much more than the Tumbleweed page.
  • Starting the Download of openSUSE Tumbleweed from a Mirror.
    I suppose that clicking the download link opens a mirror selection page. I continued the download with aria2, a great alternative for prozilla.
  • Verifying the downloaded ISO using gpg
    The page where the downloads are found lists the proper keys for verification of the ISO.
Tumbleweed and Leap Download Pages
At this time Leap seems to be getting more resources here, but Tumbleweed will likely get more in time.

Installation

I installed Tumbleweed on the Acer V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G-70EN) reviewed here.

Acer V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G-70EN)
ProcessoeIntel Core i7-6700HQ
BIOS/UEFIInsyde H20 UEFI Setup Utility; Insyde EFI version 2.40
GaphicsIntegrated Intel HD Graphics 530 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M
WirelessQualcomm Atheros QCA6174

  • slide 1
    The License Agreement Is the First Screen of the Installer.
    The License refers to Tumbleweed specifically. This wasn't always the case.
  • slide 2
    Network Settings
    A network interface can be selected here for configuration to use during installation (not necessary for installation).
  • slide 3
    Network Card Setup
    If a network interface is configured during installation, additional remote software sources can be configured allowing updated software and software not available on the DVD ISO to be installed.
  • slide 4
    Consoles Are Active
    The Installer runs in one console. Other consoles are active and selectable using Ctrl-Alt-Fn giving real-time log or other information. At lease one of the consoles is available as an interactive terminal with a prompt.
  • slide 5
    Suggested Partitioning
    After Network Setup, a suggested partitioning scheme is presented using btrfs by default. The installer suggested creating partitions on empty space on the second disk, with inadequate space for the root filesystem, considering it chose btrfs.
  • slide 6
    Expert Partitioner
    The Expert Partitioner allows users to view and manipulate partitions in great detail. The left pane allows selecting the mode of viewing the relevant parts of the system.
  • slide 7
    Expert Partitioner
    Selecting Configure in the lower right even more options.
  • slide 8
    Editing Mounting and Fstab Options
    Specifying a mount point for a partition selected in Expert Partitioner, in this case the partition for the root filesystem. The /etc/fstab configuration can be completly specified during installation. Encryption is available for the root and home partitions.
  • slide 9
    Editing Mounting and Fstab Options
    Specifying a mount point for a partition selected in Expert Partitioner, in this case the partition for the home filesystem. The /etc/fstab configuration can be completly specified during installation. Encryption is available for the root and home partitions.
  • slide 10
    Device Graph
    The Device Graph selected in the left pane of the main Expert Partitioner screen shows a schematic of all disks and partitions on the system and specified mount points.
  • slide 11
    Expert Partitioner
    Exiting the Expert Partitioner displays the Suggested Partitioning summary, but this time the specified partitioning configuration is reflected instead of that previously selected by the installer.
  • slide 12
    Specifying User Settings
    Auto login can be enabled here. Not enabling the same password for the root user will bring up a similar screen for the root user.
  • slide 13
    Clock and Time Zone
    The time zone can be specified as well as specifying if the Real Time Clock should be set to UTC.
  • slide 14
    Clock and Time Zone
    Selecting Other Settings on the previous screen allows configuration of NTP synchronization.
  • slide 15
    Release Notes
    The Release Notes are available from most screens of the installer
  • slide 16
    Desktop Selection
    GNOME and KDE Plasma are the main desktop environment options. A few desktops which have preconfigured patterns (like package groups in Arch or tasks in Debian) are available by selecting "Other". Even more available in the Software Selection part of the installer.
  • slide 17
    Installation Settings
    Next is a summary of the configuration of the system to be installed. Selecting any of the highlighted headers allows further configuration of settings not seen in previous steps of the installer.
  • slide 18
    Boot Loader Settings
    Selcting "Booting" on the Installation Settings summary brings up "Boot Loader Settings". Kernel command line parameters can be specified for the installed system by choosing the Kernel Settings tab.
  • slide 19
    Boot Loader Settings
    The Boot Code Options tab. The EFI system was properly configured by the installer. Secure Boot can be disabled here so that the optional components that would be installed in the ESP partition are not.
  • slide 20
    Detected Hardware
    Selecting System on the Installation Settings summary brings up this page which has a link to specify kernel settings.
  • slide 21
    Kernel Settings
    Selecting Kernel Settings brings up this screen where the IO scheduler can be selected in yet another tab called Kernel Settings.
  • slide 22
    Software Selection and System Tasks
    Selecting Software on the Installation Settings summary displays this screen where software can be selected by pattern.
  • slide 23
    Software Selection and System Tasks
    Selecting Details on the previous Software Selection screen allows detailed selection of specific packages. Like many installer components this is the same environment that is available in the relevant module of YaST.
  • slide 24
    Software Selection and System Tasks
    A warning that an experimental package is selected. Accepting the warning locks this package in the installed system.
  • slide 25
    Software Selection and System Tasks
    Additional packages are automatically selected to satisfy dependencies or preconfigured patterns.
  • slide 26
    Confirmation
    The user has a last chance to make changes before installation.
  • slide 27
    Installation Progress
    The Slide Show tab of the installation progress screen.
  • slide 28
    Installation Progress
    The Details tab of the installation progress screen.
  • slide 29
    InsydeH20 UEFI Settings
    On this Acer V15 Nitro VN7-592G-70EN, if Secure Boot is disabled in the UEFI settings additional EFI boot managers must be set as "trusted for executing".
  • slide 30
    InsydeH20 UEFI Settings
    Activating Select an UEFI file as trusted for executing displays this screen where the user can navigate the ESP partition to select the openSUSE GRUB efi executable.
  • slide 31
    InsydeH20 UEFI Settings
    Next, the entry for the openSUSE GRUB EFI boot manager in the list of EFI Boot Managers is specified.
openSUSE Tumbleweed Installation Using the DVD Installer.
Some screenshots of the installation. It would be nice if SUSE added a screenshot feature to the installer as Debian provides in its installer.

Package Management

I've discussed openSUSE package management -- thoroughly, I hope in -- on other pages on this site:

  • openSUSE 13.2 Review
  • openSUSE Leap 42.1 Review
  • openSUSE Repository Management
  • Build RPM Package for Installation and Management by System Package Manager
  • The last link discusses one of openSUSE's strengths in package management, the very straightforward RPM package format itself which allows users to easily build cusotm packages without a steep learning curve.
    • slide 1
      Some of zypper's Search Functions
      se is an alias for zypper's search command. Note that zypper itself can search for a package that installs a certain file with the -- provides option to the search command, without resorting to an external program. To me this is one of many examples of zypper's and openSUSE's design strengths.
    • slide 2
      Adding a Third Party Repository Manually by Creating the Repository File
      Note the difference in organization of the directories between Fedora and openSUSE. openSUSE places the relevant files in a subdirectory of /etc instead of /etc itself.
    • slide 3
      Adding the PackMan Repository Using Zypper
      ar and lr are an aliases for zypper's addrepo and listrepo commands. Adding the --details option gives details in the default configuration. The output that these commands give by default is configurable.
    • slide 9
      The YaST Software Management Module Showing One of the Bumblebee Kernel Modules
      The changes to the zypp configuration ensures the desired past kernels are kept, which in turn preserves corresponding kernel modules.
    • slide 9
      zypper Output Showing Repositories
      The output shows repositories and their settings, including prioritization.
    • slide 9
      zypper Output
      The top shows the end of output from the zypper command lu alias for list-updates. The bottom shows the beginning of an update with a summary of the operation and a request for confirmation to proceed with the update.
    • slide 9
      zypper Output
      The download part of an update in progress. Note that packages downloaded previously whether from an aborted update or an automatic download are not re-downloaded as in some distributions. Delta packages which reduce download time and size but increase installation time can also be configured by modifying zypper configuration.
    • slide 9
      YaST Terminal Version Showing Some of the Same Information as zypper in the Above Screenshot
    • slide 4
      Using the openSUSE Software Portal and YaST 1 Click Installer
      YaST 1 Click buttons can be found on certain third party websites. Clicking on these buttons opens the YaST Software tool to install software.
    • slide 5
      Using zypper to update openSUSE.
      Mesa-dri-nouveau is locked because I accepted a warning during installation that it is experimental. No nouveau related package is not necessary anyway, since I'm using the Nvidia proprietary drivers. The other restrictions are due to repository prioritization.
    • slide 6
      KDE Plasma 5 System Tray Actionable Notification of Updates
      openSUSE software management tools are well integrated into the desktop environment, even in uncommon ones like Enlightenment.
    • slide 7
      Viewing Software by Repository
      In this case the PackMan Repository Is Shown. It is important to click Switch system packages after adding the PackMan repository to ensure proprietary codecs and software are installed and updated from this repository instead of the default openSUSE repositories. It is also important to prioritize the Bumblebee OBS Repository over PackMan.
    • slide 8
      Viewing Software by Repository
      After clicking Switch system packages the link changes to Cancel switching
    • slide 9
      The PackMan Website Mirrors Listing
      Any one of these can be used as the actual URI of the repository when adding it to the system.
    openSUSE Tumbleweed Package Management.
    Some screenshots of openSUSE Tumbleweed Package Management.

Necessary Fixes and Enhancements

PackMan Repositories

It is an absolute must to add PackMan repositories. The PackMan repositories for openSUSE provide some proprietary codecs as well as programs that require codecs with proprietary ones enabled, such as VLC. PackMan also provides both the PAPI and NPAPI versions of Adobe Flash as well as some other software that may not be available form openSUSE. The PackMan repsitory can be added using:

zypper ar -f -n "PackMan for Tumbleweed" http://ftp.fau.de/packman/suse/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/ PackMan_for_Tumbleweed
In the above, the repository URL is for the entire PackaMan repository which includes the Essentials, Extra, Games, and Multimedia repositories. If you want to choose just one of these repositories, maybe the most necessary repo being Multimedia, append the name of the repository to the above URL as in:
zypper ar -f -n "PackMan for Tumbleweed" http://ftp.fau.de/packman/suse/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/Multimedia/ PackMan_for_Tumbleweed
Note that the Extra, Games, and Multimedia repositories require the Essentials repository, so that must be added first to use these repositories. Also note that you can choose the actual URL to specify for the repository by visiting the PackMan mirrors page. Clicking any of the links on the mirror page will open a directory listing of the repository.

In addition to adding the PackMan repositories, they must be prioritized to prevent a change in package version during updates to those in the default openSUSE repositories. This is important for packages like vlc and vlc-codecs where the PackMan versions support proprietary codecs.

The Nvidia proprietary drivers and supporting packages such as dkms which is required for building the driver kernel modules should be installed from the relevant OBS repository.

Proprietary Nvidia Hybrid Graphics

openSUSE configures the Open Source Nouveau driver by default even for a system with hybrid graphics. I would enable the proprietary Nvidia driver for Bumblebee as described here.

What Works and What Doesn't

Hardware

Every piece of hardware worked well with openSUSE Tumbleweed including all keyboard function keys, backlight control -- without any kernel parameters, WiFi, Bluetooth, and as previously mentioned the hybrid graphics with proprietary Nvidia drivers (for use with Bumblebee). At first I thought Bluetooth wasn't working because the default installation allowed pairing and connecting to my LG Tone PLatinum (HBS-1100) but could not output any audio to it. This was actually due to KDE Plasma settings. After playing with the audio settings, accessible through the Multimedia Settings of KDE System Settings, called Configure Desktop in openSUSE's implementation of the Plasma Desktop, I was able to output the audio to the headset. The configuration in openSUSE actually works so well the pairing created in KDE continued to work automatically in GNOME.

The only hardware related issue that I have is not really a problem but configuration choices openSUSE made with the respect to input device related Xorg drivers. The issue is that in Plasma the touchpad is not disabled when the setting to disable the touchpad when typing is activated.

terminal showing snippits of the Xorg log indicating what devices are using the libinput driver and what devices are using the synaptics driver.
Devices Using libinput and synaptics Drivers
All relevant devices are using libinput except the touchpad which is using synaptics.
This problem can probably either by using the libinput driver for the touchpad as well as the other devices, or modifying the configuration of the synaptics driver. The Arch wiki discusses the issues on its synaptics and libinput pages.

Multimedia Codecs

Another lingering problem I've experienced that has nothing to do with openSUSE -- and in fact may be entirely due to the ad blocking and privacy extensions that I use in Opera or sites blocking Flash -- has been an intermittent problem with Flash in Opera browsers. In the past the PackMan repositories provided the Pepper Flash Plugin extracted from the Chrome browser. More recently, after it became more difficult or impossible to extract the Pepper Flash Plugin from Google Chrome it was possible to install Google Chrome just to let Opera have access to its included Pepper Flash Plugin. Recent editions of Google Chrome however install the Pepper Flash Plugin in a subdirectory of the user folder (at ~/.config/google-chrome/PepperFlash/24.0.0.186/libpepflashplayer.so) instead of the traditional subdirectory of the root filesystem (at /usr/lib64/chromium/PepperFlash/libpepflashplayer.so where Opera can find it.

Since Adobe resumed support of Flash for Linux recently, the PackMan repositories have been providing two versions of Flash one version for NPAPI browsers such as Firefox and another version for PAPPI browsers such as Chrome and other Chromium based browsers. The NPAPI version works without any problems that I have noticed in Firefox, but the PAPPI version in Opera doesn't work on some sites -- again this may be due to extensions not working well in Opera or measures taken by sites to force the viewing of ads or pop-ups, as I've lately seen similar behavior in Chrome.














Notes:

  1. [1]

    The default method for installing packages from the AUR is described in the Arch Wiki page on the AUR. When I used Arch, instead of following this process to install packages from the AUR, I would simplify the process by using an AUR helper program such as Yaourt, which is itself only available from the AUR, requiring the default process to install it. As Yaourt is an AUR program, it would sometimes break due to some change in Arch.

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