openSUSE 13.2 Review Supplement: Installation

May 1, 2015, 6 p.m.

by ORDINATECHNIC

Unfortunately installation in this version of openSUSE had problems, which is unusual compared to my experience with recent versions beginning with version 12.3. (I also used versions 7.1 through 9.1 before going to Windows exclusively, but of course those versions were always problematic, because of wireless driver availability and the uncommonness of dual or multi booting which required use of third party tools for partitioning.)

For those who want quick info, I have provided a list of tips below before delving into the problems and the detailed installation steps further below.

Installation Tips

Based on my experience installing this version of openSUSE on my specific hardware, I would suggest the following:

  • If you have trouble using the full 4.7 GB DVD iso on a DVD, try the live environment ISO.
  • If existing partitions are not recognized by the full DVD ISO, try the live environment ISO. Using the live ISO, you can "poke" the hard drive by accessing files from the existing partitions with the file manager in the live environment and then restart the installer in the live environment.
  • If you are going to accept the default btrfs file system proposal for the installation root, I would choose to set the RTC or hardware clock to UTC and set other installations, including Windows, to UTC. The Arch wiki discusses the necessary registry edit to do this for Windows here.
  • If you choose expert partitioner, accept the default file system btrfs, and create a separate home partition, there will be an error becuse the home partition will be included as a subvolume in the root btrfs system. Remove this subvolume to resolve the error. This process is shown later as one of the installation steps.
  • In the live installer, if the system is EFI based and booted in EFI mode, Secure Boot is enabled by default. On my computer, which is not the newer UEFI standard, but the older EFI standard, Secure Boot is not available. But the openSUSE installer enables Secure Boot by default. It can be disabled by acessing the bootloader settings from the installation summary screen.

Installation

The problems I encountered were generally of two types,

  • one being that existing partitions were not recognized when using the the full DVD ISO on a disc or when using the KDE live environment ISO on a disc,
  • and the other being that the live environment ISO on a USB thumb drive always booted into failsafe mode, which meant that the KDE environment had to be started manually.

In the end I used the KDE live environment ISO burned to a DVD to complete the installation on the same computer used to install previously reviewed distros -- a Lenovo V570 with an Intel Core i5-2450M, mechanical hard disk, and a Phoenix Technologies EFI 2.0 BIOS. After starting the installer, the existing partitions on the hard drive were not recognized, but after opening the file manager and accessing any content in one of the existing partitions and restarting the installer, the partitions were recognized. The YaST partitioning component was then able to propose a partitioning scheme that left the existing partitions intact and suggested two new partitions consisting of a root partition formatted with the btrfs file system and a home partition formatted with the XFS file system.

I should note that that I installed this release three times on this computer, once using the default btrfs file system for root and xfs file system for home, but after a scary instance of booting to a rescue console login, I suspected that the btrfs file system was not reliable yet, and reinstalled using the usual ext4 file system for both root and home. After three months of not having written this review and making numerous changes to the system, I decided to reinstall to start fresh for this review. In the meantime I came to suspect that maybe the cause of the boot to a rescue login prompt was a combination of using the btrfs and having many installations on the system all configured with the RTC set to local time. So on the third installation, I decided to configure all installations, including Windows, to set the hardware clock to UTC. Since then, in almost two weeks of using this instance of openSUSE on this system I have not had any such problems, and I even used the rollback feature of snapper made possible by the btrfs file system. I also re-flashed the BIOS, so the part of the GRUB that is written to the EFI firmware, is only present for this openSUSE installation and not for all of the other Linux installations that had been present prior to the re-flash in this multi-boot system. So only one GRUB installation to the EFI may be the reason that I didn't have any boot failures in this installation.

Installation Steps

The first screen after starting the installer in the live environment is where the language, keyboard layout are set. The license agreement is also displayed on this screen.

the main yast window
The first screen of the installer in the live environment
Language and keyboard layout are set here.

On the next screen you choose the time zone.

time related settings
The second screen of the installer in the live environment
Time related settings are configured here.

You can also choose to set the hardware clock to UTC, which is always recommended, even if you have a Windows installation on the system (see the Installation Tips section above on how to deal with Windows.) The other settings button takes you to where you can enable NTP synchronization and other NTP related settings.

Clicking next on the time setting screen takes you to the partitioning suggested by the installer. The suggestion is sensible, creating new partitions for/and/homein free space using the default file systems mentioned above.

installer's suggested partitioning
The installer's suggestion for partitioning
New partitions for/and/homeare created in unallocated space. The existing EFI System Partition and swap are recognized and mounted properly in the suggested scheme.

Because I had already created partitions for the new installation, I chose "Expert Partitioner" on the above screen, which brings up the following:

yast2 expert partitioner
The expert partitioner
Partitions can be created and modified here. Mount options and and file system options can also be set here.

Actions can be performed on partitions by selecting and right clicking. I deleted the two new suggested partitions in this way and selected the partitions I wanted to use for the installation. Right clicking on the EFI partition and selecting "Change" brings up a dialog for file system and mounting options. Selecting "Fstab options" brings up another dialog for the relevant options. This level of configuration is unusual in any graphical installer I have used before.

EFI System Partition options
EFI System Partition options
The defaults are acceptable, and the "Format partition option is, appropriately, not selected.

The options for the/and/homepartitions are shown in the following two screenshots. The partitions are set to the appropriate mount point by using the drop down in the "Mounting Options" area of the parent screen. I didn't modify any of the options here as this is my first experience with the btrfs and xfs file systems, but ordinarily, I would select "No Access Time" in the "Fstab options".

fstab options of the root partition
Fstab options of the/partition
I didn't modify any of the settings here.
fstab options of the home partition
Fstab options of the/homepartition
I didn't modify any of the settings here.

The file system options for the/homepartition are accessed by clicking the "Options" button in the "Formatting Options" area of the parent screen, below.

home partition xfs file system options
FIle system options for the/homepartition.
I didn't have any reason to change any of the XFS file system options.

After the partitioning is completed, if you have a similar setup to mine, your EFI system partition should have the Mount Point set to/boot/efi, the swap partition mounted at swap, the partition created for the home partiton mounted at/home, and the partition for the root installation set to be mouted at/. The "F" in the third column indicates that the partition will be formatted. Only the root partition and the home partition should have this indication. If the EFI System Partition is set to be formatted, you will not be able to boot into your other installed OSes. If the swap partition is set to be formatted the partition UUID will be changed, and if you have entries in the/etc/fstabof other installed OSes, indicating the swap partition by the partition UUID, it will fail to mount.

home partition xfs file system options
The YaST2 Expert Partitioner main screen after all desired partitioning settings have been made.

Clicking the "Accept" button in the Expert Partitioner should start the next part of the installation process, but I was given a warning as shown in the following screen related to the btrfs subvolumes to be created

home partition xfs file system options
btrfs filesystem subvolume creation error
This error occurs because the /home partition/filesystem is included as a subvolume which is not supported.

Removing/homefrom the list of subvolumes to be created in the btrfs system will clear the error. This can be done by right clicking the root partition in the "Expert Partitioner" screen, selecting "Subvolume Handling", and in the dialogue that opens, selectinghome, and clicking the "Remove" button. (See the following screenshot.)

list of subvolumes to be created for the btrfs root partiton
Remove the/homefrom the list of subvolumes of the root btrfs file system to be created.
This can be done by right clicking the root partition in the "Expert Partitioner" screen, selecting "Subvolume Handling", and in the dialogue that opens, selectinghome, and clicking the "Remove" button.

After the above error has been resolved, clicking the "Accept" button in the Expert Partitioner screen will take you to a summary of the partitioning for the installation, as shown below.

summary of partitioning
Summary of partitioning.
You still have an opportunity to modify the partitioning here, as you will later.

Clicking next here will progress the installation to the next step which is the user configuration. Besides entering the user name, the user's real name, and password, you can choose to receive administrator's mail, automatic login, and whether to enable sudo for this account by checking use password for system administrator. The encryption method for the password can also be set.

create user
Entering the user(s) information.
You can choose to receive administrator's mail, automatic login, and whether to enable sudo for this account by checking use password for system administrator..

If you didn't check "Use this password for system administrator, in the last screen, you will have to enter a password for root in the next screen, below.

enter root password
Entering the root password.
openSUSE allows root login by default, and doesn't set up sudo only administration by default.

Then a summary of the installation is displayed. Clicking any of the links in the summary will allow you to modify the relevant settings. Not every setting accessible with these links has been encountered earlier because of the limitation of the live environment installer, which the non-live full DVD ISO installer does not have.

installation summary
Installation Summary.
Any of the installation configuration settings can be modified from this screen.

Settings accessible from the "Booting" and the "System and Hardware Settings" sublink of the "System" section are configured automatically -- booting based on the presence of the EFI System Partition and whether the system was booted in EFI/UEFI mode, but clicking on these links at this stage allows these settings to be modified. The bootloader settings are configured automatically based on the presence of the EFI System Partition and whether the system was booted in EFI/UEFI mode. The System and Hardware Settings is configured automatically. The next three screenshots show the settings that can be changed for the bootloader.

first page of bootloader settings
First tab of the bootloader settings screen.
Secure boot can be turned off here. All other settings chosen by the installer are appropriate for this EFI system.
second tab of the bootloader settings
Second tab of the bootloader settings screen.
On this screen, the most common modification to the GRUB configuration, which would normally be done by editing the /etc/default/grub file. This is the value for the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT where the options entered by the installer can be change in the field "Optional Kernal Command Line Parameter".
third tab of the bootloader settings
Third tab of the bootloader settings screen
Probe other OSes is checked, appropriately, allowing other installed systems to be listed in the GRUB menu. The number of seconds the GRUB menu should be displayed before the default OS is booted.

Again, no other distrbution with a grahical installer has this level of configuration for something like GRUB configuration. Most of the GRUB options that would normally be set by editing the /etc/default/grub file after installation can be done on these screens during the installation.

Clicking the "System and Hardware Settings" link under the "System" heading shows the follwing screen, where information on the detected hardware can be obtained.

third tab of the bootloader settings
Detected hardware summary
Hardware detected by the installer is listed here. Clicking "Kernel Settings" at the bottom of the screen allows the changing of kernel options such as sheduling method.

Clicking "Kernel Settings" at the bottom of the screen allows the changing of kernel options such as sheduling method. Then from the installation summary "Live Installation Settings", cliking install starts the installation after a final confirmation.

third tab of the bootloader settings
Installation progress screen.
Unlike other distributions, there is no slideshow during the installtion.
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