SuSE Linux 7.0

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If you like to measure your Linux distributions by the pound, SuSE Linux Professional 7.0 wins hands down.
Running X

Okay, now we can run startx and get into X, which defaults to the KDE desktop environment. I run the KDE control panel and try some of the settings. System sounds are disabled by default, and I notice that none of the default KDE sounds are associated with their actions. I set up the associations and enable sound, and they work as expected. I also tried an audio CD with KSCD, and it plays as expected, as did an MP3 I grabbed off my file server.

The rest of the KDE settings for colors, desktop, etc., are the same as those with which I'm familiar in other distributions. This is KDE 1.1.2, not the version 2 that everyone is talking about, although the beta comes on the SuSE 7.0 CDs.

If you prefer different Window managers or desktop environments, those are included too. I did not see the switchdesk application, common on Red Hat-based systems. When you have X working though, you can enable the graphical login kdm via YaST. Once this is done you have a choice of KDE, Windowmaker, twm or fvwm2. An interesting tool is DyDe (see Figure 3), a SuSE dynamic desktop configurator, that allows you to mix-and-match window managers and desktop environments on the fly. Once I went back into YaST2 and installed them, GNOME, Enlightenment, Sawmill and Xfce were also available.

Figure 3. Dynamic Desktop Configurator

I was pleasantly surprised to find a new version of the GIMP, version 1.2 prerelease when I went to do the screenshots for the article. The GIMP is the favorite graphics tool of most Linux users, and it looks like the new version adds some nice features. Xsane was also installed by default and works nicely with my HP ScanJetIICX.

The Kernel

The kernel version installed is 2.2.16, although the box claims 2.2.17-pre. Looking on the CD, it looks like source is there for version 2.2.16 as well as an assortment of precompiled modules in /lib/modules/2.2.16.

User Login

Logging in as a normal user, the KDE desktop is set up with icons for Netscape, StarOffice and icons for both my CD and CDR, my Zip drive and Bernoulli drive. You are also greeted with a SuSE welcome screen (see Figure 4). Clicking the StarOffice icon launches the StarOffice 5.2 Workstation installation, which lets you do an individual install for each user. This only requires 1.6MB of space per user in their home directories. StarOffice still uses their Star Desktop work space, but I understand that they will be breaking the applications up in the open-source version to come. With Netscape 4.73 up and running, I initiated a call to the Internet from my server and successfully navigated to the SuSE web site, so my gateway setup is working. The local Apache server launches a cute page with links to local documentation, as well as SuSE's site (see Figure 5).

Figure 4. SuSE Welcome Screen

Figure 5. SuSE Links Page

Even after all these years, pine is still my e-mail reader of choice, and there it was, like an old friend, along with fetchmail. If you go for the GUI e-mail programs, kmail and Netscape messenger are installed by default with many more on the CDs.

There's also an alternate file manager for KDE—kruiser, which is an MS Explorer-style file browser.

On the commercial applications side, there are an assortment of free and demo versions including VMware, ADABAS D Personal Edition, Arkeia Backup, Lutris Enhydra, Hummingbird Exceed and Via Voice.

I won't go into all of the packages installed or on the CD, or this would turn into a SuSE 7.0 supplement. Suffice it to say with the wealth of applications provided, I don't think you will be needing to go to freshmeat or rpmfind for a while.

ReiserFS Tests

Since the journaling aspect of ReiserFS seems to be what everyone talks about, and this system is essentially virginal, I decided to do a completely unscientific test. I backed out of X, reverting to the graphical kdm login, then switched to VT1, logging in as root, typed “sync” to sync the file system and did the unthinkable—hit the power switch. As you might expect, when I booted back up, the kernel notes that the file system was not closed out properly and proceeds to run fsck on the ext2 partitions. For the /usr2 and /home2, at 1.5GB and 900MB, this takes 20-40 seconds each and recovers without any serious issues. Remember, I did do a sync, which flushes the disk cache buffers. For /usr and /home, which are ReiserFS, the kernel runs reiserfsck, and it completes two to seven journaled entries in one second and moves on—nice! Just for laughs, I repeated this test a couple of times with and without syncing, with similar results. Don't use this as your first line of defense for catastrophic failure, but it does look like a good way to get up and running quickly in case of such an emergency.

The messages I read on the Net talked of speed issues in using ReiserFS instead of ext2. To get a look at this, I downloaded bonnie from freshmeat.net and ran a couple of tests. In both cases, I was the only one logged into the system via Telnet with kdm running but no X session. All the rest of the system dæmons were those running by default.

Listing 1

On the single 200M file there did not seem to be much difference. On the 30 files tested, it looks like ReiserFS does have a bit of a cost in terms of speed, looking at the /sec readings. Again, this is not exactly a controlled, scientific test, although I did run the tests a second time with similar results. I also ran them as root, so it did not seem to be a permissions issue. In actual use, I did not notice any performance hitch in running applications. Whether you want to go for the speed of ext2 or the safety of journaling is up to you. I'll leave ReiserFS running on this system for a while.

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