Since 1998 i’ve used Suse Linux religiously. It has been, since as long as i can remember, years ahead of other Linux distros in terms of desktop usability, configuration of system hardware and services, and maintaining a running system.
However… in the past several releases the software management tools (the ones which allow you to add/remove software and run system updates) seem to just get worse and worse. Simply starting up the “Software Management” tool from Yast now takes up to 5 minutes, because it re-downloads the lists of software from all registered software repositories on each load. i’ve got a 16mbit connection here and it still takes 5-10 minutes to fetch all of the data. i can’t imagine what the poor bastards who have an ISDN line, or slower, have to deal with. And installing a single package can take an hour or more while the tool “resolves dependencies” for an unpredictable, and seemingly arbitrary, amount of time. My guess is that Suse’s software management tools have code like sleep(rand()*rand()) placed in strategic locations.
The past two releases of Kubuntu (6.10 and 7.04) have convinced me that it is indeed time to abandon Suse. The *buntu family of OSes (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, etc.) now have a set of tools which are similar to Yast, at least for basic needs, and are otherwise every bit as feature-complete as Suse. And the software management tools… the APT system has RPM beat hands down. Doing a full system update is trivial, and i’ve even seen Kubuntu download and install more than 200 packages (while upgrading from 6.10 to 7.04) in less time than it takes Suse 10.2 to install a single package update.
Is the package management enough of a reason to kick out my long-time mistress for a new one? After two years of fighting with Suse’s latest round of software management tools and waiting for them to get better… yes, it is. The time it takes to run a single update on Suse is atrocious (even in a best case it takes at least 5 minutes to update a single piece of software), and updates are something i like to run very often. With *buntu updates are painless and fast.
i have one PC which still has Suse on it, but it’s only still running Suse because my girlfriend makes heavy use of the system and i don’t want to pull the rug out from underneath her. One of these days soon, though, i’ll get around to moving her data over to the Kubuntu installation. She probably won’t even notice the difference, aside from the different login screen. i’ll certainly notice the difference, though.
Yast is still far ahead of *buntu in terms of configuring system hardware and important system services (e.g. printers, Samba, DHCP server, DNS server, etc.), but *buntu is catching up very quickly. And *buntu has the power of Debian’s apt-based tools behind it, which are so much more advanced than Suse’s that it’s not even fair to compare the two.
Suse is dead. Long live *buntu.
Strangely enough, a couple days after the above post was made, i found this related post:
Suse has announced that they are dropping their software update tools and opening their Yast tool to community development.
Another update: just to show off how easy and fast the Debian/*buntu package management tools can be:
i needed to install gimp… pay attention to how long it took to download everything:
root@owl:~# apt-get install gimp-data-extras gimp-print gimp-svg ... The following extra packages will be installed: gimp gimp-data libaa1 libgimp2.0 libwmf0.2-7 ... Need to get 10.6MB of archives. After unpacking 41.0MB of additional disk space will be used. ... Fetched 10.6MB in 7s (1398kB/s)
The installation took about another 15 or 20 seconds.