If you guessed again that there isn't much else to write about, you'd be right! That's why I'm looking at openSUSE 11.4 GNOME today.
|Slab Menu + GNOME Application Browser|
I tried the 32-bit edition (and, for further clarification, all distributions I test are tested in 32-bit guise unless specifically stated otherwise) using a live USB made with MultiSystem. Because I didn't try the installation process with the KDE edition, this time I tried it in VirtualBox with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS inside a Pinguy OS 11.04 Mini live USB host. Follow the jump to see if the GNOME edition is as good as the KDE edition.
After the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text, which was unlike the KDE edition which presented a nice boot splash. The boot took a little time, but it wasn't a huge deal; anyway, after that, I was taken to the desktop.
|YaST2 installing Adobe Flash|
As with the KDE edition, Mozilla Firefox is present at version 4.0 beta 12. Hopefully there will be official updates without the need to use third-party sources, because Mozilla Firefox versions 4 and 5 are already obsolete now that version 6 is out. Multimedia codecs weren't included, so I had to fetch them from YaST2 upon the recommendation of Mozilla Firefox. After that happened (and I'll describe that process after this), YouTube and Hulu worked fine; also, my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts were properly recognized, which was good.
|Mozilla Firefox 4.0 beta 12 + LibreOffice Writer|
LibreOffice is included and worked well. Also, as hinted at earlier, this GNOME edition also has Evolution, Tomboy, F-Spot, GNOME-Do, and Banshee, thanks to them all being applications written in Mono. The other included applications are fairly standard for GNOME.
Skype and the Google Talk plugin worked flawlessly. (I did not test the latter when testing the KDE edition.) Both were just a matter of downloading and clicking through to install the proper RPM files. My webcam and mic were recognized out-of-the-box.
The desktop as a whole worked well, but it felt a little slow and sluggish at times. This was in contrast with the KDE edition, which was always snappy; to me, this is ironic because typically KDE has been more sluggish than GNOME, but I guess times are a-changin'.
|Nautilus + Desktop Cube|
With all this talk about slowness, surprisingly, openSUSE only used 250 MB of RAM at idle, even with all the Compiz effects running. That's quite good for a fairly heavy GNOME distribution.
At this point, I tried out the installation. When booting the live CD in the VM, I did see a boot splash, meaning that there must have been some minor graphics error that I otherwise couldn't detect when booting the live USB. This might also account for the general feeling of sluggishness. Anyway, after booting into the live system, I started the installer.
The installer, which is yet another facet of YaST2, is one that rivals Ubiquity and Anaconda in professionalism, simplicity, and sheer power. It started with setting the keyboard layout and reading the license. This led to setting the region/locale and time, replete with a nice-looking world map. This gave way to partitioning, which isn't particularly helpful graphically in depicting the partition layout but is quite simple for those who have done partitioning before. Even for newbies, though, everything is explained pretty well, and the suggested layout is among the best I've seen (among suggested partition layouts for other installers). It offered to keep the existing 1 GB swap partition and create a 5 GB EXT4 root partition and a 4 GB EXT4 home partition. One thing I might like to see is a little explanation for newbies on why creating a separate home partition is good, but that's not a big deal. I stuck with the default layout and proceeded to user creation. One thing I haven't seen before is the name of the password encryption method (in this case, Blowfish); furthermore, it seems like said method can be changed. Wow! There were two minor gripes here, though both can easily be changed by unchecking the checkbox: I think the selection of automatic login by default is a bad security practice, while other people may say that the option to use the user's password as the root password (as is the case in Ubuntu and its derivatives) is a bad security practice. Anyway, this led to a final review screen, which led to the installation, which only took 5 minutes (quite fast among graphical installation procedures I've tried).
(Note: I meant to include a screenshot of the installer, but it looks like I rebooted Pinguy OS before I could upload that picture to this post, so that picture was erased. Darn it! Sorry about that! If you really want to see it though, there are tons of such pictures online.)
After installation, I booted into the installed system, but first, I was greeted by a screen telling me some post-installation initial configuration was being done. After that, I logged into the installed session, which was for all intents and purposes identical to the live session. Everything looked good, so that's where my time with openSUSE ended.
The only real sore point in the whole experience was the perceived slight slowness of the system, though the numbers in the system monitor somehow did not bear that out. Otherwise, it's stable, relatively user-friendly, quite professional, and reminds me of my favorite distribution, Linux Mint. I'd recommend it to users just as much as I'd recommend the KDE edition, but I don't know how useful this review will be in just a few months. Why? Well, for one, openSUSE releases are only supported for 18 months after the final release (meaning version 11.4 will be supported until 2012 September or so), and for another, version 12.1 which will come out this November will feature GNOME 3 with GNOME Shell, which is a drastically different experience from GNOME 2.X.
You can get it here.