openSUSE Tumbleweed: My Semi-Thorough Review

Hey everyone!

So, as I had said before, at SCALE 21x I met the amazing people that are part of SoCalSUSE. As a result of meeting them, I first tried out openSUSE Tumbleweed in a VM, then decided to install it on my laptop. I have been using it exclusively for a little over two weeks now.

General Computer Use
Not really anything here to report. I saw some people on this forum from 2018 talking about codec issues but I have not seen that.

It was also quite nice to try out Tumbleweed, because everyone who has heard me talk about desktop environments knows I am a KDE Plasma fan, and Plasma 6 is running very well on Tumbleweed.

Installing Packages and Configuration
openSUSE uses the zypper package manager, which I have found to be a snappy and useful one. Comparable to apt in that it pretty much always works the way I want it to, and for the most part if you know apt you will feel right at home with zypper. If anything, it seems like it is a bit speedier than apt, but I have not done any testing to see why that is.

I do want to note that for openSUSE Tumbelweed, as it is rolling release (although not as up to date as Arch, which can be nice), you have a special command to update. Which is sudo zypper --dist-upgrade or sudo zypper dup. This will upgrade your system to the current release, which there is usually one every day, although you are not forced to run it that frequently. I think it is recommended you run it once a week.

Other than the general way to configure your computer, you also gain access to YaST (Yet another Setup Tool). YaST can do pretty much everything through a GUI. YaST is what you use to install openSUSE, but you can also use it to configure GRUB, install packages, configure networking, users, and many other things. I talked with one of the founders of SoCalSUSE, and he says he always uses it to modify GRUB because it gives him some extra security that GRUB will be modified in a safe and consistent way.

I don’t think anyone who is truly experienced setting up Linux at the command line will have much use for YaST, but I can see why it would be beneficial to many users. However, I think its use is even more obvious in an office setting, as it could be pretty powerful to set up a workstation (such as pre installing needed software, setting up Active Directory membership, Networking, ect).

I have done some programming on openSUSE as well. I have found that finding whatever packages I need to either build a repo from the internet or to set up programming on my computer has been simple (the same as Ubuntu). There are more programming languages and frameworks out there that can work on Linux than I know about, so I cannot test all of them, but from what I can tell the common ones (and even not so common ones) are readily available.

I have interacted with the openSUSE community a bit, and I have to say they are a very friendly and helpful bunch. I have posted on their forums asking for help trying to build a theme for Plasma 6, and I have also sought out help on other channels they have. The community of openSUSE is so inviting it makes me want to stay using this distro.

Other things special about openSUSE
openSUSE does not just offer the rolling release Tumbleweed, but it also offers the LTS Leap (which is more like Ubuntu and Debian with their stable but out of date packages). They also have a new version that they call SlowRoll, which is supposed to be more up to date that Leap but not as cutting edge as Tumbleweed. SlowRoll is new, but from the openSUSE forums I have read positive chatter about it. Also, I do want to note that packages for Tumbleweed are tested before they are released, so while it is rolling release, you are less likely to encounter problems with the newer software.

When installing, you are asked to select either GNOME, Plasma, Xfce, or other. There other desktops are supported, but not fully tested. These include: LXDE, LXQt, Enlightenment, Cinnamon, MATE, and Pantheon. Unless you love these DEs, I would probably stick with GNOME, Plasma or Xfce. However, it is nice that at least some of the configuration will be done for you, if not completely done.

Final Verdict
I am really loving openSUSE Tumbleweed. I have been using Ubuntu for over a year and a half now, and I do like it. However, I have run into some issues in the past where I wanted to use some feature in some software that did not exist in the apt version, and so I had to either use a .deb file or build from source. Both of these work, but in an ideal world, I would be able get software that is both relatively up to date and stable. That might seem like an oxymoron, and sometimes it is. Sometimes, however, the newer versions of software can be more stable than the older versions. This might especially be the case if the version of the software you are trying to use is around 2 years old, which I have seem happen on Ubuntu a few times.

On my desktop, what I will probably do is install openSUSE Tumbleweed as my main distro and keep Ubuntu around for now just in case I run into any serious trouble.


Hi @Akatama (Jimmy),
I have been wanting someone to do this.

You dont mention documentation. I have used OpenSUSE’s docs
on occasions. I found it comprehensive, but perhaps more methodological and less explanatory than the Arch docs.

Perhaps you will push me over the line to give it a try. Systemd is
a bit of a barrier for me though.

Well done,

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Well, the reason why I didn’t mention them is I haven’t used their docs too much yet. I used them a bit to confirm some things on this review I did, but that’s about it. Since I have not really used them, I would not feel comfortable reviewing them. Good to know that you gind them useful though!

Though I suppose the point is I haven’t had to consult the docs for over two weeks of use even when I’ve needed to install a lot of packages. If you were trying to do something more involved like setting up Proxmox on openSUSE you would probably need to use the docs.

I did think about this when I was typing up the review. openSUSE is a bit of an oddity, it is a relatively popular distro from what I can tell (at least several hundred thousand downloads of the .iso file for each Leap release) but it doesn’t have many distros that build upon it.

I tried looking up why, and the general consensus is because openSUSE is an unopinionated distro. We can see this in things like that there is no “default” desktop environment, you can stay in the openSUSE ecosystem whether you want stability over anything else, or rolling release or something in-between. I would say the one thing openSUSE is opinionated about is it does use systemd. For most users, they probably don’t even care, so in that sense it stays unopinionated, at least for those users.

I would say just try it in a VM. I love it, but if you truly cannot bear to use an OS that relies on systemd, then, openSUSE is not for you. Although I wonder how much work it would be to do like what Artix did with Arch with Tumbleweed, for maybe just one init system at first.

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Not impossible. You can do it to Debian. The hardest part is
removing systemd. Most people would not bother, because Devuan (and MX and Antix) has already done it for you.
OpenSUSE needs a Devuan equivalent or some built in init
freedom. I might be tempted to try, just to prove it can be done.

It would even be possible to strip OpenSUSE down to something like Hyperbola. That would be an interesting
challenge too.

I dont mind using systemd distros… I still have Debian in
one computer. I just want to go the way my philosophy suggests. I think init freedom will ultimately prevail.

Sorry , I dont want to hijack your review with a side issue.
OpenSUSE is a fine distro as it stands.

On documentation:
There might be a case for a topic comparing styles of documentation across various distros. They vary, and I have my preferences.

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You did not hijack it! This is a good conversation.

I think if there was to be a distro that allowed both systemd and not systemd, it would be openSUSE. The concern would be that they would need enough maintainers. Not that long ago, openSUSE put out a call for people to vote on what would replace Tumbleweed. SlowRoll won out, but they ended up getting so many maintainers they were able to keep Tumbleweed and add SlowRoll.

I don’t blame them for not focusing on it when they have recently had those problems, though.

I will say, using non-systemd init systems can cause problems with other things like desktop environments. For example, GNOME is pretty locked in to systemd. I know there are workarounds for GNOME, but that is more work than setting up Plasma which I believe even works on BSD. I know for a fact that Plasma requires no workarounds to use on an OS that doesn’t use systemd. Unfortunately, as much as I wish it wasn’t true, not everyone wants to use Plasma.

I agree with you on init freedom. I don’t believe the evil Linux takeover stories, but it definitely has its fair share of problems.

Can you explain Plasma ? I thought it was just some version of KDE, but apparently not. If it is portable to BSD I am interested because the only other portable DE is Lumina and that needs development.

MX allows either systemd or sysVinit
Gentoo allows either its own OpenRC or systemd
They can be mixed, it has been done.

It surprises me that GNU would do that.
They are supposed to promote freedom.
I wonder how Gnome would go in Void?
Dont personally like Gnome… prefer Xfce

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KDE is an organization. The organization makes free software using Qt, and Qt is a GUI framework that is cross platform. KDE Plasma is their desktop envionment. But they also do various other kinds of software, but pretty much all focused on a regular desktop user (e.g. graphical parition manager, software for helping with backups, calculator, ect). Their next most famous is probably Krita, which is digital painting software that actually has some use in the digial art industry. They make a LOT of software, which means some of it is abandoned, but a lot of it is kept up to date.

I have not tried any KDE software on BSD, but I recall reading that at least some of it has been ported to BSD. I do know that a lot of KDE software does run on Windows, but obviously their DE does not.

Here is some official KDE documentation about installation on FreeBSD. Those instutctioms are for KDE Plasma 5, which is already been made obsolete, although they did do a minor update after KDE Plasma 6 was released. Here are instructions for KDE Plasma 6.

That’s cool! I didn’t know the distros that offer alternatives offered both systemd and something else.

From what I understand GNOME’s login manager heavily relies on systemd. But some people have made software that connects to the GNOME part of the login process and bypasses systemd. But this software I speak of is not officially supported by the GNOME foundation. I looked this up recently, but I would take the word of someone that has actually tried it over my 20 minutes of searching on DuckDuckGo.

It is easy to mix systemd with sysVinit or OpenRC… the run scripts are compatible.
Not so with runit or s6… dont know about others.

Thanks. The name change to Plasma confused me.
It has always been Qt based.