Installing OpenSUSE Leap 15.0 — Gotchas

If you are looking for an installation walkthrough, it’s easy to find the official documentation. There’s not much reason to change the defaults unless you already know more than I can tell you about it. The goal here is to share some “gotchas” that afflicted my experience.

The larger goal is to make this doable for more people. All operating systems suck, so the question is whether we can live with the suckage any particular OS offers. I’ve decided that OpenSUSE Leap 15.0 is tolerable for me, giving me the things I must have, and otherwise fixable.

During initial installation, there are several defaults you should consider changing. If your machine is on a home network behind a router, chances are you don’t need the firewall the comes bundled with OpenSUSE. They recently switched to firewalld and it’s a bear to configure. The learning curve is steep and whoever wrote their documentation has never had to teach anything, obviously, because it assumes you are a fully trained and qualified network administrator. You’ll get zero hand-holding, so it’s best to simply disable this beast if you don’t need it. This is the primary flaw in the Linux world, because of that huge gap between the developers and the users, with virtually no one to interceded or put things in reach of the average user. If you are behind a router or other firewalling device, there is an installation summary page displayed with a link that allows you to disable the firewall.

The other defaults are likely okay. I chose the KDE Plasma interface. For all its weaknesses, it is still far saner than the alternatives. It’s also as close as you’ll get to the proven style of desktop interface that people are used to.

One of the first things that will happen is you’ll get a software update notice. Go through the process. You need to understand that OpenSUSE protects itself from malware in part by playing games with the file system. The OS itself is in its own disk partition and is mounted read-only. For updates, it takes a snapshot of the file system and then updates that. If all goes well, you reboot and it then grabs that snapshot and loads from there. Once again, it comes up read-only. If you install new packages, it somehow manages to do that without any strange requirements, but all updates require a reboot.

Once installed, let me suggest you never touch Kmail or the Personal Information Manager (PIM, Korganizer, Kaddressbook, etc.) unless you are starting from scratch and can bulldoze your way through the overly complicated setup for Kmail. Inside sources tell me the guy who originally designed it was a hateful SOB who constantly sought to amuse himself by making life difficult for others. The problem is that once you mess with either of them, it instigates a background process called “Akonadi” that constantly polls your email services and is not easily shut off. There’s no graphical interface for it. I highly recommend you stick with Thunderbird. It’s a little ponderous and slow on some machines, but far more sane. You can install the calendar add-on provided and it will function quite well. If you try to use the import function to migrate from Thunderbird to Kmail, it will work only half-way and leave you with needless difficulties to make it work right.

OpenSUSE Leap 15 catches KDE at an odd moment on one thing: There is no simple way to enable a screensaver if you want one. There is no graphical interface connecting KDE to the one that comes installed, which is the old timey generic Xscreensaver. This is the one time you’ll have to use the commandline interface to get things done. In KDE that’s Menu > System > Konsole. Type in:

xscreensaver-demo

It will bring up the interface for configuring the screensaver. That will stop you first thing and ask you to start up the service. It won’t make a lot of difference either way at this point. The interface is a little old fashioned and if you don’t like the selection of screensavers, add the package xscreesaver-data-extra. That means learning how to use your password to activate the administrative controls, and then wading through the interface for software management. You need to do that anyway, so get used to it. Just use the search function for “xscreensaver” and you’ll see the package listed. This will give you extra choices. Save it all by hitting “Restart deamon” in the menu.

Then, you have to go through your settings. Activate the “Configure Desktop” item in the Settings menu, then go down to the second category “Workspace” and select “Startup and Shutdown.” The second item in the left window panel is “Autostart.” Select that, followed by “Desktop File” in the right window pane. At the bottom hit “Add Program” and type in:

xscreensaver &

That ampersend tells the program not to send any background chatter to your Konsole, if you happen to keep one open as I do. By putting this command in autostart, it will fire up every time you log in.

My system has Intel graphics, but OpenSUSE didn’t install the driver by default. It will look for it, but won’t find it, so you’ll need to manually install the package xf86-video-intel and reboot for it to work properly.

Finally, there is the issue of printers. Some of you still have not gone paperless for whatever reason. Even I have to sometimes print off documents on dead trees. The printer manufacturers do a crappy job of supporting Linux, but most of them do offer some token effort. Do the research; use your favorite search engine with the model name of your printer with “linux” and you should be able to find out if it needs a special package installed from the manufacturer (multi-function printers with scanners usually have a separate driver for the scanner). If you are so fortunate to have one already covered, it will show up on the Open Printing database with a note about which driver works best. That is what should come in your OpenSUSE packages.

You cannot do the setup using your desktop settings; you have to go through YaST for system settings: Hardware > Printer. It works well enough, but during the somewhat clunky process you’ll need to ask the thing to install extra driver packages. The details are found here. If the printer is turned on and connected in some way, it should show up in the list in some fashion. If it’s a network printer, select that option in the tree found in the left window pane. That triggers a secondary check by the system. If the printer is identified either way, hit the item in the list on the right window pane and click “Edit” at the bottom.

The next window will be complicated, but in the middle is a pane with the list of what the system has found that needs a driver. Click the button “Driver Packages” and you’ll see a checkbox list. Look at the list. You probably won’t need all of them, but if you don’t know which one applies to your printer, let me suggest these:

  • OpenPrintingPPDs-ghostscript
  • OpenPrintingPPDs-hpjis
  • OpenPrintingPPDs-postscript
  • gutenprint
  • hplip
  • manufacturerPPDs

You can add the Epson collection if your printer is made by them. But this list covers all but the most exotic printers I’ve seen in my experience helping people use Linux. For example, some Brother printers actually work better with HP drivers (hpjis), so you never know.

That should cover most of the stuff you might not figure out on your own. This is a living document and more may be added later. Feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

Okay, for those not familiar with the KDE interface, a lot of things are single-click to activate. Especially in the file manager (called Dolphin), mousing is much more intricate. You can hover the pointer over an item and click the plus sign/minus sign that shows up on one side. Plus will include it in some action; minus will release it from that action. Drag-n-drop often comes with additional actions you might not have expected, so it tends to ask what you intended.

One particular option during installation is, if you are installing OpenSUSE over some other Linux distribution, it will offer to import the user account(s) you had on that one. I cannot promise you’ll be happy with how well that works, but the difference is that OpenSUSE will force you to create a separate root identity and you won’t be using the sudo method of administration. That’s not a big deal for most users, but it means you’ll need to have two good passwords ready for installing.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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