Wednesday, August 13, 2014

openSUSE 13.1 Linux

As you may remember, my primary computing platform for the past several years has been a Mac. I've also maintained Windows PCs at home -- one in my office and one out in my workshop. The office PC had been setup as a dual boot Windows 7 Professional / Debian Linux box for awhile, but I hardly ever booted into Debian.

A couple weeks ago I replaced Debian with openSUSE 13.1 and have been using it quite a bit after work. The install went smoothly with all of my hardware recognized. This included my Icom 7200 ham radio that is connected via a USB port, as well as the programming cable I use with my Baofeng UV5RA 2M/70cm ham radio.

The default openSUSE desktop environment is KDE, but Gnome is also available from the openSUSE repositories, as are several other desktops. After using KDE for a few days, then LXDE for a day, I settled on the XFCE desktop and have been pleased with it. It's lightweight but is a complete environment.

The primary applications I've been using:

  • Chromium for web browsing, including accessing Gmail via the web.
  • Firefox when a web page doesn't behave with Chromium.
  • Fldigi for digital mode ham radio operation on HF using the Icom 7200.
  • CHIRP for programming my Baofeng UV5RA.
  • Leafpad for text editing.

For system administration I've primarily been using YaST, openSUSE's GUI admin tool. I ran SUSE Linux as my home desktop for a few years in the early '00s and YaST is still a good tool.

Another program that I installed was VMware Player, so that I can run a Windows 7 virtual machine if I'm working from home. I'd built the VM at work on my VMware vSphere environment and brought it home on disk, and was using it on the Windows side, to keep my own stuff and my work stuff separate. I copied it to the Linux partition and it works just as well there. Now, if I'm working from home I can use the Windows VM to connect to work's VPN, while I my own stuff can access the Internet without going through the VPN.

Note: VMware Player is proprietary but free (as in beer) software, as opposed to VirtualBox, which is open source software and which would also let me run a VM. However, I've found VMware Player to give me better performance than VirtualBox.

Overall I'd say my experience so far with openSUSE 13.1 has been very positive.  I have my old MacBook Pro from work and I'm considering replacing the spinning hard disk with an SSD, then setting it up to dual boot OS X and openSUSE, for use as a portable ham radio laptop.

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