Novell’s community openSUSE Linux distribution is out with version 11.1 today offering updated open source applications, a new license and a new take on the KDE Linux desktop GUI.
Its version of OpenOffice.org for Novell is also offering some unique features, too.
The release is the first major update for openSUSE since the 11.0 release in June.
It’s also kind of a preview for Novell’s big 2009 enterprise Linux release.
“The upcoming SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 (SLES) will be based on openSUSE 11.1, ” Joe Brockmeier, openSUSE community manager, told InternetNews.com. “So in some ways openSUSE 11.1 is a preview of SLES and it will give some impression of what will be in that next enterprise release.”
While GNOME remains the Linux desktop of choice for Linux enterprise distributions, on openSUSE KDE is dominant among the user base. Brockmeier noted that 70 percent of the openSUSE user base uses the KDE desktop. Though OpenSUSE 11.1 includes KDE 4.1, Brockmeier noted that developers actually backported a number of features from the upcoming KDE 4.2 release.
“Our KDE team did a huge amount of work for this release,” Brockmeier said. “And a more polished KDE 4 is one of the things that is really going to strike a lot of our users.”
Some of the things that the openSUSE 11.1 backport of KDE 4.2 includes are the Powerdevil power management feature, the Kwin 3D effects system as well as minor tweaks such as the ability to hide a system panel.
KDE isn’t the only technology that benefits from Novell’s direct development efforts.
OpenSUSE 11.1 also includes the Novell version of OpenOffice.org 3.0.
Brockmeier said the Novell version of OpenOffice.org includes some features not currently found in the upstream OpenOffice.org project right now. Among them are performance improvements that are intended to provide better startup speed and less memory when running. As well Novell includes support for Microsoft Excel VBA, and integration with Novell’s Mono project. Mono is a Novell led effort to enable Microsoft .NET on Linux.
The Mono effort has also led to a Novell effort called Moonlight which is an attempt to enable Microsoft’s Silverlight media framework on Linux. The first public beta for Moonlight came out in December. Moonlight is not, however, part of the openSUSE 11.1 release. Brockmeier explained that Moonlight isn’t part of the release mostly due to timing issues as the Beta came out after openSUSE hit is feature freeze.
OpenSUSE 11.1 is also notable for the fact that it is the first openSUSE release built in the open using Novell’s OpenBuild service.
The OpenBuild service is a technology that enables application packages to be built and maintained, it’s also the cornerstone of how the entire openSUSE distribution is now built. According to Brockmeier with OpenBuild as the basis, OpenSUSE now has the transparency to allow people to contribute directly to the OpenSUSE Factory.The Factory is the current state of the development for the next openSUSE distribution.
“We have used this release as a way to figure out how to work more closely with the community and allow them to contribute directly,” Brockmeier said.
The openSUSE 11.1 also includes a new distribution license that replaces the End User License Agreement (EULA) that existed for previous versions of openSuse.
“The primary difference is that it allows for much easier distribution of openSUSE,” Brockmeier explained. “We have publications that do cover mounts and we wanted to make it as easy possible for them to distribute and ship. Also for developers it will make it easier for them to base derivatives on openSUSE.”