Thursday, January 16, 2014

SuSE... Might as well be called SuCKE

Or ShiTTE... >-D

Last month, I was looking to install an operating system besides Windows that would be compatible with my wonderful nVidia 650-something-or-other graphics card and 4K display.  (4K = 4 times the resolution of 1080p HD.  Booyah!)  Windows 8 is nice, and handles this display wonderfully, but for optimal enjoyment of Android Studio, you should really run Linux (or possibly Mac OS too).  Plus, having Linux around on a dedicated disk is never a bad idea.  Having heard from some of my friends about how they think everything Canonical (makers of the very popular Ubuntu Linux) touches is evil, I figured I'd try a different distribution.  Stacy loves Linux Mint, but I can't wrap my head around some of its strange idiosyncrasies.  Maybe it doesn't help that she gave me an old version on a thumbdrive, but it was slow, would freeze up when I wanted to get serious with it, and there are icons that look like folder icons that you can't click on to explore its contents.  I mean, how stupid is that?  Doesn't that completely fly in the face of all the design dogma over the last 30 years?

As such, I gave SuSE a shi... er... a shot.  It's a flavor I hadn't had much experience with, so I figured I'd try it out.  After loading it onto a USB thumbdrive with UNetbootin, I proceeded to run the installer.  Little did I know, but an hour later, I'd be going to bed without seeing it finish because it was getting to be about 1 AM.  During that hour, I had almost managed to convince myself the installation had finished when the monitor inexplicably shut itself off.  After not having heard any of the usual aberrations in the fan noises, or the standard BIOS beep, or my hard drives making noises as if they were floppy drives (?!?) -- all these things are indicative of a reboot on my system --, I became skeptical and started moving the mouse and hitting the keyboard.  It turns out that the SuSE installer has a screen saver consisting of a blank screen.  What other installer does that?  I almost yanked out the USB drive, thinking I needed to remove that so my computer wouldn't boot back into the installer; had I done that, I would have screwed up the whole installation!  Oh, and one more dumb thing about this installer: after the screen saver was aborted, the progress bar did not move.  I can't vouch for what it did after I went to bed, but about 8 hours later, I finally woke up to a new Linux distro.

It was very difficult for me to begin using the OS, and in fact, I wasn't completely convinced it was done installing because the default video drivers overscanned my TV to the point where I couldn't see the corner edges (including their useless menu bar) for the first few minutes until I changed the TV itself to "Just Scan." (Just as an aside, whatever useless OS the Udoo shipped with from its Kickstarter does the same crappy behavior.)  This is something Windows fixes for me automatically; it has never overscanned my monitor unless I was using an old tube TV, and even then, I had drivers to tweak the scan and shrink it back to size.  Thus, I tried to seek new Linux drivers for my video card, only for another ugly problem to rear its head: it can't get online right out of the box!

First thing was it didn't recognize any of my on-board networking hardware.  I had to go into the Terminal & write sudo /usr/bin/NetworkManager . just to get it to recognize my ethernet ports. Once I did that, it let me on the network with an IP address from the router, but it still couldn't visit any Web sites for no apparent reason!  At least not in the traditional way; out of the box, when you're on an IPv4 network, it doesn't handle DNS properly.  I figured out how to get to Web pages from my SuSE install eventually, but I had to know their IP address ahead of time!  Most sites don't even let you type in http://[ip address] anymore in order to navigate to them, so this was useless.  Long story short, I had to hack resolv.conf to get it going with some kind of phony "" entry so it would actually do DNS properly.  It seems like the SuSE people insist the IPv4 people are just doing it wrong and need to move onto IPv6; well for us home users, that might not necessarily be an option.  How about just build a better, more resilient OS?

Once I got online, it took about 9 years just for Firefox to open a Web page, and for no apparent reason, I could hear the hard drive clunking away constantly.  What the hell is it doing to my drives?  The Internet does not exist on them!  And my computer is an Intel i7 920 with 12GB of DDR3-1066 RAM (yes, very 2008--but still, not bad specs), so why is it taking this long?!?  I tried typing "twtr" in the Google search bar just to see if Firefox & the Internet connection was alive; it took about a minute for anything after the first T to show up because evidently it took that long for it to fix its DNS entries and actually get on the Internet like a functional OS can.

I'm also particular about my user interfaces.  I hate customizing them, but I expect them to be the way I like them right out of the box.  Anything else and I will incessantly bitch and moan.  I get paid to write and test software and file bugs, not to dick around with setting up OSes and do menial IT tasks.  Oh, and Heaven forbid I find a bug I'm not getting paid to find.  I'm your worst nightmare of a consumer because it'd better be right or else I'll ditch it (hence my brief foray into Windows Phone until I found a decent version of Android).  Nevertheless, any decent Linux OS would allow you to right click and open a Terminal window; not SuSE.  Every time I wanted to open a terminal (which is by far the most important feature of the Linux OS), I had to go into their equivalent of a Start menu and type "T"... wait 9 years for the keyboard to start responding again... then go along with "e", "r", "m", etc.  Then, it'll show me all the music I can buy where the band's name has those letters in it.  Wait a minute now, I'm here to launch a program!  If I wanted music, I'd just use Spotify!  Finally after clicking on Programs, it shows me Terminal.  Phew.

The rest of the apps docked in the taskbar are useless to me, the settings are far away (on a 39" 4K monitor)--oh, and speaking of that 4K monitor, it didn't support 4K right off the bat.  Well, if it can't even find the proper way to scan my display so I can actually see all the sides & corners, why should I have expected 4K to work?  Wait, this is what I was getting drivers for.  I'd almost forgotten about that after just trying to get the Internet going.  

I went around trying to research whether the drivers listed in YaST (their software package installer) would actually support 4K, and came to the conclusion I needed to download the latest distributions straight from some website only to find out these were actually the same distributions YaST featured.  It's always nice to use the GUI package installer, until you realize it suffers from the same problems the OS installation does.  Once again, it took an absurd amount of time to install video drivers.  It's like watching CentOS boot up; the progress bar is like following a square-root curve as it asymptotically approaches x.  It makes a lot of headway in the beginning, only to baffle and frustrate you towards the end.  And once again, that stupid screen saver kicked on again, freezing my progress bar at 76% this time while installing the video drivers.  Well I had actual work to do, so I turned to another machine and hit my nose to the grindstone for another 4 hours, after which time I checked my video driver install; it had completed, but the OS was still incapable of taking full advantage of my 4K monitor.

That's it; time to kill it with fire.  However, I still had stuff to do for real to make myself money, so I ignored this system for a little while.  When it was time to come back to it... well... most of the GNOME desktops I've ever experienced show you a password prompt after you shake the mouse so you can get back onto your system after the monitors have fallen asleep/hit the screensaver.  Not this one; I had to swipe my mouse upward (yes, click & drag) before I could reveal the password box.  MY DESKTOP ISN'T A PHONE!  DON'T GIVE ME THAT CRAP!  I couldn't find a way to change it, except possibly to switch to a different desktop or an older version of Gnome.  Still, I haven't seen this with any other Linux installation I've played around with, so I'm still going to blame it on SuSE.  

SuSE is evidently an OS for people who want to/like to customize everything, and boy, do they force you to!  Right off the bat, it's very uncomfortable and nothing works.  Maybe I should have tried it before I installed it.

To this day, I still haven't actually killed it with fire, but the hard drive I installed it on is sitting on a table on the opposite side of my house.  Someday, when I'm up for attempting to install Linux on my PC again, I'll probably just stick with Ubuntu and call it a day.

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