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openSUSE 11.4: Built to Rule Gnome

May 6th, 2011 by

Six years ago, when I joined the Novell team’s office in Cambridge, some of my cohorts in what used to be the Ximian Red Carpet team had an expression: “Red Hat 7.3 + Ximian Desktop” – they sometimes used it to indicate what had been a quantum leap in the Linux Desktop experience of the Gnome Lineage.  Having been personally a vi+terminal kind of guy, and the Konsole being a great terminal multiplexer since times ancient, I had some precise idea of what KDE releases I had particularly appreciated as smoothly integrated (SuSE 6.2 comes to mind), so the expression stuck in my mind as the ultimate paragon of a Gnome setup.  Sure, great things happened since, but the first time you did not have to grease the wheels of every detail for hours to have a smooth environment certainly sticks in your head in a certain indelible way.

openSUSE has been a pretty good Gnome distribution for a long time now, but 11.4 really gave me a different feeling: I found only 1 bug I care to solve in my laptop support, and the defaults I had out of the box were all more than good, they were pleasing.  It is not just functioning well, it is smooth, it has a quality that is hard to describe but we all know it when we see it.  Which is just so damn awesome :)

Usually I tinker for days to get an environment I am comfortable with (I am a clinical case, I do this on OS-X, Windows and Linux irrespective), but in this case, I had to do very few things to get a very nice setup for my work laptops, both esthetically and functionally. So here comes my ultimative Gnome quick setup guide to a rocking openSUSE 11.4 Gnome experience.

F2′s Quick-Yet-Awesome Gnome Environment Recipe
In no particular order, proceed through the following steps

  1. Pidgin
    su
    zypper in pidgin
    Make it a Gnome startup application
    Control Center | Startup Applications | /usr/bin/pidgin
  2. Flash Player
    Yes, you still need it. Yes, we do love HTML 5 nonetheless.
    zypper in flash-player
  3. Glipper
    A clipboard manager, to keep multiple recent cut&paste targets simultaneously at hand.
    Head to the buildservice and help yourself to a one-click install.
    Logout. Log back in. (suggestion of a smarter way to do this would be appreciated)
    right click | add to panel | clipboard manager
  4. Gnome Do
    Setup Gnome Do to run at login (it is now in the default install)
    gnome-do
    preferences | general | start Gnome Do at login
    fixing hotkey to ctrl-enter
    Select the Glass theme – matches the openSUSE default theme better on 11.4
    I really wish there was a way to have Gnome Do autoclear its buffer after 1 second (or even better when one retypes a similar string), typos are rather defeating in its default mode (“pidxpidgin”, anyone?)
  5. Firefox
    Fix Firefox’s backspace key behavior to match non-Linux platforms (page back) rather than the do-nothing default:
    navigate to About:config | browser.backspace_action = 0
  6. Hostname
    Set a hostname if DHCP does not do it for you.  No self-respecting terminal monkey would have a random hostname!
    YaST | Network Settings | Hostname/DNS
  7. Tilda
    You just cannot overestimate how helpful Quake Terminals are.
    One click install
    tilda -C
    fix hotkey (keybindings | grab keybinding) to <ctrl>grave
    increase buffer (scrolling | Scrollback | 1000)
    Now fix the appearance (the defaults work anywhere but they are ghastly-lookin’ :)
    general | enable Double Buffering [x]
    appearance | height | 66%;  width 100%
    enable transparency [x] ; Level of transparency 30
    enable pulldown [x] ; Delay 15000 usec
    use image for background [x]
    I use a Gimp-scaled version of the desktop wallpaper there (defaults are in /usr/share/wallpapers)
    Make it a Gnome startup application
    Control Center | Startup Applications | /usr/bin/tilda

    Tilda is the crankier bit (even with all that tuning, it is not yet as smooth as Visor at pulldown, there is still some flickering left).  I am not going to go all-out and say that 2011 is the year of the Linux Desktop, but it sure feels pretty nice an environment to work in, and configuring was quite fast, which means most defaults are better than good.

    Suggestions, corrections and additional ideas are welcome. Ramble on, I am reading!

right click | add to panel | clipboard manager

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5 Responses to “openSUSE 11.4: Built to Rule Gnome”

  1. KDW

    I agree.
    It does not take a lot of time to get your “workflow” back because everything just works… very productive and efficient.
    What I also like are the fonts, they are very polished OOTB and it gives an additional pro-look.
    Trying gnome shell but sticking with defaults for now ;-)
    Also, the Windows integration (AD account, evolution-exchange, nautilus connections) on openSuSE is the best of all linux distro’s

  2. Anonymous

    s/Glipper/parcellite/

  3. F2

    Parcellite looks like a good idea — especially as it is in the distro itself, while Glipper lives in Contrib.

    Thanks! -F

  4. Richard Brown

    I prefer Guake to Tilda, seems to need less tuning and is a little less ‘glitchy’ for me

    and with GNOME 3 I find myself, reluctantly, using Empathy because of its superior G3 integration, I am missing some of those nice Pidgin features tho..

  5. Federico Lucifredi

    Guake looks really worth a spin, I just looked at their project page. I will check it out at my next system build, thanks for the pointer!

    Thanks! -F