Following a shorter-than-usual development cycle, the popular openSUSE Linux distribution has released openSUSE 12.3, bringing a host of updates and improvements for the desktop, servers, and the cloud.
The previous release, openSUSE 12.2, was plagued by various delays and ultimately shipped two months late. For the new version, the openSUSE community put the pedal to the metal and finalized the code after six months of development rather than the usual eight, putting the distribution back on schedule.
Although the openSUSE project is backed by commercial Linux vendor SUSE, the distro itself is community driven and developed. As such, the changes in the new release are all over the map.
Crucially for some, openSUSE 12.3 is the first version to support booting on UEFI Secure Boot hardware via the Shim bootloader method, although the official release announcement describes this feature as "experimental."
This is also the first version of openSUSE to include a full set of packages for the OpenStack cloud computing platform. The distro ships with the "Folsom" version of the software, but the project maintainers say that packages for "Grizzly", the next version of OpenStack due in April, are already being prepared and will be made available for openSUSE 12.3.
On the database front, openSUSE 12.3 sees the distro moving away from MySQL and shipping its non-Oracle fork MariaDB by default, although MySQL is still available from the package repositories. The release also bundles PostgreSQL 9.2, the latest version that includes NoSQL-like native support for JSON.
Many other software packages were also updated for the openSUSE 12.3 release. The distro gives users their choice of desktop environments, and the new release provides the latest stable versions of all of them, including Gnome 3.6, KDE Plasma Desktop 4.10, and Enlightenment 0.17. Likewise, many popular desktop applications have been upgraded to new versions, including Amarok, Ekiga, Evolution, Firefox, Rhythmbox, and Totem, among others.
The distro bundles LibreOffice 3.6 because the newer 4.0 version of the office productivity suite was not ready in time to be included with the release, but openSUSE 12.3 users can download LibreOffice 4.0 from software.opensuse.org.
Under the hood, openSUSE 12.3 is based on version 3.7 of the Linux kernel, which brings a number of improvements over openSUSE's previous 3.4 kernel, including better networking, better RAID support, and lower power consumption, along with the usual updates to hardware support.
This release also completes openSUSE's move to systemd, doing away with Unix System V–style system initialization for good.
On the minus side, the live installation images for openSUSE have now swelled to about a gigabyte each, making the term "LiveCD" a misnomer since they can no longer be burned to a CD. Instead, the developers recommend installing openSUSE from a USB drive.
On the other hand, openSUSE 12.3 introduces a new, bootable recovery image that doesn't include an installer but does bundle a variety of system repair tools – and at around 570MB, this one fits on CD-R just fine.
As always, openSUSE is available as a free download from the project's website.
Assuming the schedule doesn't slip again, the next version – openSUSE 13.1 – is due to arrive following the usual eight months of development, in November. ®
It is ever the case with projects as complicated as a Linux distribution that some things slip through the cracks. In the case of openSUSE 12.3, some users who upgraded from previous versions encountered an installer bug that made their networking go wonky. Check here for details.