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Oh, Snap. openSUSE downloads increasing, and Leap 15.5 is coming soon

Could have something to do with Ubuntu kicking Flatpak. Meanwhile, SUSE may be pulling up closer to rival Red Hat

openSUSE is doing well: downloads are increasing, and a new version of the stable-release-cycle openSUSE, Leap 15.5, is coming soon.

According to a tweet from the openSUSE project, it has seen sharp increases in its downloads recently. If you want to drill down a little, download statistics are available.

We can only speculate as to why there's been an uptick. Perhaps it reflects Ubuntu users' dissatisfaction with the increased focus on Snap in the distro, including the Snap-packaged Firefox. It may also be a continuing slow exodus of Red Hat users disenchanted by the termination of CentOS Linux, but looking for another stable, RPM-based distro.

For now, this doesn't seem to have hurt Red Hat's bottom line. The company is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. SUSE passed the same milestone slightly earlier, in September last year, as noted by departing CEO Melissa Di Donato.

The openSUSE project also recently released a beta version of the next release of its stable-release distro, openSUSE Leap 15.5. This is a relatively modest step over the existing version 15.4, as you might expect from an enterprise distro, but desktop users get to enjoy new features all the same.

Point releases of Leap come out roughly once per year, and since version 15.3 its code base has been synchronized with SLE. So that means that the basis of Leap 15.5 is also the basis of SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 SP 5, which is also in beta testing. So this distro has the core of a stable, slowly-moving enterprise distro, and as the beta's release notes say:

Linux Kernel 5.14.21 version will remain the same as that of Leap 15.4. Despite identical base kernel version number, the kernel adds number of latest upstream backports which amount to some individual 19,000 patches.

However, Leap is a much bigger distro than SLE, so while SLE only offers the GNOME desktop – the Leap 15.5 beta includes GNOME version 41 – Leap has a wide range of desktop offerings which are rather more current. We installed the beta in a virtual machine, and looking at the package lists in YaST, among the desktops on offer are Budgie 10.6, Enlightenment 25.4, KDE 5.27.2, LXQt 1.2, Mate 1.26, Sway 1.6.1 and Reg FOSS desk fave Xfce version 4.18.

The Leap 15.5 beta ran without a hitch in testing, and offers the latest Xfce

The Leap 15.5 beta ran without a hitch in testing, and offers the latest Xfce

There are other "patterns" in the list of desktops which haven't seen updates in a while, notably Cinnamon 4.6, which appeared in Linux Mint 20 way back in mid-2020, as well as LXDE 0.10 and the Deepin Desktop Environment. DDE doesn't have a single global version number, but the Github version is from mid-2019, and SUSE has found security issues, some of which remain unresolved.

Leap 15.5 comes with Firefox version 102.9.0 ESR, and LibreOffice 7.4.3. Neither Flatpak nor Snap are pre-installed by default, but Flatpak is in the standard repositories, and Snapcraft offers a version for the distro.

openSUSE's two offerings, Tumbleweed and Leap, cover the main bases that most people might want. Tumbleweed offers a cutting-edge rolling-release distro, but with automated integration testing, and if an update breaks something, you can roll it back with Snapper thanks to Btrfs. Leap, on the other hand, offers annual updates, which strikes a happy medium between the six-monthly short-term release cycle of Ubuntu and Fedora, or the every-other-year LTS releases of Ubuntu.

It also offers the invaluable YaST admin tool. Once upon a time, most distros had this: Red Hat Linux had linuxconf, Caldera OpenLinux had LISA, and in the Debian family, Libranet offered adminmenu. Mandrake Linux had its Control Centre, still present in its fragmented modern descendants.

Among the big names, only YaST is left standing. If you don't want to learn your way around a hundred config files, and you don't have enough machines – or budget – to deploy enterprise-grade management automation, YaST makes it easier to administer openSUSE and SLE than any other Linux distro. It suffers somewhat from under-investment, so for instance the promising WebYaST is long deprecated, and the unique SUSE Studio is gone, but YaST remains very handy.

The Leap 15.5 beta behaved impeccably in testing, but we'll give it a more exacting workout when the final version arrives. It's expected in May. ®

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