openSUSE 13.1 vs Ubuntu 13.10: a friendly match

Ubuntu is one of the most popular GNU/Linux-based operating system, along with Linux Mint. Ubuntu started off as a great operating system which, with the help of LUGs and communities, became extremely popular.

However it’s not an easy task to crack the desktop market dominated by Microsoft – that’s one of the reasons why both SUSE/Novell and Red Hat decided to leave the desktop space and focus on enterprise.

Canonical started off in the same year when Facebook started and is still struggling to get a hold of the market.

The decline of PC sales forced the company to look at the other booming markets – mainly smartphones and tablets. But the company started off too late. Android is already established as a dominant Linux player in the mobile space, making it even harder for Canonical to succeed – especially when they don’t have any concrete plans and most of what they are doing is improvisation instead of initiation.

With the increasing focus on mobile has put desktop at the back-burner. Most of the talk and development is going on for mobile devices.

So from what I see desktop is no more Canonical’s priority.

At the same time Canonical/Ubuntu has been a lot in news for all the wrong reasons. It’s dispute with EFF, FSF,, KDE and the larger open source community has also raised serious concerns over it’s role as a good open source citizen.

So I am noticing quite a lot of people who have started to look else where. Being a convert from Ubuntu to openSUSE I tasked myself to find can an Ubuntu user switch to openSUSE? Will openSUSE be able to address his/her computing needs? At the same time I am someone using GNU/Linux for practical as well as philosophical reasons as well which distro is closer to the Open Source community?

I have adopted Devil’s advocate approach to challenge openSUSE at doing the tasks that Ubuntu can do well and which one is better open source citizen.

Ease of use

Gnome was one of the reasons it was extremely easy to use Ubuntu, then Canonical did some great job with jockey and other stuff which made it easy to use Linux. A concept popularized by Klaus Knopper – Live CD – also contributed to this as people were able to test it before trying. But it’s passe today every GNU/Linux distribution out there is easy to install and use.

Ease of use heavily depends on what Desktop Environment you use. But if we look at the core openSUSE experience everything is extremely easy whether it’s setting up network, configuring printer, installing or managing apps or customizing the OS to your liking.

openSUSE 1 Ubuntu 1

The installation of openSUSE is as easy as is that of Ubuntu (you can see the comparison in this video – coming soon).

Better experience with desktop environment of choice

openSUSE offers GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE & E17 so one can use which ever desktop environment (DE) he/she prefers. As far as base OS is concerned irrespective of the DE you use you will have access to all core features of openSUSE – whether it be YaST or anything else. In case of Ubuntu, Unity is Canonical’s baby and none of it’s features are available for other Ubuntu-based distros. openSUSE treats each DE as the first class citizen and here you can install different DEs on the same system without breaking it. Under Ubuntu Unity and Gnome don’t work very well together. With KDE apps like Ubuntu Software Center look out of place and instead of a pleasant experience it looks more or less like a Frankenstein’s monster which pieces have been stitched together.

So here openSUSE has better offering than Ubuntu

openSUSE 1 Ubuntu 0

  • hadrons123

    Even though I like all your points about ubuntu, I would not completely
    agree OpenSUSE is a better alternative desktop OS for beginners as
    compared to ubuntu family given its(yast) complexity of its tools. After
    all ubuntu is 90% crowded with noobs from Windows as much I was once
    upon a time. One cannot fully comprehend openSUSE as much as
    ubuntu(mint) as a newbie user.

    Maybe Mint = ubuntu – evil
    In some ways mint is better than ubuntu in a user point of view.
    But I am certainly not a mint fan/user either for myself.

    I am on the Fedora/Arch Linux side of the Linux world.

    People should read this one too.

    • Roger Luedecke

      How is YaST less friendly than Ubuntu when Ubuntu requires a command line for the things YaST does.

      • arnieswap

        YaST alone is the gem of openSUSE.

        • Roger Luedecke

          Are you familiar with Zypper?

  • I think..

    For a great Distro focused for the desktop/laptop, in my opinion, you can’t go past elementary OS

  • WP

    I am just wondering…how much does Novell contribute to OpenSuse? The same Novell that is the muppet of Microsoft.

    • Homer

      You’re a few years out of date. Attachmate bought Novell in 2011. SUSE are two separate autonomous businesses.

      openSUSE is a community based distro, sponsored not run by SUSE. In return SUSE add in enterprise stuff and market it. No different to RedHat.

      Ubuntu however, is purely under the control of Canonical and it’s founder.

      • arnieswap

        SUSE always was a great company. It was Novell, which after acquiring SUSE was competing with itself between Novell’s own proprietary components and SUSE’s open source offerings. Now its sold again to Micro Focus of UK.

        • Homer

          Wasn’t sure that had gone through yet. As long as it doesn’t affect openSUSE, I’m not too bothered. Otherwise its forkin’ time.

          • Roger Luedecke

            Nope, doesn’t effect openSUSE. Also it’s not being sold to Microfocus, but is a merger.

      • WP

        I actually replied prematurely and started to do some research on the subject. I haven’t followed Novell since they went the Linux way. I have done SLES 9 courses through my previous job and that was round about 2010. I preferred Netware.

  • Abdelouahab Abdenour Aliane

    Thank you for this good articles
    There is another difference from a personnal experience: THE DVD!
    On ubuntu, you get the strict minimum! the difference between the CD and the DVD is almost nothing! while on opensuse you get a REAL DVD! where you can install packages OFFLINE, and this feature is excellent!

  • creativeswaraj

    Very nicely analysed article. This is one of the few articles in the comparison that does not mostly focus on the UI-or-related-stuff comparison.

  • Ioanide Ganesha

    Nice point of view.I use ubuntu and suse on my computer.Both are great and i am love those distributions.After i read your article i feel like canonicare are quit cheaters.Linux need to stay alive for all of us.This mean humanity.Apple and windows are for people who has money,but all of us have the right to find information or share knowledges.Thank you once again for that nice article!