Installing SUSE Linux - Part 6


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You have installed SUSE now. It's time to do some basic configuring.

Basic configurations

SUSE 10.1 may take a little time getting used to. However, all in all, it is not that different from Windows and rather simple to master.

Layout

KDE desktop is really really really good looking (I must credit Ben Stiller with this one, from Zoolander).

SUSE KDE desktop

In the middle, you will have a background wallpaper with icon shortcuts sprinkled over it. In the left bottom corner, you will have the K Menu, which is pretty much identical to Windows Start Menu and a number of 'quick launch' shortcuts, including the command line terminal called Konsole, the Home folder, SUSE Help Center, Konqueror web browser and file manager, Kontact personal manager, and two desktop icons. In the right bottom corner, you will have a sort of System Tray, with time and date display, clipboard tool, organizer tool, search tool, power save tool, volume control, and software updater.

Using these tools and performing basic functions is almost identical to Windows environment. To emphasize this, here are a few similarities:

Action Windows Linux
Start a program (web browser) Start > Programs > web browser K Menu > Internet > Web browser > web browser
Start command line Start > Run > cmd K Menu > System > Terminal > Konsole
Add shortcut on the desktop Right-click > New > Shortcut Right-click > Create New > Link to application
Arrange / Sort icons (e.g. by size) Right-click > Arrange Icons By > Size Right-click > Icons > Sort Icons > By Size
Change desktop background image Right-click > Properties > Desktop > Background > choose wallpaper Right-click > Configure Desktop > Background > Picture

Just try it! You can't get it wrong. One important tip - you do not need to double-click in KDE environment. Single-click will do the trick. To get familiarized with the KDE desktop, An Introduction to KDE is a great place to start. By the way, you can have separate pictures for the two available desktops simultaneously (in SUSE).

Basic functionality

YaST Control Center

YaST is roughly equivalent to the Windows Control Panel. It allows you to configure your software, hardware, network, security, and more. You will find YaST by clicking K Menu > System > YaST. To be able to run YaST, you will will be prompted to enter the root password you selected earlier.

SUSE YaST software

YaST is very comprehensive and powerful and can take some time setting up fully and properly. However, I will outline some of the basic tasks you can easily do. As a former Windows user, you will probably wonder how to perform system updates, deploy patches or install new programs. First, we need a working Internet connection.

Internet Connection

Go to YaST > Network Devices.

SUSE YaST network devices

You may need to configure your network card(s) first, but you may also start with setting up your connection (e.g. DSL). Setting up a connection might not be the quickest or the simplest task. If you have a broadband cable connection without VPN dialer, you will most likely have an instant Internet access, provided your network card is configured properly. If you use a VPN dialer, things might get a little tricky.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide (too) accurate instructions. Different protocols and service providers in different countries will have require unique settings to work. You might have to contact your provider to get the necessary information about how to setup your connection. Some providers will have dedicated Linux support; other might not. But either way, you will have to know the server names or IP addresses through which you will connect to the Internet.

Truth to be told, setting up a VPN dialer SUSE is very similar to setting up a VPN dialer in Windows XP. In my personal experience, on the several occasions I had to do this, network cards were successfully configured by the system during the installation, both in Windows and SUSE. I only had to create the dialers, using the information provided by my ISP. If you can or have configured your own VPN dialer in Windows, you will eventually succeed doing that in SUSE. If you have never done it in Windows, this step might prove a bit difficult for you at this stage.

If you need a good example where to start, I have written an article called PPTP dialer in Linux - step-by-step tutorial, explaining how to configure a PPTP dialer in SUSE (and Ubuntu). This article is aimed at slightly more advanced Linux users, nevertheless it could be very useful. Likewise, you might also want to try Using DSL with Linux.

In short, the steps required to have a working Internet connection:
Once we have established the Internet connection, we need to tell our SUSE where to look for when asked for updates.

Installation Source

To do this, under YaST, select Installation Source.

SUSE YaST software installation source

As you can see, the DVD you used to install the operating system is already selected by default. You can always use this source to install additional packages that are not included in the first installation run or to reinstall programs that you may have removed. For example, during a tweaking session, I removed Firefox browser but then easily restored it by reinstalling it from the DVD. Our DVD is a limited, static source, and we will probably need external (Internet) sources to keep our system fully up to date. We will have to add a source.

You can find a long list of highly useful information under Additional YaST Package Repositories at the openSUSE site. Midway down the page, you will find the External YaST Repositories. Each of the sources will include the protocol (HTTP, FTP), server name and server directories containing the packages. This is the information that we need. In my example, I will add the second source, Guru (Please refer to the site above for details).

Back in YaST, under Installation Source, click Add for a new source. From the list of sources, select FTP. In the relevant fields in the Server and Directory windows, enter the server name and the directory path as stated for the particular server. Click OK to complete.

SUSE YaST adding installation source

YaST will try to contact the server and build a catalog of all the available sources on it. If the attempt is successful, you will have added another installation source to your list. You can repeat this procedure with as many source as you like. Needless to say, you should only use the sources that you trust. After you have added the sources, you can update your system. You have two choices:
Online Update will present you with updates to software packages already installed; Software Management will allow you to install additional packages. It will use the catalogs from indexed sources and display all the available packages. You can also selectively restrict your installation sources by using the search function to look for specific packages (e.g. firefox, java). The main difference between the two:
Installed packages will be marked with a small check mark near them. This means you do not need to try to install them again. To install additional software, you will have to check-mark empty check boxes. You can also select all. I do not recommend this. Selecting all of the sources may result in huge downloads that could take hours or even days complete. Furthermore, some of the packages might be corrupted (it happens), and you may inadvertently break down your system. You should install only what you feel you need. By the way, this applies for any operating system. You do not download 3-4GB of programs to your Windows desktop and try to install all of them one after another, do you?

Example: Marked entries are already installed; unmarked entries can be added.

SUSE software management example

After you have configured your installation sources, the Software Updater (globe-like icon) in the "System Tray" will become active. It will look for updates for existing installations and present you with patches once in a while. Currently, my Software Updater has no updates.

SUSE software updater

So what do we have so far?

We have a firewall, which we have enabled earlier on. We have a working system and software updates. Internet connection works. We can surf. For instance, here's my Firefox:

SUSe firefox open

Graphic card drivers

At this stage, it might be the best choice to configure the graphic card. SUSE will install its default VESA adapter that will limit you to certain resolutions, 60Hz refresh rate and no 3D acceleration. If you're using a TFT monitor and never play any games, you might not need to bother. But if you have a nice expensive graphic card, it's a waste not to empower it.

Nvidia drivers - The best way to learn how to do it is to refer to Nvidia installer How-to for SUSE Linux users. ATI drivers - The best way to learn how to do is to refer to Linux and Open Source Blog >> SUSE 10.1: ATI Drivers Installation.

I have installed Nvidia graphic drivers in several SUSE versions at least a dozen times without the slightest hitch. One of the most pleasing aspects about SUSE is the robustness of the X Windows System (the GUI framework) and the seamless integration of graphic card drivers into the system.

You should refer to the SUSE version that applies to your operating system, head to Nvidia or ATI site and download the package that you need. And then, follow the instructions. This might not be very simple, but it is not very difficult either.

You will have to have kernel-source, make and gcc packages installed. Head to YaST > Software Management. Search for the following packages. If installed, they will be check-marked. If not, now it's a good time to install them. They will be included on the DVD, so it won't take too much time. Configuring your graphic card should not take more than 5-10 minutes.

Your operating system is pretty much ready. You have Internet with firewall, update sources, graphics with 3D acceleration. It's time for perks.

Turning your SUSE Linux machine into a router

You might want to use your SUSE Linux box as a gateway for several other computers, running a variety of other operating systems. This is very similar to the Internet Connection Sharing in Windows.The best and simplest guide I have found is the NOVELL: Cool Solutions: HOW-TO: Set Up a SUSE 10 Machine As a Router.

You should also refer to my article called Highly Useful Linux commands & configurations; among many other things, sharing of network resources (files, printers etc.) between Windows and Linux and vice versa is explained in detail there.

AppArmor

AppArmor is an access control system that can be used to restrict applications in their day to day use. The use of this software can significantly reduce the exposure to vulnerabilities, especially from unpatched zero-day web exploits. Although one's desire to use this software in a home environment might be a bit of an overkill, learning how to deploy AppArmor can be useful. I also believe that AppArmor is not easy to master and requires a high level of expertise.

SUSE AppArmor

Nevertheless, if you are keen into learning how to use AppArmor, Novell offers a fairly thoroughly documented online guide, which can also be downloaded in .pdf format.

Other configurations

Hacking SUSE Linux 10.1 is a nice article that sums most of the points I mentioned above and some more. The article will also explain how to deal with proprietary software, like Acrobat, MP3, RealMedia etc. I strongly discourage you from trying the XGL/Compiz hack, because it is not mature yet and might ruin your SUSE installation.

Replacing YaST with SMART

Some people have expressed dissatisfaction with YaST; namely, it being cumbersome, slow or broken. If this is the case, you may want to replace it with a more 'elegant' package manager. Here's a solid guide explaining in detail how to implement this, SMART Package Manager.

Most common applications

You are probably wondering what applications SUSE installation offers. For this reason, I have written a very short introduction to some of the most popular KDE programs, in my Installing (K)ubuntu Linux - Full tutorial article, on the last page. You're more than welcome to read it. Although chronologically the Kubuntu articles comes after SUSE, it is a full step-by-step tutorial that complements this guide quite well.

Lastly, do not forget to read Highly useful Linux commands & configurations, as some of the most basic yet most important principles of the Linux command line are explained there, including compilation of drivers, writing of scripts, network and printer sharing and more.

Conclusion

That pretty much covers the basics. If you have followed this guide, with some luck, you have by now mastered: How to install SUSE Linux. How to configure firewall, Internet and software updates. How to share your Internet connection with other computers. I think that it is not very difficult. Different than Windows, sure, but not impossible or extremely complicated. Finally, one of the strong side of the open-source community is ... the community. For all and any questions that you might have regarding SUSE, you are most warmly encouraged to visit the SUSE Linux Forums. You should be able to find answers to all of your problems there. Finally, Google is a solid place to look for solutions.

Moreover, as you can clearly see from this article: SUSE installation is fast, smooth and easy - just as easy if not easier than Windows'. SUSE is very friendly and intuitive, not much different from Windows in its overall layout. Configuration of basic functions takes very little effort and is not that different from Windows' drivers or program setups. Help sources are thoroughly documented and if followed to the word offer a very accurate and effective solution to all possible problems.

I hope you enjoyed it, and if you had fears or doubts about Linux, I managed to bring you one step closer to giving it a try.

List of SUSE-related external links mentioned in the article:

openSUSE
GNU GRUB
GNU GRUB Manual 0.97
Using DSL with Linux
An Introduction to KDE
Additional YaST Package Repositories
Nvidia installer How-to for SUSE Linux users
Linux and Open Source Blog >> SUSE 10.1: ATI Drivers Installation
NOVELL: Cool Solutions: HOW-TO: Set Up a SUSE 10 Machine As a Router
AppArmor online guide
AppArmor downloadable guide in .pdf format
Hacking SUSE Linux 10.1
SMART Package Manager

Other links:

SUSE Linux Forums
SUSE Forums - The Global SUSE Community
Open Source and Linux Forums

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