I recently had to setup a computer from scratch. The machine had been sitting around for the longest time unused, and I finally got around buying a new hard drive for it. What OS to install? I use a hand-build Linux From Scratch system as my main system, but I don’t need that pain for…

Getting the installation started took me maybe two hours, and I encountered hurdles too difficult for a novice to handle, in my opinion. To be fair, I didn’t install using a full set of installation CDs, but I installed with a bootstrap CD directly from the Internet.

So I started booting the machine with the boot CD that I burned from the ISO provided on the SuSE web site. The navigation was rather sparce, but fairly straight forward. The first issue I encountered when I selected Network installation. “No Network driver – load proper module”. Oops – I had to navigate back a few levels to the top level menu, and indeed, there was an option to load kernel modules, and a submenu for network driver modules. There was a list of maybe a hundred drivers – and no autodetect! Luckily, through intelligent guessing, I found the proper module. Fortunately, it didn’t need any configuration parameters (some modules do!).

Back to the Network installation menu. I had to work my way through a number of menus to get connectivity in the first place, and I am sure many novices would have been intimitdated by all those questions. The next challenge was to find a place to download. While the SuSE website provided a list of mirrors, it was not really clear which subdirectory on the server the installer was expecting. Also, it wasn’t asking for a server name, but an IP address. Eventually, I figured all these things out. Nevertheless, two installation attempts were unsuccessful. The first time, the installer simply froze at some point, and the second time, the installer must have failed to grab the list of Software packages available for installation. But the third attempt succeeded, and after leaving the system alone overnight to download all required files, I had a working system the next morning!

From that point on, everything was easy. Configuration didn’t take long, and everything (network, graphics, sound, power management, etc.) seemed to work out of the box on a pretty KDE desktop.

To sum it up, Once properly installed, SuSE seems like a decent distribution. It would be nice to perform an install from CD, just to compare the installers. While I had to do too much configuration myself, I don’t expect this to be required for the CD install – and after the install was complete, everything was properly detected without manual intervention. I may post a followup after having worked a bit with the machine.