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Linux Developer's Corner: openSUSE, The Developer's Linux

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Richard Smith

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Posted: 29 Aug 2005

Richard Smith
Developer Content Manager
Novell, Inc

Having access to the operating system source code is a developer's dream come true and with openSUSE ( the benefits that Linux developers have long enjoyed just got much better. In reality the project also benefits anyone interested in Linux, but for the purposes of this article we'll concentrate on the many benefits for developers. At its heart Linux has been an open platform from the beginning and by creating and supporting the openSUSE project, Novell has taken this openness a few steps forward.

The stated goals of the project are:

  • Make SUSE Linux the easiest Linux distribution for anyone to obtain, and the most widely used open source platform.
  • Provide an environment for open source collaboration that makes SUSE Linux the world's best Linux distribution for new and experienced Linux users.
  • Dramatically simplify and open the development and packaging processes to make SUSE Linux the platform of choice for Linux hackers and application developers.

Why these goals should matter to you, the developer

While the first point may at first seem like it might not benefit you as a developer, it might be the goal of the project that actually has the potential to be the most important for you. By making openSUSE easy and desirable to obtain by anyone (this being the key), the project provides developers with a significant user base for application distribution. This is true regardless of whether you are an open source developer who just provides freely available applications or a commercial or institutional developer who benefits from as many potential users as possible. Either way, I imagine your goal in developing whatever solution you've built is to get users to adopt it, and the more users that exist, the more potential you have for this to occur.

By fostering open collaboration the second goal really builds upon the first, but also brings in the ability to utilize, in a more formalized fashion, the broad knowledge base that exist around Linux development and more specifically SUSE Linux development. If you are an individual developer, you know the challenges of being expert in all things regarding your application. By openly collaborating on development of the operating system, not only do the users of openSUSE benefit, but you as a developer do also. The increased understanding of the makeup of the operating system will help you leverage the operating system to take advantage of all it has to offer.

And can you do have the opportunity to have your application included as part of openSUSE if it meets the criteria established. I've often been asked by developers how to be included as part of the SUSE distribution and openSUSE now makes that a very simple process.

The third goal builds (no pun intended) on the previous two and pertains to the actual deliver of packages for inclusion in the distributed openSUSE. SUSE Linux is a leader in the complex area of software building and packaging and openSUSE utilizes this strength and extends it you. You'll need to understand the basics of RPM creation, but the openSUSE project provides documentation to help you uses that knowledge to create an RPM for inclusion in the project. There is a very detailed tutorial available on the openSUSE site that will help you understand and take advantage of the SUSE build environment.

So is this unique? Aren't there a number of such projects like this?

While there are other efforts with similar goals and methods, openSUSE is unique in many ways. Perhaps the best way to explain comes from the openSUSE FAQ.

There are also many other significant open source projects, such as Debian and Ubuntu, that serve active user and development communities. Generally speaking, these open source projects focus on engineering-centric issues that serve their technical community of Linux developers and users.

The openSUSE project explicitly looks beyond the technical community to the broader non-technical community of computer users interested in Linux. The openSUSE project creates?through an open and transparent development process?a stabilized, polished Linux distribution (SUSE Linux) that delivers everything a user needs to get started with Linux. (SUSE Linux is consistently cited as the best-engineered Linux and the most usable Linux.) To fulfill its mission of bringing Linux to everyone, the openSUSE project makes SUSE Linux widely available to potential Linux users through a variety of channels, including a complete retail edition with end-user documentation. Only the openSUSE project refines its Linux distribution to the point where non-technical users can have a successful Linux experience.

When compared specifically to Fedora, the openSUSE project embraces and develops several additional important open standards not included in Fedora, such as CIM (the Common Information Model), and YaST (a standard, open source configuration and management suite for Linux). Plus, the openSUSE project has a large desktop and usability effort, strengthened by many of the top open source GUI designers in the world.

Where is this all going?

A few quotes from the openSUSE website best explain the direction and plans for openSUSE and how it fits into Novell's business model.

From the openSUSE Roadmap:

The openSUSE project is currently in its first stages and new development features will be rolled out in phases. Over time, community members will benefit from expanded access to the unique Novell AutoBuild system, which powers the project's source management and build systems. With AutoBuild, developers will be able to make their applications run on multiple architectures and even build them to support other SUSE Linux-based distributions. This flexibility will help make openSUSE one of the most compelling community projects for Linux.

The following from the openSUSE FAQ explains how Novell will be involved in openSUSE and what it means for Novell.

Why is Novell starting the openSUSE project now?

The openSUSE project was created in direct response to our customers. With literally millions of users worldwide, SUSE Linux is known for its innovation and ease of use, and is one of the most popular Linux distributions available today. SUSE Linux users have asked for greater opportunities to collaborate on the testing, design and integration of new SUSE Linux features. Now, through the openSUSE project, Linux users everywhere have the opportunity to shape and improve the software they use on their personal laptops and home networks. They will also ultimately influence the commercial SUSE Linux products businesses use to run their applications.

What is the relationship of the openSUSE project to Novell?

The openSUSE project is sponsored by Novell, which contributes significant engineering, management and infrastructure resources. Novell, in consultation with the openSUSE community, sets the project engineering goals and retains ultimate responsibility for the project. The SUSE Linux operating system and associated open source applications are used by Novell as the basis for its fully supported and hardened enterprise Linux offerings (for example, Novell Linux Desktop).

Will Novell continue to sell consumer-oriented SUSE Linux in retail shops?

Yes. One of the objectives of the openSUSE project is to make SUSE Linux easily available to anyone. Although many SUSE Linux users may download the software from the project Web site or from mirrored sites around the world, other SUSE Linux users will prefer to have a physical copy of the product. Working with Novell, the openSUSE project will continue to create a fully packaged retail edition of the distribution that will be available in retail shops and online stores worldwide. The retail edition includes installable media, printed manuals and several additional commercial software programs as well as limited technical support. The availability of a retail edition with support options sets SUSE Linux apart from any other community-based Linux distribution.

What is the difference between SUSE Linux and the other Novell Linux offerings, including Enterprise Server 9, Novell Open Enterprise Server and Novell Linux Desktop?

SUSE Linux, created and maintained by the openSUSE project, is a stable, integrated Linux operating system that includes the latest open source packages for desktop productivity, multimedia, Web-hosting, networking infrastructure and application development. It contains everything you need to get started with Linux and is ideal for individuals who wish to use Linux on their personal workstations or to drive their home networks.

Novell refines and enhances SUSE Linux to create a hardened and supported suite of enterprise Linux products suitable for data center deployments, edge server deployments, business desktops, and business infrastructure deployment.

The bottom line

openSUSE if a benefit for users and developers alike, making SUSE Linux readily available to anyone who is interested and making it the best Linux platform for developers to deliver their applications.

I've tried to highlight a few aspects of openSUSE here, to show why you would want to be involved, but there is so much more to be found on the website. Go directly there and check it out, you'll be happy that you did!

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