OpenSUSE: 4 months in

Maybe it is time for a little update, even if there is not much to say. After 4 months of running OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, I can honestly say I have not had a single moment where I’d thought I should maybe look for another distribution because XYZ is getting too annoying.

Of course it does have some annoyances. Some are with me, like running systemd-boot while it is not officially ready for primetime yet. Others are with OpenSUSE or my setup, like sometimes an update will bork the system and I have to do a snapper rollback. Fortunately, OpenSUSE makes this a 2 minute job and so far, rolling back the update and installing it again is all that is needed to fix the system and the update.

Other than that, I can’t even really think of anything. It just works. It runs, it runs fast, I have all the latest packages as you can expect using a rolling release and I just get to enjoy using my computer and play around with it. Both my desktop as well as my laptop.

It’s nice to be able to use the computers without this itch or little doubt that makes one go and look for greener pastures.

I’m still impressed, really impressed with OpenSUSE. More should be using it, it really is that good. And a bit of counterweight to the giants like Canonical and Redhat would be nice too.

Have a good one.

systemd-boot on OpenSUSE

I am weird sometimes, I know. Ever since I used Pop!OS, which uses systemd-boot as default boot manager, I have fallen in love with it. The simplicity and speed of systemd-boot versus the complexity and bulk of GRUB2 just won me over.

Mind you, GRUB2 is very good at what it does. It’s just that I don’t need all it does. All I need is to boot my machine, nothing more, nothing less. My laptop, on which I am typing this, only has OpenSUSE installed. No dual boot, nothing. My desktop boots OpenSUSE and FreeBSD at the moment, but they do so from seperate disks with their own bootloader. Nice and simple.

Neither need the features of GRUB2.

That said, changing the bootloader is tricky. It’d be nice if OpenSUSE would let you pick systemd-boot at install, so you don’t have to muck with it. However, since end of September, OpenSUSE officially supports systemd-boot.

So, I just had to have it, starting with my laptop.


Note: I do not use secureboot. Do not blindly follow this tutorial if you are using secure boot: it will break your system. You can do it, but it requires more steps then I will outline here.

First, check if /usr/lib/bootloader/systemd-boot exists. If it does, you’re good.

Remove all OpenSUSE entries from the EFI boot menu, and all others you do not need:

# efibootmgr --delete --label opensuse-secureboot

Do this for each entry you do not need or want. You can see what entries there are by just typinge efibootmgr without any options.

Next we want to update the configuration, so it knows we are going to use systemd-boot.

# vi /etc/sysconfig/bootloader 

Change from (probably) LOADER_TYPE="grub2-efi" to LOADER_TYPE="systemd-boot"

Install the systemd-boot utils to add support for snapshots. We are running OpenSUSE, we do want support for our automatic btrfs snapper snapshots.

# zypper in sdbootutil-snapper sdbootutil-rpm-scriptlets

If zypper complains that it needs to remove GRUB2 to do this, confirm by choosing the solution that will do so. It will both add all the files required for systemd-boot to function and remove all grub2 related files that you will not be using anymore.

Then we want to install our kernels, including snapshots so we can actually boot as we do not have a bootmanager installed right now!

# sdbootutil install
# sdbootutil add-all-kernels

Now we’re done. Systemd-boot is installed, GRUB2 is removed and we can reboot our system and enjoy a fast and less bloated setup. If you want to get to the boot menu to boot from a snapshot, just hold the spacebar while booting and it will pop up.

Issues / challenges

  • Initrd / ramdisk does not get updated after installation / update of kernel drivers, ie NVIDIA graphics drivers. This can be solved by manually generating a new initrd file and copying it to the appropiate location, replacing the old one but should really be done automatically. Bug is filed.

Interesting (or: first tiling windows manager experience)

The other night, I was playing around watching YouTube videos and was watching this one video from Brodie Robertson on how he was now using Hyprland as his daily driver. Usually, I just zone out to other tasks when the topic gets to a tiling window manager, as it is not for me: I have a ultrawide screen on my desktop, with a 3440×1440 resolution and trust me, you do not want to run console fullscreen.

But, as I was sitting with my laptop in my lap which obviously has a more common resolution display, I thought what the heck. Let’s see if OpenSUSE offers Hyprland in its repos and see what it’s all about.

Well, it was in the repos and to my suprise it didn’t suck. I mean, I still prefer a normal desktop for desktop tasks, but for managing my network and homelab from my laptop, where I pretty much live in (multiple) terminal sessions and a some of browser tabs on a different workspace, this works. And pretty good too, with great focus on what you need to achieve.

I like, again to my suprise

On a sidenote: does anyone know how to use tiling window manager on a ultrawide screen, where you do not want a single application to go fullscreen, but remain restricted to just part of the screen – let’s say a third of the screen. Or top/bottom half vertically and a third horizontally. Having essentially two screens side by side in a single panel is a dream from a screen real estate point of view, but its a nightmare for using a tiling window manager imo, especially if you take care organizing your windows.

The end to distro-hopping?

Since I have moved to running Linux basically full time, I have ran Pop!OS, Fedora, Nobara, back to Fedora KDE Spin and now OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. All of them are good distributions and none have any real deal-breakers for me not to want to use them.

The fact that I really, really like Tumbleweed was not a given. Quite the contrary. OpenSUSE does it’s own thing, so it is a bit of a learning curve if you are used to Debian-based or RedHat-based distributions. It is one of the oldest distributions still operating today, which puts it in the same company as Debian and Slackware. The latter actually being the initial origins for (then) SUSE Linux.

But I digress. My experience with SUSE in the past (=20 odd years ago) was less than favorable to the point that I abandoned it and never really looked at it again until now. Installation was painless and it let you choose your desired desktop environment as part of the installation procedure. I run KDE, which is the first option and let it do its thing.

After install I was back in business. Mind you: I have /home on a seperate disk, so all I have to do when reinstalling or using a new distribution is to make sure that drive is mounted on /home and I have all my (program) settings back and my desktop just looks the same as before. Saves me time to set everything up the way I want again and no data loss when doing a reinstall.

Some observations after installing OpenSUSE Tumbleweed:

  • Using OpenSUSE means using BTRFS right: proper subvolumes upon install, snapper configured out of the box to create snapshots when installing software and updates and grub configured to be able to boot from previously created snapshots so you can rollback if something happens to go wrong. No more worried about effing up your system
  • YaST2 is a very useful tool. It let me configure and add my iscsi targets in 2 minutes tops and it connects automatically on boot again, whereas most other distributions make that a painful, manual task that requires workarounds to mount your drives after a reboot. I don’t really need a GUI tool to configure my systems, but this tool lets you configure all aspects of the system and sometimes it is just faster doing it once in the GUI than to do it manually.
    Note: the original YaST is the reason I quite SUSE years ago and never came back. Different story.
  • It has a huge repository of programs, including non-FOSS if you add the packman repos. And if you install opi (openSUSE Package Installer) you have the entire OBS (OpenBuild System) at your finger tips, including user repositories. Basically you have the OpenSUSE equivalent of Arch’s AUR.
  • Installation of proprietary drivers and codecs is easy and painless, as with most distributions. That said, I think OpenSUSE is the only distro where the Nvidia drivers come straight from a repo at Nvidia.
  • It’s (Tumbleweed) a rolling distribution, so always the latest software but it is better tested than something like Arch. This means less issues are likely to arise.

Some inconveniences I ran into:

  • Both my laptop and desktop were unable to load Wayland and had to use Xorg. This is not a big thing. This was caused by a SDDM bug where the SHELL variable got messed up if you use the fish shell as you login shell. This has been fixed by the KDE team in ’21/’22, but the fix was never backported to OpenSUSE by the OpenSUSE team. Workaround was to change the login shell to standard bash, and just tell the terminal app to start with the fish shell. Now I can run Wayland on my laptop, while still using Xorg on my desktop as it work just works better with Nvidia graphics. But it will run Wayland if I want to.

Other things I did after installing Tumbleweed are not OpenSUSE specific things, but more generic Linux optimizations I have made.

  • I used tuned with tuned-adm to select and set an appropriate tuning profile for my systems.
  • I have set up a couple scripts for my laptop to switch profiles and CPU modes depending on if the laptop is running on AC power, or battery.

When running on AC power:

# Set CPU governor to powersave
if [ -e /usr/bin/cpupower ]; then
	sudo cpupower frequency-set --governor performance
    sudo tuned-adm profile latency-performance
    echo performance | sudo tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/scaling_governor
    sudo tuned-adm profile latency-performance

When running on battery power:

# Set CPU governor to powersave
if [ -e /usr/bin/cpupower ]; then
	sudo cpupower frequency-set --governor powersave
	sudo tuned-adm profile powersave
	echo powersave | sudo tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/scaling_governor
	sudo tuned-adm profile powersave

These are set in KDE settings under power management, see screenshot:

  • On the desktop, I just set the tuned profile to latency-performance using tuned-adm. This is a profile that aims to prioritize latency over throughput, which is great for desktop use with a GUI.
  • I also set some sysctl parameters as outlined in another post.

Like I said, these are not Tumbleweed or OpenSUSE specific optimizations or even necessary, but it is how I prefer to set up my systems. I feel it helps me to squeeze out the most performance out of my systems, and in the case of the laptop, preserve battery life when needed.

When all is said and done, I really like OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. I like the bootable snapshots. I like having the latest versions of different software without having to wait for a next release. I like the tools provided to admin the system. It’s a good’un. I think I’ll keep it. Then again, I said that of Fedora. And Nobara. But I do think it is true this time.