Installing openSUSE 10.3 Alpha 5

It’s been a little bit of a bumpy ride (but what would you expect with an Alpha release?), but I’m typing from my newly installed Alpha 5 system. Time to share the experience.

The BitTorrent download went pretty well, with the 3+ gigs (6 CD ISOs!) coming down in under a day (thanks to all of you who participated). I also thought the k3b burn went pretty straightforwardly, but I have been wrong before.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that CD-RWs just aren’t as rewritable as they once were. k3b cheerfully offered to wipe the Alpha 4 data off each disc before writing the new data down. It also double-checked the MD5SUMs after writing the data (with a slight problem on CD #2, but eventually even that one worked). But things got a little ugly when the install began.

A little bit about my test machine: It’s an older Dell OptiPlex GX110 with a functioning Win2K partition (I always test dual-boot) with ~20GB left over for whatever Linux I inflict it with. Oh, and it just has a plain ol’ CD-ROM (no writer, no DVD). I attach all the peripherals from my main machine (yeah, I should get a KVM switch one of these days, but I’m OK with getting under the table every once in awhile), so it runs my flat-screen monitor and my USB mouse, usually without complaint.

Alpha 5 features an “Install from Windows” feature, so I tried that out. Booted to Win2k, then stuck CD 1 in the drive. Sure enough, it offers to install openSUSE quite nicely. I say Yes and the machine reboots to the CD. Go through the traditional license agreement, and it also checks a network connection before doing anything else! That’s cool. Next up, the Media Check. As noted above, I had already done this in k3b, but I always check the first CD anyway. Uh-oh, doesn’t pass.  Must just be a problem with the install program. Let’s check CD 2, which indeed might have a problem. It didn’t pass either.  User blithely clicks “Next,” knowing his CDs are perfectly fine!

After asking me what desktop I want to install, YaST scans the drive and proposes to create a (relatively) gigantic /home partition. As a tester (and author), I don’t need a big /home drive, I need more room in /. Not touching the NTFS drive, I delete /home, resize /, and recreate /home in parted. A few more clicks and the install begins. Suddenly YaST can’t find dozens of files on CD 1. OK, well maybe the installer is broken, or something’s weird with the CD. Abort!

So I reboot, and can’t get Windows anymore! Slight panic, but we return to the security of the production machine. <sigh>

I considered re-burning the CDs, but thought that might take too much time with possibly a similar result. But the openSUSE developers had another solution for me: there were 1-CD installs with your choice of desktop. I quickly (really!) downloaded the KDE install ISO and burned it to a clean CD.

I am thrilled as I run the CD, and with nary a hitch, YaST again repartitions the drive the way I want it, installs the main KDE packages and sets me up in under an hour!

I’ve now got a functioning dual-boot system. Interestingly enough, when I boot to Windows from Grub, I get the Win2k boot menu briefly asking if I want to boot to the SUSE install (but I don’t). When Windows is done booting, though, it asks if I want to remove the SUSE install program. The message is slightly frightening, as someone could read it as “Do you want to remove openSUSE?” but it doesn’t do that–just the EXE program.

But how to get all the other apps I need to test on the new system? That turned out to be much easier than feared, but the story will have to wait for a few hours… Sit tight.

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