With hundreds of Linux distributions to choose from, users of the open source operating system face what may almost be called an embarrassment of riches, so numerous are their options.
Of course there's Ubuntu--by far the most frequently downloaded and popular version of Linux, according to Distrowatch. Then there's Linux Mint--my second favorite--along with Debian, Puppy Linux, Zorin OS and Splashtop Linux, to name just a few.
Another very popular distro is openSUSE, which currently holds Distrowatch's No. 5 spot. Version 11.4 of the Novell-backed software was just released last week, and it features a number of compelling additions and updates that could make it the right choice for your business. Here's a small taste of what you can expect.
1. Stability and Power
Stability is a key focus of the openSUSE project, and the base system of this latest release is no exception. In addition, however, it adds better scalability and performance and an enhanced boot process, among other improvements.
Based on version 2.6.37 of the Linux kernel, the software takes advantage of numerous enhancements in that version, including better scalability of virtual memory management and separation of terminal users' tasks. The new kernel also brings additional hardware support, as I've noted before, including open Broadcom wireless drivers and improved Wacom support.
Better 2D and 3D acceleration, meanwhile, result from the inclusion of improved graphics drivers, the openSUSE project says.
With the ability to download simultaneously from multiple servers and to fetch only the parts of files that have changed, openSUSE now also offers much faster repository refreshments along with package installations and updates. A newly bolstered boot process, meanwhile, supports VirtualBox and the SELinux security framework.
2. Integrated Software Choices
OpenSUSE features the KDE Plasma Desktop 4.6 along with GNOME 2.32, Xfce 4.8 and LXDE 0.5 as alternatives. Also included is GNOME Shell, which will be part of the forthcoming GNOME 3.
OpenOffice.org has been replaced with LibreOffice 3.3.1--making OpenSUSE the first major distribution to ship the Document Foundation's new contender, the project says--and both Firefox 4 and Scribus 1.4 are included as well.
All such software is deeply integrated for consistent functionality even in lighter-weight desktops such as Xfce and LXDE, the openSUSE project says. Keyboard shortcuts are set, for example, while menu layouts are tweaked and file associations are user-friendly.
For improved integration of LibreOffice and Firefox into KDE Plasma, the operating system uses native file dialogs and oxygen styling, and it respects the user's mail client and browser choices.
3. Continuous Updates
Whereas traditionally users have had to rely on a set release cycle for updates to their software, openSUSE 11.4 introduces the new Tumbleweed rolling release repository as an option. Tumbleweed contains the latest stable versions of software such as Firefox and Thunderbird, making it easier for users to stay up to date.
4. Administrative Tools
Targeting administrators and developers, OpenSUSE 11.4 ships the latest virtualization and Web server stacks along with "all the major development languages, platforms and associated IDEs," the project says. Included among the additions, for example, are Xen 4.0.2, VirtualBox 4.0.4 and KVM 0.14 for virtualization and Apache 2.2.17, Lighttpd 1.4.26 and Ngninx 0.8.54 on the Web server side.
Version 9.0.3 of PostgreSQL, the MySQL 5.1.53 community edition and the MariaDB 5.1 fork are also included.
5. The Freedom of Linux
Last but definitely not least are all the myriad benefits you get when you use most any version of Linux, including the freedom to modify the software to suit your business, the freedom from vendor lock-in, the freedom from rampant malware and the freedom from exorbitant costs.
Did I mention that openSUSE is free? It's now available for download at no cost, but can also be purchased for $71.50 as a retail version with 90-day installation support, physical media and a printed Getting Started guide. Whichever route you take, there's no better time to take openSUSE for a test drive.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .