Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SuSE 11.1 - too little, too soon

I'm an engineer, so I like to read the instructions and do my homework before I come to a conclusion. So I have given SuSE 11.1 due diligence. I have spent at least a day with each of the problem areas, some with success, others without. As a result I have come to the following conclusion:
  • SuSE 11.1 is very pretty. The Plasma desktop is beautiful.
  • SuSE 11.1 is a very pretty bimbo. There are a lot of things that just don't work.
As my father said to my sister, "pretty is as pretty does." The SuSE people have obviously spent a lot of time on facepaint, but under that pretty face is a very disfunctional brain. Let me count the ways:
  • Bluetooth does not work on KDE. gives the summary. gives the workaround as installing the gnome bluetooth package, but it only works if you have Gnome as the desktop. On KDE bluetooth does not even appear in YaST, although hcitool does show it exists and it can find remote and local devices. You just cannot assign a password to the local device, so you cannot connect. As a result there is a host of other things that do not work, including:
    • obexfs
    • syncml
    • Bluetooth modem
  • GIMP 2.6.2 scanner support does not work. xscanimage cannot find the scanner even though skanlite and scanimage find the device. We can live with this since skanlite can save a scan to a file that we can then open in GIMP.
  • Audio does not work. We spent hours farkling this.There is a troubleshooting guide for SuSE 11.1 system at but I have been through this in detail without success.
  • File previews in konqueror do not work. The new Plasma interface lets you select or deselect a file by clicking on the icon, but despite settings in Personal Settings you do not get the popup preview with size, date, ownership data.
  • The system will not shut down except by brute force power-off. See
  • khotkeys does not work. As a result I have lost all my quick inputs of the complex passwords we have to use.
  • Beagle is a dog. Duhhh. But it really is. It spends hours thrashing about, but when you ask it something it plays dumb. So why am I wasting all that disk space? So I nuked it.
  • The SuSE firewall is a dog. No visible means of configuration unless you have memorized iptables. Thanks be to God for guarddog:
  • There is no support for mplayer, even though this is the dominant open source media player. I had to revert to learning svn (a step beyond CVS and full of flamers) to get it to work, and the kplayer GUI still doesn't work.
  • The default SeaMonkey email system is definitely a work in progress. I went with it for a week and then trashed it to return to Thunderbird.
SO: pretty well disappointed.
  • Note that:
    • These conclusions are deliberate. I spent easily a full eight hour day on each of these problems
    • I am a real SuSE fan. I prefer the KDE interface as being bright and cheerful and crisp. Everyone else wants fat dull Gnome. I hate it.
    • I'm a certified engineer and geek, so quite adept, and moreso than most, at farkling these problems.
    • And, most importantly, all these things worked just fine on SuSE 10.2. So the operative phrase is: If it ain't broke don't fix it!! Good grief...
My opinion is that the community at large, and Novell/OpenSuSE in particular, would be better off adhering less rigidly to a six-month release cycle and more rigidly to making sure that very much everything works before making a release. Normal people do not reformat their disks and install a new operating system every six months. 'Way too much work. This evolution has easily cost me two months, which thankfully I had available. I'm not going to do that every six months. And releasing buggy software just gives the community a bad name. So take at least a little more time and ensure that it WORKS before releasing it. Especially do not release stuff that the community has already identified as being dysfunctional, like bluetooth on KDE4.

So, despite being a SuSE fan from 10.2 onward, I shall catch my breath, and then try to figure out how to get Fedora or something else to give me KDE. And then, maybe, very maybe, come back to try SuSE 11.2 or 11.3 or ... But again, shall do due diligence first.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


1. Always try to download mplayer using your distribution's software manager:
| Distro | Manager|
|OpenSuse | YaST |
|Fedora | yum |
|Debian |apt|
|Ubuntu | ~|

If these fail then add the "packman" repository

(see that page) by issuing the following command as root (all on one line):
zypper addrepo --repo

and then try again by asking YaST for mplayer. It should give you a host of modules, select them all and click ACCEPT.

If that fails then the best answer is to use the svn repository. svn is a process ("protocol") for frequently updating the status and files of a software project, such as mplayer. Developers submit daily changes to the component files. The files are accessed by using the program svn, which may already have been installed on your machine by your installation system. Type
svn help
as root at a terminal to determine whether or not it exists, and if not then install it.

Once installed, svn uses a unique internet permissions protocol, called a "port", to access the updated files. Your firewall needs to give permission for the port to be seen and accessed by servers on the internet. Otherwise svn cannot find its target.

"Guarddog" from is an excellent tool to configure your firewall. You can add "ports" in the Advanced tab of the program, then tick the boxes in the Protocol tab for Internet, local and your local network.

Check your results with (using the ShieldsUp! option) to ensure you have not exposed yourself by opening this port.

Once past all that housekeeping, simply enter the following commands in sequence in a terminal as root:

svn checkout svn:// mplayer
# This will download the main software and most of its dependencies and associated codecs. It will not get ALL of them... :-(

cd /root/mplayer # This moves you to where the files have been downloaded

./configure # This is the normal start of an installation sequence that creates a "makefile" summary of all the files that need to be installed

make # This uses the results of ./configure to compile the program

make install # This installs the program.

Test your result by typing


as either user or root.

For the explorers among you, this site seems to say it all:,_FFmpeg-PHP,_Lame,_Libogg,_Libvorbis,_FLVtool2,_Mplayer,_Mencoder,_AMR_Installation#Download_all_the_files_needed

If it works, Enjoy!

If it doesn't, then have a nice day. Google is your friend. Consider joining:

"MPlayer usage questions, feature requests, bug reports"

Oh yeh. This is for users of Linux. If you are on some proprietary closed source OS then really have a nice day.