Saturday, February 1, 2014

OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e" Review: More than an educational distro!

I have a 3.5 year old daughter. For her I often search suitable educational distros. I like the educational distros released by Zorin, Ubuntu, Doudou, etc. but nothing comes close to the superb experience I had with OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e". The beauty of the distro is that it ships with an enviable ensemble of packages suitable for both young and adults alike. I'll take you through my experience of using it for over a month or so.

The "Education Li-f-e" is an extension of the OpenSUSE base distro and ships with KDE 4.11.4 and Linux kernel 3.11.6. The 64 bit ISO I downloaded is about 3.3 GB in size and the bulk is primarily due to a whole lot of packages it ships pre-installed.

From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
I created a live USB using Mint Image Writer on a 4 GB pendrive. First I did a live boot on my Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and hybrid graphics with 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics. Once satisfied that everything is working well, I installed it on a 70 GB partition.

Education Li-f-e looks like a typical OpenSUSE with the famous OpenSUSE theme. I wallpaper looks pretty awesome but doesn't go well with black colored clock. I prefer having the KDE clock on my desktop.

From Best KDE Distros
So, I checked the pre-installed wallpaper collection in the distro and it is pretty awesome.

From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
Here is the same distro with a beautiful looking wallpaper.

From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
One good thing is that OpenSUSE didn't change it's professional looking theme for this distro. At times I have seen distros going overboard in it's theme just because it carries some softwares meant for kids.

Applications, barring Google Chrome (which I installed later), gel well with the default theme. Special mention must be made of LibreOffice whose splash looks wonderful in OpenSUSE.

Font rendering is still an issue but it can be resolved by changing font type from the Configure Desktop -> Application Appearance -> Fonts. With a little bit of tinkering, applications look much better in OpenSUSE.

From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
Overall, OpenSUSE has an unique KDE theme, different from other KDE spins and for this I give OpenSUSE 10/10 for aesthetics.

Hardware Recognition
OpenSUSE's hardware recognition is pretty awesome - everything including touchpad tap and 2 finger scroll worked right from the live boot! Screen resolution was perfect and so was wifi detection. I give 10/10 for hardware detection to OpenSUSE.

OpenSUSE Education Li-f-e is loaded with pre-installed packages. Actually there are so many packages for single use, I feel like a lot of packages were wasted. First let me present the list:

  • Office: LibreOffice (Base, Calc, Draw, Impress, Writer), Scribus, (Document viewer, Okular), FB reader, Kontact, Korganizer, Dictionary, Timetable generator, VYM, Gnucash
  • Internet: Firefox 26, Konqueror, Choqok microblogging client, (Empathy IM, Konversation, Kopete IM, Pigdin IM), XChat, gFTP, lftp shell, Steam, (Transmission, Ktorrent,) (Evolution email, Kmail,) (Akregator, Liferea), (Ekiga Softphone, Linphone), Bluefish editor, KPPP
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.6, Hugin Batch processor & Panorama, Mtpaint, Mypaint, Cheese, Digikam, DNG converter, Expoblending, Panorama, Photo layout editor, Shotwell, showFoto, UFRaw, Acquire Images, (Simple scan, Skanlite, Xsane scanner), Inkscape, Ski, (Gwenview, Imager viewer, Viewnior), Blender, Ksnapshot
  • Multimedia: (Amarok music player, Audacious, Music Player, Rhythmbox), AMZ downloader, (VLC 2.1.2, Kaffeine, Mplayer, SM Player, Videos), (Brasero, K3b), Audacity, Openshot video editor, Xsaw TV, Hydrogen Drum, Desktop recorder, KsCD
  • Accessories: Ark archiving manager, (Backup, Nepomuk Backup and Cleaner), Live USB GUI, OpenSUSE Imagewriter, (Calculator, Galculator, KCalc), Desktop search, (Knote, Gnote), (gedit, Kate, Kwrite), Kompare, Okteta, KgPG, Kleopatra, Passwords & Keys, Clocks, Printer Manager, gparted, NTFS config
  • Others: Wine, Virtualbox
I have marked here the duplicate applications in bold and parentheses. For me it makes sense to have a couple of browsers or office but three scanning softwares or four music player and four video players? Three calculators? It seems a bit too much! It feels great that the developers haven't limited themselves to KDE apps only but tried to take best of GNOME and XFCE as well. However, I think the developers went a bit overboard here and they could've actually saved a lot of space by picking up the best of the duplicate applications.

Alongside, I must mention of the educational software collection in OpenSUSE Education Li-f-e:
  • Chemistry: Avogadro, Kalzium periodic table
  • Geography: Marble desktop globe
  • Language: Ignuit Flash card trainer, Kanagram, Klettres, Pauker flash card learning, Tux typing
  • Mathematics: Geogebra, GNU PSPP
  • Teaching, Bibletime, Brain workshop, Gecompris educational suite, Klavaro typing tutor, Letter wizard, Tux Paint
  • Science: Stellarium
It is a good collection for kids and I feel happy to see PSPP (a Linux equivalent for SPSS for statistical analysis) included in OpenSUSE.

Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin are preinstalled in the distro for instant consumption of media files.

From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
Special mention must be made of the graphics section - it is capable enough to fulfill any amateur photographers needs!

In overall, I though initially of penalizing for duplicate packages but the wonderful educational software package collection actually changed my mind. I give OpenSUSE Education Li-f-e 11/10 for pre-installed applications (Yes, 1 point extra!).

Installation is typical OpenSUSE and should not challenge even Linux novices. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get the distro running.

Installation of Bumblebee for NVIDIA graphics
OpenSUSE website provides detailed instructions of installing bumblebee normally. This time they referred to Smithfarm's blog for the manual. The steps are pretty simple and effective:
Add the bumblee repo by running the following command in terminal as root:
# zypper ar Overman79
Update by running zypper ref
Install bumblebee and corresponding packages
# zypper in dkms dkms-nvidia dkms-bbswitch bumblebee primus x11-video-nvidia
Once installed, enable bumblebee by
# systemctl enable dkms
# systemctl enable bumblebeed
Add user to the bumblee group
# gpasswd -a arindam bumblebee
Reboot and enjoy absolutely no heat even after running the laptop for 12+ hours at a stretch!
To check if bumblebee is working run optirun ls -l.

Upgrading to KDE 4.12.1
From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
I upgraded to KDE 4.12.1 by running the following commands as root in terminal/konsole:
# zypper ar -f KDE4121
# zypper ar -f KDE4121E
The above commands will add KDE 4.12.1 and KDE 4.12.1 extra repositories to the system. Now update from the repositories added by:
# zypper dup --from KDE4121
# zypper dup --from KDE4121E
From OpenSUSE 13.1 "Education Li-f-e"
Now you have the latest KDE added to your system. However, let me mention that I don't see a point to upgrade from 4.11.4 to 4.12.1 as the incremental benefits are marginal. Anyway, KDE 4.12.1 is pretty stable and hence, I upgraded.

OpenSUSE has a very good repository and you won't miss Ubuntu much if you migrate. There are a couple of package management GUIs: Apper and YaST. Apper is the default KDE one and it's minimalistic design is quite good.
YaST is definitely one of the best package management systems in the Linux world and it worked wonderfully well to install applications from repository as well as local packages.
Given a combination of KDE, GNOME and XFCE packages, I expected OpenSUSE Education Li-f-e to be a bit heavy. With task manager running, it took about 730 MB RAM and 0-5% CPU usage which is 40% higher than what I recorded for OpenSUSE 13.1. Anyway, with my system's specs, there was nothing to complain and it worked pretty smooth even while playing HD videos. 
The Education Li-f-e version takes about 57 seconds to boot with autologin enabled. It is slightly higher than what average KDE distros take (about 54 seconds).
For medium performance, I rate the OpenSUSE Education Li-t-e version as 5.5/10 in performance.

Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO (GB) Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU (%) RAM usage (MB) Size of installation Boot time (sec)
Debian KDE 7.3.0 0.7 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 0-5% 423 4.1 49
Neptune 3.3 1.9 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.11.2 3.10.12 0-5% 439 7.2 53
Netrunner 13.06 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-5% 475 5.9 40
Siduction 13.2.0 1.2 Debian Unstable KDE 4.11.4 3.12.0 0-5% 478 3.7 60
Mint 15 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-5% 483 7.0 45
Solydk 2013.11 1.6 Debian Testing KDE 4.11.3 3.10.3 0-5% 484 6.2 59
Bridge Linux 2013.06 1.0 Arch KDE 4.10.4 3.12.5 0-5% 490 4.6 39
Mint 16 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.3 3.11.0 0-5% 496 7.0 37
PCLinuxOS 2013.12 1.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.3 3.4.70 0-10% 496 5.8 65
Kwheezy 1.4 4.0 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 0-10% 511 12.4 49
Kubuntu 13.04 0.9 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-10% 523 4.9 35
Mageia 3 1.4 Mandriva KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 0-5% 530 3.9 46
Calculate Linux 13.11  2.3 Gentoo KDE 4.11.3 3.10.19 0-5% 537 7.1 64
Kubuntu 13.10 1.0 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0 0-5% 547 5.2 53
Chakra Fritz 2013.09 1.8 Arch KDE 4.11.1 3.10.10 0-10% 550 5.0 41
OpenSUSE 13.1 4.4 OpenSUSE KDE 4.11.2 3.11.6 0-5% 593 6.0 53
ROSA Fresh KDE R2 1.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.3 3.10.19 0-5% 620 5.4 53
Netrunner 13.12 1.6 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0 0-10% 623 7.2 48
Manjaro 0.8.8 KDE 2.0 Arch KDE 4.11.3 3.10.24 0-10% 655 7.0 66
Fedora 20 KDE 0.9 Fedora KDE 4.11.3 3.12.5 0-5% 691 8.4 77
Korora 19.1 2.4 Fedora KDE 4.11.1 3.11.2 0-5% 697 9.2 79
OpenSUSE 13.1.1 Education Li-f-e 3.3 OpenSUSE KDE 4.12.1 3.11.6 0-5% 730 9.3 57
Korora 20 2.3 Fedora KDE 4.11.5 3.12.6 0-5% 750 8.0 58

OpenSUSE Education Li-f-e is possibly the best educational distro I've used. It not only ships with a host of utility packages for school goers, but also capable of meeting the needs of regular users and amateur photographers. Only thing I wished that the developers been a bit conservative about selecting applications and avoided duplication. Otherwise, I found it to be supremely stable and combining the best of GNOME and XFCE along with KDE. 

I definitely recommend OpenSUSE 13.1 Education Li-f-e to all those looking for a good educational distro - you won't be disappointed for sure! 

You can download the 32 and 64 bit versions from here.

Overall Rating: 9.3/10
Installation: 10/10
Aesthetics: 10/10
Hardware Recognition: 10/10
Pre-installed Packages: 11/10
Performance: 5.5/10


  1. Nice review! Would you review Mageia 4?

    1. Hi Nekyl,
      Thanks for liking my review. I am writing this comment from Mageia 4 KDE. I plan to write a review this Saturday after using Mageia for a week or so. So, far the experience has been quite good.


  2. Dear Arindam,

    That was some great reviewing of OpenSuse 13.1 but the last line is confusing!

    By performance do you only mean memory consumption? There are several other parameters to determine performance like startup and shutdown times, general responsiveness of the desktop, application load times etc.

    I have been using it on a machine with just 2GB ram and I rarely notice any drag. I have been using OpenSuse since about 11.3.

    In fact it is so good I am planning to "tumbleweed" my installation.

    For the future, however, I guess your review should be for machines with more modest memory. Most people won't have 8GB. 2 - 4 GB appears more realistic.

    Thanks again for the review.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for liking my review.

      To make my point, I assess and recommend a distro based on all the parameters under consideration in my assessment apart from performance. My performance indicators include both RAM consumption and boot time with 30% weightage on the same and 70% weightage on other factors. Though OpenSUSE 13.1 scores a bit low on performance but more than makes up in other aspects.

      The education li-f-e spin ships GNOME and XFCE packages in addition to KDE and hence, may be marginally inefficient over a pure KDE distro. So, higher RAM consumption is expected of it.

      Also, I am thinking of buying a Core i3 - 4 GB laptop in next 6 months. I agree my present system is too powerful and almost every bug free distro will run amazingly smooth on it. Your suggestion is well taken :).

      Thanks again for following my blog.


  3. @ Transform Humanity,

    I like Arindam's reviews in general, however he does this thing all the time which IMHO is incorrect and misleading. He passes the boot time and memory consumption for performance measurements. If you do work on your machine, you will boot it once, then will be on for months. You could move some of the tmp partitions in memory instead of the filesystem, and although the RAM consumption goes up the performance of the system will be better. Also one can enable/disable various services depending on what kind of functionality one needs. Of course a bare CentOS server install will take up a lot less RAM, but can you use that for desktop work? I did some actual performance comparisons (like how long it takes various programs to execute certain things) between XUbuntu, openSUSE XFCE and Manjaro XFCE, and although their boot time and memory consumption with the same set of services on is different, in real life they perform pretty much the same.

    Arindam, you should stop judging the performance of a system based on its RAM consumption. Other than that, thank you for your informative reviews.

    1. Hi Cat,

      I use a laptop which I shut down and start 3-4 times a day. For me, boot up and shut down time matters a lot. I know a lot of other users who do the same. Hence, boot time forms an important criteria in my evaluation.

      Further, I run a few analytical packages on my system for which I require the most efficient distro with least RAM consumption. Hence, among the modern Linux systems, I assess which one is the most efficient without any manual intervention.

      Hence, my reasons of specifically selecting these two parameters for performance measures. Also, I put only 30% weightage on performance. Rest 70% is on other parameters like installation, aesthetics, hardware recognition and pre-installed packages.

      I understand that you use a desktop and possibly don't care much about boot time. However, I write those reviews based on my personal user experience and jot down what matters to me most. I hope I could include things like ease of printer settings, file sharing over network, etc. as well in my reviews to make them more complete.

      Unfortunately, I don't require those services and hence, the non-inclusion. However, your point is well taken and possibly I may reduce the weightage on boot time and RAM consumption in my future reviews.

      Thanks for liking my blog as well :).


  4. Thanks Arindam for taking the time to reply. I got your point related to your criteria of judging the performance of a given distro, although most of those criteria are not very relevant to my case. But this is the beauty of Linux, it gives you the building blocks to put together the OS that services the best your particular needs. Anyways, I will keep reading your blog and enjoy finding out about new distros. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  5. Hello Arindam,
    I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about the image posted above. Is the cube effect achieved with Compiz Fusion? If so, is it the same program for Fedora 19? And finally, I was curious if the appearance of the effects in Compiz Fusion would change significantly if you were using a newer video card for enhanced graphics/resolution? I had read that development for Compiz ended a few years ago, so I was curious if say, I were to use a top of the line video card today, if the changes could be seen in the Compiz "cube" with less visible pixels, higher resolution, etc. Sorry if these questions are silly, I'm still learning about all of this.

    Thanks for reading

    1. Edit: By that I mean, it always looks in pictures that the cube itself is a bit pixelated/low resolution, so I was curious if a newer video card would sharpen up the appearance of the cube, or if that is simply the limitations of the program

    2. It is not compiz fusion but a program in KDE windows manager (Kwin) that creates those effects. Agreed they are not as sharp as a GNOME 2 + Compiz would have rendered, but still looks good. Compiz cube is dead - so I won't worry about it. I hope it answers your question.

      If you are using Fedora 19/20 KDE, go to System Settings > Desktop effects >All effects > Search for cube > enable it and then go to Advanced > choose OpenGL 2.0 and Raster. Press Ctrl+F11 to enjoy desktop cube. There are a lot more settings to fine tune and tweak the cube, all for you to explore.


  6. The repo link is dead can you please provide updated one ?