OpenSUSE 13.1: Installation Tweaks and Bits

As promised – and as a special one-off midweek post to commemorate the passing of Windows XP – I’ve updated my old OpenSUSE configuration guide for compatibility with the latest version (13.1). If you’re currently migrating from Windows XP, or if you just want to muck about with Linux, then maybe you’ll find something useful here…

For all that follows, I’m assuming a fresh install of OpenSUSE 13.1 with the KDE desktop environment. If you need help with that side of things, I suggest you take a look at the ‘Unofficial Guide to OpenSUSE’ website, which goes through the basics with far greater patience than I could ever muster. My ‘guide’ is more of a plain checklist, so you might need to Google around if you get lost…

Anyway, here it is:

1. First Boot

Run YaST:

Update installed packages:

Reboot the PC.

2. Configure Repositories

Clean up the default repository list:

Add useful community repositories:

Having done this, it’s a good idea to run ‘YaST → Software Management’, and check the ‘Installation Summary’ tab. You’ll most likely see that a number of packages from the newly-added repositories have been auto-selected for installation. Just click ‘Accept’, and let the installation continue.

3. Install Graphics Drivers

4. Configure YaST Settings

Bootloader configuration:

Network Time Protocol configuration:

(Change this if you live outside the UK…)

5. Enable Clearing of Temporary Directories at Boot Time

By default, the system-wide temporary directories are allowed to accumulate cruft with gay abandon, potentially leading to ‘disk full’ errors. To avoid this, I like to configure my ‘tmp’ directories to be wiped on boot. Once upon a time, you could do this with a simple cron setting, but not any more…

To ensure that ‘tmp’ directories are cleared at boot, you now have to open a terminal and enter the following commands:

$ su
$ sed 's/^d/D/' /usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf > /etc/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf

(Taken from here)

6. Add Support for Restricted Multimedia Formats

By default, OpenSUSE doesn’t include codecs for handling mp3 files and other suchlike patented formats. To work around this, open a terminal and run the command:

$ sudo zypper install MPlayer vlc vlc-codecs libxine2-codecs k3b-codecs ffmpeg lame gstreamer-0_10-plugins-bad gstreamer-0_10-plugins-ugly gstreamer-0_10-plugins-ugly-orig-addon gstreamer-0_10-plugins-ffmpeg libdvdcss2

(NB: MPlayer and VLC are not strictly required here, but they are the applications I find most useful for media playback)

During the install, you may see warnings of the following type:

Problem: <blah> requires <blah>, but this requirement cannot be provided
Solution 1: Following actions will be done:
  downgrade of <blah>
  install <blah> (with vendor change)
    openSUSE  -->

It’s basically asking if you want to allow ‘vendor change’ for a certain package. Yes, you want to do this. Always choose the option that specifies ‘with vendor change’.

7. Install Random Useful Software…

There are a few non-default packages that I always install, namely:

Skip this step if you like, but I strongly suggest that you at least grab the ‘fetchmsttfonts’ package.

Anyway, open a terminal and run the command:

$ sudo zypper install MozillaThunderbird kate nano yakuake speedcrunch kde4-l10n-en_GB fetchmsttfonts fortune

8. Install Subpixel Hinting Packages

NB: The default font rendering in OpenSUSE 13.1 is somewhat better than in previous versions (but still not good enough, in my humble opinion). If you’re happy with the way fonts look post-install, then feel free to move on to the next step…

Still here? Then add the Subpixel Hinting repository:

(Note that this adds a ‘Factory’ repository to the system, which could possibly introduce unstable software. I’ve experienced no issues, though, and of all the methods for adding proper subpixel hinting to OpenSUSE 13.1, I think this one produces the best results while causing the least potential for harm…)

With the repository in place, install the required packages:

I’d suggest rebooting at this point, to ensure that the entire desktop is using the same/correct font rendering method (otherwise you might get in a muddle). Following the reboot, all of your fonts will look truly awful – but we’ll fix that in a moment…

9. Configure Desktop Settings

From the ‘start’ menu, open the KDE ‘System Settings’ panel. Notable categories are listed below:

Application Appearance (‘Style’ page):

Application Appearance (‘Fonts’ page):

Application Appearance (‘GTK’ page):


Desktop Effects:

Desktop Search:

Window Behaviour:

Workspace Behaviour:

Startup and Shutdown

Font Management:

(NB: You should only have to do this if you installed ‘fetchmsttfonts’, as above)

Why do we do this? Because, for some reason, Helvetica looks pixelated and dreadful under OpenSUSE (and a number of other Linux distributions, too). This wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that many websites use Helvetica as their default font, and thus become completely unbearable when viewed under Linux. There are more sophisticated workarounds involving the configuration of font substitution, but deleting Helvetica entirely is a far simpler solution for making the web look respectable again.

10. Make Firefox Play Nice…

From the Firefox Add-ons menu, install:

Select a better display font via the preferences dialog:

Ensure that fonts are properly rendered:

(where ‘xxxxxxx’ is a random text string – just look for the ‘.default’ suffix)

11. Install a Proper .bashrc

Because everyone needs a nice .bashrc file… :)

And that’s about it. Most other settings are cosmetic, personal preference, or otherwise dependent upon the purpose for which the computer is to be used. I leave everything else as an exercise for the student…

Good luck!