SUSE (pronounced /ˈsuːsə/[1], German: IPA: [ˈzuːzə]) is a major retail Linux distribution, produced in Germany and owned by Novell, Inc. SUSE is also a founding member of the Desktop Linux Consortium.

As of version 10.2 Alpha 3, the distribution is officially named openSUSE.


The SUSE Linux distribution was originally a German translation of Slackware Linux. The Slackware distribution (maintained by Patrick Volkerding) was initially based largely on SLS. In mid-1992, Softlanding Linux System (SLS) was founded by Peter MacDonald, and was the first comprehensive distribution to contain elements such as X and TCP/IP.

S.u.S.E was founded in late 1992 as a UNIX consulting group, which among other things regularly released software packages that included SLS and Slackware, and printed UNIX/Linux manuals. S.u.S.E is an acronym for the German phrase “Software- und System-Entwicklung” (“Software and system development”), however in English speaking communities a rumour still circulates that the name is a tribute to the German computer pioneer Konrad Zuse, whose name in English has similar pronunciation. They released the first CD version of SLS/Slackware in 1994, under the name S.u.S.E Linux 1.0. It later integrated with the Jurix distribution by Florian La Roche, to release the first really unique S.u.S.E Linux 4.2 in 1996. Over time, SuSE Linux incorporated many aspects of Red Hat Linux (e.g., using RPMs and /etc/sysconfig). In a move to more effectively reach its business audience, SuSE introduced the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server in 2001, and consecutively changed the company name to SUSE Linux in September 2003 as a part of its overall new branding strategy, as announced by SUSE’s marketing VP Uwe Schmid.

On November 4, 2003, Novell announced it would acquire SuSE. The acquisition was finalized in January 2004. J. Philips (Novell’s corporate technology strategist for the Asia Pacific region) stated that Novell would not “in the medium term” alter the way in which SUSE continues to be developed. At Novell’s annual BrainShare gathering in 2004, all computers ran SUSE Linux for the first time. At this gathering it was also announced that the proprietary SUSE administration program YaST2 would be released into the public under the GPL license.

On August 4, 2005, Novell spokesman and director of public relations Bruce Lowry announced that the development of the SUSE Professional series will become more open and within the community project openSUSE try to reach a wider audience of users and developers. The software, by definition of open source, already had their coding “open,” but now the development process will be more “open” than before, allowing developers and users to test the product and help develop it. Previously all development work was done in-house by SUSE, and version 10.0 was the first version that had public beta testing. As part of the change, YaST Online Update server access will be complimentary for SUSE Linux users, and along the lines of most open source distributions, there will both be a free download available on the web and a boxed edition. This change in philosophy led to the release of the SUSE Linux 10.0 release on October 6, 2005 in “OSS” (completely open source), “eval” (has both open source and proprietary applications and is actually a fully featured version) and retail boxed-set editions.

The current mascot of SUSE is commonly referred to as a gecko called Geeko, but is actually a chameleon.


Several desktop environments such as KDE and GNOME and window managers like Window Maker and Blackbox are included, with the YaST2 installer allowing the user to choose a preselection of GNOME, KDE, or no desktop at all. SUSE ships with multimedia software such as K3b (CD/DVD burning), Amarok (audio playback), and Kaffeine (movie playback). It contains, and software for reading and/or creating other common document formats such as PDF. Due to patent problems, the distribution lacks codecs for proprietary formats like avi, but these can be installed with packages available on the internet. MP3s are handled in the fully capable graphical media studio Amarok with the Helix engine (part of RealNetworks’ RealPlayer), when RealPlayer is installed. This is due to an agreement between Novell and RealNetworks to ship RealPlayer with SUSE as a solution to MP3 patent problems.[citation needed]

Starting with the 10.1 release, SUSE Linux includes a secondary installation program known as Zen-Updater, which can be used as a secondary means of installing software and replaces Suse-updater providing notification of software updates on the desktop.

SUSE has support for resizing NTFS partitions during installation which allows it to co-exist with existing Windows 2000 or XP installations. SUSE has the ability to detect and install drivers for many common winmodems shipped with OEM desktop and laptop systems (such modems are designed to use Windows-specific software to operate).

Administration Settings (YaST)

SUSE includes an installation and administration program called YaST2 which handles hard disk partitioning, system setup, RPM package management, online updates, network and firewall configuration, user administration and more in an integrated interface. YaST also integrates with SaX2 to help users handle their graphics card and monitor, touch displays, and even additional monitors with Xinerama. In more recent times, many more YaST modules have been added including Bluetooth support.

Xgl and Compiz

In January 2, 2006, SUSE developer David Reveman announced Xgl, an X server architecture designed to take advantage of modern graphics cards via their OpenGL drivers, layered on top of OpenGL via glitz. Compiz, one of the first compositing window managers for the X Window System that is able to take advantage of this OpenGL-acceleration, was also released.

Desktop Innovations (KDE)

SUSE has been a leading contributor to KDE for many years, and now SUSE sponsors more developers to work directly on KDE than any other distribution. Hence, SUSE’s contributions in this area have been very wide-ranging, and affecting many parts of KDE such as kdelibs and kdebase, kdepim, and kdenetwork. Other notable projects include:

* KNetworkManager – a KDE front-end to NetworkManager.
* Kickoff – a new K menu for KDE.

Desktop Innovations (GNOME)

The Ximian group became part of Novell, and in turn made and continued several contributions to GNOME with applications such as F-Spot, Novell Evolution and Banshee. The Gnome desktop now uses the slab instead of the classic double-panelled gnome menu bars.

Build Service

The openSUSE Build Service provides software developers with a tool to compile, release and publish their software for many distributions, including Mandriva, Ubuntu, Fedora and Debian. It typically simplifies the packaging process, so developers can more easily package a single program for many distributions, and many openSUSE releases, making more packages available to users regardless of what distribution version they use. It is published under the GPL.


The latest release, openSUSE 10.3 is available as a retail package and as a no-cost open source package. In terms of software, there are major differences between the two packages (see Reference below), including the fact that the retail edition contains a number of proprietary components, such as Adobe Flash. In addition, the retail package, available for 59.95 USD, includes a printed manual and limited technical support. openSUSE is available to download freely from their website. The retail and eval versions contain one DVD and six CDs, while openSUSE now uses only one CD. It is the second SUSE release to be called openSUSE, versions before openSUSE 10.2 were called SUSE Linux.

Other varieties include dedicated server editions and groupware servers geared towards corporate networks and enterprises, along with a stripped-down business desktop which runs some software designed for Microsoft Windows out of the box by virtue of WINE.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) are Novell’s branded version of SUSE targeted at corporate environments. SUSE Linux Enterprise product line (SLES and SLED) include some proprietary software as well as technical support. For instance, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES 9) has fewer packages (around 1,000 packages) than the SUSE Linux Professional (consumer) distribution which has around 3,500 packages. Most of the packages that have been removed are desktop applications which are more suited to consumers than to a business environment. SLES has a guaranteed life cycle of 7 years and only the SLES products are certified by independent hardware and software vendors.


In the past SUSE first released the Personal and Professional versions in boxed sets which included extensive printed documentation, then waited a few months before it released versions on its FTP servers. Under Novell and with the advent of openSUSE this has been reversed: SUSE Linux 10.0 was available for download well before the retail release of SUSE Linux 10.0. In addition, Novell has discontinued the Personal version, renamed the Professional version to simply “SUSE Linux”, and repriced “SUSE Linux” to about the same as the obsolete Personal version. Now Novell has also renamed SUSE Linux to openSUSE with version 10.2 of the distro.

Starting with version 9.2, an unsupported 1 DVD ISO image of SUSE Professional was made available for download as well as a bootable LiveDVD evaluation. The FTP server continues to operate and has the advantage of “streamlined” installs: Only downloading packages the user feels they need. The ISO has the advantages of an easy install package, the ability to operate even if the user’s network card does not work ‘out of the box’, and less experience needed (i.e., an inexperienced Linux user may not know whether or not to install a certain package, and the ISO offers several preselected sets of packages). The retail box DVD supports x86, and x86_64 installs, but the included CD-ROMs do not include x86_64 support. OpenSUSE 10.3 is available for download as a DVD iso-image. This image is also available in a 32-bit or 64-bit version. It can be freely accessed at the Novell website. It can be downloaded either by Bittorrent or HTTP. Of course it is also available as a download to CD-ROM. It too is available for a 32 or 64-bit operating system.

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