OpenSUSE 11.4 Installation Overview
After enjoying taking apart Microsoft’s “cloud” Office 365 for the numerous shortcomings of its installation process, having to do the same for my favorite Linux distro – openSUSE – is rather upsetting. OpenSUSE installation routine went from nearly-flawless in 11.1 to mildly annoying in 11.3, arriving to moderately obnoxious in 11.4. What happened? Same as with Microsoft, poor installation workflow is to blame. One can always feel when desktop support people take over workflow tasks from server admins. Things get hectic and everything becomes an afterthought. Sort of like, “…and now we shall download installation release notes. Oh, by the way, you should have had DHCP running for that. Speaking of DHCP, first scan for network hardware – can’t connect to network without NICs!”
For whatever reason, openSUSE folks decided that every network runs DHCP and necessarily requires IPv6 support. In reality, IPv6 exists mainly in theory and DHCP is rarely used for Unix systems outside small home networks. Incidentally, book smarts and lack of enterprise-scale computing experience are characteristic traits of your typical Linux developer. I always found it puzzling why so many Linux distros insist on downloading release notes and checking for updates during the installation process. It is time-consuming and unnecessary.
This task can be accomplished at any time after the OS installation is complete and network is fully configured and tested. There is a reason why I downloaded the openSUSE 11.4 ISO image and burned it to DVD: so I don’t have to connect to the Internet during the installation process. Most importantly, however, attempting an online update before verifying network performance (and not just network connectivity) interrupts the installation process and requires admin input. This turns an otherwise unattended process into an interactive one.
Another issue came up with manual configuration of network interfaces. After spending time to enter IP, netmask, broadcast, routing, and DNS information for each NIC, I clicked the links in the installation manager to disable IPv6 support and to disable the firewall. When the installation summary page refreshed, all the network configuration data I entered was gone and I had to start all over again. This would have been very typical Windows behavior, except that this was not Windows.
I remember raving about the openSUSE 11.1 installation workflow. Unfortunately, in 11.4 the SUSE folks took a few wrong turns.