How to move to openSUSE Tumbleweed

opensuse tumbleweed
Credit: Nicholas Eckhart, Guy MOLL (Flickr)

Should you switch to openSUSE Tumbleweed? And how to make the move if you do decide to try the adventurous side of Linux.

Last year, openSUSE made a brave and smart move by merging Factory and Tumbleweed to create an independent, rolling release of openSUSE.

That move brought the best of two worlds together: A mature, 'enterprise-grade' OS and the flexibility of rolling release. As you may know, openSUSE is the community version of SUSE Enterprise Linux; so those planning to deploy SEL on their servers may want to hone their skills on openSUSE.

Why rolling release?

I am a huge fan of rolling release because I don't want to have to think about 'upgrading' the system. I have more important things to do than formatting hard drives and reinstalling OSes. I want to use my PC for work, I don't want to work on my PC.

I have been using Arch Linux for almost four years now and I don't remember the last time I had to worry about 'upgrading' the system. A weekly 'pacman -Syy' takes care of everything.

But won't point-release be safer?

Look at Google Chrome. I can't recall a time that any Chrome extension stopped working because I was working on the latest version of the Chrome browser. I don't even know which version of Chrome I am running anymore. The same is true with the Chrome OS.

I don't recall any of the major apps ever breaking on Arch Linux either. (A caveat though: apps from AUR can break because they are not officially supported app; they are pkgbuild by Arch users.)

Yes, there can be some problems with 'legacy' systems where software might break; but legacy systems are ... legacy. They are like iron balls holding you back from embracing the modern technologies.

That said, I won’t be using a rolling release on servers where I have done way too much customization and things may break with incompatible libraries or packages.

I would like to see rolling release become a norm in such mission critical space as well; it would take away a lot of pain that we go through with each major upgrade.

Back to the case at hand: openSUSE

I use different distributions on my machines; openSUSE, Arch Linux and Kubuntu (in addition to these, I use Ubuntu and Debian on my servers). One of the gripes (which cropped up after I started using Arch Linux) I had with openSUSE was that I had to upgrade it with every major release. There was a kind of rolling release called Tumbleweed, maintained by the second-in-command of the Linux world, Greg KH. But that Tumbleweed was way too unstable for someone like me who has Nvidia cards and uses a huge range of applications.

Everything changed when openSUSE decided to merge Factory with Tumbleweed. I didn't wait for the official merge to happen and switched repos to use the rolling release version and have been using it ever since.

There are two ways of running Tumbleweed on your system. If you are planning a fresh install of openSUSE, then you can grab the Tumbleweed ISOs and install them on your system. But if you want to switch your current openSUSE install to Tumbleweed then stick with me.

Before starting this adventure, take a backup of your data so that you don’t lose anything in case of any adversity.

Migrate to Tumbleweed

First you need to remove all non-core repos; let’s get root super powers:

sudo su -

Then create a directory, old-repos, to back-up the repos:

mkdir /etc/zypp/repos.d/old-repos

Then move the current repos to this directory:

mv /etc/zypp/repos.d/*.repo /etc/zypp/repos.d/old-repos

Now it's time to add new Tumbleweed repositories:

zypper ar -f -c repo-oss

zypper ar -f -c repo-non-oss

zypper ar -f -c repo-update

You may also want to add Packman repo to install packages not available in the official repos due to patenting or licensing issues:

zypper ar -f -n packman-essentials packman-essentials

Now run the system upgrade:

zypper dup

Congratulations! Arya Stark is in Braavos, in the House of Black and White!

Dude where is Plasma 5?

The openSUSE team is switching Tumbleweed to Plasma 5 as the default desktop environment (DE). Yesterday, they started the switch. The current Tumbleweed Plasma users will still be running Plasma 5 unless they change the pattern. I am assuming that once all the pieces are in place, the current users will be migrated to Plasma 5 as well. If you are going for a fresh install of Tumbleweed then you may get Plasma 5 as the default DE.

What could go wrong?

Not much and everything. Keep in mind that you are in the House of Black and White. The only thing that might give you some trouble is if you are using proprietary drivers for your GPU. Due to the rolling release nature of Tumbleweed you may have to do some extra work to use non-free drivers for your hardware.

As much as I like rolling releases, given the current state of Linux, it's not recommended to run a rolling release version on servers or machines that still need non-free drivers. However, openSUSE rolling release doesn't mean untested OS; it's openQA tested and is very stable.

If you are a Tumbleweed user, let us know what you think of it so far. And if you are a new user, would you consider adopting the rolling release version of openSUSE?

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