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Sofware in Review → Linux/BSD hacking → Linux optimizations →

Hacking SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10

By Jem Matzan

Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 is a decent business desktop operating system as-is. However, it does not appropriately meet the needs of a large portion of business professionals. Additionally, a great many regular consumers have been enchanted by SLED 10's ease of use and high degree of stability, but are disappointed with the home desktop software selection. This guide will show you how to install or upgrade the Java Development Kit, install software from the SUSE Linux 10.1 package repositories, and enable DVD movie playback in SLED 10.

A warning

Following most of the directions in this guide will alter your operating system in ways that are not supported by Novell. This article will show you how to modify SLED 10, and force it to depart from the standard configuration. All of these hacks have been tested and are believed to do no harm to your software; there are always possibilities, though.

Installing non-distribution software

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 doesn't come with very many software packages, especially if your job involves software development, Web design, or desktop publishing. Fortunately, you can use packages from SUSE Linux 10.1 to fill the gaps. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Click the Computer menu in the lower left, then select More Applications. Click the System link on the left, then YaST in the right pane (you'll probably have to scroll down a little to see it).
  2. Enter your root password and press Enter.
  3. Click the Installation Source icon in the right pane.
  4. Click the Add button, and select HTTP from the drop-down list.
  5. A dialogue for entering a new installation server should appear. In the server field, type this in:

  6. Click OK. It will be several minutes before the server is properly registered with your machine. Depending on your location, your Internet connection speed, and the traffic level of the server, it could take quite a while for this process to complete.
  7. Repeat this process for the following server address:

  8. Afterward you'll be presented with a license agreement. Click "Yes, I Agree to the Software License" if you do agree (or if you don't agree and don't care, and just want to get on with adding software).
  9. Click the "Refresh On or Off" button, then click Finish.
  10. You'll find yourself back in the main YaST screen. To install extra software, click the Software Management icon on the left, then either search or browse for the packages you want to install. Click Accept to install them.

I tested a few different packages to make sure that this process would work. There are, however, thousands of software packages in the SUSE Linux 10.1 repository, so it is possible that some programs may not work properly with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10.

If you continue with the rest of the instructions in this guide, upon restarting your computer you will more easily be able to install new software packages through ZENworks instead of having to go into YaST.

The hidden extras: SUSE Enterprise SDK

Many SLED 10 users don't know about the free software development kit (SDK). This four CD set contains development libraries, language support, and integrated development environments for nearly every modern programming language. You can download it from the Novell Download Center, but you'll have to create a free account with Novell first.

Once the CDs are downloaded and created, insert the first disc and use the Add-on Product section of YaST to add the SDK to your installation sources. Once you're done with that, you can use YaST to install packages from it.

Video playback: DVDs, Windows Media, and QuickTime

SLED 10 already has a number of multimedia codecs installed, but you won't be able to play commercial DVD discs or Windows Media files, and you won't be able to watch video clips through your Web browser. Be warned that following the processes in this section may violate copyright- and patent-related laws in your country. It is your responsibility to verify that this software is not illegal before you attempt the below procedure; proceed at your own risk.

First you need to install the decryption library. Here are the instructions for 32-bit SLED 10:

  1. If you're using the 32-bit version of SLED 10, download and install the libdvdcss RPM from this address (just click the link if you're using Firefox in SLED 10 right now):
  2. Click OK in the Firefox file dialogue. The default option should be to install the package with ZENworks.
  3. Click Install in the ensuing ZENworks window.

If you are on the 64-bit version of SLED 10, the process is more difficult. You'll have to install from source:

  1. Click this link to download the DeCSS code:
  2. When Firefox asks what you'd like to do with the file, select the Save To Disk option. The file isn't very big, so it should download almost immediately. You can close the Web browser now.
  3. Open a terminal by clicking the Computer menu in the lower left, then selecting More Applications. Click the System link on the left, then Gnome Terminal in the right pane.
  4. Type this command to switch to root permissions: su
  5. It'll ask for your root password -- go ahead and type it in, then press Enter.
  6. Now you need to switch to the directory that Firefox downloaded the file to: cd Desktop
  7. Next, decompress the file you just downloaded. Type this in: gzip -d libdvdcss-1.2.9.tar.gz
  8. Then unpack it from its archive by using this command: tar xvf libdvdcss-1.2.9.tar
  9. The file will un-tar to its own directory, so you can now safely delete the tar archive: rm libdvdcss-1.2.9.tar
  10. Now you need to compile the DVD decoding library. Change to the directory first: cd libdvdcss-1.2.9
  11. And then run the configure program with this command (don't leave out the dot and slash): ./configure
  12. When it's done configuring, run the make command to build the files: make
  13. Finally, it's time to install the library: make install

The remaining instructions are valid for both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of SLED. The next step is to modify ZENworks so that it uses checksums instead of signatures for repository verification:

  1. Open up a terminal window by clicking the Computer menu, then More Applications. Click the System link on the left, then the Gnome Terminal icon on the right.
  2. Switch to root permissions by typing this command: su
  3. Copy and paste in the following command: rug set-prefs security-level checksum
  4. Close the terminal -- you don't need to use it again for this article.

Next, fix the disabled Xine libraries so that they support DVD playback:

  1. Start YaST by clicking the Computer menu, then More Applications, then the System link in the left pane, and the YaST icon in the right pane (scroll down a bit to see it).
  2. Enter your root password when prompted.
  3. Click the Installation Source icon in the right pane.
  4. Click the Add button, then select HTTP from the drop-down list.
  5. In the ensuing dialogue, copy and paste this address into the server field:

  6. Click OK, then close the Installation Source window.
  7. If you wish to install the Windows Media codecs and a Firefox plugin for watching video clips, click on the Software Management icon in the main YaST window. Search for the following terms:


  8. Click Accept, then agree to install the dependent packages. You'll probably have to have your SLED 10 installation discs available to complete this step.
  9. Continue to follow the on-screen instructions until installation is complete. Close YaST when you're done.
  10. Right-click the ZENworks update icon in the lower right corner. It should look like a globe with two arrows going around it, or a yellow circle with a white exclamation mark in the middle. A popup menu will come up; in it, select Refresh. It will take several minutes for ZENworks to check for updates.
  11. Once ZENworks is finished looking for updates, the notification icon will turn into an orange circle with an exclamation mark in the middle. Click on it to bring up the ZENworks update tool.
  12. When all of the updates are found, they will be presented for your inspection. De-select the Kino package if it appears in the list; this update seems to have trouble in SLED 10 as of this writing. Click Install once you've done that.
  13. A dependency list will come up next. All it's doing is showing you what will be removed and/or installed. Click OK to proceed.
  14. When all updates have been applied, click Close, then close the ZENworks updater. You now have the ability to play encrypted DVD movies, play Windows Media files, and watch videos on the Web.

Disabling the annoying Synaptics touchpad scroll feature

Of all of the "features" that I have ever been annoyed by, the Synaptics touchpad scroll areas is the most infuriating. If you have a Synaptics touchpad (most laptop computers do) and find that you are getting odd behavior in your Web browser, you probably need to disable the scroll feature of the Synaptics driver. This option reserves the bottom and right sides of your touchpad for scroll wheel functions. So moving up and down the right side of your touchpad will scroll up and down, and moving sideways along the bottom will act like a side scroll wheel. In a Web browser, the side scroll makes you go back and forward in your page history. Most people aren't used to this "feature," so it seems more like a bug -- a very annoying one at that. To disable it, you need the KSynaptics package:

  1. Make sure the SUSE Linux 10.1 sources have been added as per the above instructions. If you have not restarted your computer since the beginning of this guide, it might be a good idea to do that now, so that ZENworks has a chance to enable all of the updates you applied (some of them require a restart).
  2. When you're back at the SLED 10 desktop, click your Computer menu, then select Install Software. In the search field, type in KSynaptics and press enter.
  3. Click the checkbox next to the KSynaptics entry, then click Install.
  4. Follow any remaining on-screen instructions to install the package. When it's complete, you can close ZENworks.
  5. Open your Computer menu, then click More Applications. You should see a Touch Pad icon near the top of the right pane in the New Applications section. Click on it.
  6. Click on the Scrolling tab at the top of the KSynaptics window. Un-check all of the checkboxes in this screen, then click Apply, then OK. The scrolling feature is now disabled.

The "rpmdb: PANIC: fatal region error detected; run recovery" error

If you get the above error while installing packages (you may have to click on Show Info to see it), open up a terminal, switch to root permissions with the su command, then type this in:

rpm --rebuilddb

The RPM database will take a few minutes to update properly. When it's done, try to install the packages that failed previously -- it should work this time.