How to Install and Configure OpenSUSE on Raspberry Pi?


OpenSUSE is a Linux distribution, which has been part of the Linux history since 2005, and now has an official release available for Raspberry Pi.
Do you want to try it? It’s worth it 🙂
In this tutorial, I’ll show you the how to install it on your Raspberry Pi.

There is an openSUSE image available on the official website for each Raspberry Pi model.
Download the one corresponding to your device, flash it on a SD card and start your Raspberry Pi.
The stable version is “Leap” while “Tumbleweed” is the rolling version.

Seems easy right?
But openSUSE is not Debian, so might be lost directly in the first steps.
That’s why I’ll show you everything step-by-step, as usual here.

What is openSUSE?

Before installing it, let’s learn a few things about this system, less popular but always active 🙂

Yes, I’m also learning, I don’t know this distribution very well, tried it a few times over years, but not really used it for an extended period. So, I share with you what I have discovered, let me know in the comments if there is something incorrect.

Presentation

I already wrote almost everything in introduction, but openSUSE is not a new system at all. It’s there for over 15 years.
As they say on their website, their main goals are stability and flexibility.

Their development roadmap is very slow, so stability should be an easy one.
There is a minor update almost every year, and a major update maybe every 3 years. It’s perfect for your servers 🙂

As I already introduced, there are two releases available :

  • OpenSUSE Leap: the regular release which follow the roadmap I introduce just above.
  • OpenSUSE Tumbleweed: the rolling release, which receive new updates constantly.

I don’t know if the comparison is correct, but it makes me think of the difference between Debian and Ubuntu in terms of development cycle.

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Origins

Like RedHat and Fedora, SUSE and openSUSE are linked.
Yes, openSUSE is the community version, based on SUSE Linux Enterprise, a paid product.
Both have their origins in Slackware Linux, an ancient distribution (still alive too!).

If you are lost in all this Linux distributions, I love this schema on Wikipedia.
Here is the branch we are looking to:

Yes, most of them are unknown, but Slackware, SuSe an OpenSUSE are well known.

Differences with Raspberry Pi OS

So the basis is really different, Slackware and SUSE are on a different tree from Debian and Raspberry Pi OS if you look at the diagram.

But, we’ll install a desktop version, and even if there are a few differences, you’ll quickly find your way on this system.
It’s intuitive, even for beginners, and powerful enough to do anything you want.

At the opposite, the command line might be a different experience, even if you are used to it on Raspberry Pi OS.
The basics are the same, but many tools are different.
For example, there is not “apt” on openSUSE. We’ll get back to this at the end of this tutorial 🙂

Raspberry Pi compatibility

For the common usage, I didn’t notice any issue on my Raspberry Pi 4 except for the audio (more details later), and I suppose it’s even better for the older models.

There are a few packages available for Raspberry Pi, and also a few additional repositories that you can install.
I know that Kodi is available for openSUSE for example (if it’s important to you)

I didn’t try special things, so I can’t tell you with certitude, but GPIO seem to work correctly, and the camera can be installed on a 32 bits version only.

Install openSUSE on Raspberry Pi

Download

First, you need to download an image on the official website:

  • Here is the official page on the openSUSE website about the Raspberry Pi.
  • As I told you, there are two versions: Leap and Tumbleweed.
    Depending on your goals you can choose Tumbleweed for recent updates or Leap for increased stability.
    I chose Leap for this tutorial.
  • You’ll find the download directories here: Download Leap or Download Tumbleweed.
  • Download the image corresponding to your Raspberry Pi model.

To be even more precise, I took this image to write this tutorial:
openSUSE-Leap-15.2-ARM-E20-raspberrypi4.aarch64.raw.xz
And I’m installing it on my Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB.

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Flash

Then, you need an SD card. A 32GB SanDisk Ultra should be enough if you don’t plan to keep loads of data on this system.
Use Balena Etcher as usual to create the SD card:

  • Download Etcher here if you don’t have it yet.
    And then install on your system. It’s free, and works on any operating system.
  • Once opened, you’ll get a window similar to this:
    etcher menu
  • Click on Select image to pick the openSUSE file you just downloaded (extracting files is not necessary).
  • Then insert your SD card into your computer (you might need a USB adapter like this one if you don’t have a slot on your compute). Etcher should detect the SD card automatically, or click on “Select drive” if it’s not the case.
  • Finally, click on “Flash!” to copy the system files on your SD card.

First boot (menu)

A few minutes later, the SD card is easy to use.
There are files on the SD card that you can edit before the first boot if required (like config.txt), but in general you’ll not need this.

Just insert your SD card in your Raspberry Pi and start it.
The system will start, and ask you for a login.

The default credentials for openSUSE on Raspberry Pi are :
– login: root
– password: linux

On the first boot, you’ll get a configuration wizard just after the login:

  • The first question is to configure the keyboard localization:

    It’s US by default, but you can change it if needed.
    Yes, it’s written very small in this wizard, at least on my screen. I hope you know what your flag looks like 🙂
  • The next question is to select a profile:

    There are four profiles in this version :
    • Classic Desktop: Familiar desktop environment, with classic setup and taskbar at the bottom
    • Dock: same thing, with a dock added at the bottom of the screen
    • Computer: enable enlightments in your desktop experience
    • Tiling: environment using tiles (I didn’t try it, so I can’t show you a screen for now)
      I chose the computer one (default choice), but maybe the first two are a good idea if you have an older Raspberry Pi.
  • The next step is to choose the preferred size:
    I don’t know exactly what does it mean, but as everything is too small for the moment, I chose the 1.5.
  • You can choose the standard window focus mode, or try the second one:

    Yeah, you can read now, 1.5 was a good idea I think 🙂
  • The next step is to customize the shortcut keys.

    Alt is the default key to enable them, but you can choose another one.
    I kept Alt in my configuration.
  • Then you might get an error about the Bluetooth service.
    It’s not recognized by default, we’ll get back to this later.
  • And the last step allows you to disable composite effects:

Yes, this long wizard is completed and the session finally opens.
No luck for now, as I got an error directly:

Cpufreq Permissions Error
The freqset binary in the cpufreq module is not owned by root or does not have the setuid bit set.

Here is how to fix this :

  • Open a terminal
  • Use these two commands:
    sudo chown root /usr/lib64/enlightenment/modules/cpufreq/linux-gnu-aarch64-0.23.1/freqset
    sudo chmod u+s,a+x /usr/lib64/enlightenment/modules/cpufreq/linux-gnu-aarch64-0.23.1/freqset

    These are the two commands just below the error message, you might need to change the version number in them.
    Note: SSH is enabled by default if you want to copy/paste them from there.
  • Reboot the system, you should not get this error anymore.

System overview

Rather than going through each part of this system one by one, I’ll start by showing you what I liked about this system (with my beginner eye) and then list the things that I find less well done.

Things I like

  • The desktop design is wonderful by default, I like it.
    As you can see on the picture, we can see that a lot of work has been done to improve the default look of the applications (I love this light effect on the terminal).
  • The dock at the bottom of the screen is really useful and well done:

    You’ll probably need to customize the default settings, but everything is there in case you need it:
    • The main menu: to start an app (you can also open it with a left click on the desktop).
    • Multi-desktop is enabled by default, so the next icons are here to quickly switch from one to another.
    • Favorites apps icons
    • A few nice widgets for the basic information: temperature, CPU usage, hour, brightness, sound settings.
    • A shortcut to quickly switch from a keyboard configuration to another (useful at the beginning, not sure to keep it there after that).
  • Finally, YaST will be the main configuration tool you’ll use for almost everything, and it works really well.
    You can access it from the main menu, Applications > System.
    On first start, you’ll need to wait a little with it generates its cache, and after that, it’s ok.
    For example, you will use it to install new packages:
    • It’s very close to the Add / Remove software tool or Synaptic, with a search engine:

      Or categories browsing:

      There are other search options, like the one on Synaptic to quickly access the recommended software.

Things I don’t like

So basically, my first impressions were excellent.
The interface is nice, seems intuitive, and I can easily install new apps even by not knowing so much about this system.
Cool! But I also found a few that were not so great:

  • I don’t like the main menu so much. It’s not very well organized.
    For example, there is a submenu named “Settings”, but it’s only for the desktop appearance.
    The real options you might look for while opening this submenu are hidden in Applications > Other:

    After clicking on one of them, YaST Control Center shows up:

    You’ll find everything to configure the system here.
    By the way, you can also update it from there. Do it now. You’ll need to do it twice the first time.
  • Second weakness, that is probably my fault, as I’m not used to this system: shortcuts.
    As a beginner, we don’t know them, but we can still use them unintentionally.
    For example, instead of moving a window, I resized it several times (it’s almost the same method), if you don’t click exactly on the window, you’ll resize it…
    Another example: if you have a window in full-screen mode and want to close it by clicking on the cross (top right), you’ll probably switch to the desktop on the right if you go to far on the right :/
    As I told you, it’s probably possible to configure this, but at the beginning it can be disturbing.
  • Another thing I noticed, is that there is no sound device detected after the installation.
    So you can’t use the jack or HDMI output by default.
    I suppose you can probably fix this, but I didn’t try.
    It’s a bit disappointing for a system built for Raspberry Pi.
  • The last point is that there is almost nothing installed by default.
    You’ll get Chromium AND Firefox (yes, they didn’t choose for you, so everyone will be happy ^^), with basics like GIMP.
    But except these, you need to install anything else.
    It can be a good thing, but if you are a beginner looking for a ready-to use system, Raspberry Pi OS with recommended software will be a better experience.

Have you noticed any other problems? Tell me in the comments.

Bonus tips

Package management in command line

If you want to try the command line, you’ll probably need the commands to manage applications on the system.
The basic command syntax is :
zypper <command> [--COMMAND-OPTIONS] [ARGUMENTS]

Here are a few examples:

  • Update command:
    zypper update
    Same thing as on Raspberry Pi OS, but it will also ask you to install the new updates directly.
  • Search command:
    zypper search <string>
    Yep, not complicated if you already know apt 🙂
  • Install:
    zypper install <package>
    Same thing, for example:
    zypper install MozillaThunderbird
  • And the same thing to uninstall an application:
    zypper remove <package>
    A good one to try:
    zypper remove MozillaFirefox
    🙂

You can find all the installed packages with:
zypper packages – installed-only

So it’s pretty easy to switch if you are used to apt.

Wi-Fi / Bluetooth configuration

If you need to use the Wi-Fi as your main network connection (or just to set your network settings with Ethernet), you can do this in the control center.
It’s not the best experience, but it works:

However, I didn’t find a way to fix the Bluetooth issue.
I find a few discussions with some hints, but nothing worked for me, so I can’t help you about this.

Fix the audio

Same thing for the audio output.
The jack port will not work on openSUSE with a Raspberry Pi 4, as it’s not supported yet.
This will probably be fixed in a future release, but for now there is no solution.

By the way, the HDMI output wasn’t working for me either.
So I hope they will fix at least once very soon.
I’ll share the fix with you, if I find one.
(if you have a solution, even a workaround, let me know in the comments)

Video

How to Install OpenSuse on Raspberry Pi

Conclusion

That’s it for this openSUSE setup guide and quick overview.
To sum up, I find this distribution interesting, but there are a few things to fix and configure for the best experience.
I hope they will continue to work for the Raspberry Pi, an add the missing drivers to make everything work correctly.

Did you try it? Any other feedback about it?
If you want to know my best recommendations for an operating system to try on Raspberry Pi, check this link to find the current ranking.
Hint: openSUSE is not yet in it 🙂


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Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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