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The openSUSE Leap 15.1 update experience

On the 22nd of May, openSUSE released (1) Leap 15.1. A couple of days later I took the plunge to update my laptop and desktop from openSUSE Leap 15.0. In this blog, I will detail my update experience.

Updating my laptop

My laptop is a ASUS VivoBook X402NA-FA112T. This is a laptop with an Intel Pentium N4200 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. The upgrade to Leap 15.1 went flawless.

I have used the SUSE studio image writer to burn the Leap 15.1 ISO to a USB thumb drive. This is an excellent program that does just one thing and does it right. After plugging in this USB drive, I checked the UEFI menu to make sure that I would boot from the USB drive instead of the SSD harddrive.

To start the upgrade, just select the right option from the USB boot menu.

Then accept the license agreement, which states that this is free and open source software! You own it outright, but you have to share the source code if you want to distribute or change it.

The installer kicks off and finds my previous installation of openSUSE Leap 15.0.

The next thing to do is to Disable the additional repositories. The default setting is for these repositories to be Removed. I don’t want to re-enter these additional repositories from scratch. So I simply disable them. After installation, I open YaST and then Software Repositories. And I change the name of the URL from Leap 15 to Leap 15.1. For example:

https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/mozilla/openSUSE_Leap_15.0/

becomes

https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/mozilla/openSUSE_Leap_15.1/

After that, I set the repository to Enabled and Auto-refresh.

Most of these repositories were available from the get go. The only exception were 2 gaming repositories which took 2 more days to become available.

The ‘update settings’ page stated that there were package conflicts that couldn’t be resolved automatically. So I needed to go in and make these decisions manually. The amazing thing is, that even with all additional package repositories disabled, the installer still goes out of its way to find an updated package from various additional package repositories and proposes to install it. Its these kind of little things that make a big difference!

After I went through the list with all the proposed changes, I got a nice summary of everything that would happen. This is the default YaST Software Manager installation overview. But its a nice touch to present the user with such a summary.

Once I clicked on Accept, I was returned to the ‘update settings’ page. After clicking install, there is no way back.

I restarted my laptop and Leap 15.1 was successfully installed! Great job openSUSE!

Updating my desktop

My desktop is a HP Pavilion Power 580-146nd. This is a midsize PC with an AMD Ryzen 5 1400 CPU, an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB M.2 SSD and a 1 TB 7200rpm HDD.

I used the same USB thumbstick. After selecting ‘Update’ from the boot menu, the whole screen went black. And then nothing happened. Since I have installed openSUSE many times before, I quickly realized that this must be a graphics issue. I used ‘nomodeset’ in the past to get around that issue. This causes the installer to go back to the most basic graphics settings but it also means I could finish the update.

It used to be a lot easier to edit the boot options. However, this is now hidden. This post on Stack Exchange (2) gives a great explanation how to enable nomodeset, both as a one-time option and as a permanent option.

For the permanent enablement of nomodeset I know an easier way: in YaST look for the module ‘Boot Loader’ and in the Kernel Parameters tab, you can edit the boot command. This was the route that I took to make nomodeset a permanent boot setting.

With nomodeset enabled, I was able to complete the installation. I set the BIOS options to a fixed resolution of 1280 x 1024, which was enough screen real-estate to complete the update.

The black screen issue was also present during regular boot. The permanent nomodeset was a way to work around this. This enabled me to successfully launch into the KDE Plasma 5 desktop environment.

It looks like I am not the only one with this issue. I found other forum posts that describe similar problems. Some describe this problem in Leap 42.3 or Leap 15.0 (3, 4). Some describe this problem in Tumbleweed (5, 6).

I tried to do some troubleshooting by following this article SDB Configuring Graphics Cards (7). When entering the command:

sudo lspci -nnk | grep -A3 VGA

I found that the system detects the AMD GPU and also notes that the kernel driver in use is the amdgpu driver. What I tried so far to resolve the issue:

  1. Force reinstall all AMD graphic driver packages
  2. Remove all AMD/ATI graphic driver packages except for amdgpu
  3. Edit the xorg.conf and 50-device.conf files to force-enable the amdgpu driver

All of the above actions didn’t solve my problem. The next thing that I wanted to try is if this issue was also present in openSUSE Tumbleweed. So I downloaded the latest ISO image and used imagewriter to write it to the USB thumbstick. Unfortunately I encountered the same issue in Tumbleweed.

Next I tried to reinstall openSUSE Leap 15.0. That installation continued without the black screen issue. Because of time constraints, I decided that I would continue to use openSUSE Leap 15.0 for the time being. I will try to troubleshoot this issue by installing Leap 15.1 as a dual-boot option at a later date.

Conclusion

Overall, I really like the openSUSE update experience. Both on my laptop and desktop, the installer found my previous install and I think its great that the installer automatically fetches updated packages from additional package repositories. It also presents the user with an excellent installation overview.

The downside of the update experience is that it might not be very intuitive for new Linux users. I feel that new users might find it difficult to select the right package option manually.

Due to a GPU driver issue I didn’t keep openSUSE Leap 15.1 on my desktop PC and reverted back to Leap 15.0. This driver issue is present both in openSUSE Leap 15.1 and in openSUSE Tumbleweed (of 27 May 2019). I found that multiple people have encountered similar issues. I will try to resolve this driver issue in the future. That is a subject for a future blog post.

Published on: 18 june 2019

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