Suse Studio review

Need a custom made Linux distro but don't have time to spend hours in the console? Suse Studio produces powerful results in a matter of minutes.

Once you have customized your appliance, you need to build it. This takes only a few minutes and is available as a USB Stick/hard drive Image, Live CD (ISO) or as a Virtual Machine for Xen or VMWare which can naturally be converted to other systems such as VirtualBox.

Building takes only a few minutes before it is ready to download. However, the innovation doesn't stop there. You can also "test drive" your distribution, live on their servers using a VNC like, flash based interface to control it. If that's not enough, you can access this fully functioning server over SSH as well as any web servers that might be running on it. You are however restricted to incoming only connections.

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You get a whole hour of use before it turns off, but in this time you can either be testing that it works or customising it even further. Suse Studio keeps tracks of any changes made files removed, added or amended and you can select these changes to be added to the distribution for next time you boot for example, your apache configuration files.

Suse Studio uses an overlay system to make these file changes post-build. You could for instance upload a compressed archive of a web application to be used and this would be ready and waiting. You have 15GB of storage for your custom builds and packages an ample amount.

A lot of Suse Studio has been well thought out from MySQL importing to little touches such as uploading files from a URL instead of through the web browser. The system as a whole works exceptionally well, taking what used to be a complex task and making it incredibly simple, but without removing any power or flexibility.

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Suse Studio has many potential uses. Creating custom, branded distributions for deployment on various platforms would be one, but it lacks the ability to create your own base templates. Creating virtual machines to run specific web applications on a light weight OS is another. But the scenario that most jumps to mind, is in creating a distribution medium for your own product an internet independent, self contained example of a web application, running entirely locally and enabling the user to try your product in a sandbox environment without affecting their machine.

Verdict

Suse Studio have a comprehensive range of applications that are worth trying. As with any tool, it's only useful to the right people in the right situation. If you're not a Suse user, we're not sure Suse Studio is enough to make you want to move from your current distribution of choice – but you should certainly take another look. Hopefully, it will pave the way towards similar systems for other popular distributions such as Fedora and Ubuntu.

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