Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New features: base distribution upgrade and appliance notes

We just launched two new features this week: upgrading appliance base distributions and appliance notes.

Base distribution upgrade

If you have been using SUSE Studio for a while, you most likely have older appliances built on openSUSE 11.1. Before today, you had the choice of sticking with openSUSE 11.1 or redo all of the software selection and configuration on top of a new openSUSE 11.2 appliance.

With our new base distribution upgrade feature, you can easily rebase your appliances on top of a newer distribution version. Currently, we have support for openSUSE 11.1 to 11.2 upgrades (and plan to add additional upgrade paths in the future too).

To upgrade, simply click the "Upgrade" button in the notification bar 
in your openSUSE 11.1 appliance's Start tab.

Upgrading is quick, and is usually error-free. Appliances with heavy customization (mainly those using 11.1-specific repositories with no 11.2 equivalent or those which have had custom RPMs uploaded), may not perfectly upgrade, however — missing or conflicting packages may appear. If this happens, the upgrade log (on the Start tab of an upgraded appliance) is a useful debugging tool.

If, however, you are not satisfied with the upgraded appliance, you do have the ability to undo the upgrade and return to your appliance's previous state.

You can view the logs or undo an upgrade on the Start tab.

We plan to extend this feature over time, to support migrations between other base distributions.

Appliance notes

Have you ever wanted to jot down why you changed a configuration option, or keep a changelog of everything you've done between versions? A lot of people have; it has been a popular feature request.

Instead of keeping a pen and paper next to your desk or a separate file per appliance, we've embedded a simple note taking window into the appliance editor. The notes you make about an appliance are specifically for you, and auto-saved with every appliance.

To use the notes feature, simply click on "Take notes" on the bottom left while editing an appliance. A simple little window will slide up where you can type anything you'd like to remember.

The appliance notes mini-window was designed to be flexible, stay out of the way, and be available whenever and wherever needed. Your notes are automatically saved when the notes are closed or whenever you interact with the rest of appliance editor. The notes mini-window does not disappear until you click on "Take notes" again or on the note's "X" icon, making it easy to quickly jot down notes while working on an appliance.

We're thinking of adding more features to the appliance editor, such as the ability to vertically resize the text box (eventually) — and also we've been discussing a good keyboard shortcut for quick editing. If you have suggestions for a great keyboard shortcut that won't overlap with browser and window manager defaults, we'd love to hear it.

As always, we look forward to your feedback and hope you enjoy these new features!


  1. Gear features.

    But, is this possible to migrate (or move) from 32 bit into 64 bit or vice versa ?

  2. @Muhammad: It's not possible yet. We'd like to add this feature in the future, however.

  3. Perhaps CTRL-z, the location on the screen corresponds to the location on the keyboard for me.

  4. @opencamp: control-z is often used for undo, however. (It probably undoes typing in a text area, so it would be pretty problematic when you're typing notes in the field... The note area would keep sliding down on accident!)

    We'll be investigating key combos that hopefully won't step on system-provided ones.

    Thanks for you input though!

  5. Do you plan on allowing more base packages soon? For example, having xfce or fluxbox as default window manager instead of just gimp and kde?


  6. Sorry I meant GNOME and kde?

  7. @Steven: Those packages are already there, so I guess you mean having them as base templates when creating a new appliance. There will be an easy way to do that soon, stay tuned!


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