CompuForensics for Computer Forensics Training

Why Do We Still Use OpenSuSE 11.1?

     OpenSuSE 11.1 was released in December 2008. Effective January 2011, roughly two years after its release, support was officially discontinued. So why then is CompuForensics still using it as a teaching vehicle? There are several reasons for continuing to use OpenSuSE 11.1 with KDE 3.5: familiarity; power; stability; and compatibility. Concomitantly, KDE has lost its popularity edge over Gnome since implementation of KDE 4. Additionally, the current stable Novell supported release of SuSE (SLED 11) is most like OpenSuSE 11.1.

     First, it is the last version to support KDE 3.5, which many, like myself, believe to have been far more like Windows XP in function and appearance. Since most Windows users are familiar with Windows XP, KDE 3.5 is by far the easiest to teach.

    Secondly, KDE 3.5 is far more powerful and full featured than KDE 4. KDE 3.5 offers significantly more configuration options at the user level. Conversely, KDE 4 has been, so to speak, 'dumbed down' in an effort to attract more relatively computer illiterate folks to the desktop environment. KDE 4's eye candy was too high a price to pay for substantially reduced functionality.

    Third, KDE 4 has been plagued by instability since its inception. A computer forensics platform operating system must be stable and well behaved. Windows XP was, relative to Windows 2000, less stable for at least the first few years of its existence. By the time Windows Vista was released, Windows XP was the stability king. Like Windows users, OpenSuSE Linux users were hesitant to discard a stable operating system for a buggy one. Additionally, KDE 4 runs slower on the same hardware, generating more heat and draining notebook batteries quicker due to the increased graphics processing load.

    Finally, some computer forensics oriented programs are not currently compatible with KDE 4. Linux is not alone in this regard. Windows XP continues to be the Windows operating system of choice for computer forensics. Accordingly, our students will be able to download the most recent OpenSuSE 11.1 ISO image with patches from a CompuForensics server for at least another year. Ultimately, the student will decide after the course which Linux distribution is best suited to their needs.

CompuForensicsRev. May 11, 2015