I'm sure you'll all be delighted to learn that updating the distro on-line actually worked. Following, more or less, procedures I read about on the openSUSE website, I disabled the existing repos, except the one for the nVidia drivers, which I edited to have 11.4, instead of 11.3 (as it accepted the edit and refreshed successfully, I assume this repo is still in the same place). Then I added the three main openSUSE11.4 repos, as advised:
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sudo zypper addrepo --name "openSUSE-11.4 OSS" http://download.opensuse.org/distribution/11.4/repo/oss/repo-11.4-oss
sudo zypper addrepo --name "openSUSE-11.4 Non-OSS" http://download.opensuse.org/distribution/11.4/repo/non-oss/repo-11.4-non-oss
sudo zypper addrepo --name "openSUSE-11.4 Updates" http://download.opensuse.org/update/11.4/ repo-11.4-update
Then did sudo zypper ref to refresh the repos.
Now, there is a problem which might or might not have been solved with updating the version of rpm. I decided to use the workaround and did sudo zypper up rpm before proceeding. This step might well not be necessary any more, but it doesn't do any harm.
Then I logged out and entered a console session, done on the basis that the less stuff that is actually running, the fewer problems there will be. Now I did sudo zypper dup. I accepted the defaults which scrolled up the screen too fast for me to read anyway, then had to accept a number of licenses before things got properly under way.
I decided to leave it alone to get on with things, never a particularly good idea, and when I came back it had stalled on downloading a particular package with the usual a/r/i choice. Retrying got things back on track. I noticed a fair few error messages to do with libreoffice, all of which were accompanied by the assurance that they wouldn't affect things adversely, and finally one last thing I had to accept to do with msttcorefonts, then it was all done.
I rebooted, which went smoothly and now I have a brand new openSUSE11.4 KDE desktop running on test-box. It seems fine, libreoffice opens okay, it managed existing odt files without problems, as well as an old sxc file and the omnipresent doc.
Firefox is at 4 beta12 and presented me with my only real problem, neither the shortcut in the favourites menu, nor the one on the panel would launch it. However the menu icon under Networking would and so I just replaced the other two.
Booting to the log in screen seems at least as fast as 11.3, although logging into KDE takes a little longer.
Overall, it looks like it's a fine release, if not exactly spectacular, and so I'm quite happy to stick with K/Ubuntu 10.04 on my main desktop. I might have a look at tumbleweed, the rolling update repo a little later, perhaps next weekend.