thanks mellis. i installed the avr compiler packages from RPM's i hunted down on the web, because i wasn't finding them nicely available in the suse repos like they are in ubuntu.
i forgot to mention one really helpful error message: "Error building library 'Wire'"
the suse cross-avr package installs the avr gcc in /opt/cross. for example, the compiler is /opt/cross/bin/avr-gcc. the includes it's looking for are in /opt/cross/avr/include (stdlib.h, math.h, avr/io.h, etc).
is there a place in the arduino prefs where i can set up the paths, like a Makefile? or is this something that gcc should have configured properly already?