A personal journey through the Linux landscape
With Ubuntu, freshly installed. I was reading names, I wasn’t used to, the known names and points of reference were gone. The likes of PDF reader, not Adobe. Rhythmbox, not Windows Media player. Firefox, not IE. I wanted my Mummy. I could barely operate Windoze, now I was given a non supported OS, and the man from computer shop telling me you are on your own Sonny; with Satan’s Spawn…!
Overwhelmed. Yep, what had I done.
This was October 2010 after a relative, persuaded me to try Linux. As any clueless newbie who has read or posted in a Linux forum, are met by knowledgeable people, who do not exist in your usual cycle of friends. With opinions so diverse, that every facet of the OS or the intended purpose of a desktop. Is examined.
Bewildered, I muddle through to the summer of 2011, picking up a second hand AIO, I discovered my laptop couldn’t keep up with the AIO. After much scratching of my brain cell, I kept plugging away in forums and reading books that were as clear as mud, or might as well been written in gibberish. Then my relative mentioned Kubuntu and Lubuntu.
The sloth that drove Ubuntu Unity, was wheezing, and Kubuntu proved to heavy, I did think it, was a near fatal experience, at that point. Tried Lubuntu and we had take off. Wow, it made this lappy look like Usan Bolt. Later, I found the the difference to be the lappies 5400rpm HDD versus the AIO’s 7200rpm HDD.
Having installed Ubuntu 12.04 and Lubuntu 12.04, in April 2012, everything in my World, was good. I could write a letter, listen to music, record music, goof of in Facebook and email my mates and colleagues. The other stuff, was for the smart people, speaking gibberish.
A month or so before 14.04 was released, 12.04 had began to exhibit glitches that became more frequent and annoying. I was getting concerned.
A fresh install of Ubuntu 14.04, didn’t improve things as these flaws continued. Posting on forums, did little, I was unable to describe it in their preferred gibberish. With off the cuff, bitting remarks.
Prompting me to become a distro hopping junky. Numerous flavours later, was an eye opener. By the apparent lack of quality control and half-baked projects. The operating system may have been optimised, the various offerings, were a can of worms, with problems ranging from the straightforward to forget it!
I have since levitated to Manjaro Gnome on my main rig, installed mid October 2018, it has proved to be reliable, stable, and functions without fuss, Nvidia graphic card and multimedia capability enabled. This has since encouraged me to install Manjaro Cinnamon to the laptop, recently.
Here are some of the OS’es I’ve sampled and found them to be above average.
Was my first venture away from Ubuntu, didn’t realise at the time rpm and deb were different as PCLOS used apt-get tools I.e synaptic package manager and felt at home. Later when I become aware of rpm and deb differences after using other rpm’s (like Peppermint’s approach it is a hybrid distro) can confuse you if you have your rpm or deb hat on with its vice-versa workings can go awry in your brain. Legacy or UEFI works, KDE Plasma has some issues (kept crashing) but Mate, though looking dated, functions very well. LXqt or any other distros’s LXqt I’ve tried to date, is not ready yet or lacking that je ne sais quoi, so reverted back to LXDE, content.
With a few clicks in the synaptic package manager, DVD playback is enabled. Can be finicky otherwise stable.
In similar fashion to Peppermint, Linuxmint has stamped their authority over Cinnamon and Mate, going that extra mile, forking (gThumb) Pix, (gedit) xed, (totem) xplayer etc. The new Y icons set with the new Y green theme turned this ordinary looking Joe into a real beauty with function. Libre Office looks awful. Luckily extra icon sets are found in Synaptics to freshen up its drab looks. English (GB) language defaults need to be added.
Version 19, added extra icon themes to LibreOffice, thus my critique has become redundant.
They also offer the LinuxMint Debian Edition 3 (LMDE3) currently, using the Debian base, it is an ideal venture to get familiar with Debian, the easy way. PPA’s, are not possible, my current personal view, PPA’s should not be used. The school of thought depends, which way you lean, to which is better. Linuxmint using the Ubuntu base, tends to more user-friendly, LMDE is blessed with virtually all Linuxmints apps and programmes. So they look identical. Under the hood, LinuxMint has more repos than LMDE, again we are splitting hairs.
Plus point, both editions have DVD playback out of the box!
I found the MATE edition more prone (than Cinnamon) to hang when shutting-down to a black screen with flashing cursor, have to hit reset button to shut down properly.
Technically is or was a LXDE desktop, but morphing LXDE, XFCE, Mate and Cinnamon components into an outstanding hybrid. Shipping with VLC, basic tools and can be configured how you desire.
Loved versions 5 & 6, this is where I discovered Linux could be customised. Fixed. Edited, or because you could. Different docks, Cairo, Docky or Plank. Add new themes via PPA from noobs lab and their tutorials aimed at improving your Ubuntu experience. Eventually I found an icon and widget theme that really appealed to me and enhanced the beauty of an already very functional desktop. Version 7 was the dev’s response to forum requests by going for the global dark look, not my cup of tea, but the alternate Numix round icon set and Peppermix-red theme won me over.
Minor complaint: slight screen hiccup, seen, at initial login page and shut down page (have to wait to occur, before entering password). English (GB) language defaults need to be added to Libre Office. Fixed on version 8, being excellent. Version 9, has Ubuntu platform issue of slowish boot up time.
Solid and Stable, and this is on a Ubuntu platform. Plus they have an enthusiastic and dedicated community.
Thinking about replacing CentOS with Fedora, came across Korora by accident.
Downloaded the ISO and liked what I saw, very refreshing, and the real bonus, had an old laptop which I was ready to bin. More headaches than it was worth, plugged in the USB set everything to UEFI and it booted, amazed I let it carry on. Previously not booting from cdrom or USB. So treated it to 8Gb of ram and a SSD drive. Certainly showed this old dog a new trick.
Minor complaint, a kernel update, Yumex gives an error. But updating via the terminal is fully functional. Yumex will record the updates, so no real problem.
English (GB) language defaults need to be added to Libre Office. DVD playback out of the box.
Suffered numerous glitches after upgrade to F25, fresh install helped but it remained sluggish on start up or shutdown, with a rash of diagnostic script warnings.
Is a steep learning curve. Ubuntu/Mint/Peppermint conversant, but Debian was challenging. Eventually learnt how to use the net-install, lots of mistakes, hunting down the answers, configuring this, that and what seemed like everything. Not sure if I’m content, satisfied or just plain relieved. To have built a good looking desktop, with DVD playback, having settled on the Cinnamon desktop with Numix icons and theme, after trying all Debian flavours, Xfce and Mate, are the other viable contenders.
It requires more user input compared to Ubuntu and its derivatives, i.e edit the “etc/apt/sources.list” to include the non-free repos, thus enable essential firmware such as Intel’s i915, install Plymouth, run update-initramfs -u after editing the “etc/initramfs-tools/modules”, results in the login page displaying in the native resolution, in my case its 1920x1080 rather than the fat squat, enlarged boot menu and login screen. The backports open up the repos for Nvidia drivers and newer kernels.
As much as I admire Gnome 3’s simplicity, (ditto with Ubuntu’s Unity), both are buggy, glitch ridden desktops, I shy away from. Problematic is an under statement! Later tests in 2017, I found Gnome much improved, though “Cheese” and “User and Group” page would still freeze or were unresponsive.
I have experienced issues with graphic cards, but through the use of backports and newer linux-image managed to over come it, but this throw up other issues, with ACPI BIOS bug and the boot being retarded from the usual 15 seconds to 26 plus. It would hang on the boot loader and the kernel took an extra 3 or 4 seconds to cooperate. Buster did not function any better and was just as sloppy, had to laugh, it is the term used to allow some slack when applying backport use in Stretch after Buster’s release. See # below.
#deb http://deb.debian.org/debian stretch-backports-sloppy main contrib non-free # available after buster release
I found backports worked well with my 6th gen laptop, but problematic on my 8th gen rig and had to revaluate my options concerning this machine and Debian.
Debian can be finicky to set up, but is Solid and Stable once done.
There is masses of information on their site, that can be overwhelming as you search not really knowing what your problem is, or how to fix it. What would be ideal, if Debian simplified their site to include a basic trouble shooting and layman’s guide, to navigate to the correct page.
First impression, of Manjaro in 2015, were not favourable, installer had issues nor get it to dual boot. Fast forward to 2018, when I installed Manjaro Gnome and found it functioned much better than Debian. As in Cheese, the user and group pages open and shut without fuss as did all theirs apps and tools. I found Manjaro 18 theme more to my taste than Manjaro 17 Global Dark theme, when I tried it early 2018.
After purchasing a new Intel 8th gen rig in late 2018, I had to reassess my options, though I could install Debian and get the graphic cards to function, was experiencing all sorts of problems, I could over come graphic issues, the newer 4.18 or 4.19 linux-image had the ACPI BIOS bug, (not seen on my 6th gen laptop, when assessing the use of backpoprts and Buster). Manjaro’s 4.14 and the 4.19 kernel functioned without fuss, ditto with enabling the Nvidia driver, reducing the usual post install fettling greatly.
I’m using Manjaro Stable and the LTS kernel, to keep everything working as smoothly as possible. Bleeding Edge versions are available if you want to live by the seat of your pants, and are able to fix potential issues along the way.
Now my new journey is learning the nuances of Arch CLI, after the infamous update/reboot hiccup, that drops you to emergency [rootfs]# shell. There are very detail tutorials how to deal with, and fix it. I’ve had one hiccup in five months. Should this become common issue, I will have to reassess, as I’ve not had this happen with Debian or its derivatives.
I have tried Arch, Gentoo and Slackware and their derivative based distros, thinking they might be more user-friendly, but they failed, i.e to install properly, self-destructed or a host of different reasons. Always ensured there was clean formatted environment, new DVD disc or USB stick, double checked the md5sum etc. Probably if I went for the purist approach of building a system from scratch, that dedicated enthusiasts, using a text based installer I might achieve success.
To-date I’m able to successfully install Debian and its derivatives, Red Hat and its derivatives, Microsoft, Manjaro and several other Arch based distros. Not pure Arch. Recently managed to install Sabayon and Redcore from the Gentoo family, finding Sabayon very slow during the update process, I gave up after 9hrs as it had only got a third of the way through. Redcore, installed LXqt, probably the best version I’ve seen yet, but it is still work in progress and doesn’t look right. Being fanboy of LXDE, I think my expectations may be too high or I’ve gone off the whole LXqt concept.?
I prefer a minimal install, but with the necessary dependencies included, i.e Peppermint met this criteria and is reliable. Debian’s approach, challenges, not mastered yet, but a pat on the back for a job well done. CentOS offers longevity, with 10 years support, which is better than the usual 6 month cycle, most RPM’s use, but no media codex’s are available, ditto with Fedora. openSUSE has a new three year release cycle, and its Rolling release, Tumbleweed, I sampled this the other day, is very impressive, alas, I’m not a KDE fanboy.
Worthy mentions go to MXLinux and ArcoLinux.
Prior to testing MXLinux, I hadn’t really held an opinion either way about systemd, the storm that befall Debian during its implementation, I was only just grasping how to change files and switch off or turn on services. It sought of felt, it was out with the old, in with the new. But using a systemd free OS, did not feel right. Otherwise, excellent distro.
If you are comfortable using alternative Arch repositories, ArcoLinux offer a good selection of community and methods to construct a desktop to your liking, with excellent tutorials and how to’s. Which I use as an reference point along with the Arch wiki
I now have Manjaro installed on each of my computers, Gnome, Cinnamon, Xfce and Mate. I’ve become a fanboy, due its ease of use and method of install being straightforward, it detects your hardware needs. Giving you the choice of FREE or NON-FREE and to install via their graphical or TUI tool.
Edit 16/03/19 14:15hrs