I got bored with my Ubuntu Hardy install last week and decided to have a look at what some of the other guys are up to these days. Mind you, there wasn’t anything horribly wrong with my Ubuntu host. I still â™¥ apt; IMHO, there’s still nothing faster (although the new package management in OpenSUSE 11 comes darned close!). But anyway, it was an interesting trek across the newest distros and while I was looking to end up with something other than SUSE (again, nothing wrong with it at all–I just like change), I am totally impressed with OpenSUSE 11 and am going to feel satisfied sticking with it for a decently long while, knowing that I’ve shopped around as it were. And I think that that’s really the main point, now that I think of it. It’s why I got involved with Linux originally: I hated Windows 3.1 and didn’t like the fact that there was no way to shop around and make it better. Oh–one other thing I was looking for in a new host: nightly/weekly KDE trunk (4.2) snapshots–and from what I found, only OpenSUSE offers that. Anyway… some random thoughts about the voyage…
OpenSUSE 10.3… I ran this when I worked at CVS. Awesome, solid, stable. Really, really good. I installed this on my work laptop when I started at VMware and was pretty happy with it. What ended up pushing me off of it and onto Kubuntu Hardy was the fact that debugging with gdb on OpenSUSE 10.3 was really, really painful. Just about everything that I tried to “p” or “pt” on ended up making gdb itself segfault. Frustrating and work-inhibiting. Time to switch.
Kubuntu Hardy… Also very stable and well-done. Apt just plain rules the package management scene, I’m convinced. I believe there are architecture issues or something that make other distros not like it, but it is danged fast. Nothing really to complain about with Kubuntu. It worked, worked well, and I don’t think I really had any problems with it. It was awesome to not have gdb segfault on me too. =:/ I started looking for nightly/weekly KDE 4.2/trunk builds and couldn’t find them. Feeling frustrated and stagnant (through no fault of Kubuntu), I decided to switch distros and see what else is out there. A Fedora 9 DVD came in one of the Linux magazines I bought at B&N lately (plus a friend of mine from work runs F9 on his work laptop), and it has been staring me in the face for a month now. I couldn’t resist any longer. Oh! Also, Ubuntu’s graphical boot stuff, while nice, manages to screw up my video card on my laptop if I stop kdm/xdm/gdm from running (which I need to do frequently lately to try out the nVidia beta drops). It stops the display manager and then goes back to the bootsplash screen and when it returns me to my VT, it’s totally messed up and unusable. Impetus enough.
Fedora 9… Words cannot express…. I’m trying to block out the painful memories…. Okay, it wasn’t completely horrible, but they’ve done so many things with Fedora since I last used it that I feel totally uncomfortable in it. I think wireless networking worked decently well. I set SELinux to disabled and kept getting popups warning me that such and such a thing would have been denied if SELinux wasn’t disabled and how that was bad… Couldn’t figure out how to turn that off. Getting my existing LUKS-encrypted home partition working was a pain. I LOVE the RHGB graphical boot magic. That was honestly (shallow, I know) one of the reasons I was looking forward to Fedora 9. Well lo and behold… when the boot sequence has to stop and prompt me for my LUKS passphrase, it drops completely out of RHGB mode (reasonable enough) but then fails to go back into it. Sexiness– and still no KDE 4.2/trunk nightly/weekly builds. On we go.
UPDATE: I had forgotten the biggest reason I ran away screaming from Fedora 9: they’re using newer Xorg packages than nVidia has drivers for. Aiyeeee!!!!
One of the coolest KDE dudes I know (/me waves to Helio) works for Mandriva, so I’ve been meaning to try out the latest Mandriva for a while. I used to use Mandriva on my work laptop when I worked at Rite Aid and was always impressed with it. The package management used to suck a lot, though, which is one of the reasons that I stopped using it. You used to have to go into one application to add packages and another application to remove packages. =:/ I’m happy to say that Mandriva 2008.1 (or maybe an earlier release) fixed the package management stuff and now adding and removing packages happen in the same interface. Yay! =:) Mandriva has always impressed me with its eye candy and extremely solid and well-crafted UI, and Mandriva 2008.1 is no exception to that. Very nice, very pretty, very solid. I’ve hit a couple hiccups with package management, but nothing that a retry (1..n times) didn’t fix. And I like the grouped package management idea, where instead of a single run of 200 package installs, it will group them into logical/related packages and do X at a time… so you have “A of B packages in this group installed; Y of Z total”. And Mandriva is really fast–it always has been. I ended up replacing the OpenSUSE 10.3 install that I had on the kids’ desktop downstairs with Mandriva and we’re all extremely impressed with it. And I really, really, really wanted to keep using it on my work laptop. Until I started trying to get wireless networking to work, and that’s where the wheels fell off. Mandriva uses its own wireless networking configuration and management, instead of using NetworkManager, and when it fails, it fails hard–especially with WPA, it seems. Switching between wireless networks just started to fail miserably and I could not grok what was going wrong enough to fix it. And then I just stopped caring and burned an OpenSUSE 11 DVD… Mandriva: you should really use NetworkManager. It really does Just Work (TM). Oh–and you can install networkmanager in Mandriva, but it doesn’t actually work, from my experience. =:(
And then there was OpenSUSE 11. WOW is a good word for this. They’ve done a really awesome job on the installation process. It has never looked better or been more functional. And there is some serious go-fast juice in the package management now. I don’t know if it’s as fast as Apt yet, but it is so fast that I no longer dread using it in SUSE. And the 1-click install YMP stuff is pure sugary sweetness that is Good For You Too. And wireless networking works perfectly. I’ve not yet seen it fail. And the knetworkmanager changes (Will, I think??) are AWESOME! And the eye candy is delicious. And everything works. And it is really fast. And I like it. Here I’ll surely stay for a good long while, now content that I’ve shopped around and that I’m not just settling for the same thing I used before–that what I’m using really is the best… for me at least.
One last note to squelch any potential “yeah, but you can fix XXX by doing YYYY, you stupid person” comments…. This was a whirlwind tour that happened over the last week or so. I still have to work for a living, so when I switched distros, I did it at night and then actually had to spend the next day working on it for my job. So you could say that this was a trial by fire for these distros and probably more representative of what a new Linux user would deal with and expect than a patient hacker, hell-bent on spending whatever time is necessary to get things working. I’m finding myself sort of between the OS X “I just want it to work and not have to think about it” camp and the hard-core Linux hacker who will stay up all night to figure out why thingey XXX is not working and beat it into submission. I still love the latter, but being that I have to work and be productive on my laptop, I can’t afford too much of it.
Anyway, there’s one brain dump for the week. I have several more I need to do (preview: THE NOKIA N810 JUST PLAIN ROCKS (but DANG we need to get some good PIM apps on there)!!!!!!, and spending all day Saturday to change interior lights SUCKS!, and Opera is still awesome again and getting better!!), but those will have to wait. =:)