Skip to main content

Mike Kreuzer

BTW I use Debian now

27 March 2023

Well that didn't last long. It was only in October that I switched from Ubuntu to Fedora, and late Friday afternoon, just as I was wrapping up something I'd been working on all week, boom, Fedora died. To be fair it could've been anything on the box, but whatever it was was killing Gnome so it didn't really matter what it was, at the very least Fedora let it happen. That sort of thing never happened to me on a Mac in thirty years of using them, & hasn't happened to me on Windows in a long time. On Linux desktops it seems to be at least an annual event for me. Maybe I'm just lucky.

Luckily (not ironically this time) the cost of reinstalling & of changing distros is pretty small. Set your /home folder up in its own partition to root & swapping out the OS becomes a lot easier. So I spent the weekend distro shopping. Again. Maybe I should do that annually even when I don't get forced into it, just because I can.

I wanted something less cutting edge than Fedora this time. I thought about the rest of the RedHat stack, but not for very long. I'm not even sure I understand what CentOS is meant to be now that it's CentOS Stream, & I'm not convinced RedHat do either. So I didn't go there.

I did spend all of Saturday pleasantly prodding away at Arch. It's the exact wrong thing for what I was aiming for, but I've wanted to know what was involved in a completely manual install for a while, & I wanted to know I could do it. I suspected I could, but actually doing it's a different thing altogether. Any way, now I've done it. Tick. Arch, from nothing to a working set up in only six or seven hours.

The Arch installation guide's pretty good if anyone's tempted. Mostly I just followed along to that with the occasional diversion to investigate how various unixy tools that I've taken for granted for years work (usually) behind the scenes. The guide probably needs to mention that you need to install & configure grub on your way through, it implies that it's there, but like everything else in Arch it ain't there unless you put it there. Likewise, once you chroot onto your new system & go to edit the config you're going to need to install nano or similar, because 2MB worth of text editor's more bloat than those guys were willing to put up with out of the box. It's all completely bonkers, but quite wonderful. Having done it once I never need to go back there again now though. Not without scripting it at the very least.

If I was going to use Arch it'd probably be as one of the derivative distros. Likely EndeavourOS, that's pretty close to what I ended up with doing it all by hand, but it has an actual installer. Takes twenty minutes instead of hours to get up & running. Still, Arch's bleeding edge rolling releases aren't what I'm after. For now any way. I might get bored, but for now entertainment isn't what I want out of my OS. I have stuff I want to get done, & I want an OS that gets out of my way.

I did look into Mint. It seemed pretty good, but the giant sucking black hole of Canonical wasn't quite far enough away for my liking. I wasn't thrilled by the ad for Netflix in the installer but that was small beer in comparison. I also looked at Linux Mint Debian Edition (what a name!) which promised to solve the Canonical problem. It's Mint but derived straight from Debian rather than from Ubuntu. But I couldn't get it to work reliably. Something was wrong with the boot, grub misconfigured by the installer maybe. I was pretty punch drunk after Arch, it may well have been me, but for me it didn't work.

So, rapidly running out of weekend at that point I went with Debian. It was always going to be Debian. The least hipster solution possible. Which is just what I set out to achieve. I've used it on servers for years, because it was usually just the right sort of boring for the job. Boring also sounds pretty good to me for a desktop solution now too. If you're also tempted & until Debian 12 comes out then like me you'll likely need the "experimental" install, the one with proprietary drivers on it, but that's the only trick. I put an alpha release of Debian 12 on an old laptop just to see where I'd be in a year or two if I stay with it & it seems to be pretty good already. With Debian 12 the normal install disk will have all the required stuff on it too.

I logged in this morning, ran my usual update scripts, & there was nothing to change. That's what I'm after.