GNU/Linux Distro Roulette: back to Ubuntu (Sort of)

For some months, now, I’ve had my fun with Arch Linux, and I’ve been happy with it.   It’s solid; the updates are uncannily smooth and go without error, all the time; software is up to date; emacs is handled sanely (one of my highest priorities).   What’s not to like?

Well, one thing I haven’t mastered has been networking: I have followed instructions to set up a wifi connection at home, using my wireless router, and it’s never failed.   However, when I carry my laptop elsewhere, I cannot seem to be able to log into even an open wifi network.   Finally, at a Berkeley Linux Users’ Group meeting, this became a sufficient impediment to say, “Enough with Arch Linux, for now.”  But I have had other issues.

One glaring problem is the handling (or, more precisely, lack of handling) of documentation.  For example, TeXlive was installable without a problem, and it was up to date.  It didn’t take long, as often is the case, to discover that documentation had not been  installed by default, so I sought a means to do so.  Gentoo, which (IIUC) is claimed as an inspiration or a progenitor of Arch Linux, allows one to raise a documentation flag in order to control the inclusion, or NOT, of documentation either by default, or for a particular “package” (a word which is more reasonable in my humble opinion than APP, and which does not leave one grovelling to go to a “STORE” to “purchase” it).   It took some of my precious time to discover that no means is available whatsover to optionally install documentaiton with the Arch TeXlive package.

Another reason to just move on.

The system documentation is lousy.

I’m thinking Gentoo, but I don’t have time this month for that installation.  My Arch installation was not particularly careful.  I did install unofficial packages via the Packer and Yaourt utilities.  I don’t recall ever being painted into a corner by an update, as has happened to me with Gentoo.  This may have been my fault.   I must note that the most recent Gentoo installation survived a pretty long time before presenting me with an un-capsizable Gordian knot.  That aspect of Gentoo had improved alot.  The system documentation—once the very best of all the documentation I had ever seen—has fallen along the wayside; but the documentation is installed with packages when it is wanted.

Linux Mint 14:

I decided to try Mint, so I downloaded a DVD image, burned a disk, and installed.  Within two days (less) I had dumped it.  Mint is, for me, off the wall.  I’m not even going to get into it.   The last straw was the unease, the difficulty of using google as my default search engine in Firefox.   That hasn’t improved from early days.   That and various other aspects of Mint 14 led me to install Ubuntu.   But I wanted a lightweight desktop.

I maintain a separate /home partition, and have recommended that to others.  My /home partition has been “shrinking” so I’d made a larger partition available and copied all my files over.  That new partition was used in the Mint setup, but the Mint installer has inherited one of Ubuntu’s most horrible bad habits: it doesn’t respect the /home partition.   Ubuntu had wiped /home partitions of mine several times, in the deep past; I think it’s solved that issue, as it hasn’t happened in years.  I lost 90GB of personal, irretrievable data once.   I somehow managed to encourage Mint to erase the data on and I suppose reformat the new copy of my /home files.  THought I ought to mention it, as it harkens of certain shortcomings in the process for installing Mint, that echo those of Ubuntu’s distant past.


I have installed Xubuntu from a CD.  As a long time Debian and Ubuntu user, it’s somewhat second nature.  (I haven’t been able to get my head around Fedora or YUM, even though I liked the live cd experience a few releases ago.  It never made sense.  I guess you are either a dpkg/apt person or a <whatever redhat is using> person.  Neither is perfect, but I learned to use dpkg, apt-get, and synaptic at some point, and they seem to work pretty solidly.   [Gentoo’s system is still the best, IMHO—a “ports-based” system, that grabs the upstream source for installation on the current system.]

Xubuntu is not as nice as having a full Ubuntu install, then installing xfce4 from the repos.   I had more than 1/2 dozen of desktops installed on Arch.  I liked KDE4, because it’s now more lean than in the recent past; on my machine it lagged very little, while GNOME desktops all lagged a good bit, including Cinnamon.   I used XFCE4, as it is fast and has most of the bells and whistles of Gnome or KDE.   Enlightenment 17 is nice: beautiful and very fast; it does tend, however, to tie itself into a knot, especially with my help.   I may install Ubuntu or Kubuntu soon, in another partition.

One final note: it’s probably going to be Gentoo, but not this month, or next.   Then if I get knotted up, what then?

I started installing LFS (Linux From Scratch).  After a couple of days, I realized I’d just started, and I saw how gargantuan an undertaking would be the full install.






About lngndvs

I am a teacher / biologist with eclectic interests.
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