Linux why?

I want a divorce from technology. Somebody write up the papers… I’ll sign.

In all my messing around with Linux… it’s fun and all. I learn stuff. I can setup pretty much any of the various distributions with my preferred setup in a matter of hours. Sure they all have their quirks, but no big deal. I had my machine booting into six different Linux versions. All set up and working nicely.

Then I had to stop and ask myself, what’s the point? I mean really. Why would one run Linux instead of Windows unless they HAD to? Windows works so well. What’s not to like? I know that it’s popular or somehow “hip” to be anti-Microsoft. But I see no benefit in that.

Linux might make sense to me if my wife was open to using it. We have two desktops (her’s and mine) and a laptop. It’s just not that great to have one Linux system and two Windows machines. If they were all Linux I think it wouldn’t be so bad. But nothing cooperates with a Windows machine as well as another Windows machine running the same software.

I am quite torn over the issue really. Because messing with Linux is a lot of fun. And I mean a ton of fun. But if I want something more than a toy to play with… something that will actually do all the things I want it to do… I have to keep coming back to Windows. So it’s the difference between being fun or being useful.

Linux might be nice if I wanted to learn PHP, Perl, or certain other programming languages that are non-Microsoft based. But what’s the point of setting up something like dual-boot with Windows and Linux when I have to boot into Windows to do certain things? What’s the upside to that hassle? I don’t know that there is one.

It is kind of funny though. When I get Linux all set up nicely and working they way I want, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. But when it comes to Windows… that sense of accomplishment is not nearly so pronounced, because it comes so much more easily. Maybe that’s why Linux is fun and Windows is useful.

Giving KDE a whirl

In my last blog entry about choosing a Linux distribution, I mentioned favoring the Xfce desktop environment. I mentioned ruling out Suse because it was crashing upon initial configuration. And I mentioned that I hadn’t really given KDE a try.

Well… since that time, I was able to get past the Suse instability and install a couple of different flavors of that. And I’ve tried Kubuntu, Suse w/KDE, and Fedora’s KDE spin. I also got a little tired of having 6 different installations of Linux. So I decided to settle on just one.

For now it’s Fedora with KDE. I’ve condensed my partitions and that’s what I’m running. So far so good. Everything works except for my scanner. Which is no problem since I can access that via my Windows 7 VM.

I’m leaving the door open to going with Suse in the near future. They are about to release their next version. And they are a distribution that seems to lean toward KDE as their default choice. So it makes sense that someone wanting KDE might choose Suse.

My current choice of KDE is a little strange. Because KDE is about as heavy as it gets when it comes to desktop environments. And because so far one of my favorite distributions of all has been Crunchbang which uses the extremely lightweight and barebones Openbox window manager with no DE at all! So I am torn between the two extremes. Typical.

In other boring news… I ordered two new hard drives.

I’m using an old spare 160GB HD in my laptop running Windows 8. I pulled my 128GB SSD and put that in because having only 12GB free space is a little too tight for my taste. In thinking about replacing the drive… I could have gone with a new 250GB SSD for about $180. Or I could get a 750GB 7200RPM HD for $73. I went for the 750GB drive. Space over speed.

The second drive is a “green” WD 3TB drive for my external Lacie enclosure. I have two of these enclosures. They are pretty spiffy looking. Although buying a drive with an enclosure was almost cheaper than buying just the drive… I went ahead and did the drive anyway.

Choosing a Linux distribution

The problem I get when messing with Linux is trying to figure out which distribution to run. They’re all free. And changing distributions costs nothing (except time and maybe sleep).

So I was thinking about the factors that I should consider when choosing. Trying out a bunch of different ones is fun. Been there done that. As I gain more experience with the various distributions, I have been able to build a much better idea of which one I want to run and why.

I might be tempted to rule out distributions that don’t support all of my hardware out-of-the-box. However, the only hardware I have that is potentially a problem is my wired ethernet and the scanner portion of my Canon wifi all-in-one printer/scanner. My wireless internet is supported on all of them. And I can use my scanner from within my Windows 7 VM. So these are pretty much non-issues.

Some distributions are heavy on eye-candy. Others not so much. While I like things to look nice, functionality and reliability are way more important than looks. A slick interface isn’t that great if it’s got bugs.

Then there is the matter of philosophy. Some distributions make it difficult to get so-called “non-free” software. To them the encumbrance of any closed code is something to be avoided (even at the expense of things not working). This is not important to me. I just want things to work.

One other factor is what I will call “conservative vs bleeding edge”. Debian is generally on the conservative side. They only release things after they’ve had a lot of testing. Fedora and Arch Linux are bleeding edge. If you want to be the first to get new versions of things, those are the ones to run. I think I would prefer something more conservative. It’s possible that a Ubuntu LTS (long-term support) version would be just up my alley. And that would include the officially supported derivatives.

However, the problem with “conservative” distributions goes back to lack of support for newer hardware and older versions of almost all software. While the Ubuntu folks recommend that you run the LTS versions of their stuff for stability reasons. The current LTS version lacks support for my wired ethernet and scanner. Whereas the latest Ubuntu non-LTS version supports both of those out-of-the-box.

Then we have the difference “mainstream vs obscure”. I’ve run across a number of distributions that have broken repositories and or download links that don’t even work due to some outage or something. I think with obscure distributions you may have some level of slickness and novelty, but you don’t have nearly the support structure that a mainstream distribution would have. Either in terms of available software or online help. And you probably have way more bugs due to a smaller test pool and fewer development resources.

So if I would limit myself to mainstream distributions, they would have to be Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, Debian and Suse.

While Mint might generally be considered mainstream, I think it’s more of a Ubuntu knock-off. One may as well run the real thing and stick with Ubuntu. The whole Unity mess is easy enough to avoid by going with an official derivative. For me Mint keeps seeming like Ubuntu with extra crap on top.

I tried Suse last week and it crashed like three or four times just while I was trying to get it set up. A new release is in the works very soon. So I may give it another try then. When the OS crashes before you even have it set up that doesn’t give me a good feeling. Bodhi was another one that hung several times during the installation process.

So based on all this… my own choices seem to be narrowed down to the Xfce versions of Fedora, Debian or Ubuntu.

I like Xfce because it lacks most of the bloat of Gnome, Unity and KDE. Although I have yet to give KDE a try. That’s on my list of things to do.

For all this rambling… no conclusions yet. This is a work in progress.