Using Linux has always presented me with a lot of choice as to how I want to use it and how it can work for me. I started my Linux journey with Gentoo and stayed with it for many years. But over time I found it didn’t fit with my workflow, it was fun to use and I learnt a lot but it required hands on tweaking.
I took the plunge and moved over to Fedora. Not having to compile software at install time or rebuild a lot of packages when a library changed was easier and has saved me time not having to go through packages that failed to compile. Fedora has been a stable system; well it is about a month after a big version update. Having a stable system has allowed me to use the system for actual work. But this stability has also brought a few problems. Stable packages are not always the newest. System packages this isn’t a problem with as it’s the solid foundation for everything else to run on. But the applications like Libre Office and in my case the Arduino IDE are not guaranteed to be up to date.
The Arduino IDE is in the Fedora repos, it is however 2 releases out of date. I have been trying to use it and have found myself struggling against a few bugs that I know to be fixed in a later version. Looking at the bug tracker for Fedora the version bump has been noted. If the package was in the testing repo allowing me to install the later version at my own risk I would be happy. But it isn’t. The alternative option is for me to manually download and install the software. I have no objection to doing this, I often do it for software that is not in a repo. But it is irritating that a package that is in the repo is not keeping pace with upstream even as an unstable package.
The next irritation from Fedora is experimental improvements that make it into a release. Fedora 18 updated my machine with Firewalld, this is a daemon to run a dynamic firewall. This is all well and good but I had written my own firewall script and whilst I like some of the ideas that Firewalld brings I don’t feel it should have been forced upon me. Firewalld is a Fedora project and reading up on it development is still ongoing and features being added. I am not happy about placing my faith in this package for security until it has matured. I am all for newer versions of existing packages but not radical changes like this. Fedora was also the first distro to use Gnome 3. The initial release was basic to say the least but it has improved over time. I get the feeling that it is possible to be too near the cutting edge for comfort.
So where does this leave me? Well one options is to go back to Gentoo. What is stopping me doing so at the moment is the changes going on in the background of several distros. Systemd is becoming the standard init system replacing a legacy system. Most distros have moved over to this as a default. The two which don’t have this as a default are Gentoo and Debian. Gentoo does support it but this would require some tweaking which I was wanting to get away from. It also rules out Debian.
I had considered Arch Linux. Whilst it seemed to offer the flexibility of Gentoo without the compilation it was not without issues. Certain packages would install without all the dependencies, if I can’t guarantee that then its another distro to avoid for a desktop. I’m not ruling out Arch for a very minimal server/netbook installation but for day to day desktop it’s not for me.
Linux Mint is an option but it is based upon Debian. Whilst this is not a bad thing I prefer a distro to have it’s own base and not be reliant on another distro. Ubuntu is a no go area, it has changed focus to be a testing ground for new ideas and I don’t like the direction Canonical are taking it. Mageia has had more uncertainty over the years than I care to remember so it’s out. Slackware is a no as its not a Gnome supporting distro. CentOS & Scientific Linux are based off RHEL & Fedora so they are out. So out of the big distros I am left with OpenSuse.
What is there to like about OpenSuse? Well on the face of it quite a bit. One thing that bugged me about Fedora was the fact it’s forms were independent of the distro. Gentoo has an integrated community which I liked and OpenSuse seems to have the same. Trying to navigate the Fedora website was a pain. I found myself stumbling over project procedures and guidelines rather than the support and guides which I wanted to refer to. The OpenSuse website by contrast has a link to the forums on the main page and seems more navigable in general.
OpenSuse has better options for software, it makes it easy to search for software in various repos and select stable/unstable packages. The support from forms and wiki appear easy to access. Ultimately OpenSuse may not be as bleeding edge as Fedora but my current experiences suggest this isn’t a bad thing. OpenSuse 12.3 is to be released in the next 24 hours. Time to give it a go.