There and back again, a distrohopper’s story

For those who have read any of these rantings, I’m a bit indecisive (read: I can’t make up my damn mind).

I seem to have found a forever distribution (Manjaro Linux in Xfce) despite all of my attempts. This seems to be one decision that has stuck, even though I have wandering eyes.

My latest dalliance was a whole day with Solus on the laptop.  I like the simplicity, the overall appearance, and the concept. It… was… just… a… little… sluggish on that machine. Which, considering the age, is not too surprising.

Manjaro does what I want, I understand the bare basics of the commands (I am NOT a terminal jockey, I just like to update and install programs from the command line).

It looks… fine, I guess without much change. I have seen people gush about the overall aesthetics of Manjaro, and I can’t begrudge anyone their opinion about what does or doesn’t look nice. I’m a bit older school with my preferences, and I won’t tell anyone they’re wrong for liking what they like. I’m sure a lot of people don’t agree with my opinions on the flat icons and interfaces and color choices.

I just keep looking for something that might work better for me. the Arch frame of mind is a little daunting to a self-taught Linux rookie (I’m definitely not newbie, but not overly skilled either). On the other hand, I try to pay attention to the forums and practice good installation habits. I try to be selective about what I pull from the AUR, I don’t quit installations before they’re done, and I try to use the terminal when possible.

Linux is a little intimidating. I’m sure if I grew up with it instead of Windows (or the Apple IIGS I used until 1996), I’d be more confident. Mostly I’ve been learning things as I go, often in concert with copious mistakes, though I’ve certainly gotten better. I play with desktop environments, windows managers, infrastructure (mostly Debian- or Arch-based)… It’s been fun. It’s my hobby.

I’m starting to feel like I’m tightening down on some of my fluctuating tastes. Now it’s a matter of realizing that I’ve made a decision and to stop trying to talk myself out of my choices.

4 thoughts on “There and back again, a distrohopper’s story”

  1. Lovely concise article! I’ve never tried Manjaro, despite it having a good reputation and being quite an old distro.

    My first foray into GNU/Linux after years of hearing that it was “a thing”, was getting hold of a CD-ROM with Fedora Core on it (i.e. Fedora 1). Back then it was a pain to get any distro working with most hardware, especially laptop sound cards and network interfaces. Mounting Windows (SMB/CIFS) shares was troublesome, especially when it came to permissions. Reading NTFS was a no-go without a 3rd-party driver that was read-only. It was almost-impossible to play an MP3 file either. Despite that, I dived in head-first and never looked back. I soon moved to Ubuntu, favouring the KDE and XFCE variants, until around the time KDE got bloated at version 4 and Gnome decided to ditch efficiency and usability for being…weird…at version 3.

    I experimented with a couple of distros. Gentoo is quite a nice OS, and I love the fact that it’s a source distribution, but you need a lot of power to install and update it regularly. Additionally, you need a lot of time spare to problem-fix it as it’s a rolling-release and updates often get blocked by other packages (or just break it). I really wanted to use it as my regular daily distro, but the flipside of such power and customisability is of course the amount of maintenance you need to perform as a regular user. I just couldn’t do it and then use the computer for other tasks as well. It’s a lovely toy as a learning tool or for a hobby, but I needed to find something else to be my “work-horse” distribution.

    I think I have settled on my two “go-to” distributions. My favoured distribution is Trisquel, however the state of development and timeliness of updates have often been a little… let’s say “worrying”! Plus, any hardware that requires proprietary firmware doesn’t work – and can’t be made to work, even with the firmware supplied manually. It’s completely free/libre, which is what I like about it, and why it’s still my favourite – but I stopped using it for a while because I thought it had been abandoned. For hardware that won’t work with Trisquel (such as my laptop, whose bluetooth adapter requires a proprietary binary blob), I use Linux Mint. What I love about both distributions is that they use the traditional desktop metaphor (I’m talking to you, Unity and Gnome, whatever monster you’ve become!!) and can be made to look pretty without any excess frilly nonsense that slows your machine down or makes it more difficult to use (*cough*…KDE developers, take note…*cough*). I also like the fact that they deviate from their upstream parent Ubuntu, in the fact that they don’t appear to include (or have included) spyware or be in bed with Amazon. I think if the MATE or Cinnamon desktop environments start getting evil, too bloated, or cease to exist, my next favourite desktop (good old XFCE) will become my desktop of choice.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found it an enjoyable read.

      I haven’t experimented with Gentoo or Trisquel, but I’ve spent some time with Mint. It’s a good distribution, and one of the best looking out of the box I’ve ever used. I’ve toyed around with it in VMs and I’ve considered going back at times, but I enjoy the rolling release with training wheels that is Manjaro. I’m with you on Xfce though! My laptop isn’t quite able to handle Cinnamon and I find MATE to be a little… off at times. I admit that I do enjoy playing around with GNOME and Unity at times, but I do it to see how much I can do with the keyboard instead of the mouse. KDE has so many options (in odd places). Xfce is where I’m most comfortable.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with me! I love to see why people decide on what distribution and where they came from. So many different experiences, no two are quite the same!

  2. I’m curious about your Apple IIgs statement. Were you one of the well-known in the community? Create any software for it? Maybe create a post about your GS era.

    1. Oh, Lord no! I was a kid in school. I think I was in 5th grade when we got our Apple IIGS as a family computer. We mostly played Sierra adventure games, Oregon Trail, old Atari-era arcade ports, and ICOM adventure games, and I spent lots and lots of time in Appleworks for class assignments. At night, I can still sometimes hear the old dot matrix printer.

      I’m not a developer or programmer, just an enthusiast. An enthusiastic enthusiast.

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I’m flattered that you’d think I might have been involved with the community at that level.

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