Solus Linux: a New Hope

I decided to hop my laptop over to Solus Linux 4.0 with Budgie 10.5 (10-4 good buddy). There must have been some significant performance improvements to Budgie, because it’s more responsive than the Solus 3.99 release.

I really like the idea of having a rolling release on my systems. Software stays up-to-date and I don’t have to worry about backing up for major updates to the system. That’s not to say that I don’t have to think when I maintain my system.

Arch-based systems require a little more attention. You’re supposed to read the news posts and follow the forums to fix problems that may arise during updates/upgrades. Since Manjaro is an Arch-based distribution, that’s what’s expected of new users.

Manjaro is a fantastic Linux distribution. I really enjoy using it. I’ve found the Xfce edition to be snappy, attractive (even with the flat icon theme), and relatively easy to maintain, even with minimal attention to the forums and release notes. The forum community is great, and I’ll definitely continue to lurk and post. There are some really friendly, knowledgeable people there. I’m mostly concerned about breaking something during update because I didn’t keep up with the blog and forum posts.

Going back to Solus Linux… I haven’t found any talk of doing things the Arch way. I don’t see a lot of posts in the forums about new updates and who has update problems and how their machines aren’t working like I did for Manjaro. It looks like it’s easier to maintain, overall.

So far though, I’m digging the Budgie desktop. It doesn’t seem as customizable as Xfce, but I usually only change the wallpaper and maybe the icon theme. The flat icons still seem to be the default icons for Solus, but that may change. They have some lovely wallpapers installed by default, so I’m pretty happy so far.

Solus has a smaller software repository than many distributions. Since Solus is not directly based on any other distribution, they have to make their own packages, and are focusing on ones used by the developers or specifically requested by users. It does support Flatpack and Snaps though, so you can still get more software that way, and I believe you can also use AppImages.

Solus doesn’t have access to the Arch User Repository (AUR). The AUR is a huge software repository that gives users access to all sorts of programs. However, since it’s maintained by users, you should look into packages to make sure that they’re still maintained and that they’re trustworthy.

I’m not overly fluent in computer code. Since Solus has a curated software repository, there is a way smaller chance that downloading software will compromise your system. You also don’t have to worry about someone deciding not to continue to maintain the package and it becomes orphaned.

Solus seems like a good choice for people coming directly from Windows or wanting a Windows kind of experience. There’s a lot about Budgie that reminds me of Windows 10. The Raven side panel reminds me of the Windows notification panel. The application menu will be very familiar to the Windows start menu panel.

I’m looking forward to getting to know this distribution. Manjaro felt exciting, pushing myself with something Arch-based, testing things out with the AUR. But I think I’m ready for something a little easier to maintain. This should fit the bill nicely!

So (distro) hoppy to see you

My fear of missing out (FOMO) is kicking in again.

I’ve been happy with Manjaro for the most part. It’s fast, it’s fairly stable, and it has a great community. It does pretty much everything I want (Killing Floor 2 COULD run a little faster…). Access to the Arch User Repository (AUR) is really handy, but there are warnings about security issues lurking there. It can also take programs a while to install/compile.

FOMO, however, is whispering in my ear that I should check out Solus as an option again.

I’ve got Solus Budgie, KDE, and MATE loaded onto virtual machine (machines?…). I had briefly installed the Budgie edition on my (by computer standards) ancient laptop. It was a little heavy and ran a little sluggishly on that machine, but there is a MATE edition… And Budgie is actively developed, so maybe we’ll see some performance increases soon.

Mostly I’m thinking about stability. Solus seems like it might be easier to maintain in the long run. There are currently fewer programs available in the Solus repository, but it has almost everything I want/use available (Ambient Noise doesn’t seem to work at the moment though).

I like the curated approach. I like that it feels more like a simpler distribution. I’m not necessarily looking to become a Linux expert. I’m pretty happy being competent enough to handle most small issues without diving too deeply into expert territory. I’m sure I’ll get to develop my skills over time though, since I’m the curious type.

I do wish that Solus had an Xfce edition. That’s my happy place right now. But, seeing as that’s not an option, mayhaps I’ll put MATE on the laptop and Budgie on the desktop, assuming I decide to move at all…

Decisions, decisions.

(Queue the analysis paralysis, roll credits)

Arch-based de triumph!

Solid state drives (SSD) installed? Check. Operating systems engaged? Double check.

Windows 10 Pro was a simple affair. I made an install USB and loaded it onto the first SSD. There were a few minor hiccups (a couple of times, the install backtracked a step or two, but nothing major).

Linux, however, proved slightly more challenging.

I intended to start with Ubuntu. My reasoning was in Jason Evangelho’s article on Forbes; consider using a more mainstream, flagship edition of Linux.

I had issues (pun also intended).

When I ran the Ubuntu installer, the default setting was to overwrite Windows. So, I shut the machine down, switched the cables on my hard drives, and tried again.

It didn’t matter. If I was going to install Ubuntu, I had to do figure out how to manually set up the root partition on the secondary drive.

Okay, not ideal, and a little beyond me, so I tried Ubuntu MATE, not actually believing it would work as intended. It did not.

Only slightly deterred, I threw in my third choice, the one I used the longest and am most comfortable with; Manjaro. Xfce edition, if you’re curious.

Victory!

What Ubuntu’s Ubiquity installer couldn’t handle without manual configuration, Manjaro’s Calamares installer managed with ease. I was able to select which SSD I wanted to install the OS on and I let the automated installer handle the rest.

I know that a lot of more experienced users customize their installations. They decide how large to make their swap areas, which file system they want, etc. I don’t know much about all of that. I also wanted to see if I could install without having to make any changes. To that end, I succeeded and I’m happy with the results.

The truth about Arch cat & Debian dog

This may sound a little weird (and it did come to me under the influence of a sleeping pill), but hear me out.

Debian reminds me of my dog, Gurps (yes, I know I’m a nerd with a problem, but it really fits him). I understand Gurps’s behavior (for the most part). He’s loyal, predictable (even if his behavior is frustrating at times!), and I can more or less make him do what I want, when I want.

Apt/apt-get (and to an extent eopkg in Solus) makes sense to me. If I want to upgrade my system, it’s sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade (after waiting for the OS to finish checking things on it’s own). In Solus, it’s sudo eopkg upgrade. The commands make sense, I know what I’m typing and why I’m typing it into the terminal (some of the few terminal commands I know and use regularly).

Now, as I mentioned above, Ubuntu distributions have some weirdness about them where they run background commands where I have to wait several minutes after boot-up before I can make the terminal do it’s thing. It’s like when Gurps sees another dog outside. I know I can get him under control (eventually), but I’ll have to wait it out. It’s annoying, but it’s a foible I can live with.

By the by, if anyone knows how to bypass or fix this, I’m, like, 95% ears. The remaining 5% is for typing in the command(s).

Pacman, on the other hand, is more like my cat, Nickel. in the abstract, I know why it does what it does, even if I don’t understand it at the time. Overall it’s slick, smooth, but I don’t really understand why sudo pacman -Syu (or -Syyu) makes all that much sense. I know why it does what it does, but I’m not quite sure why or how it got there. My cat will, from time to time, lose his little kitty mind, tear around the house, then stop and act like normal. I know it’s going to happen, but I have to read more into it.

With me so far?

The dog will do something I understand, in a way I understand, but it can take some time to get him under control. The cat will do something that makes little sense, but will do it quickly then go back to behavior I understand.

With Linux, I’ve been trying to expose myself to different distributions, different ways of thinking, different ways of doing things. Debian is loyal, stable, and what you see is what you get. Arch is more exotic (to me!), unpredictable, but worth it in the long run (even if Nickel prefers my wife’s lap to mine, little traitor…).

Also, like cats and dogs, the Debian-based Mint and Ubuntu families have shorter set lifespans than Arch-based distros. Debian-based have LTS (that’s long term support for those trying to learn along with me) that are typically supported for 3-5 years, depending on the distribution. Some last longer. Arch can last you much longer (in the natural scheme of things), assuming no one does something foolish, like screw up an install or run into traffic.

Fedora is, I don’t know… a parakeet? Don’t dive too deep into this, I haven’t yet.

All of this comes back to that hard drive I have coming in the mail. Do I want a cat, or a dog on my new drive? Do I want to have to invest in a new dog in a few years, or do I want to see how long I can keep the cat alive? Do I want stability or try something with a little edge to it?

My gut says go safe. My heart says go sleek. Manjaro has a great community willing to help, but so does Ubuntu MATE and Linux Mint. I’ve got a few days to think on it.

A brave new world

The hard drive (HDD) in my desktop is dying by inches. We’ve had good times together. But like all good things, they must come to an end. There’s no telling how much longer the smaller drive will last. It’s probably over a decade old at this point. The large drive has housed Windows 10, while the smaller drive is for my Linux testing.

I find myself in an exciting position, however. Instead of one mega-sized HDD and one much smaller, much older laptop HHD, I’m going with two, smaller solid state drives (SSD).

Not only should I see a sizeable boost in speed, I can finally start using Linux as a more primary OS. I can try installing some of my favorite programs (read: games) in Linux first!

The question is, which distribution do I run? (I’m interested in running the same on my laptop and desktop, btw)

Ubuntu MATE has a certain appeal. The variety of themes means I can spice things up if I get bored. I liked Unity and Pantheon desktops, and my first computer (and smart phone!) was an Apple, so the Cupertino theme has some attraction. I also appreciate that updates focus more on stability.

Perhaps Linux Mint? The desktop can run Cinnamon without any problem, and the laptop can run Mate (substitute out the mint menu for brisk…) or Xfce. Again, there’s that level of stability and Mint is one of the prettiest distros I’ve ever used.

Manjaro was good to me on my laptop. The software repository is great, and it runs smoothly. There’s a little thrill at running on the bleeding edge and updates haven’t tanked my system yet. There’s also something nice about not having to reinstall the system when there’s a big update/new long term support (LTS) release. Vivaldi has been a little difficult to get all of the extras I want out of the AUR though, and I’ve had some installation issues with it.

Solus ran a little heavy on my laptop. I played with Fedora a little bit on a virtual machine

I’m not exactly a newbie, but I’ve still got a lot to learn. I’m not quite ready for something along the lines of Arch or Gentoo. But at least I have it somewhat narrowed down.

Linux, my gateway to freedom and indecision

My first thought is, “People are actually reading and responding to my posts? Wild!”. I mostly started putting these up for my own benefit and only distantly believing that someone else might read these, let along leave some thoughtful comments.

By the way, thanks to everyone who has responded (and isn’t a scammer or spammer!)! For better or worse, I’m encouraged to write more (so you only have yourselves to blame!).

Last time, I talked about Manjaro being my forever distro. I’m still leaning heavily that way. I like the community. I like the variety of packages available in the repositories (I pull a scant handful from the AUR, mostly Vivaldi and Dropbox). It runs well and I won’t have to reinstall when there’s a new release, like I might in Debian world (Ubuntu, Mint, and the like).

Maybe I’m getting a little paranoid though, reading through the Manjaro forums. I’m not really living the Arch lifestyle. If there’s an update, I usually just update it. The laptop is just for web browsing, email, solitaire, and experimenting with distros, after all. I’m not worried about keeping my information. I’ve reinstalled dozens of time.

BUT… I mostly learn by reading forum posts and tinkering. I’ve managed not to break things. I can figure out how to get Linux to print to our home printer. I can do just about anything I want on that computer (except get Artemis to play, for some reason). I’m not one to spend hours perusing the manuals until I break something.

So I ask myself, is this the right place for me? Should I be on a Debian-based distro and just deal with reinstalling every two years (or so)? Should I spend some time on Fedora, which seems to be rolling but stable? I dabbled with Solus, but Budgie runs a little slow on that machine and I’m not totally sold on MATE (if they ever did an Xfce release though…).

Or am I just over-analyzing everything again? I’m really, really good at that.

At some point, I think I may move away from Windows. I know Windows, I understand where files are, I understand the tools, it’s been my computer home since… 1996? I worked through Win 95, 98, XP, 8, 8.1, now 10… It’s the devil I know. Linux is starting to make more sense to me. I can do little things. I’m learning slowly, but the data is being absorbed.

When I switch to Linux, I want to set things and not worry about it. Mint and Ubuntu usually have methods for upgrading their distros when a new release comes out and the software I care about (web browsers, email, security) are all updated regularly. Maybe Debian-based is best for me. Manjaro seems solid though, and I don’t think Arch is going anywhere, but there seem like there are risks there.

I know I’m not stuck in one place. I can get a second drive, make that home, and call it good. Then I can experiment with the distros all I want. A lot of Linux users seem to wander a bit, and that’s one of the things that’s cool about it.

Enough ranting. If anyone has any thoughts, I’d love to hear them! The TLDR summary is Manjaro good, Mint a possibility, I can’t make a decision to save my life.

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.