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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 30 May 2014

Where my head is on my next Linux distribution

In looking to replace Fedora and get out of Catalyst hell, the distribution I choose depends on whether I will continue to dual-boot with Windows 8 (which I almost never use) or swap in my 320 GB drive and single-boot Linux.

Now that my hardware is "maturing," I can start considering distributions that aren't as aggressive as Fedora in terms of their updates.

Bleeding edge isn't something I'm looking for.

I'm leaning toward continuing with Xfce, though I will consider the GNOME and LXDE desktops. I'm even considering Ubuntu's Unity.

Musts

  • Packaged audio/video codecs and AMD Catalyst/fglrx
  • Lots of desktop packages in the repository, including the OpenShot video editor
  • A decent period of support (would prefer LTS length at this point)

Linux Mint is conspicuously absent from my list. Maybe I should consider it.

The recent move to continue supporting Debian Squeeze as an LTS, and the expectation that the same will happen for current and future releases, has me looking more closely at Debian than I otherwise might. I have a lot of fondness for Debian. For one reason or other it generally runs "faster" than just about anything else.

But as "bleeding edge" as Fedora is, I probably had to do more hacking/scripting to get things working the way I wanted in Debian Squeeze/Wheezy than in Fedora 18/19/20, Fedora's Catalyst driver fiasco excluded, so that's something to think about.

My daughter's aging IBM Thinkpad R32 laptop runs Lubuntu, and I'm fairly impressed by it.

But Xfce remains my workhorse DE. Especially when it comes to running my company's proprietary CMS over Citrix, Xfce seems to play "better" with this sorry arrangement than other DEs. In Xfce I have to be "disciplined" enough to stay on a single virtual desktop. Changing desktops cuts my Citrix connection and locks me out of my apps. (Thanks, Citrix ... or thanks, CMS vendor who will not be named).

In GNOME 3, changing windows at all cuts the connection, so I need to keep Xfce around for this reason alone. I haven't tested this behavior in Unity because I can bring GNOME onto my Fedora system, but Unity is Ubuntu-only, and I haven't set up a full Ubuntu system with Citrix and done a test with this particular CMS. (That's the trouble with a desktop environment tied to a single distro.)

Top candidates, in no particular order, (with notes) are:

  • Debian Wheezy (doesn't handle UEFI, but won't change too much -- good if it works)
  • Debian Jessie (SystemD integration pending, chaos could ensue before freeze)
  • Xubuntu (very few negatives, handling of PulseAudio volume from panel is superior to other Xfce systems)
  • Ubuntu (Might be time to sample Unity)
  • Ubuntu GNOME (I'm back and forth on GNOME 3, more forth than back these days)
  • Lubuntu (I like it, but can LXDE measure up to Xfce?)

Fedora 21 won't be released until October, and if my AMD Catalyst solution continues to hold up, there's a very, very good chance I'll stick with Fedora 20 until the whole thing falls apart.