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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Sat, 23 Aug 2014

Why I don't distro-hop: Because work. And pain.

I still see people installing new Linux distributions, one after the other, on their "production" laptops and desktops. I don't.

Sure, I fire up live images via USB or old-timey CD/DVD fairly regularly.

But I almost never do full, bare-metal installs on hardware I'm actually using. And I got rid of most of my PC boneyard, though I still have a 1999-era Compaq laptop (running Debian Squeeze LTS) and now a recently returned (from my daughter) 2002-era Thinkpad R32 (choking on Lubuntu 14.04 and in need of something new).

As far as "modern," equipment goes, all I have is my "production" laptop, an early-2013 HP Pavilion g6-2210us. And ever since I had the time to set up a Windows-Linux dual-boot, I've been running the same Fedora installation, upgraded via Fedup from F18 through F20.

Given that this is new, cheap AMD hardware, it's been a bit bumpy along the way. But the speed of updates in Fedora means that new kernels and drivers (theoretically) provide the latest drivers that are the lifeblood of any new, not-yet-supported hardware.

And now I have everything set up the way I like it. The mix of applications. The tweaked Xfce desktop environment. (I'm using the Bluebird theme because unlike the default Adiwata it provides actual scroll arrows in most windows; plus I've darkened it even further than it looks when first installed.)

I use Unison to sync local directories with my shared-hosting account. I did a lot of configuration to make it work. I started using Thunderbird again, though only for a single e-mail account, and not for RSS reading (which I do in Liferea).

I have a complicated Xchat setup, though I rarely fire up the application and go on IRC. But I might.

My day job requires me to use Citrix, and I have it tweaked in various ways so it actually works. I've got a bunch of scripts that help me do various things on my local machine and my blog.

I use this laptop for both personal and "professional" tasks. At home and the office.

I do back up everything on a very regular basis.

But the idea of doing a full installation of a totally new Linux distro, bringing all of my user files into the new installation, setting up all of the services and applications I use all the time with my old configuration files (or re-creating them from scratch) and then figuring out how to fix all the things that are broken for me, my hardware and software?

I'm not excited by that.

So I stay with Fedora.

Just like I stayed with Debian on my last laptop.

There might be a time, maybe sooner (maybe later), where I want to completely change distros on my main laptop.

Before I do that, a whole lot of planning will be involved. For instance, I've already tested the installation and configuration of Citrix in Ubuntu, where I got the whole thing to work fairly quickly. I wasn't so excited about Unity. I wanted to hide the launch panel until I moused over to the left, and it wouldn't appear as reliably as it does in Xfce, where I've shamelessly stolen the application-launcher design that both Unity and GNOME 3 offer.

I'll need to make a list of everything that I've done on this Fedora system so I can start the process of configuring those things on whatever my new system turns out to be.

Once this hardware settles down in terms of support from the Linux ecosystem, it could be time to move. I'll need to lock in the "freshness," as it were, and have something I can rely on for a few years at a time.

But for now, not counting graphics-driver issues that I've written about 10 to 20 times too many, Fedora has been surprisingly reliable and consistent. I can see staying with it through the Fedora 21 and 22 cycles. It hasn't been a terrible thing that the Fedora 20 release has lasted way longer than most.

In any Linux distribution I use, I'd love to have full functionality with the open Radeon graphics driver. I'd also love a packaged Catalyst driver that works with GNOME 3. I can't get the former with anything just yet, and I can't get the latter in Fedora due to Wayland code in GNOME 3 that doesn't yet play with Catalyst. Since I tend to run Xfce instead of GNOME, this isn't a deal-breaker.

The good thing about all of these problems is that they tend to get solved in Fedora faster than almost anywhere else -- Arch Linux excepted, of course.

And as I've said before, I love the Fedora community.

And did I mention that I hate distro-hopping?