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How often do you switch your distro?

darksmile92 profile image Robin Kretzschmar ・1 min read

I found myself switching between various unix distributions within the last couple of years.

On one side I want to have a stable system that I can work with everyday but on the other side I want to take the adventure of exploring a new distro.

To say it with statistics: I switch my distro every 2nd month 👀

So my question to you:
How often do you switch your distro?

I'm curious how often you switch and what your reasons are.

Discussion (42)

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goyo profile image
Grzegorz Ziemonski

Just after I switched 100% of my dev work to Linux, I used to switch distros every other week either out of curiosity, bad driver support, or bad UX. Once I made the bold move and finally switched to Arch, the distro churn has come to an end. Since I'm in 100% control and have a good understanding of how things work (and what actually works), I never felt the need to search for a new distro again.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Thanks Grzegorz, great to hear you found "your one distro"!

I have an Arch installation somewhere around everytime and try new distros on my other maschine.
Currently I run Deepin Desktop Environment on my Arch installation with a couple of mods. Which DE are you using at the moment?

And do you use multiple monitors with Arch? I tried out some stuff and did not find a convenient solution for 2 monitor setup for now.
What I tried was the xrandr commands but either the resolution was not the highest supported or I could not read red color on dark backgrounds.

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Grzegorz Ziemonski

I'm running i3 coupled with polybar and rofi. Most of the time I use only 1 monitor as switching between workspaces is instant and the other monitor is always distracting me. When I want to use more than 1 monitor, then I just type xrandr commands by hand e.g. xrandr --output DP2-2 --auto --right-of eDP1, never had any issues with that.

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darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar Author

I used i3 only on a blackarch installation once, would you mind share a (anonymized) screenshot of it here? :)

Maybe I will go with workspaces then also. I use 2 monitors at work (requirements / chat / stuff on one, IDE / remote session on the other) and since then use this setup at home also. Maybe it is time to switch to workspaces at home.

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goyo profile image
Grzegorz Ziemonski

Here you go:

I moved a VS Code window next to the browser, so that you can see the lovely gaps and that I've got a Solarized brain recently :D

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darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar Author

Wow this looks pretty amazing! Thanks for sharing.

Right now I am convinced to change to i3.
Project for the next couple of days (of course with the same nice gap between the borders 😜)

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goyo profile image
Grzegorz Ziemonski

Thanks!

If you want a reference, you can take a look at:
github.com/goyozi/dotfiles

The quality is obviously "just for personal use", but maybe you can pick up a couple of tricks.

There's also github.com/goyozi/playbooks , which sets up the entire desktop if you have a VM with fresh Arch installation to experiment on (the default user/pw is grzegorzz/changeme).

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darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar Author

Wow that is full service! Thank you so much!
Will set it up this evening and play around with it a little bit. Maybe I will borrow some tricks :)

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weirdmayo profile image
Daniel Mayovsky

If you want to switch to i3wm, this is the best i3wm introduction ever: youtube.com/watch?v=j1I63wGcvU4&li...

This playlist is much as you need for initial configuration and knowing how to use and configure i3. I stand behind this tutorial because my friend, who was completely new to Linux, managed to learn i3 from this playlist.

If you want to peak into my configuration, I have multiple tricks in there, so here it is: github.com/Godje/dotfiles/tree/mas...

Feel free to text me some time if you want to understand what my config does, lol. I have comments here and there, but if you already know how to configure i3, you will understand how it works.

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Thamaraiselvam

I love arch. I had the same scenario and I am settled on Arch eventually.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Interesting that so many of us settle with Arch.
Do you mind me asking which Desktop Environment you are using at the moment?

Already got a pretty awesome suggestion from @goyo but I want to see some other configs aswell :)

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Simon Weis

That's exactly how I felt.

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Avalander

I don't switch very often. I'm using KDE neon nowadays, I'm happy with it and I know how everything works.

However, every now and then I install a new distro in a virtual machine and toy around with it for a week or two. I wish I had time to do that more often, but with my current schedule I haven't had time to do it in the past six months :(

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

A solid setup is always good to get stuff done fast, so this is not a bad thing at all. The idea to use a VM for this is very neat because it will not interrupt your current (host) setup and you can toss it away when you're done with it.

Only thing that bothers me with VMs is if I get a pretty good setup working and have all the stuff in there I want and decide to use the distro from now on, I need to get all that out there and install it on the host somehow. Did not find a convenient way to do that for now :(

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Avalander

Yeah, I really like to use VMs to experiment and see what else is out there.

Only thing that bothers me with VMs is if I get a pretty good setup working and have all the stuff in there I want and decide to use the distro from now on, I need to get all that out there and install it on the host somehow. Did not find a convenient way to do that for now :(

It's not ideal, but I would just create a disk image of the VM with dd and install it in the host machine.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Thought of the dd solution also, but as you already said, not the ideal one so I am still searching for a better one.

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Andrew Bone

What makes you prefer the KDE desktop (tautologous I know) over the Unity desktop?

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Avalander

It's the look and feel. I can't put my finger in what exactly I dislike about the Unity desktop, but I was never a huge fan, I like much better the KDE feel.

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Niklas Resch • Edited

If I look at my manual backups it looks like I am doing it like every 2 or 3 Weeks :D

I am doing it because I see something fun and want to try it out. But I do switch back after a few days because I am so used to Arch and its User Repository :D

Because of my very frequent switches I am getting pretty fast and a new Distro with everything I need it usually installed within an hour.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Wow that is very often! :D

Totally agree with Arch, I always have one sticking around.

Do you use scripts to install everything you need?
I tried to put some basic stuff in a script to run everytime like adding the ssh keys, installing some packages like chrome and updating.

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Niklas Resch

Well I am trying to script everything. But actually I am just copying from my backup. Most of the stuff I need is in my home folder and I have a list of tools I need.

But making a script is definitely on my todo list. It's just hard to do it if you change to a Distro with a different packagemanager like I did last week when I tried Solus.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Yeah exactly my concern also. I have a script which works on debian / ubuntu based distros and one single for arch. But with arch it already starts: is pacman used or yaourt? Are there other dependencies I need to check for? and all these questions.

But good to hear others have the same situation :)

Right now my backup is just rsync'ing the folders and files I need. Do you use the same approach?

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Niklas Resch

I am using BorgBackup. It's pretty greate because of the many duplicate Files I have when I am switching every couple of weeks. But I am thinking about switching to Restic. I have read that it has some improvements compared to borg but I haven't checked it yet.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Thanks for linking, I'll check those two out later, maybe I switch to one of them also :)

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Daniel Mayovsky

I switched between Arch and Ubuntu a few times. Ended up on Ubuntu and didn't switch for a year or more now. Driver support, gaming support, barely any hassle with drivers and printers and graphics and so on is the only thing that is keeping me. I honestly think that Arch is better and faster and has less bloat, but I am "stuck" with Ubuntu because of it's stellar compatibility.
I don't really care, I am using i3-wm so anything looks and behaves pretty much the same on any distro.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

I had a similar experience with Ubuntu. Once I needed to scan something and was used to Windows and that it just works or grabs the driver automatically and was unsure how to get it done on Ubuntu. But Ubuntu had already pretty good Scanner drivers packed with it and a nice GUI for it.
That is a little bit more effort on Arch, so I can understand that you choose to stick to Ubuntu :)

After seeing some configs of i3 now I think I'll use it, too.

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Daniel Mayovsky • Edited

Honestly, I couldn't recommend i3wm more. It is amazing. Just like anything on Linux, takes time to configure at first. But after 1 month you're rolling. I've been using i3wm for more than a year without switching to anything else. I can definitely say this is, so far, the biggest reason I would never come back to Windows.

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Daniel Cortés

I stoped switching that much since I started using archlinux.
The package manager it's pretty good, AUR is a godsend and I can customize it to my needs, right now I'm using herbstluftwm and is really easy to configure <3

I'm looking to make a post about this setup.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

That sounds interesting, looking forward to read your post :)

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Reese Poirier

During my first few years using linux in university I was switching distros every 2-6 months. I was Goldilocks desperately seeking the one elusive distro that would be just right.

But eventually the thrill of trying new things wore off and I was running out of distros to sample without going into the weird ones and joke ones. I just wanted something that met all of my needs and most of my wants out of the box. For a while that was Ubuntu, but then they started adding lenses, cutting out killer features, and forcing me to use their app store to install certain things.

Since then I've just been running Debian (the version packaged with non-free firmware, of course) for its maturity, stability, and the general availability of .deb packages for any software not found in the official repos.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

That is one good point you state here Reeses, I did not come across software that was not available for debian.

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Thomas Junkツ

I do not switch my distro anymore.
I don't see a reason to switch.

In my early days I hopped Kubuntu->Debian->Gentoo->Arch. And nowadays I have settled with openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The reason why I switched was: I wanted newer packages.
The reason why I do not switch: With rolling release distros like Arch or Tumbleweed, I mostly get fresh packages (relatively vanilla).

Tumbleweed runs more stable on my box over the years than Arch - although this is admittedly a nitpick; I had over 5 years of Arch perhaps 2 issues and on the other hand with Tumbleweed 0.

But I am happy so far.

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Larry Cinnabar

Years ago, while I was a student and then a junior dev, I switched distro regularly enough (5-6 times a year).

Later, bigger work comes, family, bigger responsibility comes. No time for distros. I even don't know what version of ubuntu I have ;) laptop is new enough, so I suppose it's 18.04. I even do not change wallpapers or any other configuration.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

This is totally legit! When I think of how much time I have spent with fixing issues with a new distro, finding my way around and playing with Ui config stuff, you have more time to be productive without dealing with all these things :)

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Larry Cinnabar

I think the only real good thing, that you need to spend time to configure - is shortcuts.

And usually, once you got it - just save it and reuse later

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Arandi López

At the beginning I used to switch distros maybe every month. Then, when I finally started coding more often I stayed with Ubuntu with a LTS version and focus on coding. I choose Ubuntu (with gnome 3 obviously) because is the most (well???) documented distro.

Now I used pop_os, a Ubuntu flavoured distro form system76 company. This is because it has a more updated nvidia driver for my PC and a more gnome3 look and feel than bare bones Ubuntu.

Also I still using most recent LTS version as my servers or docker images use.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author • Edited

Interesting, never gave pop_os a chance until now, thanks for sharing.

Having recent drivers can be a huge advantage for a distro. I also liked the gnome environment back when I was using Ubuntu :)

Was your decision to use a LTS version based on your requirements for stable releases and long support or just went with LTS first and left it that way?

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Fred Ross

Back in the 1990's and early 2000's I switched a lot more than I do now. I started in RedHat Linux, tried a bunch of stuff, ran Debian on my workstation for a while and RedHat on my servers, OpenBSD on my workstation for a while, then Knoppix, then Ubuntu when it came out.

Once the hardware detection of Knoppix and later Ubuntu became ubiquitous, I went back to Debian. I deal with CentOS regularly for work, and I have been looking at OpenSuSE again recently after ignoring it since 1998 or so because they're using btrfs snapshot before upgrading the way Solaris used to.

So I guess every ten years now?

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Ahh good old Suse... I remember the CDs with the big green user manual it was packaged with :D

That is one very good reason to try it out again 👍

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Boris Jamot ✊ /

I've been using manjaro plus deepin DE for 2 years and it works great for me. No need to switch.

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Andrew Bone

When I was younger I used to experiment with different Ubuntu flavours but these days my only Linux interaction are Debian servers. I think I'd like to move back to Ubuntu one day.

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Robin Kretzschmar Author

Ubuntu was also one of my long time favorites.
What is so nice about Ubuntu is that it has a lot of stuff already integrated for everyday use like scanning drivers and tools and stuff.

The switch from ubuntu away came with the urge to build it more from ground up to learn how the components work together, how to write a kernel and stuff.

But debian servers are pretty stable :)