The Distro Switcheroo (2 Part Series)
I have been an avid, dedicated Gentoo user for about seven years (gulp). I love the flexibility of the package manager, and the extremely granular level of control over my system it gives me. Installing and administrating a Gentoo system for this long is the reason I know as much about Linux as I do, and I don't regret a minute of it.
However, all that configuration comes at a cost - my time. When the system works, it requires little to no maintenance, and should generally continue to work. If it breaks, it's because I changed something. However, it does require frequent updates to ensure smooth roll-forwards, and that means rebuilding components from source, a lot. If nothing else, it's ecologically irresponsible to repeatedly rebuild a whole Linux distribution for negligible gain.
At the end of the day, my needs are pretty run-of-the-mill, which is kind of a misuse of Gentoo's flexibility. It's finally time to part ways.
This is the list of alternatives I'm considering. I've actually installed and used each of these before as a secondary exploratory distro, but never used any as a daily driver.
This is currently my top choice, but this may just be a reaction to where I'm coming from. Debian's "elevator pitch" is stability. A Debian system should be expected to be rock-solid once installed. I don't want to futz with my operating system, I want to turn on my workstation and do work. Debian enjoys a massive package set and widespread compatibility, but I am concerned that the stable branch lags in terms of updates. I could use Debian Testing, but am I then forfeiting the whole purpose of using Debian in the first place? How easy is it to selectively use updated (or upstream) package repositories for software I actively use a lot on a largely Debian Stable system?
Manjaro is my second choice. I came to Gentoo from Arch Linux, and clearly connect with the "lego set" style of DIY linux distros. Arch was also a highly pleasant, highly stable experience, but this time around I no longer feel the need to build up completely from scratch. I had a positive experience installing Manjaro back in 2016, and can only assume it's further improved since then. Arch-diehards - why shouldn't I just use Manjaro and instead keep it strictly Arch?
I have much less familiarity with RPM, so it would be nice to learn, and hear this is a solid choice for developers who need their system components to remain relatively tight with upstream but still need a stable, cohesive system that all works together. This is the furthest from what I know, so it's tempting, but the whole point here is to think less about my OS and just get stuff done.
OpenSuSE has the somewhat dubious distinction of being my very first Linux distro, about six months before I discovered Ubuntu Breezy Badger back in 2005. I also tried and liked using Tumbleweed in 2018 for a bit as a daily driver, but still ended up running back to Gentoo. This distro has some serious brand loyalty, though. Why should I give it another look?
Most of these distributions actually differ somewhat minimally. It's a choice of a package manager and a default set of applications. I have already settled on KDE Plasma as my desktop environment of choice, so if I don't much care about the base, why not just use their distro and get the most polished KDE experience? Would this limit me in any significant way? The Ubuntu LTS base actually ticks all my boxes too.
Not likely, and not Linux, but Gentoo's
portage is the whole reason I like Gentoo so much and is inspired by the BSD-style
ports system. Is this actually a viable choice for a daily driver for development work?
I am also using and enjoying Void Linux on my rapidly aging laptop, but it's not quite as "just forget about it" as I want for my more modern desktop, and every so often I have trouble getting something installed (most recently, for example,
Is there something awesome I've missed? Other reformed distro-hoppers, what's your Linux forever-home and why?
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash