Sunday, December 7, 2008

Distribution Alternation

I have moved my machines to Ubuntu. Beginning immediately on the day of its release, I also moved all of them to Intrepid Ibex, Ubuntu 2008.10. Tonight I want to report that I am pleased after a somewhat lengthy trial period: I will stick with Ubuntu for now.

I have looked around for a replacement, and very few catch my eye anymore. This is a major change for me, as I have been an inveterate tester of distros. From Slackware to Debian to Knoppix to Mepis to Gentoo to Ubuntu to Gentoo again, then to Ubuntu. I think this captures the main thrust of my experiments, albeit there have been some more or less casual and brief detours along the way---for example when I installed cluster knoppix on three machines in my classroom, upon a time.

I had tried Gentoo for two or three main reasons: to challenge my fear of confiuration; to find a distro to run both X86 and AMD64 executables on (I'd read that Gentoo did this best); and to search for more solid performance. Gentoo was successful in all of these areas, and more. Not only that, but Gentoo had the best documentation in the GNU/Linux world, hands down, until recently.

Several problems tugged me away from Gentoo this time. I don't have enough time to maintain three or four systems, let alone one, when it takes me often several hours or longer to track down a problem. That's the fault, perhaps, of my lack of formal Computer Science training. For various reasons I do need a working computer, and a reliable one. Ubuntu has gotten to the point where it works well out of the box, and the hard problems are fewer and farther in between. (That being said, K3b on Gentoo works fantastically out of the box, and verifies burned CDs almost always; K3b on Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex is unable to verify a burn of an iso image. FOr me.

Another reason is the ease of installation of programs. It's plenty easy to install programs on Gentoo, and I like the method better, in fact. However, the advantages do not seem to outweigh the main disadvantage (time taken to install) anymore.

Gentoo seems to be falling apart. I would like to volunteer to help keep it afloat. But I am so troubled by even trying to keep a system working withing reasonable parameters, and up to date, that I cannot expect that I would be able to even offer reasonable assistance with documentation.

In particular, the docs are not as good as they used to be.

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