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Am I done with Ubuntu?

I made the mistake of hitting the Upgrade button on Ubuntu updates manager on my main development box the other day when it asked me if I really was going to go another day without Oneiric, and within a fairly short time had an unbootable Ubuntu box. Usually Ubuntu upgrades are fairly smooth, this one was bad. For a little bit of context, I have been using Linux for a long time. I started with RedHat, wandered through Fedora when it appeared, Gentoo, Suse, OpenSuse, CentOS, ClearOS, Debian, and Ubuntu, but for the past while I’ve been using Ubuntu. For years I used and advocated KDE until version 4, at which point (about the same time I switched to Ubuntu) I moved to Gnome. I have been using XFCE for a few months, and I’m basically done with both KDE and Gnome for now. So far I haven’t lasted for more than a few minutes on Unity before I get completely disgusted and change to something else. Somebody told me this week I’m just one of those old grumpy Linux guys.

I didn’t spend a lot of time figuring out what went wrong with the Ubuntu upgrade. Instead, I downloaded a few updated versions and put them on a thumb drive, and tried out some variations on the setup I’ve been using for a while. I installed Mint 11, Mint’s Debian XFCE version, and Xubuntu. As a side note, why aren’t there any really good tools to make bootable live Linux installs on USB for Linux? Most of the directions on the web say to do it on Windows. Blech. I ended up using unetbootin, which works.

My brief reaction to each of the three installs? Mint 11 has all the advantages of Ubuntu, except that its currently a version behind and has mintier branding. The main reason I’d use it is if I wanted to stick with Gnome, which is a possibility if it weren’t for the fact that I’m really liking XFCE. So, Mint 11 isn’t in my immediate future.

The Debian version of Mint is somewhat enticing. I like the idea of rolling updates. I’m not a huge fan of straight Debian, for no reason other than I have a kneejerk ideological reaction to software that is too ideological. Software should be practical. Debian is from a planet I’ve only ever visited for short periods. Yes, I know Ubuntu is Debian based, but it is suitably commercialized. Odd position for a Linux fan to take, isn’t it? I am fairly sure I’m not alone. All that being said, I could see myself using and liking this distro, certainly over the vanilla Mint 11 Gnome version.

Xubuntu works reasonably well. The new Ubuntu Software Center stinks. What happened to options and the ability to configure stuff? It’s pretty, but gutted. That’s basically my reaction to the direction Ubuntu is going generally. Ah, for the good old days when all the configurations were in bash and lisp files.

My first step on all three installations, after changing them so the focus follows the mouse properly, was to try to compile CouchDb 1.1. It failed on all three. There seems to be a mismatch between compiler versions and what CouchDb’s configure is expecting. I haven’t taken the time yet to figure out what the problem is. At this point I mostly just need to get on with my coding. The CouchDb binary package available on these distros is out of date. For my purpose on this dev box, it doesn’t matter enough to spend time on it. However, I will need to sort this issue out at some point. By contrast, node.js compiled easily on all three.

For now, I’ll probably use Xubuntu. When I have more time on my hands, it is likely I’ll wander off into a search for a different Distro, and move out of the Ubuntu family again. I’ll need to do something with my laptop (the machine I actually work on), which is a light weight Acer currently running Ubuntu 11.04 with XFCE. I’m open to suggestions, but I guess I’m not in much of a hurry. None of the recent installs on my dev box were exciting enough to make me want to spend more time on it. And for someone who’s spent way too many hours over the past fifteen years or so distro hopping just for fun, that’s too bad.

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