Goodbye fedora

I’ve commented in a number of previous posts that I have had an inordinate amount of trouble with Fedora, compared to other distributions I have used. There were also a few posts about my efforts with Arch. Now I am biting the bullet and declaring the move of my main daily work computer to Arch to have been completed. I have been running on Arch for a month or three, and there is no going back.

My first distro was actually Slackware, in 1995, and my use of Linux then was pretty sporadic. Then I did a spate of using Red Hat 5.2, but I didn’t switch completely, since my primary employer-provided work box still had to be Windows. Shortly thereafter I installed Debian 2.1 (Slink) on an old 68K mac, and then a little later had another intel box running Red Hat 6.2, and during those times I was compiling my own kernels, tracking the latest releases, etc., and learning. Like drinking from a firehose.

But it wasn’t until I retired and came to Colorado that I built a box and installed my first Fedora system. I remember migrating to Fedora 3 so I must have been on Fedora 2, but I have almost no memory of Fedora 2 and I don’t think I ever used Fedora 1.

Sometime around 2008 or thereabouts I installed ubuntu on a separate box, using parts left over from an upgrade. I think my first ubuntu release was intrepid, because I think I remember the migration to jaunty, but the main “every day” box was still Fedora. I believe I have used almost every Fedora release since 3, although there were probably a few I skipped over. The last one I installed was 30. 31 has been out since October, but I haven’t migrated. Actually, I haven’t consciously migrated for the last several releases. For the last several years my migrations have been forced, when something untoward happens and I end up deciding it will be easier to just build a new boot that figure out how to fix what has gone wrong.

The biggest pains for me with Fedora have been:

  • The graphics driver: I have an old nvidia GTX 750 TI, I think it is called. And the nouveau driver just fails about once a week, and the monitor freezes. All of the clockwork machinery around displays, and X, and dbus, and gdm, and gnome is just too intricate to allow me to get in from another system and kill this and kill that and restart the other to get it back. I end up having to just reboot. The alternative is to install the nvidia proprietary driver. Which is fine until the kernel gets upgraded. Then DKMS is supposed to automatically update the nvidia driver. But somehow this never works for me. In fairness, I think in the last few months I have actually seen it work once or twice.
  • The automatic upgrade to new release: I routinely upgrade Ubuntu just by clicking the button when it asks. I may be tempting fate to say this, but so far Ubuntu usually upgrades fine. But with Fedora I have never successfully been able to use their automatic upgrade in dnf. To be fair, my Fedora installation was more complex than most of the ubuntu ones – there are more services, there is more stuff going on, there are probably more local configurations of things, and too, since I have been using Fedora so long there is probably old cruft that I’m carrying around.
  • I don’t like the “interventions”. It is one of the struggles with linux (with any distro, I suppose), that it is hard sometimes to figure out which things are coming from “Linux” (whatever that means – vaguely “upstream”), and which are the things coming from Fedora trying to “help me”. It isn’t always easy to tell when some well-meaning genius on the Fedora team has completely revised the way something works. I mean no disrespect here, I’m sure that most of what they do is good, and helpful. The difficulty is in knowing when I am being helped.
  • Nagging: I like that Ubuntu at least has this concept of the long-term release, meaning I can go at least a couple of years without having to update it. Now, again, to be fair, this is hardly a shortcoming with Fedora. If you don’t want to upgrade your system every six months then why are you using Fedora? Well, because I’m too lazy and sorry to move to something else! Alright, then we know where the problem actually lies, and it is not with Fedora.

So as I’ve noted elsewhere, a friend said “I’m trying Arch, and it is a rolling upgrade”, and I thought that sounded pretty good. And I went through a significant learning curve getting it up on a laptop, and shooting myself repeatedly in the foot.

So now I have made the migration to Arch on Oregano. Who knows? Perhaps I will come to regret giving up a distro that attempts to do all the difficult bits for you, in favor of one that obliges you to do everything for yourself.

But what I like so far:

Small upgrades. Hit the button every week or so.

No graphics driver issues. Turns out Arch isn’t as pedantic as Fedora about proprietary drivers. You want the proprietary driver, sure no problem, and we will give you the update of that as dependency when the kernel changes.

The ARCH documentation is fabulous. For me it is far better than Fedora, but again this has to do with expectations, and with where you are in the learning curve, and what you are hoping to get from the documentation. I have friends who have a lot less linux experience than I for whom the Fedora documentation is more appropriate.