After about 4 months I finally finished building my home theater PC. What a frustrating build – one problem after another… Anyway, once I got it running, as per usual I installed the latest version of Ubuntu (14.10 this time), and as per usual my frustrations continued.
I've been using Ubuntu for the better part of 10 years now and on the whole it's a pretty good OS, but it always has niggly little annoying problems. Every single release. They're never deal breakers and I can usually fix them after a bit of research, or at least work around them, but they are frustrations all the same. And you know, after all this time I'm still not a fan of Unity. It's at least mostly functional now (after what seems like years of pain), but about the best thing I can say about it is – it's adequate.
Well, earlier this week I had surgery on my ankle and I've spent the last few days convalescing on my sofa. I decided this down time would be a great opportunity for some distro-hopping. Now, I'm not much of a distro-hopper. Over the last few years the most adventurous I've been was a brief stint with Linux Mint (during the darkest days of Unity). And Mint is (was?) hardly a change from Ubuntu (other than a refreshing change of desktop environment). The last time I tried an rpm-based distro was Fedora about 5 years ago, and that didn't last very long.
I haven't really been keeping up with the linux distro world lately so I started off with a bit of research. I was surprised that there are several new distro's out there, getting good reviews and looking very interesting, but the one distro that really caught my eye was an old-timer: OpenSuse. The latest version, 13.2, was released a short time ago, and it's received mostly glowing reviews. It sounded good enough that I should give it a try.
I have a bit of history with Suse – it was actually the first distro I ever installed. This was back around 2005 (well before OpenSuse, and I think before Novell) when you could still buy linux distro's in a box from computer shops. I wanted to try linux but knew nothing about it, so I went out and bought Suse-in-a-box for some ungodly amount of money. It came with some big thick manuals that I hoped would help me get going and would justify the cost. Well, I got it installed, hated it, and replaced it with Ubuntu Warty Warthog and never looked at Suse (or the manuals) again. My wife still complains about that money I wasted.
Well, now 9+ years later I've given it another shot.. I've had OpenSuse installed for a few days now, have it mostly set-up how I like it, and I'm pretty happy with it. Sure I've had some frustrations, but more of the "learning-curve" type than the "buggy-not-working-the-way-it's-supposed-to" type that are so common with Ubuntu. OpenSuse of course is very different from Ubuntu, so the learning-curve was expected. I have to say, it's not nearly as idiot-proof as Ubuntu. It seems pretty easy to get yourself into trouble mixing repositories for example. And some non-free software – like Skype or Steam – can't be installed via repositories at all. Not a big deal, but it reminds me that Ubuntu's PPA's and Partner repositories are very handy.
I decided on the Gnome Shell desktop, for now at least. I've used it before and like it better than Unity, but I'm still not entirely sold on it. I'll keep with it for a while to get a longer-term opinion. I really wanted to try Cinnamon, but the OpenSuse Cinnamon webpage has scared me off for now. Apparently it's still fairly experimental in any distro but Mint – I'm not sure how true that is, but I'll wait to see a few success stories online before I try it myself.
When I started this distro-hopping experiment a few days ago I also downloaded the brand-new Fedora release, but now I'm so impressed with OpenSuse that I think I'll just delete that Fedora image. OpenSuse is great, and it's a keeper – at least on my home theatre PC. Actually I'm liking it so much I'm thinking of wiping Ubuntu off my desktop and installing it there as well.
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