My First Rolling Linux

I’ve always been scared of rolling-release Linux distributions. Perhaps because I’ve seen updates break things in other “distros” (geek shorthand for “distributions”). But re-installing the operating system every 6 months is out of the question, and even Ubuntu’s “long term support” versions require re-installation at intervals. I like the idea of a install-and-forget operating system that is maintained in a few simple mouse clicks. Here’s the one I’m testing today, just for grins while I have a half a day of free time.

The Mini KDE desktop with analog clock and weather widget
The Mini KDE desktop with analog clock and weather widget

When I first installed PCLinuxOS I decided ahead of time that KDE would be far too resource-hungry for this modest, aging hardware. I used the “mini” CD to install a minimal KDE version of PCLinuxOS, and figured I’d just tie Xfce on and go with what was not only familiar but proven to run superbly on my computer.

But before I did so, I thought I’d explore this KDE desktop a little just for grins. It wasn’t slow! Maybe adding all the goodies and extras would slow it down, but this “mini” version is quite speedy. KMail is broken (not even installed – I added it, tried it, tried to make it do something, then deleted it after reading a “don’t bother with KMail” post in their forums), but Konquorer is plenty fast, and doubles as a file manager! Not that Dolphin, the default file manager in KDE, is anything to sneeze at. Seems as simple as Thunar and just as fast.

Installation of PCLinuxOS mini is a snap. Once installed, it needs to be updated straight away before adding any new software. Open Synaptic Package Manager, Refresh, Mark All Upgrades, and Apply. That’s basically all the user does to maintain the operating system, presumably for years! It’s an all-or-nothing approach which is kinda scary to a noob like me who fears the “broken after update” scenario more than even having to reinstall. But I’ll explore this KDE desktop a little further and who knows – if it keeps behaving the way it has thus far in PCLinuxOS, maybe I’ll just keep it! PCLOS has some sweet configuration tools that make it simple enough for a sidekick.

My hopes are:

  • That KDE won’t become a resource hog before I’ve had a chance to plumb its depths and learn a little,
  • that this all-or-nothing update maintenance approach doesn’t prove to be as dangerous as I fear, and
  • that even if KDE disappoints me, Xfce will work as reliably on PCLOS as it always did in Xubuntu.

I don’t know what’s going on the “Ubuntu community” lately, but reading their forums one gets the idea that the community is feeling abandoned by the company behind the most popular Linux distro. There’s never been any such corporate shenanigans in the PCLOS community. Us ordinary folks can find the Supreme Developer hanging out in the forums and mailing lists, and the community is vibrant, friendly, and enthusiastic. Most are “ordinary end users” like me, several help develop this sweet distro (also frequently found in the forums), and all are equally enthusiastic about the distro and it’s users.

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4 thoughts on “My First Rolling Linux

  1. Thanks, by the way, to my brother Mike for telling me about this distro. That was at least three years ago now, and KDE was much different back then. Revisiting PCLOS now has been a completely different experience.

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    1. I’m not sure yet, since I’m completely unfamiliar with KDE and it’s not all flower pedals and honey… but I have a lot to learn. There are at least a half-dozen weather applets to choose from (Xfce offers only one panel applet – you must add Conky or something else to have more choices) and some of the apps are buggy. And I’m still very unsure of this rolling-release thing too.

      I had to use the terminal command “chown -R robin:robin /home/robin” to get Firefox and Thunderbird to work, add my printer manually using the CUPS interface (y’know that “localhost:631” opened in a browser trick) because the built-in control center wouldn’t work, and a couple of other little bugaboos. But really, since this is a rolling release, it should be a “set it and forget it” kinda thing, right? If it is, it may be the last distro on this particular computer. But I’ll prob’ly always play around with other distros just for grins and giggles.

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    2. Having a look at PCLinuxOS’ forums, I count a very high number of “broken after update” threads there. The distro has an all-or-nothing approach to maintaining and updating (open Synaptic > Reload > Mark All Upgrades > Apply). In Xubuntu I learned never to update everything like that! In the LTS versions, only security updates and such are updated once a new non-LTS release comes along, and it’s much safer. I never had major stuff broken by updates in Xubu LTS, but I always held my breath after updating, especially after a kernel update. I know, I’m a scardycat…

      I’m just not comfortable with the all-or-nothing approach instead of having the option to select only important security updates (like I would even know which updates were which). The only “rolling” distro I think I might trust with such things might be Debian Testing (certainly not Sid, much less Experimental). But finding several “broken after update” threads in the PCLinuxOS forums almost daily has put me off. Especially after discovering the Enlightenment desktop on Ubuntu-LTS-based Bodhi Linux!

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