It Sounds Kinda Like Slackware – But With Gnome Stuff!

…That is, if you like and want Gnome stuff, like Geary, one of my e-mail favorite clients.  Gnome stuff is unavailable in Slackware (and therefore unavailable in Salix).  I might have switched permanently to Salix from Xubuntu if not for that, because of the systemd thing.  I know, I know, before you jump all over me for having such great reservations about systemd, it’s simply this:  Systemd removes a lot of choice and control from the end-user, leaving it up to developers and maintainers.  So much stuff is dependent on systemd in Linux distros that have switched to it – including all the Big Ones like Debian, Ubuntu (and all it’s derivative distros like Xubu, Lubu, Kubu etc., Linux Mint), and Red Hat (Fedora and family).  Slackware and it’s derivatives remain systemd-free, as does PCLinuxOS and a shrinking number of others.

So what’s this new systemd-unencumbered distro?  It’s a virtual unknown called Void Linux.  Not a fork, not built or derived from any other Linux distro, Void is described as “the most BSD-like Linux distribution out there.”  Users describe it as superduperultramega lightning fast on even ancient hardware. It needs only 96 megabytes of RAM!  Available in “flavors” from KDE and Gnome to LXDE, Xfce, LXQt, and even Enlightenment, Void Linux is a rolling-release distro that uses runit instead of systemd.  It just sounds awesomely perfect for hopefully bringing my old “dead” relic back to life, if I can fix the hardware issue.


So, naturally, I’ll have to try this thing out.  It’s not for beginners, probably not for technophobes either, but curiosity has got the better of me and I’ll at least experiment with the Live Xfce version, and if my hardware issue can be fixed on the old Dell, I’ll throw Void Linux on there and write about it here.  Stay tuned!


Robin’s Favorite Forever

I think that if I listed all the Linux distributions I have tried, it would number somewhere near two dozen or thirty!  Some didn’t last a day, some not even an hour.  Some lasted for weeks or months, when either some update messed it, or I messed it up myself, one just disappeared, one got political and I dumped it on principle, and one – only one – was the distro I always ran home to when I either got scared off, ticked off, or turned off.

Debian and Debian-based distros.  Slackware and Slackware-based distros.  Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros.  PCLinuxOS (independent, the apparent “heir” of Mandrake).  Red-Hat-based distros.  Everything but Gentoo and Arch.  I am a technophobe still, after all.  Some I loved!  Crunchbang Linux, now unsupported, was most awesome when it was Ubuntu-based.  The switch to Debian brought improvements in some areas but made installation and configuration much harder and more complicated, and one installed, it ran slower too.

In the end, they’re all Linux, all wonderful for the niches they fill.  Whether for servers, tablets, or desktops; whether for super-geeks or novices; grandparents or little kids; students, teachers, heroes, and sidekicks – there’s a Linux for everyone.

For this technophobic sidekick, it really has, after 6 years, boiled down to one single distro that has kept my old relic computer out of the landfill since I first ditched WindowsXP for my first ever alternative OS, Ubuntu 8.04.  One that – once discovered – became my go-to operating system, the one I always ended up falling back to.

When Canonical tamed mighty Debian and made it finally available, installable, and useful for ordinary mortals to use without “mad techno-geek skillz,” they did it better than anyone else had before.  And they still do.  I know a lot of Linux folks enjoy belittling Canonical for their business dealings and Ubuntu (to include the official derivatives, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, etc) users for their lack of computer skills.   So be it.  I have always lacked computer skills when it came to tweaks and fixes and configurations and such.  I kept a diary of whatever I did and what resulted.  I learned to use the terminal like a wonderful, powerful, magic toolbox!  But I always preferred the graphical interface, and the point-and-shoot simplicity of the Synaptic Package Manager instead of sudo apt-get whatever, for example.

I may yet get a few more years out of this old dinsaur before Linux stops offering support for 32-bit architecture.  But even when I no longer need to stick to “lightweight” distros, I’ll stick with the best one I’ve ever used, the one that more than any other, has kept my old desktop running, got me through all my college classes, and inspired this blog.

Robin’s all-time, forever fanboy Linux distro:


XUBUNTU.  Here’s 16.04, built from Xubunu-core (after installing the Ubuntu base with only a terminal) and my own selected lightweight applications.  There’s no Firefox or Thunderbird in my remix, no LibreOffice, none of the usual popular stuff, but ultralight or other lightweight alternatives.  Geary for email (because Claws Mail just refused to cooperate). Midori for web browsing. Abiword and Gnumeric for office stuff. Mostly standard Xfce apps for just about everything else I use my computer for.  All with the awesome Ubuntu base and Xubuntu team community support.

This old Dell still runs faster and better on Xubuntu, now 7 years later, than it did when it was brand new running WindowsXP.


It Ain’t Broke So Stop Fixing It!

So this morning I’m looking at a web page when Seamonkey becomes unresponsive. Then I remember that it’s Tuesday, and that’s when I have set up the Xubuntu Updater to do it’s weekly update.

“Oh, fine, just let the thing run,” I think. “I’ll get back to the web later.”

If it’s just updating software, I have it set to just go ahead and put in the latest version of whatever software is installed. But if it’s a system update, then I have to enter the root password and authorize it. And sure enough, like almost every Tuesday since I installed Xubu 14.04, the Updater wants to update the Linux kernel again. Uh-oh. Every time it tells me I need another kernel update, I’m like

No, not again! This is terrifying stuff to me, even though most kernel updates are safe haven’t borked my system, it has happened before. And even though I can reboot to an older kernel, it leaves me wondering what was wrong with the old one that it needed to be updated anyway. If it’s a security thing, well, I guess that’s different. But most of the big scary kernel and firmware updates aren’t addressing some security vulnerability, they’re “improving” some existing feature or adding new ones.

I’ve got a lot of college course work going on and I need a rock-stable OS that isn’t gonna be suddenly slowed or crippled by the next “improvement.” Updates to programs like my browser and stuff are fine, but what “improvements” to vital stuff like the Linux kernel do I really need to keep this ancient relic of a perfectly good computer running? Older versions of Xubuntu were considerably faster than the latest version. I used to be able to multi-task without having things hesitate or grind to a complete halt. While I understand that some updated applications probably use more resources than the older versions, why do the kernel and firmware require more resources? And for cryin’ out loud,

It ain’t broke! So stop fixing it!

So there’s another advantage to using an OS that is based on Debian Stable. It’s stable! It doesn’t get “fixed” unless it needs fixing. Even as I write this post, the computer halts and balks and makes me wait until it finishes with some other invisible process it has going on in the background.

If I had a newer computer I’d probably switch to Linux Mint because the ingenious updater helps technophobes and newbies use it intelligently. But on this old relic, it’s gonna be MX-14, the wonderful AntiX/Xfce mixture built from Debian Stable with “the magic of Mepis” in support.

My distro-hopping days may be over, even after I upgrade this old hardware some day when I have money for that. And this blog may just get really boring after that, since it’s such a trouble-free system.