Why Newbies Shouldn’t Beta-Test Linux Distros

Linux newbies should not beta-test Linux distributions, or they might end up like I did today! You may recall that my efforts to preserve the /home directory when I first installed Xubuntu 12.04 failed, and Xubuntu insisted that I give it the entire hard drive. Ah, what the heck, that’s what backups are for, right? So I went ahead and did it.

Changed my mind today. I figured I could use a LiveCD and restore a separate /home partition so I wouldn’t have all that hassle the next time. Besides, I might want to distro-hop a little.

Too bad. GParted from the LiveCD pretended to do the job, but when I was finished, Xubuntu refused to boot. Locked in a BIOS-cycle or something, I went from the Dell screen to a black screen, then back to the Dell screen over and over. No access to my hard drive at all. Okay, that’s it. I’ll just use this opportunity to try that SalixOS I’ve read so much about. Already had the LiveCD ready. It booted into the Live environment, I logged in using “live” as instructed in the documentation. The welcome screen loaded, and my keyboard and mouse froze, refusing to let me go any further.

2 for 2. Y’know what? I’m done. Back to where I started: Xubuntu 10.04-based Linux Mint 9 Xfce. Harder to modify than I thought. The Mint stuff is designed to protect fools like from ourselves I guess, but it also makes it hard to make it do what I want! Fortunately it also has a few tools that help out. After about 20 zillion updates were installed, I finally have a functioning Xfce4 desktop with all the ease of Xubuntu 10.04. And I’m done with Beta testing. I’ll use 10.04 as long as it is supported (until April 2013), then switch to the next LTS release (12.04) after it’s a year old. Safe, simple, and sane.

Now back to regular life.

Mad Geek Skillz

Wow, I’m all proud of my little self. For the first time I partitioned a hard drive on an existing Linux installation (using G-Parted) instead of a fresh install of a distro. To someone who has never dared to do anything geekier than update their anti-virus software, it’s ho-hum, so what.

But to a Sidekick who is learning good stewardship of the Hero’s provision by making an old run-down computer run at totally wicked awesome warp speed, this is very cool. I didn’t even know I needed to, until an update to Xubuntu 12.04 (still Beta) couldn’t complete because no more disk space was available. The old partitions were set up for the now 2-year-old Xubuntu 10.04. 20 GB was all it needed on the hard drive. Now 20 GB is too little – even Linux distros that are meant for older more modest hardware are outgrowing the old machines. It’s not the Linux developers’ fault, it’s the newest versions of favorite software. The new Firefox is fast and full featured, but just takes more to run it now than when my old computer was new and top-of-the-line. Perhaps this new Xubuntu will be the last OS this old dog can run. If so, I’ll run it on Xubu beyond 12.04’s end-of-life. So what? Old software for old hardware. Upgrading is not mandatory.

Perhaps when Xubuntu becomes too much for this old box, I’ll give Lubuntu a shot! It’s even lighter and faster than my favorite OS (Xubuntu), and maybe it will still support this old machine even beyond Xubu 12.04!

Far be it from a relative newcomer to Linux to go testing a Beta OS, but believe it or not, all I have to do is use it and just report what I see, what it does, when it breaks. They fix it! They especially like it when newbies test it.

People who you would think have no business playing with Linux – they make great Beta testers for the Xubu developers because the distro is aimed at newcomers! So if this Sidekick can do it, maybe you can too!