No Systemd, No Pulseaudio

Last time I wrote about systemd-free Debian, but not Devuan, for reasons which appear in the comments of that post, “Why Not Devuan?” Mostly it has to do with trust of their repositories.

But I messed up my first installation of antiX by installing my beloved Xfce desktop from Synaptic instead of using antiX’s own package installer. I don’t know how that makes any difference, but it matters!

In my zeal to rid my OS of any unneeded and unwanted antiX stuff (for the sake of my need to purge socialist-communist-statist-leftist elements as much as possible), I removed some essential elements that disabled control over sound, printing, scanning, and other features I really need. It was plain stupid to proceed in a hurry like that.

Doing it right this time, I have exactly what I need, with a few extra things I don’t want and will never use but cannot safely purge without breaking my system again. No big deal. I had thought, for about 0.68 seconds (nearly a lifetime for an android, according to Commander Data), to just return to MX-Linux because it’s Xfce anyway. But then, there’s that hideous systemd “there but unused” factor. I think I’d rather have a few antiX things there but unused than to have any systemd or PulseAudio crap contaminating my hard drive. The latter is just a matter of political preference, but the former is a dangerous back door to my OS, in my opinion.

So a word of advice to any other creatures of conscience looking to avoid systemd and pulseaudio and untrustworthy Devuan repositories, but eager to purge socialist-communist-statist-leftist antiX stuff, do it right. Read the manual, proceed carefully and deliberately, and slowly.

Why Not Devuan?

So in my last posting I wrote about replacing Linux Lite with antiX, addressing the “political Linux” concerns and my apparent hypocrisy in choosing antiX.

The expected question I never got, surprisingly, was why don’t you just use Devuan instead of antiX?

It’s a good question even though no one ever asked me. On the interwebz the question is asked once in a while among those who favor the non-systemd distros. And the usual answer is that Devuan is much better. Plus the default desktop in Devuan is Xfce, my most favoritest and the bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful desktop environment in the history of ever. In antiX the desktop is a choice among window managers that doesn’t even include the best of them, which in my opinion is Openbox.

My answer is that I want to the supercool tools found in antiX and MX-Linux, to include the USB-formatter, ISO-maker and other wicked-kewl tools.

If there’s a way to get those on Devuan instead of using antiX, I’ll sure as heck do so. Do I just add MX-Linux repositories to Devuan or what? Remember I suffer from moderate-to-severe technophobia, so don’t make the answer (hopefully in a comment) all complicated and technical.

Thanks!

Goodbye Linux Lite

It was fun while it lasted, and I considered Linux Lite to be the best distro for new Linux users, especially those coming from Windows. But the last straw, one of many, is the default browser in the new Linux Lite 6 series. The new default browser is now Google Chrome.

Linux attracts many Windows users because, among other reasons they want to get away from evil big tech companies like Microsoft that spy on them and are back doors to tracking, data mining, and marketing. So they find Linux and then – Google?! No thanks.

So many reasons to ditch this once-favorite distro:

1. – It’s Ubuntu base: Ubuntu has gone off the freaking rails with it’s default software management becoming snap instead of apt!

2. – Systemd: Yes, I know, this an old debate and doesn’t matter to most users at all. But systemd becomes huge and invasive over even short periods of time. I put up with it because Linux Lite offers “Lite Tweaks” which lets you delete those crazy huge systemd logs in a couple of clicks, which I did regularly to keep my hard drive from filling up. In Debian and Ubuntu you can limit the size of those logs by editing etc/systemd/journald.config. Add a line “systemMaxUse=100M” save file, then sudo systemctl daemon- reload and reboot. Thereafter systemd logs will not get so outrageously large and fill up your disk space. But still, GEEZ man, systemd regulates every single process at every moment and records everything. It even needs it’s own password? What’s up with that? Nah, no thank you, there are still plenty of systemd-free OSes in Linuxland.

3. – Linux Lite “targets” Windows users now more than ever. But they do it by making Linux Lite as much like Windows as possible. What the heck, man? If I wanted Windows I’d just use Windows! I want my new OS to be as far from Windows-like as possible as long as it remains point-and-click simple. But for cry’n out loud, not just like the one I’m ditching. But hey, that’s just me.

4. – Supposedly made to be easy on older hardware, there is no 32-bit option available anymore.

So what is my chosen alternative?

This oughtta surprise you, it’s antiX! WHAT?!? After all that stuff you wrote about how much you hate political Linux? Robin, you’re a hypocrite!

Okay, lemme ‘splain myself here. Bear with me. The big issues with antiX were and are:

1. – Those evil, horrible, terrible bookmarks! And

2. – It’s developer is an anti capitalist.

As for the bookmarks, they all appear in a single folder in Firefox Bookmarks called “anticapitalista.” No one knocks on your door and compels you at gunpoint to click on them. Simply delete that folder and problem solved. It has been a long-standing tradition for developers to include bookmarks in their browsers anyway. Don’t like ’em? Delete ’em. As for the developer, so what? He doesn’t distribute antiX only to those who share his political views and forbid capitalists from using it. I can keep my Stars and Stripes flying and my MAGA hat on my head without causing my operating system to convert me to atheism, communism, or any other ism. Besides, think about this now: What better way to to express anti-anti-capitalism than by exploiting an anti-capitalist’s product and then using it to promote capitalism if I want to, right?

Why antiX and not MX-Linux? I thought you were an Xfce fanboy!

Simply because antiX does not contain any systemd code whatsoever. Sure I’m an Xfce fanboy and have been for a really long time. But adding Xfce to antiX, which – unlike Gnome and unlike MX-Linux – does not require systemd “as a dependency.” Why “have” systemd “as a dependency” if the OS doesn’t use systemd for anything? “It’s in there but the OS doesn’t use it” never made sense to me. I’m not sure what software MX-Linux has that needs systemd “as a dependency,” but antiX has all the coolest MX-tools without any need for space-wasting bloat that the OS doesn’t use.

Again, I know systemd doesn’t matter to most desktop Linux users one way or the other. But you gotta admit it’s a nuisance, and a huge consumer of disk space and processing power. Just like Windows, by the way, which also uses systemd. And like I said, I want an OS to be as little like Windows as possible.

Best Linux Lite Yet

Wow. They heard me! That’s one little benefit of these “small” Linux distros, especially when the lead dev frequents the forums. Once I wrote that Linux Lite was not so light anymore. That might still be true I suppose, but it still runs snappy and nimble on my faithful old Dell Optiplex 7010. And the current version is better than ever!

One of the bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful things they’ve done – perhaps after reading Robin’s Rants and Raves (?), was make systemd less of a big honking hungry threat to computer disk space in the new-and-improved Lite Tweaks feature:

Lite Tweaks, explained

Like Linux Mint used to do with it’s Updater, Linux Lite has done by suggesting things that are completely safe, those which should be used with caution, and also categorized by function: Clean, Fix, Performance, Information, Administration. Easy to understand!

Great Choices!

Have a look at that last one: Systemd Log Cleaner. That darn systemd keeps logs which grow quickly and have even caused problems for some users (rarely, but at times) just by their sheer size. Now you can wipe them clean. I do it often, maybe just because I’m still uneasy about systemd even being there. Yet systemd is one of the reasons a lot of distros “just work” as opposed to those which have to have all kindsa work-arounds and substitute software solutions to make them work reliably. So as long as you “have to” have systemd, you may as well keep it somewhat under control. And Linux Lite makes it so you can do it in a few mouse clicks! How freaking cool is that!

Lite Tweaks is one of the big reasons I still refer “newbies” to Linux Lite. As much as I like my SalixOS system (Slackware-based, systemd-free, quick and responsive), it’s hard to get up-to-date software, and sometimes applications lose support way before the same apps are updated in the Slackware repositories. Yeah, you can add the “testing” repository, but I’d be alternately enabling and disabling it according to what software quit working (like the Xfce desktop weather applet) and what might get broken by a late update. It’s like using Debian “Old Stable.” Solid as a rock, but largely unsupported as the rest of the world moves on. Even Slackware gave way to let PulseAudio in because a lot of apps just won’t work without it, and I wonder if they’ll end up doing the same eventually with systemd. Well, I still love my Salix. But this latest Linux Lite is the best yet, and I heartily recommend it!

Likely to Be my Permanent – and my Only – Linux OS

This one bears repeating even though it’s a couple of years old now. I must have had a flash of common sense once, but then soon wandered off. And look where I ended up – right back here again!  So I’m changing the date of this post just to show ehere I keep coming back to.

I have kept Linux Lite and MX-Linux around for a long while, mostly to help introduce new users to Linux. Many of them got started because the Microsoft OS they were used to is such a freakin’ resource-hog that you have to buy a new computer every three years or so just to keep up! Why let a perfectly good working machine go to the landfill because Micro$oft has decided not to support it anymore, right? So, Linux to the rescue, right?

Nope, not nearly as much as it ought to be. A trip to the Swap Shop finds a dozen or so vendors offering refurbished computers for $40 or so, but they still have Windows and they’re slower than snails. When I used to brag about how Linux could make them run better than new, and without any need for the dreaded terminal, I won a few “converts,” and a few more by cleaning up and donating old computers with a lightweight “newbie-friendly” distro pre-installed. Of allllllll those people I helped, guess how many are still using Linux?

One. Just one. As far as I know, anyway, we lost touch when I moved away. So maybe none! All of them – and we’re only talking a dozen or so – have since traded up to new computers and – one guess – they’re Windows or Mac.

So, my OS is gonna be for ME, not for anyone else. Not to “show off” to others in hopes of winning them over; not on my computer so I can walk others through the steps of configuring, fixing, tweaking, and installing software. Not for the coolest, awesomest, most thrilling visual effects and eye candy I used to care about. No more of that now… my ‘puter is my own, and it’s just for me, and it’s gonna be what I want: Blazing fast, graphical, simple, uncomplicated, and basic. No systemd. No bloat. Nothing I don’t need or want. One application per task, faithful to the old Unix ideal, quaint and outdated as that might seem to others who like the bleeding edge, eye candy, and super gaming capability. Does anyone know of a Linux distro that offers just that, without all the busy bovine excrement that has to be included in the OS just to make this-or-that other thing work that you actually want? One that is still supported and up-to-date without the instability of the Big Major desktop distros? I can think of one. It’s an old faithful standby that has kept my ancient spare 32-bit Dell out of the landfill for over a year now, with no issues. And it’s mind-bending fast on my higher-end 64-bit desktop and laptop.

I’m so disheartened by the fact that all my enthusiasm, “evangelism,” and newbie support for Linux hasn’t actually changed anyone’s mind for more than a temporary short period, that I think I’m pretty much done with all that now. I’ve got better things to use my computer for than just writing about computers, OSes, software, and why these things should matter to people. In fact they don’t matter to most people, and desktops and laptops have largely been replaced by smart phones and tablets now anyway. You like your Chromebook? Cool. Does it matter to most people that it’s Linux-based? Prob’ly not. Does it matter that it’s a Google gadget and it’s likely spying on you and reporting back to the Mother Ship for targeted ads and to predict what you’re likely to spend money on and where you go every day? Apparently not.

Well, it matters to me. And to maybe 2% of all desktop computer users on Earth. The other 98% are content to be carried along, captive to a single vendor and subject to it’s whims. Fine, fools.

I’m moving on.

SalixOS, Revisited

The exact opposite of my friend Orca who loves the bleeding-edge, rolling-release, high-drama, I-dare-you stuff, I want my operating system and software to be rock-solid, super-stable, tried-and-true, old-reliable almost-never-updated (because updates break stuff, especially in those bleeding-edge, rolling-release systems). I’m a simple user, and simple is good. I still couldn’t resist a peek at Artix, though, the Arch-based systemd-free spinoff. A short peek. Nice! But scary for a technophobe. Suprisingly simple to install.

SalixOS, however, was not so simple to install and set up. It was needlessly complicated by an obsolete repository (easily prevented by issuing a point release that is possible to update without having to search the rarely-used forums for a solution). Neither the Wiki nor the User Guide has been updated in a lonnnnnng time.

Repository Mirror to the Rescue

Right in the System menu is the solution: Labeled, “Repository Mirror,” it looks around the Interwebz (that’s how the cool kids spell it, right?) for current repositories and mirrors that are running. I even found one very close to where I live! Once refreshed, updating in adding a few favorite softwares was easy. My old favorite showed up then, too. Seamonkey, now non-Mozilla (in spite of all the Moz references) so probably safe to use. I replaced Firefox and ClawsMail with my old favorite.

Salix comes in different flavors, but most of the big changes in the last couple of years aren’t there, since this is based on Slackware 14.2 (stable). The upcoming 15.0 will offer KDE-Plasma, Xfce 14.6 with all the cool GTK3 stuff. But all that new stuff is still “Beta” in the Slackware world. So wha’d’y’think that says about the legendary Slackware stability? To me says, “Made especially for Robin.”

And like the logo says, it’s “Linux for the Lazy Slacker.” Absolutely made especially for Robin, because it’s simple, got the cool toolbox you would never find in Slackware where everything is as challenging and geeky as they can make it. When Slackware 15 comes out, Salix 15 will follow quickly upon it, as they are already testing the new stuff. That one is called “Slackel,” and it’s kinda sorta like “Beta Salix.” I guess you could say like Debian Testing and Debian Stable, both Slackware and Salix have testing and stable releases too. Slackel is the more up-to-date stuff with it’s attendant risk, however minimal, while Salix is the “especially made for Robin” stuff because it’s rock-stable and proven reliable over centuries of time. Wellll, maybe not centuries, but y’knowhatimean.

After PCLinuxOS pissed me off to such a severe degree, conscience (sort of) demanded a change in my OS. This one was a little familiar because I’d toyed with it before. It was also good because it’s systemd-free, which means it’s not logging and journaling and keeping track of every little freakin’ keystroke and mouse gesture. And it’s true to the good ol’ Linux philosophy, “Do One Thing (and do it well).” Salix certainly does that, and the one-application-per-task rule keeps it lightweight and easy to manage. Long may it live.

Thoughts on “Linux Legalism”

Where does the line belong, between absolute strict adherence to the Pure and Venerated UNIX/Linux Way, and the practical but not-so-pure approach to a free operating system that simply works on your hardware, stays out of your way, and is elegant and easy to use?

How DARE you use a distro that has those non-free bits of code in it (without which your computer or video card, or sound card, etc wouldn’t work)! How DARE you install more than one web browser (even though one works for most sites but you need the other for one or two sites that won’t function in any other browser)! You know the Law: One application per task! Do One Thing and do it well! That is the Law of Linux!

Legalism nullifies the grace of God in Christianity. Obedience to the Law is the natural result of true conversion, not a prerequisite as in order to become a Christian. In the same way, perhaps, purity from non-free bits, one-app-per-task, etcetra, is a noble goal. But just as no one can become righteous by obeying the law of God, neither can hope to even use most computers, much less share the “gospel” of Linux with others, without enough non-free, impure, proprietary bits of code to make the darn thing turn on, display stuff, connect to the ‘net and do any useful stuff.

Oh, and then there’s the whole evil corporation thing, unreasoning hatred of Novelle, Red Hat, and Canonical for daring to make money on Linux!! Forget the GNU license that allows that. Forget the fact that development and quality and availability of usable Linux OSes would hardly be possible, much less widespread and wonderful, without some deep pockets to bring it to us ordinary users. Canonical, the makers of the Ubuntu family of distros (far and away the most popular and by far the easiest to install, configure, and use), seems to get the brunt of that hatred, for some reason, perhaps because of it’s popularity and the sheer number of spin-off distros that rely on Ubuntu, like Linux Mint, Linux Lite, Zorin, PopOS, and a zillion others. You don’t see that kind of multiplicity of spin-offs from Fedora (RedHat) or SUSE (Novelle). There’s a nice noble little distro called Trisquel which takes all the little non-free bits out of Ubuntu to make a “pure and holy” desktop distro that aims to be as easy to use as Ubuntu but pure as the wind-driven snow when it comes to the righteous UNIX/Linux Way. That’s awesome! So why isn’t Trisquel more popular? Because it doesn’t freaking work on most computers! Without at least some non-free firmware and software, most computers simply won’t run on a “pure, totally free” operating system.

So has Canonical made some mistakes along the way? Sure. But they learn, adapt, and move on. And eventually, even upstream distros take some lessons from Canonical. The Calameres installer, for example, looks and behaves a lot like Canonical’s Ubiquity installer that made Ubuntu so easy to install. Now even Debian Buster is using it! But they resisted for a lonnnnnnng time. “Ew! That’s Ubuntu stuff! Ewwww!” Snobs. Typical of Debian. But they have finally relented. Perhaps after Linus Torvaldes (the inventor of Linux) himself mentioned that even he couldn’t install Debian they decided to consider the idea…

So, anyway: As much as purity and perfection are to be strived for, don’t chase me (and countless others) away from a perfectly working OS and drive us back to Windows just to spite you! You gave me the gospel of Linux, and I believed and converted. Baptized in Ubuntu and life is good. Don’t tell me afterwards that now to be a “real” Linux user I have to abandon the distro I have come to rely on and struggle to get a computer working on Gentoo or Linux-From-Scratch. Just as legalism robs Christians of joy and authentic faith, so it is with Linux. So shut up and leave those Linux Mint / Ubuntu / Zorin / etc users alone.

A Great Review of SalixOS

Hi everyone! Here is a great review of SalixOS for responsible users. The reason I’m looking into this again is that my beloved MX-Linux, based on Debian Stable, may not be able to avoid systemd once Debian Buster is released (MX is based on Debian Stable). And there are plenty of good reasons to avoid systemd, even for us ordinary non-technical folks who just want a reliable OS that doesn’t spy on us and report back to the Mother Ship and stuff, as systemd does (didjya know it’s linked to Google!?!), journaling and logging everything!

It’s probably totally unrealistic of me to hope for, but just imagine if MX-Linux (which has been at the top of Distrowatch for awhile) got together with SalixOS (which is ranked even below server-only distros, unbelievably). Maybe the Salix devs could teach MX how to get around systemd in spite of Debian’s efforts to make it impossible, and MX could teach SalixOS about the supercool tool set that makes it so awesome. Both distros have the same mission: To make Linux manageable for us ordinary casual users, while avoiding the instability, unpredictability, and bloat of the popular “newbie” distros.

Yup, probably totally unrealistic of me to even wish for such a thing. But I suspect that SalixOS will be inheriting a lot of new users once MX-19 comes around, if they are unable to avoid systemd.

Kinda Missing My Linux Lite

I know, I know. I’ve already got the bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful Linux distro in the history of ever on my ‘puter. It’s not encumbered by systemd, it’s got cool tools, good looks, great performance, and a wonderful supportive community.

But I still miss my Linux Lite, and I’m torrenting the latest release all day today. I intend to dual-boot it with my equally fantastical and awesomeful MX-18.

Why, you ask? Why, why whyyyyy would you do such a thing?! After all that stuff you said about Ubuntu-based distros putting Beta software in their updates and all that stuff about what systemd might well become?

I have several good reasons, and I’m not alone! A lot of cool techno-wizard types who use MX-Linux and AntiX and post regularly in MX forums also use Linux Lite and help out in their forums! The two distros share a common mission in spite of their different bases and different philosophies. That mission is making and keeping desktop Linux easy and simple for us “mere mortals,” us ordinary desktop and laptop computer users. They have different ways of doing it, and both are great! I tend to give Linux Lite the edge in that department so far. My reasons for dual-booting:

  • For new Linux users that I don’t do the installations for, Linux Lite is much easier to install. That Ubiquity installer from Ubuntu is just the best there is, and I wish the Debian-based distros would adopt and use it.
  • If I do the installation, it’s likely to be MX-Linux if they are interested in really learning how to configure and maintain it. If they’re honestly not willing or inclined to learn more, and to join the forums and learn to responsibly maintain a DebianLinux system, I’ll install Linux Lite for them, which – for now at least – has a very low learning curve and built-in maintenance features for “lazy” users.
  • I can provide much better support to these new users if I use the same distro and can “click along with them” to configure, adjust, and maintain their OS.
  • I can remove 99.999% of the risk posed by the Ubuntu base by adding the “after market” tools that minimize the update dangers and make the menus and such more intuitive (in my opinion). UnlockMe also has the simplest way to add software that isn’t in the Linux Lite and Ubuntu repositories. If I do the install, I’ll use a custom iso that includes these wonderful tools.

Linux Lite has a wonderful community of friendly people, and like the MX-forums, the developer(s) actively participate in those forums. That means a lot to me, still being as technophobic as I ever was, despite being geeky enough to use Linux and actually understand some of the techno-jargon in Star Trek, my all-time favorite entertainment escape. They are also easily searchable and welcoming for those few newbies who actually regret not wanting to learn more at first.

So look for an overdue review of the current version later this week or next.

“Artim”

Ubuntu-Base, Debian Base, Systemd

I love my Linux Lite! On decent hardware it is light, fast, simple, and best distro for newcomers to Linux, bar none.

On older hardware, especially legacy hardware, not so much anymore. I can’t run it nimbly on the old Dell Dimension, so I’m loading up an ultralight OS on it called AntiX. Reading up on this distro and it’s mid-weight sibling, MXLinux, I found some very cool stuff that has me thinking hard about even my newer machine.

MXLinux has some great advantages for a mission-critical computer:


1. – It is based on Debian Stable.

That means several things: Ubuntu-based distros are famous for including beta and beta-quality stuff in their updates! Debian Stable simply does not. Breakage in Debian Stable is very rare. So there’s really no need for a “Mint-Updater” to filter out the high-risk, dangerous system-breaking stuff. That’s a biggie for me.

It also means access to the huge, vast, far-flung Debian repositories of free and open-source software. The largest on Earth. No beta stuff, not cutting-edge, the latest and greatest, but definitely more reliable.

2. – Systemd is there, but not used in MXLinux.

A lot of software depends on systemd now, so installing just about anything from the Gnome project and other software means you have to have systemd as a dependency. But MXLinux doesn’t use systemd as it’s init, nor as the invisible lord and master of every process and daemon on the system, as it does in both Debian and Ubuntu and most of their derivative distros. For most users – including me, actually – this is not any big deal. But in the back of my mind I wonder what systemd may become as it takes over more and more functions in Linux in the future.

3. – In addition to the Debian Stable repositories, MXLinux has their own, with up-to-date and tested software. No more adding PPAs just to get this or that bit of software. That is a big deal to me, since I think it’s dangerous to add PPAs to your software sources.

Just for these three things, I would thing seriously about adopting MXLinux as my “default” distro, especially on modest hardware.

AntiX has no systemd at all, by the way! Debian-base, systemd-free. That’s going on the old Dell Dimension.