Intro & first impressions of SolydK

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Praxis
Posts: 1
Joined: 03 Feb 2015 19:38

Intro & first impressions of SolydK

Postby Praxis » 03 Feb 2015 21:14

Hey folks, I've been using Linux as my daily operating system for about 10 years now, and after experimenting around with a variety of versions, gravitated towards Debian, particularly a sid version known as sidux which made installing codecs & extra packages easy via a script called smxi. But the frequent package churn and breakage didn't thrill me, so I gradually migrated towards a mix of stable and testing, especially after the sidux community self-destructed. I like the notion of a rolling release but don't see the need to get every little package upgrade (it might annoy me less if Debian had some sort of delta upgrade that would just update the changes to packages rather than the whole thing, but I don't see how that would be done). I tried Ubuntu when it first came out (4.10), but hated it. Too brown, sudo was unfamiliar, and Gnome 2 seemed pretty brain-dead (though I subsequently learned that the defaults were mostly to blame, like the infamous nautilus spatial mode). But then I discovered Kubuntu and found that the 'buntus were a little easier to install. I batted back and forth between Ubuntu and Debian installs until Ubuntu moved to 5 year LTS support in 12.04, and then stopped installing Debian on machines except ones where I couldn't get Ubuntu to install for some reason. My last Debian installs were the first couple of versions of LMDE, as I recall.

By this point I found installing codecs trivial and found that installing other people's gloss on Debian or Ubuntu was more trouble than it was worth. Many, if not most of their customizations, were more annoying than the stock versions of KDE, and although it was fun to explore new programs that I might never have discovered, I found upgrading the modified versions was always a bigger PITA than it was worth. Often, if not generally, I found that I had to at least temporarily disable the third party repositories to get the systems to upgrade from one major version to another. I some case I would re-enable the repos after the upgrade, but as often as not I'd leave them off, not seeing any value (I'm looking at you, Mepis). I'm pretty compulsive about upgrading rather than reinstalling, so I have Debian and Ubuntu installs that are almost 10 years old at this point. And in point of fact, Ubuntu was easier to upgrade than Debian, LTS to LTS vs. stable to stable. Ubuntu has its own script (do-release-upgrade) that planes off the rough edges of upgrades. Particularly going from squeeze to wheezy was a nightmare, I found that it went easier if I just uninstalled all the Gnome packages first and reinstalled them on the other end (not that I still didn't have to use the "force" a bit, I just didn't have to strip the system to the bones with "dpkg -r"). Upgrading Debian testing was not that bad, but there was frequent breakage, requiring 'apt-get -force" and package removal, and sometimes common programs like wine would go missing from the repos for weeks or months at a time. Who needs it?

But I have a friend who I provide tech support for who I'd transitioned to Ubuntu from Debian a couple of years ago (he'd continued using Debian long after I'd mostly moved to Ubuntu, thinking that is what I used most often). He didn't like Trusty 14.04 because one (to me fairly trivial) package was broken in what seemed to me an unimportant way, so he decided to wipe his mature Ubuntu install and install Debian testing (it was after the freeze, so I didn't see much point in telling him to install Wheezy). So when I build a very inexpensive system the other day I decided to install Debian testing, as well, to have a model with which to help him with the rough patches. (j1800 celeron mobo/cpu, $35, $20 case, $20 PSU, 60GB SSD for $25 after MIR, 4GB DDR3 sodimm, $30; very quiet, low energy usage)

So I downloaded the Debian net-installer for AMD64 (debian-jessie-DI-rc1-amd64-netinst.iso), but it couldn't cope with my ethernet card, so I put the firmware on another USB stick, and let the installer go. Unfortunately it froze up during the dpkg phase of the install, not once, but twice. Way to go Debian! Not only is the installer essentially unchanged since I've been installing Debian (sarge), but a stable beta froze my system solid! So I looked around for a third party Debian testing distro, and SolydK had just released a new version, so I gave it a whirl. I'd installed SolydK on a friend's older machine (XP1700) last year and hated it, it was too heavy & I didn't like the customizations, so I put Xubuntu on it and it ran until he upgraded to one of my hand-me-down boxes. But I figured Debian is Debian so I gave SolydK a throw.

Impressions:
  • It installed! Chalk one up for the re-packagers.

    Not a bad initial selection of software. I like using Firefox and Thunderbird rather than the uglified Debian versions (icedove & iceweasel), but I run a local apt proxy (approx) and didn't see the need to download two version every time those programs updated, so I uninstalled the Solyd version and installed the (ubuntu)-mozilla-build versions I use on the rest of my Debian machines.

    I wasn't thrilled with the initial appearance, but that isn't a big deal, I know how to customize things. I think the application icons are quite handsome in the menus, but they are still unfamiliar, which makes finding something a bit harder. But the folder icons looked flat & low-contrast in Dolphin/Konqueror, and all the program icons looked like the same way in my panel Quicklaunch bar, so replaced them with the standard Oxygen set, not that I ever particularly liked them. I'm just not a big fan of the low-contrast icons/menus/whatever that have become so stylish in the last couple of years.

    The minor Debian vexations were still there, like having to create a .vimrc file in my home directory to get syntax highlighting, but that is no big deal. And I was pleased by the color prompts in konsole for user and root.
    The system took a long time to boot the first 2-3 times, though now it seems to be booting almost as fast a Ubuntu on this hardware (~11 seconds from grub to KDM, which I installed to replace lightdm).

    Shutting down is the big problem. It may be the BIOS/UEFI/whatever on this cheapo ECS SoC, but it won't. I get a "watchdog is not stopping" sort of message or sometimes nothing at all, but always have to hold the power button whether I exit from the menu or using the halt/reboot command from the CLI. Probably nothing specific to SolydK, but who knows? It could be the ufw implementation.

    sudo from the CLI doesn't open GUI programs. "No protocol specified. Unable to init server: Could not connect: Connection refused" It is possible that is because I installed a root password, but I don't have that problem from other systems. I can open synaptic from the menu but it asks for first my user PW & then my root PW. Slightly vexing.

    I haven't used any of the Solyd* programs, really, I'm so used to the CLI that I use that for most things. Maybe I'll try the USB creator at some point. The dropbox seems to work. I haven't had much experience with the Solyd* versions of flash or the codecs.
All in all, not a bad experience. We'll see how upgrades go over the long term, but I figure I can always disable the Solyd* repo and install the standard versions if there are issues. I haven't decided whether to track testing or hone in on Jessie as stable, it kind of depends on what my friend decides. I wish I'd told my friend about SolydK, I like the notion of punctuated upgrade packs, and I think that would be great for him, though it isn't for me, since I use a local apt proxy and am very familiar with the CLI. BTW, after I helped him hammer out a few bits, my buddy is much happier with Jessie than with Trusty, good on him.

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