11 Jul 2013

Experiences of a software consultant with various Linux distributions

I like reading comments under the posts of my Linux blog.

Some of these comments are short. Some of them are extended to several paragraphs. And some of them deserve a separate post. That's why I decided to re-publish a comment by Balaji Neelakantan to the post "What would be my own ideal Linux distribution?" as a separate story. 

I hope you will enjoy. Fasten your seatbelts! Let's go!

I have read very positive comments about OpenSuse, Mageia, PCLinuxOS, but I have had problems with them in the past, which is why I had to erase them and re-install something else.

My journey to Linux started with RedHat 5, but I used it to just learn and get a feel of it. I have been using several distros on and off while I was a Windows user. In 2011, I ditched Windows completely and started using Linux as my developer OS for full time.

I am a software consultant with varying needs like Cisco Anyconnect, Citrix, Pidgin with Sipe plugin etc. Below are some of the experiences that I have had with various distributions.

Arch / Archbang: An excellent distro which I used for couple of months. I was able to get everything working and it was blazing fast. The only problem I had is with the updates. Being a rolling release distro, updates break things some time and my laptop rendered unusable once.

Sabayon Xfce: Another excellent rolling release distro, but here too updates break things at time. I tried 13.04 Xfce recently, but the speed/performance was not that great. Sabayon 9/10 were very fast compared to the recent 13.04.

OpenSuse: Thunderbird is a must for me, but removing Evolution and installing Thunderbird is a nightmare.

Mageia KDE: Openconnect is a must to connect to my Cisco Anyconnect network, and the net-applet doesn't show Openconnect as an option even when it is installed in Mageia. I know how to connect to Anyconnect network with Openconnect command line, but I prefer to connect via net-applet or network manager. Wifi connection stopped working after a reboot when I messed with the option of "Network interface be controlled by Mageia Control Center" or something like that.

PCLinuxOS: Both Mageia and PCLinuxOS uses the net-applet (drakx-net) for network config and they don't support Openconnect.

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS: Used it for a long time until an update broke the screenshot utility. Whenever I launch the screenshot utility to take some screenshots, Ubuntu system froze. It happened quite a lot. Doing a Google search to fix the issue did not help.

Salix Xfce: Another excellent distro and I was able to get almost everything working. For some reason, PCmanFM doesn't update automatically and shows in the update list every time I boot the system. I know I could have fixed it by doing a Google search or by using their forums, but I wanted to try Mageia. So, I ditched Salix and tried Mageia.

Right now I am using Linux Mint 14 Xfce and it is good. I will plan to use it for some time before I move on to the next.

Some points to ponder:
  1. Xfce is my preferred DE because of its speed and configurability.
  2. Arch Wiki, Ubuntu Documentation, Gentoo Documentation, Salix forums are great.
  3. I preferred rolling release distros in the past, but now I am actually debating myself which one is better.
  4. I always take a backup of OS partition with Clonezilla whenever I try something new and it is a great piece of software.


  1. I have deployed Ubuntu LTS in offices, universities and use it in my own institution where I am the Dean, never have I run across any issues. Its the most usable, recommendable Linux out there, one that is singlehandedly taking Linux into the realm of desktop and mobiles.

  2. I consider myself as a distro hopper and I personally try to find a better distro than what I currently use. The issue with the screenshot utility was enough for me to ditch Ubuntu at that time. Being a software professional, I need to use the screenshot utility multiple times a day and when it freezes, I lose all the work that I have done with other apps as well. I could have installed a different screenshot like shutter, but I wanted to try a different distro. I agree that Ubuntu is one of the best distro for newbies.


  3. Nice article to help choose the right Linux distros...


    1. Jeyakumar, this whole blog is for this purpose! :-)

  4. I'm doing fine with Mint 15 XFCE. The article confirms my view that Linux will not be able to replace XP next year for the failure of update and the "pretend" nature of LTS, where the OS may get tweaks but repos are frozen a year or so after release. Linux requires version replacement yearly at best, normally a fresh reinstall to prevent problems. XP users will not accept that and will go Apple, W7 or W8.

    Personally, I enjoy Linux from a thumb drive as my go to coffeeshop wi-fi system, but won't install on HDD or pretend to myself that another version won't have to be reinstalled and then reconfigured with personal preferences every few months.

  5. I have used openSUSE since 6.1 and the only time I do a fresh install is when I upgrade hard drives or build a new system.

    I run openSUSE factory and I update sometimes twice daily with no problems.

    I run 3 openSUSE x86_64 boxes, 2 Kubuntu 13.04 x86_64 boxes, a Pandaboard, a Beaglebone and an ODROID-X all with Ubuntu 13.04 ARM done by upgrading and likewise I upgrade almost every day.

    They all run without a hitch.
    With openSUSE, some of my boxes have been progressively upgraded from 11.1 Milestone 0 to the latest 13.1 Milestone 3.

    The Kubuntu x86_64 and ARM boxes from 11.10 progressively to 13.04.

    Typically I build my own kernels on all except the Pandaboard and the Beaglebone.

    My 2 laptops died or I'd be running openSUSE x86_64 13.1 Milestone 3 on one and Kubuntu 13.04 on the other one.

    I ditched Windows back in the days when Windows 95 was around.

    Other boxes I have - Solaris 10 on UltraSPARC 5 and SPARC Enterprise E4500, though the latter is seldom powered up because the the power requirements.

  6. Since finding Debian I only do a fresh install for a blank system. Hard disk and motherboard upgrades are never a fresh install.

    Perhaps by distro hopping so much you have failed to learn how to use the tools available to best effect?

  7. I've been on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS since it was released and find it amazingly stable on my laptop. I use it daily as my 'goto' laptop and haven't had any issues that I haven't caused myself. Their forums are excellent for troubleshooting issues.

  8. I've been running Slackware for some time, and even have a couple of machines running a release from several years ago - slack is stable, and security updates are available for a very long time (this year they finally dropped security updates for releases prior to v12.0).
    Works for me and have had very few issues with it. The only thing other people may not like is Gnome was dropped a couple of years ago, but the libs are still installed so you can still run Gnome apps - you just don't get a Gnome desktop from a fresh install, you have to find the repo where Gnome is available for slackware.

  9. Why remove Evolution on openSUSE to install Thunderbird? I have Kmail and Thunderbird on my current 12.2 release (although I only use Thunderbird to back up my Gmail account locally.)

    The main problem I have with openSUSE on my system is an Xorg issue where Xorg fluctuates between 5% and 100% in CPU, increasing over time since the last boot. After a reboot the system is fine, but over time Xorg climbs to eventually reach a persistent 100% CPU. This requires a reboot every day, which is ridiculous. It started with 12.1 I think. No one anywhere has a clue why.

    The main effect this has appears to be on Firefox which every four or five image downloads will "freeze" for a few seconds (increasing over time). The rest of the system works fine until the Xorg consistently hits 80-100% CPU, requiring a reboot.

    I suspect it's some bizarre conflict between the kernel, KDE and the NVidia proprietary drivers with my video card. The open source Nouveau drivers don't work at all on my system (AMD Phenom 9650 with 4GB RAM and GeForce 9800 GT.)

    Other than that, openSUSE has been rock solid for me since 10.0. I intend to upgrade to 12.3 shortly.

    Ubuntu has had quality control issues for me in the past, as did Mandriva (some years back). Ubuntu's QA isn't as good as openSUSE in my opinion. Also they tend to be too "experimental" in their desktop approach. I want a distro without little constant irritations and until this Xorg problem openSUSE has been that.

    1. To me, Evolution is "heavy" when compared to Thunderbird. Morever, I spent several hours (if not days) to customize Thunderbird to my liking (Support for Good for Enterprise with IMAP, LDAP address book, Exchange Calender support and most importantly, all the outlook .pst files that I have been keeping for years) and these info are stored under ~/.thunderbird folder. So, whenever I install Thunderbird on a fresh installation, all I have to do copy the .thunderbird folder from my backup into the installed system.

      Thunderbird is my personal choice for email. I have used Evolution in the past and it was buggy at that time and I didn't get a chance to try it again.

  10. I have been running Mandriva since the days of Mandrake 9 now currently using Mageia 3 on my main unit and waiting for my new built PC to see how it goes.
    No real problems with it so far.
    My netbook is running Mint 12 Xfces, working great does everything I want it to do.
    I also run live CD's and play around with the various Linus OS's, it all comes down to what you want the OS to do.

  11. I have been running Ubuntu for many years.
    When they started with Unity I felt they had pushed an unfinished system.
    Set up Gnome 3 and took a little while to get used to it compared to gnome 2 and also felt that Unity was just a poor front end to gnome 3.
    I have been running 12.04 LTS since it arrived.
    I have live booted each new version and still don't like Unity, it still feels like a tablet friendly interface and I don't have a tablet.
    I have never had a problem with Screenshot and use it most days.

    Maybe sdb's comment :
    "Perhaps by distro hopping so much you have failed to learn how to use the tools available to best effect?"
    does apply?

    1. Well, sdb's comment might be true, but I am not a novice either.

      Infact, by distro hopping you get to learn a lot and I definitely know a little more than what an average ubuntu user knows.

      If you think you have learnt a lot and haven't tried Arch, try to install Arch from the scratch and use it for couple of months. You will be surprised to see how much things you still have to learn.


    2. Agreed. Arch is really a distro which helps you understand the basics of OS. I'm using ARCH for a 1/2 year now and I'm a happy user. Never had a simple problem caused by Arch just a problem with Suspend and Hibernation due to messy HP BIOS. And when you set up AUR repository you'll be even happier, it's unbelievable how many software packages (almost latest releases) you can install. I've read that only openSUSE with their user software can resemble it. Arch Wiki -- awesome, It even helps you understand the hidden inner parts of Operating Systems. My route to arch was the following -- RedHat 9, Fedora 1-4, Ubuntu 8.04-12.04, Mint then Mandjaro and after 1/2 year with Mandjaro I jumped to the real deal -- ARCH. @Balaji you should try Mandjaro, which is something in between Rolling Release and a cycle release distro. You'll love it.

    3. Hi Nikonaum,

      I'll try Mandjaro, but I am not able to understand how a distro can be semi rolling release and semi cycle. I know opensuse supports rolling release by adding the tumbleweed repository on it.

      Arch is still one of the greatest OS, but being a rolling release distro, updates break stuffs at time. I have tried several distros and I still feel the speed and performance of Arch was the best among all.


  12. I use and love LINUX MINT :)

  13. I have been using Arch for 2,5 years and have never required a reinstall. I find Arch amazingly stable despite it being a rolling release distro. When I was on Ubuntu I had to reinstall every 6 month or so as it otherwise would either break after an dist-upgrade or became painstakingly slow. PPA's are a pain compared to AUR also.

    It's seldom Arch's fault when something breaks.. usually it's a user introduced fault. The G+ community is really great at helping But the Wiki usually have an answer. When major changes come they are announced on the announcement mail list.. so it is very recommended to subscribe to that.

  14. @Revoltism:

    I don't know if I can agree with you on this 100%. Try this. Do not run "pacman -Syy && pacman -Syu" for the next 3 months and run this command on the fourth month. Do you think, you will be able to update Arch packages with zero issues? You will definitely need some level of troubleshooting to complete the updates. And, do you think it is your fault? Not running the update command for 3 months is not a user's fault, I guess.


  15. Just coming back to my old post. Have been Mageia 5 XFCE since the day it was released. Great OS and did not have any issues so far. Everything works, though some of them requires little tweaks (For ex, auto mounting android phones).