Moving away from Ubuntu

Posted on 2011/07/10


I decided to abandon Ubuntu on my home desktop after the upgrade to 11.04 Natty Narwhal. I knew there were some things that I couldn’t like, but I didn’t know it would cripple the very base of the operating system. These are the things that went bad:

  • The upgrade finished with obscure errors.
  • can’t log in graphically without safe mode.
  • system console (CTRL+ALT+F1 etc.) appears as a white background and unreadable characters.
  • packages have been left in an unclean state.

I know some or all of these problems could have been caused by me:

  • during the upgrade I answered some yes/no questions about packages configuration, picking arbitrarily what seemed to be the safest choice
  • I had both ubuntu-desktop and xubuntu-desktop installed
  • I had some PPAs as apt sources.
  • I had installed some non-canon packages such as Truecrypt.
  • I am running LVM on top of RAID to complicate things
  • I don’t do a clean reinstall since 3 years ago.

It’s just that maybe Ubuntu is not for my desktop. I like to tinker and hack my desktop, and at every upgrade there’s the possibility to break some of the “borderline” configurations that I am running. For what I do with my desktop, Ubuntu is user friendly for 6 months. For this reason I wanted to switch to a rolling release distribution. If things break, at least they break one at a time and they could leave me with a usable box with only one thing that broke.

The three rolling-release distributions that I considered were:

I heard nice things about Arch Linux, but at the moment I wanted something more familiar. LMDE seems promising, but most reviews show that it is still rough on the edges; I will keep an eye on it because it could one day become exactly what I need. Ultimately I chose Debian testing (wheezy), so that I could keep a familiar package environment and run a distribution that has a relatively large user base.

I am keeping Ubuntu installed and running on my laptop, because I don’t hack very much on that machine, which always ran with “predictable” settings and configurations, and up to now all the upgrades went smoothly. It is also the machine that I share with my mother so I want to keep a user friendly interface on it.

So far the Debian installation went OK, and after it completed the first thing that I added was etckeeper, to keep a log about my system configuration and have a way to roll back or debug when things break. I hope this will be the last clean install that I do on this machine for a long time.


Posted in: Software