Posted by: reformedmusings | May 27, 2017

Goodbye OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, Hello Kubuntu

I described my reasons for leaving Ubuntu and going to OpenSUSE here. I really enjoyed my time on OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. I put together a great desktop, and Tumbleweed was rock solidly stable. The integration of the elements in to the desktop was excellent and friendly folks on the support forums provided excellent help when needed. There was a learning curve on handling packages, but the result proved well worth it. And Yast, oh my, what a great tool! Here was my desktop on Tumbleweed:

Tumbleweed-desktop

Simple and effective.

So, why did I leave OpenSUSE Tumbleweed? For the very reason that their portal page warns – everything updates on a rapid pace. That includes the kernel, upon which things like proprietary video drivers and virtual machines (VMs) depend. Within a kernel minor version, like 4.10.x, most drivers don’t care. But, cross to 4.11.x and you are in for a ride trying to get drivers and VMs to load again. In addition, I could not get my legacy scanner to work in Tumbleweed. Scanners are the only remaining major issue in Linux, but usually there are workarounds. Not this time.

So, when Tumbleweed went to 4.11.0, I lost my virtual machine. Plus Tumbleweed still could not assign my scanner to the correct driver, even though sane-find-scanner would find the scanner and the operating system could find the driver just fine. I just couldn’t get the two married up. But loss of VM again was the final straw. I love the concept of Tumbleweed and its operation, but I just can’t live without my VM or scanner.

So, I then found GeckoLinux Next, an interesting merge of OpenSUSE 42.2 long-term release with keeping up with the latest application versions. It sounded great, but I could not get it to recognize my RAID1 array on installation or even after installation. Despite my best efforts at tailoring /etc/fstab, I could not get past the login screen. I was dismayed at the lack of RAID installation support because Tumbleweed found and mounted the RAID array with no issues during installation. At one point, GeckoLinux wiped my root drive and left me with an unbootable system. Ouch!

I did not want to go to OpenSUSE Leap 42.2 with the old 4.4 Linux kernel and older application versions. Kubuntu came to mind as a viable alternative. I started out Linux with Kubuntu about a decade ago, and although it is not as polished as OpenSUSE KDE desktop, it works the same way. So, used the GeckoLinux LiveDVD to download Kubuntu and burned a LiveCD. I booted the Kubuntu 17.04 LiveDVD, clicked Install, and after a few minutes I discovered that Kubuntu doesn’t recognize RAID arrays on installation either. Hmmmph.

So, I loaded mdadm, the software RAID manager, in the LiveDVD environment, ran the installation again, and after a 13-step process, had a fully operational system. You can read the details in this forum post. My data on the RAID1 array persevered, so when Kubuntu finally arrived at the KDE desktop with the RAID properly mounted as /home, all my system settings came to life. After loading the necessary applications, I was fully operational.

By that I mean that my VM loaded just fine, and Kubuntu even loaded the NVidia driver for my legacy card at my request, something that was never going to happen in Tumbleweed. I later got my scanner to work, but that’s a story for another post.

One of advantages that Kubuntu has it its access to the broad and deep Ubuntu repositories. That said, the Discover package manager is awful. It looks like a kids toy. I loaded Synaptic immediately to get real package management. Years ago, KDE had it all over Gnome for system customization and fine, granular control over settings. Yast on OpenSUSE gave me false hope that this was still true. Nope. Looks to me like Gnome has caught up to KDE and perhaps passed it in terms of access to deep system settings. Gnome as several settings programs, including one that goes to the core of the system. By comparison, KDE’s seem superficial. Although I love the desktop, I miss the Yast level of control over the system. The KWin compositor has turned out to be a winner for producing the 3D display effects for KDE. Gnome, not so much.

So, here’s my current Kubuntu desktop:

Kubuntu-1704-desktop

If you think that it looks like the OpenSUSE one above, you’d be right. The major difference is that VMWare Workstation and my NVidia driver work on this one. And will next week, I might add. That’s not a slam on OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. Not at all. I loved Tumbleweed and especially their Yast system program. I’d still be using it if I had a way to stay on kernel 4.10.x and I could get my VMs, NVidia driver, and scanner to work. Alas, they warned me up front. That said, I don’t regret my two weeks on Tumbleweed.

For now, though, it’s back to Kubuntu. The Kubuntu community is right, KDE should be the default desktop for Ubuntu and Cannonical should come up with something comparable to Yast. In my dreams…

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