Finding a Stable Distro

Continuing some thoughts from my previous post.

Does a stable distro exist?

CentOS moves more along my preferred speed. A serious lack of non enterprise packages means I have to learn to build on my own if I want to go that route. Populating RPM Fusion for CentOS would fill huge holes but that does not seem to be happening.

Similarly, LMDE is boring, which mostly is good. My attraction to LMDE never was the original “semi-rolling” release approach with Update Packs. My original attraction was having a Plan B. Should the Mint community fall apart, LMDE could be massaged to a pure Debian minus the Mint apps. That is especially try now with LMDE being based on Debian Stable.

With LMDE the MATE and Cinnamon desktops get updated because the Mint developers are major contributors. The remainder of the LMDE desktop is stagnant. Being based on Debian Stable, the desktop apps were old and stagnant the day Jessie was released, thanks to the practice of freezing the software tree nine months before release. One possible option is Debian Backports, but then some kind of pinning priority is needed to prevent conflicts with LMDE updates. I also am not a fan of the Debian philosophy or way of designing an operating system. The Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome seems more noticeable in Debian than any other platform. The Mint developers also seem to ignore LMDE. For example, while Firefox 43.0.3 is available, LMDE remains stuck at 43.0. Getting updates in LMDE often seems like the proverbial pulling teeth.

There is always the old standby of Slackware. Unlike the crazy nine month freeze with Debian, the Slackware developers work hard to include the latest version possible of all software with each distro release. Yet except for security and serious bug fixes, and although supported for at least five years, each release remains stagnant thereafter until the next release. There is Slackware Current, which is stable according to most users, but there is still occasional breakage. I am familiar with the Slackware build process and can remedy some of the stagnation by building new versions, which I have done through the years. Sadly, Slackware lacks the depth of a repository base like Fedora or Debian, which means building a lot of packages.

Rolling releases will end up being much the same as Fedora with something always breaking. Likewise with distros based on Debian Testing or Sid. The general rule of thumb with such distros is they are for geeks and people who like breakage because debugging that kind of thing every day is, um, fun.

Both CentOS and Debian are obvious candidates for non technical users, albeit additional polish is needed. An ancient challenge with such distros is how stale user land software becomes. Few people want bleeding edge software and non technical users rarely pay attention to such details, yet when LibreOffice is several iterations behind then the software is too stale.

CentOS becomes stale because the focus is enterprise usage. Sadly, unlike Fedora, there is no RPM Fusion repo available for CentOS, which leaves the proverbial well for user land apps way too dry.

Both distros suffer from philosophies and policies of not including non-free software. Some distro maintainers provide those packages. One example is Korora. While I do not use Korora I think the distro is well polished.

Unfortunately, Korora is a Fedora derived distro rather than CentOS derived. I would like to see the Korora concept applied to CentOS. Such a distro would be “boring” to tech savvy users yet ideal for most users. User land apps would be regularly updated through something similar to RPM Fusion. Or perhaps RPM Fusion could finally become populated for CentOS.

The Debian side could accomplish something similar using LMDE as a base. From my isolated location in the world I am reasonably convinced that LMDE is little more than an after-thought with the Mint developers. When the developers announced that LMDE would move to Debian stable, my understanding was that user land apps would be improved beyond Debian Stable. While that has happened with MATE and Cinnamon, that has not happened with any other popular apps such as LibreOffice. Even routine security updates for Firefox and Flash do not arrive on a timely basis. Perhaps the developers only intended that their “own” software would be updated regularly. That said, I think there is potential if somebody forked LMDE. Add Backports and perhaps a distro specific repository.

The nature of free/libre software development tends to produce instability. Software is continually changing. People always scratching itches. Developers pacifying their desires rather than users. Changes in one package affects the behavior of other packages. Breakage is common.

The Quest for the Stable Distro. Perhaps another example of why the Year of the Linux Desktop has not arrived.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: CentOS, General, Mint

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