Slackware 15 — 8

Through the years I notice that updating each new Slackware release involves more effort. Software has become too complex.

Each major release requires adjusting work flows and usage habits. Change is a normal part of life but change for the sake of change is annoying.

I find little victory in spending hours looking for solutions and kludge remedies. Such triumphs are hollow.

As I tested Slackware 15.0 I felt exhausted and defeated. I did not feel excited or rejuvenated.

The breakage is from upstream and not within Slackware itself.

I accept I am older these days. Perhaps I am less tolerant and a tad grumpier. I am weary of the relentless change and pace of free/libre software development. So much development is treated like personal playgrounds.

There is ample reason why the Year of the Linux Desktop never arrives.

For those who might feel smug by using proprietary operating systems, those systems are prone to the same playground attitude.

When I began testing 15.0 I accepted the five-plus years since the previous Slackware release would introduce disruptive changes. I have found remedies for several paper cut issues, but I have not found solutions for the Xfce and MATE breakage caused mostly by GTK3.

I am tired of GTK tomfoolery. I foresaw the proverbial handwriting on the wall when MATE migrated to GTK3. I predicted the same would happen to Xfce and my recent testing seems to confirm my prediction.

I haven’t resolved what to do with the living room media player. Do I keep the system on 14.2 forever? Can I find a way to shoehorn XBMC 10.1? Do I surrender and use Kodi with all of the modern data mining, tracking, and 24/7 online connectivity presumptions?

I accept that many developers are doing their best and their hearts are sincere. This is where users have to step back and pause. The software is free in cost but costs significant time to develop and support. There are no warranties or support agreements.

Conversely, the user’s time is valuable too. When a project grows to be used by tens or hundreds of thousands of people, there is an understandable user expectation of fixing usability issues and not introducing regressions.

I have not tested a fresh install of 15.0 and methodically backporting configurations. Considering the number of changes in 15.0 and the notable design differences from previous Slackware releases, perhaps a fresh install is in order. That sounds annoying although I have a good backup strategy to methodically traverse my way through configuration files. The annoying part is the time involved and the fact that this sounds like a Windows solution.

Perhaps a fresh install will resolve certain usability issues, but I suspect the desktop environment breakage I encountered will remain. Perhaps there are too many changes in a five-plus year development cycle.

Like many people, most of the time I just want to use my computers. Once configured a desktop environment should never be noticed by the user. For the moment that is impossible for me with Xfce and MATE.

I enjoyed the five year period since last updating Slackware. So peaceful with only security patches. The Slackware BDFL has a history of supporting releases for many years. There is no rush to move to 15.0. I presume — and hope — that long before Slackware 14.2 reaches end-of-life there will be a Slackware 15.1 and 15.2. Perhaps several upstream bugs will be fixed.

Can a person use the same system for such long periods? For many people the answer is yes. With Slackware this is doable because the system is not designed with any hand-holding or user presumptions. Users more or less build their own operating system. Many people use less than 10% of available features in software and new versions often are unnecessary. Slackware patches mostly are security fixes only. Rarely does a patch cause disruption.

For now the sane approach is to walk away and continue using Slackware 14.2. Lick some wounds and return to 15.0 another day.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Slackware

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