I’m looking again… for a Linux Distro that is.

I have 4 computers at present, 1 tablet running Android, 1 Mac Mini dual-booting OSX and Crunchbang Statler, 1 Thinkpad T42 running Archbang 2012-12, and 1 Inspiron 2200 running Crunchbang Statler.

I have been an adoring fan of Crunchbang since I started using it several years ago, and still have a great deal of love for it.  I switched to Crunchbang because I discovered the joy of using Openbox.  Openbox is a perfect environment for me, zero interface bloat, lightning fast even on machines nearing their 10th birthday.  No matter what distro I use I’m going to be operating in Openbox, so all desktop environment arguments are moot.  What I’m dealing with now is something that runs deeper.

Crunchbang Statler is based on Debian stable, which is stable, and operable, and very out of date.  There is a newer version of course, Crunchbang Wheezy, which is based on Debian Waldorf and is destined to be the next Debian stable.  It’s less out of date and includes many of the packages I’m interested in.

The issue is, I want systemd.  Why do I want it?  I have tasted the boot times it gives, and I liked it.  My laptops both have dead/failing batteries, and I move them around a lot.  Hibernate and suspend also fail on my machines.  I could troubleshoot this issue perhaps, but I don’t want to.  I don’t enjoy troubleshooting.  I’m not a developer.  I don’t do software, I use it.  Systemd makes my laptops quickly portable again, and I like that.  I’m also entranced by the other supposed technical superiorities that Lennart has preached.

So anyway, I tried Arch once a while back, before this systemd business even started.  I got it working, but I didn’t really find it worth the effort.  Compared to working in a preconfigured system like Crunchbang, Arch was just headache after headache.  This time around, I thought about that and opted to go for a preconfigured Arch derivative.  I chose Archbang, the logical choice since I’m going to be using Openbox anyway.

It was a pretty easy install, and it came with a familiar environment consisting of Openbox, tint2, conky, and some other lightweight applications.  Using pacman to grab my preferred application workforce was easy enough, setting up input methods for typing Japanese was simple enough as well.  I ran into hiccups though, little annoying bumps that want me to troubleshoot them.

Concrete examples: Arch sucks at mimetype handling and application defaults. When I download a file in Chromium, I click on “Show Files”, nothing happens…  When I try to open a file downloaded from Chromium… most of the time nothing happens.  Despite setting application defaults for text documents, html documents, etc, my preferred applications are not used.  The fairly cool, convenient, self-populating application pipe menu spits error messages at me.  Why? That’s the kind of thing an OS distributor needs to work out in testing, not me, I’m not your tester.

Another big one for me: dropbox is not in the official repos, it’s only available from AUR.  Okay, fine… but apparently I have to compile that?  Maybe I’ve been tainted by the immense treasure that is the Debian repositories and packaging system.  Practically all Linux software is made available in an easily installed .deb, even if its not in the repos.  For Arch, It seems I need to compile it.  I don’t want to compile software, again I’m not a developer.

Okay, now to be fair to Arch, their goal is not to provide a good preconfigured system.  They try to stay as unmodified, vanilla, close to upstream as possible.  Their packaging system and software inclusion policy allows them to keep access to very up-to-date packages.  I dig that, but it’s not what I want.  Crunchbang has got me addicted to that, “Just Works” mentality, and yet they have no systemd, and unfortunately out of date packages.

At present, to the best of my knowledge, only Arch and Fedora have fully integrated systemd as their init system.  Ubuntu and its derivatives use Upstart.  Debian, and Slackware (and as a result their derivatives) are being the obstinate, conservative distros they’re famous for being and are not planning to adopt systemd anytime soon, preferring to stick with the tried and true sysvinit system.  Opensuse and Mageia are working on systemd and should have it out as their defaults by their respective next releases.

I can work with Archbang for now, I don’t need dropbox on my spare laptop.  But I’m strongly considering giving Fedora a go.  I haven’t used Fedora since I started running Openbox, so I don’t know how well we’ll get along.  Alternatively I might wait for the next Mageia release.  I’m planning on migrating my two Statler machines to something up to date and running systemd within the next few months though.  I’ll take advice from my readers, if you have any, but keep in mind I’m going to be running Openbox, I want systemd, and I’m not a fan of working hard to make my software work.

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