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Desktop Woes (Part #94)

Slightly over two months ago, I installed OpenSuse Leap 15 as my main desktop operating system. I managed to tweak it to be the way I liked and it has been a mostly happy experience since.

But not entirely.

Some bugs appeared from time-to-time, for example. Mostly transient and of so little real consequence that I didn't make a note of them and can't, therefore, now describe what they were particularly.

But then a week ago, something much more problematic started happening and hasn't really stopped: anything to do with Dolphin (the file manager) would go e x t r e m e l y … …. s  l   o    w     l      y. To the point where the desktop would effectively hang for tens of seconds on end, with mouse-clicks doing nothing until suddenly doing everything at once. Copying a 1GB file to my file server became a 'start it and come back after dinner' affair.

I couldn't explain it, and still can't. All my PC's hard disks are solid state; the link to the file server is gigabit ethernet. Nothing is running out of space; all SSDs have been trimmed. There's neither rhyme nor reason to it, other than the fact that I have continued to apply updates to the OS as they've been produced (perhaps thereby introducing instability: constant updates are something I really need to get out of the habbit of doing!

I've put up with it for a week because I hoped it would resolve itself, but after a week, I thought it was time to bite the bullet and replace OpenSuse Leap 15 with something less problem-prone. The great distro hunt of 2019 therefore began!

In searching around for a suitable replacement for OpenSuse 15 (which, it turns out, has a bit of reputation for being a tad buggy), I made some brief notes from assorted test installs I performed onto a spare (and somewhat sacrificial!) laptop. I reproduce them now, verbatim:

  • Kubuntu wireless network keeps asking for password, no matter how many times I supply it
  • Debian 9.8 Stable -incredibly old software (eg, LibreOffice back at version 5.x etc)
  • Debian testing - No live environment, but easy install. Can't use wireless network during install (no firmware and cannot install it by presenting a second USB with relevant file). This wouldn't be an issue on a desktop without wireless networking, of course.
  • Zorin - looks incredibly childish. Would not be happy long-term with this look-and-feel.
  • Mint - no KDE version at all these days, and I'm not touching MATE, and dislike Cinnamon. Non-starter.
  • Fedora - not keen. Too bleeding edge. Want something less prone to breakage.
  • KDE Neon - Same as Kubuntu in that it constantly re-asks for wifi password, even though I've supplied it a zillion times. Also missing most software out-of-the-box. Nothing to distinguish it otherwise.
  • Gecko. Got the STATIC plasma version. Boots live (unlike 'real' OpenSuse), but is extremely slow to do so. So laggy when it finally finishes booting that it's practically unusable. Tried again using USB3 instead of USB2, but speed is still poor. Software reasonably modern (LibreOffice, for example, though 'real' OpenSuse is up to KDE continually prompting for wifi password even so, just like with Kubuntu and Neon.

One of the common themes there is KDE forever asking for a wifi password. That seems to be a widely known problem, too! Unfortunately, I couldn't really find a fix that applied to me in a live session, other than to 'save the password for all, unencrypted', which seems a bit of a blunderbus approach to things.

Anyway, long story short: none of these distros seemed perfect, but the least bad one, I think, is probably Debian Testing. Debian Stable is way too out-of-date, software-wise, for my tastes, but Testing is pretty much as up-to-date as you could ask for. Every piece of application software I require seems to be readily available in the standard repositories, too. It's KDE implementation is pretty vanilla and thus nicely customisable. Of course, it's essentially a Beta version of what will eventually be Debian 10 …and running beta-quality software is not exactly my cup of tea. But, reading around the place a bit, it seems that Debian Testing might be a good deal more stable than many other distros' stable releases!

This weekend, therefore, I shall be backing up my main PC with a bit of rsync magic and a spare USB drive and then wiping the lot and starting afresh with a brand new Debian Testing install. We'll see if this can make it to the middle of Summer, at least!

blog/desktop_woes_part_94.txt · Last modified: 2019/03/23 13:27 by dizwell