Linux Again

I love the idea of Linux more than I do using it.

I just picked up a Raspberry Pi, a nice case and SSD. Built it and installed various OSes to try out. Raspian 32bit and 64bit. I have a little dalliance with RetroPi and have just installed Ubuntu 21.04 64bit for the Raspberry Pi.

There was a bit of a learning curve on the impacts of running ARM64 things but my core Linux experience never changes.

Looking for help is a nightmare, the sheer fragmentation of Distros means half the time you’ll be looking at commands that won’t work on your flavour. Then there is the out of date “advice” that only experience will tell you it’s out of date advice. Advice for different OSes or versions of things.

I took 5 attempts to even find a set of commands that would work in order to install .NET 5.0. None of the Microsoft guides worked and I ended up on some forum bashing away commands until I found some that finally worked. Visual Studio Code should install but I can’t find any ARM64 stable packages, who wants to run unstable IDEs? Not me.

I tried Arch Linux last summer. The blog post to get it installed was breathtakingly long, error prone and most of the commands needed different flags etc. Took about 4 hours to finally get an OS that would boot. On first boot it did all the config stuff and rebooted itself. Then it did some updates to itself and promptly imploded and never booted again. It’s fair to say I didn’t even get to use it.

That’s the usual pattern for me for some reason. Have go, it takes hours, something goes wrong and I walk away again. When you get a command that doesn’t work and start investigating and find another command to run first but that command isn’t quite right either, then you investigate the changes to that command … and so on. It just grinds me down frankly. It’s like getting in a car that you have to build the engine for first in order to get it to do anything. That’s both it’s strength and for a beginner, an enormous source of confusion and frustration.

I just had to walk away from even installing GitKraken. I tried from an arm64.deb package first. That installed but wouldn’t run. Running from the command line gave a format exec error which generally means the package has been compiled for a different architecture. But the Pi is ARM64. I uninstalled that package and tried the snap install. Turns out the snap install is version 4. Gitkraken is currently on 7.5. It seems ARM64 support has dried up completely. There’s no way I’m running v4 of my source control software, a full 3 major versions behind the current stable. So, that’s dead.

Basically, I love the idea of Linux. I really do. I even use most of Ubuntu’s default apps on my Windows machines, Thunderbird and Firefox but my god the price of entry on the Pi is a bit steep for my intended usecase … I seem to have utterly and universally appalling luck with Linux if I try anything beyond the most rudimentary computing. The idea of relying on it fills me with dread. One wrong command and it’s bye bye OS, it feels that brittle.

The fact is I just don’t care enough about the OS I’m running. I just want it to get the hell out of my way so I can do things and frankly Windows 10 has been dreamy in that respect.1 Sure familiarity plays a part but I’ve never struggled for 4 hours through a list of commands like War and Peace in order for the thing to implode of it’s own accord. Or had to walk away from just installing software as I couldn’t get it to run properly. Not since I had to get balls deep in Windows IRQ Inturrupts have I felt so inept! … heh heh

I’m going to persevere with the Pi for a bit and look for something cheap and more mainstream x64 architecture in order to give it a better chance of not just being incredibly annoying. Thus far My Linux use has really been stacked against it really. I’ve only ever run it in VMs or, now, on ARM64. You could argue that both of those are sub-optimal for really trying out an OS on it’s own merits.

Time to find a cheap x64 box to really try it out properly.

Having said that. I think the chance of Linux ever making it on the Desktop in any meaningful way are long gone. It never will. Desktop as a space is in general decline in favour of mobile for most users anyway. If Linux desktop hasn’t made it by 2021, it’s never going to. The community also seems to have a tendency to be self-damaging in so many ways. Ubuntu is the closest it’s got and that experience is still terrible.

I think the only way Linux could make any headway is if Linus himself picked a distribution, decided to make it THE distribution with his name attached and then campaigned for as much effort to be concentrated on it as he could muster. The sheer volume of duplication of work in the wider Linux community has actually just lead to a dilution of effort at scale imho.

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