Friday, October 8, 2010

Oh freaking vey, what a cycle!

Sometime ago, installing KDE rather fouled up the gnome session on my laptop. That was the first strike against Ubuntu package management. Well the other day, I was adding a few more development packages, and trying to think of what kind of minimalist tiling window manager I would like to try. The only real reason I've been using gnome the past few months, is that's the default and the system kind of centred around it \o/. In working on a list of what window managers I wanted to test out, I decided that I would like to install dmenu first. So I installed dwm-tools to get it, using synaptic (I find it easier to use the GUI for searching for available dpkg's).

Well, sure enough on reboot things were FUBAR. GDM unable to log into anything, XDM bumfucked, and using KDM to launch a Gnome session resulted in a barely functioning one, just like before. KDE however worked perfectly, and I also have come to see KDE4.4 as the slowest pile of software in the Linux world >_>. That's the only bad thing I currently have to say against it. Reinstalling GDM, Gnome, and related packages didn't help matters any. So I bid farwell to Ubuntu once and for all, and I'm not going to say hello to Debian for a while either.

I've always used Slackware or Debian 'esque systems, when I'm stuck using or desiring to use a GNU/Linux distribution. People have reccomended Arch and Gentoo, and I've meant to experiment with Source Mage and Arch for a while. However, I don't have time to fuck around, and Debian dpkg or Fedora rpm level compatability is desirable. So I flicked a wild switch and decided to try something a bit more red headed.

Enter CentOS 5.5! While certainly a fine Linux distribution, and its yum tool proving much more, pleasurable than manually invoking rpm. There were numerous problems. Most of the packages in CentOS, even after using RPMForge and EPEL (a community supported mirror of newer packages for RHEL)—most of the packages in CentOS were ancient. The youngest of my development packages was slightly younger than my laptop, and most just so old that it's distasteful. That would mean, to get any *real* work done, I would have to forsake yum and install/manage my software manually from source. Joy, why didn't I just slack off? That however wasn't a show stopper. It was getting the blobs I rely on to function on top of that, that seriously broke the deal. I gave up trying to get Chrome working. There were also problems getting the default gnome desktop to work, but I wasn't planning to use anything heavier than blackbox anyway.

CentOS has earned my respect among Linux distributions, and I like the system a lot. I just can't rely on it for my personal work station :'(. For regular desktop and laptop users, CentOS is probably a great idea though. I'm not a regular user by any means.

So after that, I started relying on the only thing left I could trust: my own head. Using a mixture of CentOS on my laptop, a USB stick, and NFS mounting the work dir' on the desktop (faster processor), I set to work. Building scripts to fetch and build Linux and the usual GNU packages. My own Linux distro. Trying to get things to actually fucking build was a bit of a different story. Remind me to never rely on chroots in Linux.

Since plans C and D popped a cork, I quickly zipped up my work and saved it to the flash drive. Then archived my home directory over SSH. Googled for Slackware's latest release and searched ye ol' wikipedia for related distributions. I know of several but have never used anything more slackware, except for a very brief test run of KateOS. Among a quick grep of distros related to Slackware, one that stood out was Zenwalk.

Plan B, as everyone knows, is make it up as you go along. Or at least, out of my ever present plans A through D, that's my plan B ;).

So I have setup Zenwalk Core 6.4—they have several distributions. Unlike the complete Xfce based system of Standard, Zenwalks Core distribution has a rather minimal but complete base of packages. All without the headache of selecting what to install in slackwares installer lol. Core is a command line install, X isn't included. That is my kind of system, hehe. There are a few helper tools but for the most part, I prefer to work directly in /etc when possible. Being based on Slackware, of course Zenwalk Core doesn't feel alien in this department. The Debian/Red Hat based systems tend to be more confusing then need be, where as the BSD systems usually forgo run levels in favour of traditional unix Simplicity. In slack country, a happy median is found.

The main point of interest here, is package management: zenwalk uses a shell script called netpkg to manage things. I really is a crude form of pkg_add/apt-get but it gets the job done. It's not perfect and has it's qurks, for example netpkg foo will interactively ask you if you wish to install/reinstall each package matching 'foo' along with a yes/no to installing each missing dependency; where as netpkg install full-foo-pkg-name.txz will install foo, omitting dependencies. It gets the job done.

It's the slackware compatability that I like about it though, namely the ability to rip apart RPM packages into Slackware tarballs and hand sort the dependency (netpkg can do some dependency work). Installing dropbox was a cake walk, just rip open the RPM and install it as a vanilla slackware package.

The problem is the network, sigh. The reason I hate Linux from a user perspective, is YMMV quite a lot between Linux distributions. Never mind that most distributions use the same software. In my case, the problem seems focused totally on my wireless card. I'm also to tired to go into it right now.

But to suffice it to say, I am still alive <_<

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