Some time ago I said to myself that I should definitely switch to Linux. Returning from Win7 to Win10 in the times of a pathetic 2004 (but which Windows update isn’t buggy like hell?) isn’t particularly tempting. The other day, I tried some more Linux distros. Well, Linux is still Linux.

Initially, I thought I was set to Linux Mint 19.3 XFCE because it worked, I liked it, it’s based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (20.04 LTS was in beta back then), and it’s familiar–I’ve been using both Mint and Ubuntu in the past. For some reason, I keep getting back to XFCE or lighter desktop environments, to avoid being torn between MATE and Cinnamon. (GNOME3 isn’t usable. At all. I just tried Ubuntu 20.04, the standard edition, and if anyone believes this shit is supposed to bring people from Windows or macOS to a system that has ZERO usability at the desktop environment level, well, they’re on illegal drugs. The only times when the default Ubuntu DE made sense was in the times of GNOME2, i.e. from versions 4.10 to 10.10.) Oh, and I tested KDE Plasma 5, the so-called “KDE neon User Edition Live”: still ugly, buggy, and unpersuasive. I suppose it can appeal to people who are so forgetful (and forgiving) so to leave behind the enormously long and grotesque failure that has been KDE4 since January 2008; KDE5 or rather Plasma5 was released in the summer of 2014, but only became really usable with 5.16 in the summer of 2019. I can’t imagine anything worse than that, except for GNOME3.

When I previously tested Mint 19.3 XFCE, and I was satisfied that everything worked just fine, I also tested Xubuntu 19.10 and the beta versions of Xubuntu 20.04 and Lubuntu 20.04. My only complaint was that in all those distros, the headphone jack wasn’t detected, and inserting of headphones didn’t have any effect. That’s progress, the Linux way. (More generically, the software update/upgrade way: with new features that nobody asked for, usually regressions occur.)

Well, guess what? By applying the updates to Mint 19.3 XFCE, this distro (nominally still based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, but with backports, e.g. it features XFCE 4.14 instead of 4.12.4) got contaminated with the new bug!

I remember now why I stopped using Linux Mint years ago: it was also about a bug that shouldn’t have been there, but Clem wanted a newer version of some package (newer than in Ubuntu), and this caused a regression. I don’t remember what was it about, maybe about hibernation, or something hardware-related anyway (i.e. not going to happen in a virtual machine). Well, what’s the purpose of basing your distro on a long-time supported release, which was supposed to involve STABILITY, if careless updates break the said stability by introducing new bugs?

To be fair, I didn’t try Xubuntu 18.04 LTS with the latest updates–maybe the bug got there too (spoiler: it did!). Anyway, Xubuntu 20.04 LTS is unappealing:

Enter Peppermint OS 10, the latest so-called Respin (Peppermint 10-20191210-amd64). I was reluctant about it, for several reasons, one of which being that a peppermint candy or lollipop is supposed to include some green in it; just red and white don’t make it a peppermint. Well, then also because it has been said to be “too colorful” and based on Lubuntu (before the switch to LXQt)…

To my surprise, Peppermint OS 10 is actually good. The hybrid LXDE/XFCE desktop environment actually tends a lot towards XFCE (panels, menu, etc.), with a number of peculiar choices though:

  • Nemo instead of Thunar (XFCE) or PcManFm (LXDE)–although it’s a good choice when it comes to usability and features
  • xed for a file editor (Mint XFCE doesn’t use Mousepad either, and Leafpad is too dumb, and FeatherPad is Qt5…)
  • Online office and games (I know this is a hallmark of Peppermint OS, but I find it useless)
  • Software and Software Manager (beyond synaptic), which is a sort of a duplication (and I’d prefer the latter)
  • too dark and red by default (Arc-Default-Dark, Arc-Red-Xfwm4), but better themes available (Peppermint-10-*)

And… the headphones were detected!

That is, until I updated the system. Then it borked:

So I had to investigate what is that it caused the bug to happen.

As expected, this is the update that magically breaks the headphones jack:

This kind of bug plagued Linux, or at least Ubuntu, for years, but different people–depending on the hardware–had it at different times. Some had it in Ubuntu 12.04, some in 16.04, some in 18.04 (but not with the initial release). In my case, 18.04 was fine, but from 19.10 on, this is no more the case. My hardware:

"HDA-Intel" "Intel Broadwell HDMI" "HDA:80862808,80860101,00100000" "0x1025" "0x0924" "HDA-Intel" "Realtek ALC282" "HDA:10ec0282,10250924,00100003" "0x1025" "0x0924"

Now, about the fix. The pulseaudio update did change /etc/pulse/default.pa, but reverting to the original wouldn’t help. Here’s what worked:

• As superuser, add this line to /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf:

options snd-hda-intel dmic_detect=0

• Also, add this line to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf:

blacklist snd_soc_skl

• Then, to avoid a logoff/logon (or, God forbid, a reboot), run these two lines as the normal user (the first one might be useless):

pulseaudio -k
pulseaudio -D

Now it should again detect the inserting of the headphones:

I tested it with Peppermint OS 10 with updated packages and Linux Mint 19.3 XFCE with updated packages. I couldn’t be bothered to see whether Xubuntu 20.04 can be helped this way.

I also wasn’t able to identify where in the road from pulseaudio 1:11.1-1ubuntu7.2 to 1:11.1-1ubuntu7.7 something bad happened; but now I see that upstream (bionic-updates) the most recent version is 1:11.1-1ubuntu7.8, which I haven’t been offered. Is any new breakage in sight? The changelog frighteningly mentions some work in the headphones jack area in 7.8; also, 7.7 was a security update, so it had to go down to all the distros based on *buntu.

Does it mean Peppermint OS 10 is my new choice? Probably yes, although, one more time, mint is never red. Not even after having enjoyed some in the above variant.

Why not Linux Mint XFCE? After all, it wasn’t their fault this time. And they’re working on Mint 20, based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. Well, yes, but their artwork is looking so bland, gray and dusty! I can see Clem is praising their system tray icons, which I find ugly. Business-like as it might look, Mint never was sexy. Suppose I change the XFCE theme to a more satisfactory one; however, I am left with this stupid Samsung-like Firefox icon:

I don’t have to decide right now. What I know so far is that, alas, even in a LTS distro (or a derivative), I’d have to fix their stupid bugs every once in a while. But with so many Win10 horror stories, this is a piece of cake by comparison (unless you update the kernel).

Other contenders? Say… Manjaro? I once liked it and used it for quite some time. It wasn’t bad, but I still prefer something more familiar than Arch. Besides, what a waste of time for Manjaro and Solus to get involved in the Budgie desktop! (Yup, I didn’t like it.)

Speaking of “familiar”: the RPM-based world (Fedora, openSUSE, Mageia, etc.) is too buggy and virtually dead. Yum and YumEx were not perfect, but they worked, albeit on the slower side; DNF is the crappiest shit I’ve ever seen, and it’s here to stay (more like GNOME3 or Plasma5).

What else have I tried lately? Elementary OS 5.1, praised by some as “the best macOS replacement,” “perfection: macOS feel and function without big Apple looking over my shoulder,” or “the Linux desktop done right” feels so clumsy that I wonder which of the following is true: either the reviewers are dumb, or macOS is for people who don’t do much on their systems. Is moving windows, minimizing windows, switching between windows–especially those of a same app–similarly painful under macOS? Either way, decorative crap is still crap. Finally, while Geary is an interesting mail client, it was terribly buggy (UI-wise) under Elementary OS. Too bad, and case closed.

Linux Lite 4.8 (I didn’t test 5.0) was OK, but unimpressive. Solus 4.1 was stupid and ugly. From the Ubuntu family, I already hinted that Ubuntu and Kubuntu don’t exist for me, and Xubuntu is ugly with the default theme. Lubuntu isn’t bad-looking, but not enticing either.

OK, the final argument, in FORBES: Here’s Why Blazing Fast Linux OS Peppermint 10 Just Blew Me Away. The guy is a bit confused about how much of LXDE and how much of XFCE were on his desktop, but he was thrilled by the result: snappy and low on resources. And he isn’t a newbie–he’s the Linux for Everyone guy!

A last word: I never test a distro in a virtual machine. It’s like fucking an inflatable puppet with a condom.