Not long ago, I tentatively said that “I will keep using AlmaLinux with KDE on the mini-PC and on the newest laptop, at least for some time” and “For the older laptop, surprisingly, I’ll probably install Kubuntu 24.04 LTS, at least for some time.” This, after decades of distro-hopping and cursing. The decision regarding AlmaLinux stays, but what to install on the older laptop?

Intro

For the three modest systems I own (I’m a cheapskate), I decided I shouldn’t be using three different distros, but not a single one either. The oldest laptop should run something else, just in case. (Not that I couldn’t repair whatever breaks; that’s why I keep a number of Live ISO files on two Ventoy flash drives.)

Sticking to AlmaLinux 9.4 KDE for the mini-PC (i5-10400T) was logical as long as everything just works, and I was able to install or build all the programs I needed. As for the newer Acer laptop (i3-1215U), the antiquated 5.14 kernel from EL9 is a PITA, not supporting the MT7663 Wi-Fi/BT combo, but I was able to fix it by using the 6.1 kernel-lt from ELRepo. The Linux kernel being the lame duck that it is, it cannot hibernate and wake up with functioning Wi-Fi and BT; a reboot is necessary to be able to have the MT7663 working again. However, since not even the kernel-ml couldn’t properly hibernate (I tested only through 6.9.1, then I stopped checking), I have to live with that.

So if the older laptop (i5-5200U is really antiquated) is to choose a distro for, why am I so picky? Its older hardware is supported by 99% of the active distros! And yet, I am first testing any candidate on the newer laptop, in a live session, using Ventoy. This is because I don’t want to settle for shit: a newly released distro that doesn’t support a laptop manufactured in August 2022 cannot be trusted. As the older laptop is slower, I only then test the respective distro on it.

I never ever test in a VM, like most nincompoops do. You must be completely retarded to test a distro in a VM and then say that it’s good, when this tells absolutely nothing regarding the hardware support of that distro! Only the bare metal can reveal some truths…

Kubuntu 24.04 keeps being Ubuntu

Despite trying to embrace Kubuntu, I had my reservations. Without being able to point at a specific fear, I felt that there must be something that would piss me off. So I decided to use a bit more the live session.

And here’s the bug that I couldn’t find in their bug tracker. I’ve surely met it in the past.

Suppose you want to save a screenshot. WTF is this primitive Save As dialog box in Spectacle?!

With only Computer and kubuntu, and no way to access the other mounted USB drives, nor to mount one of the internal partitions (this Ventoy session is on a laptop that has two internal SSDs), this is absolutely ridiculous!

Here’s how the same Save As works in openSUSE Leap 15.6 KDE Live ISO session:

Indeed, it should work like Dolphin.

FFS, even in openSUSE Leap 15.6 XFCE the Save As dialog is fully potent:

Exit Kubuntu. I’m pretty sure it has dozens of other bugs. Oh, and I didn’t only test the released ISO, but the updated ones as well. No change whatsoever.

openSUSE Leap 15.6, l’inconnu

Frankly, in “modern times” (i.e. since S.u.S.E. isn’t spelled SuSE anymore, but SUSE) I’ve only used openSUSE Tumbleweed. Even GeckoLinux Rolling at some point. On different computers.

It wasn’t bad. Not so many breakages, despite my use of quite a few extra repos. To be fair, it was almost on par with Manjaro plus Chaotic-AUR, and that plays more in favor of Manjaro than in that of Tumbleweed’s.

What bothered me was, first, a number of idiosyncrasies specific to SUSE (defaults and stuff), but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. It just broke the spell. Secondly, and more importantly, it was a nightmare to need to update thousands and thousands of packages each and every month. What is this, Grand Central Terminal? Atop of this, a newer kernel after a newer kernel—but I had that even in Fedora, which nominally isn’t a rolling-release distro.

But Leap 15.6 suddenly sounded more interesting than before. That’s because, unlike RHEL and its clones, who only made tiny updates from a minor version to the next one, openSUSE took a giant Leap from 15.5 to 15.6, including a jump from kernel 5.14.21 to 6.4.0! Meanwhile, until EL10, I’m sure Red Hat will keep patching 5.14.0. Also, should you prefer to install LibreOffice from official repos instead of from upstream, Leap now has 24.2.1.2 (the latest one being 24.2.4), whereas EL9 stays with the antiquated 7.1.8.1 (the “oldstable” is 7.6 or 7.6.7 to be precise, not 7.1). BTW, Ubuntu has 7.6.7.2, whatever that final “.2” comes from.

The only thing that doesn’t work out of the box in Leap 15.6 on the newer laptop is the sound, because sof-firmware is not preinstalled; but on the old laptop, everything just works. (The package is called alsa-sof-firmware in EL9, and firmware-sof-signed in Debian, Ubuntu, and Mint.)

Having had issues with cross-theming in the past, such as dark themes in MATE screwing Qt apps, I tried to see whether dark themes in KDE don’t screw GTK apps in Leap 15.6 KDE. No, they don’t:

I decided to test the XFCE flavor of Leap too. Who knows, maybe it’s a good choice, despite XFCE not being that light anymore—probably only 200-300 MB of RAM lighter. But with openSUSE-Leap-15.6-KDE-Live-x86_64-Media.iso weighing only 977 MiB and openSUSE-Leap-15.6-XFCE-Live-x86_64-Media.iso having only 954 MiB, everything deserved testing. (In contrast, Linux Lite 7.0 is a bloated 2.61 GiB, because it comes with everything but the kitchen sink on the Live ISO; this makes it more useful to use the live image as is, say, to create documents and process images.)

And, sure enough (I’m a born pessimist), Leap’s XFCE dark themes (there are only two of them anyway) screw the Qt-based apps, most notably Dolphin!

That’s too bad. I didn’t want to use XFCE, but it was a “what if” scenario.

To have a comparison reference, Linux Lite 7.0 doesn’t screw Qt when using a dark theme; it just doesn’t care about theming Qt at all!

Well, at least it doesn’t break anything. And it has more GTK themes. But I’m not a fan of it.

To end this digression: openSUSE Leap 15.6 KDE is here to stay, and to be soon installed on the old laptop. I can finally put this to bed.

Outro

No matter how I tried to settle for something Debian or Ubuntu, it was utterly impossible. After many years of FVWM, FVWM95, IceWM, XFCE and KDE3, I was a huge fan of GNOME2 in Ubuntu 4.10 to 10.10, and also in CentOS and SL 4.x to 6.x. Once Red Hat screwed GNOME, I couldn’t fall for MATE (fucking stupid names, Caja, Engrampa, Atril!). Before KDE5, I relied on XFCE, however stagnant it was (and it still is).

It looks like I’m bound to stay into the RPM Land. Adieu, .deb!

BONUS TIP

The traditional and official guidance regarding the installation of the patent-restricted codecs is here: SDB:Installing codecs from Packman repositories.

There are 3 possible methods, and you have to opt between using Packman only for these packages, or for any other packages that might be superseded by Packman’s. I’d opt for the more prudent choice.

The most straightforward way:

sudo zypper addrepo -cfp 90 https://ftp.gwdg.de/pub/linux/misc/packman/suse/openSUSE_Leap_15.6/ packman
sudo zypper refresh
sudo zypper install --allow-vendor-change --from packman ffmpeg gstreamer-plugins-{good,bad,ugly,libav} libavcodec vlc-codecs

Note that zypper will solve the names into whatever package provides them. However, libavcodec and gstreamer-plugins-good should already be installed, and Packman doesn’t provide any alternatives. So the last line I’d use goes this way:

sudo zypper install --allow-vendor-change --from packman ffmpeg-7 gstreamer-plugins-{bad,ugly,libav} libavdevice57 vlc-codecs

Note that, unlike other distros, and regardless of the repo’s priority, in openSUSE you need to --allow-vendor-change to install a package that replaces an official one. This behavior can be changed in /etc/zypp/zypp.conf.

I don’t use an optical unit, and I don’t rip DVDs and Blu-rays, but just in case you’d want to use HandBrake: to avoid installing HandBrake as a Flatpak (see 1, 2, 3), Packman has handbrake-cli and handbrake-gtk.

For libbluray2, libbluray-tools, and libbluray-bdj, the repo is OSS, see here to learn more about repos. You can also take a look at 15.6/repo/oss/x86_64/ (more than 53k entries!). There are also a few things in Non-OSS.

By the way, OSS also has lame, should you need it (you can also find it as a community package).

libdvdcss2 can be found as a community package. The same goes for libaacs.

LATE EDIT: It looks like zypper will also install libavdevice61, not only libavdevice57. I have no idea why, and I don’t care.

Dedoimedo to the rescue (so to speak)

Dedoimedo found many more reasons to complain: Kubuntu 24.04 review – Back in 2007 (July 1, 2024).

Indeed, the distro logo has no transparency, and it renders badly on the Plasma gray (or whatever you make it be) background.

Nvidia? I couldn’t tell, as I don’t use this brand. It’s completely broken, regardless of the driver. If it weren’t for those gamers, crypto miners, and LLMs, it would have been dead by now. It’s crapola. I’m not trying to say that AMD (which I still think of as ATI) is that much better, drivers-wise, but Nvidia, I just can’t.

I particularly enjoyed this part:

The Plasma System Monitor is a useless program. Really. It’s the quintessential example of everything that is wrong with so-called modern software development. First, it’s a (supposed) like-for-like replacement for KSysGuard, therefore unnecessary. Second, I could understand if there’s a new thing, and it offers superior experience. I would be even okay with an equivalent experience. But no. It’s the whole agile-break-things 85% ready thing. The reduced OOTB functionality, extra mouse clicks you need, lower performance, believe it or not, within the program itself, and some obviously buggy things. Ergonomically, functionally, it offers nothing over the old, reliable tool. NOTHING. NOTHING!

I happen to agree. They couldn’t let KDE5 just be, they had to break it before moving on. Here’s some proof of other unhappy people: Bring ksysguard back as neither plasma-systemmonitor / ksystemstats are any good.

Two comments from that thread:

  • ksysguard 5.22.0-2 22 is still available for Arch based distros, it uses the same libksysguard required by plasma-systemmonitor.”
  • “That’s not very useful for OP though, who seems to use kubuntu.”

👍 Here’s the good news, though: ksysguard 5.22.0 is also available in EPEL for EL9 and EL8, and in openSUSE Leap (in the OSS repo).

The apocalyptic considerations towards the end resonated with me and made me empathize with Dedoimedo:

Kubuntu 24.04 is my scapegoat here today, but it’s EVERY distro. EVERY single one. Big, small, medium rare. Whatever. Release after release, the developers play in their sandboxes, writing code for the sake of it, enjoying their nerdy games, while the world slowly marches into the maws of corporate gulags. The perfect combo of arrogance of creating important operating systems that could change the world and the childish disdain for stability and responsibility. In a nutshell, Linux needs 100x more testing, not 100x more distros. For every developer, there should be 20 testers. Not the other [way] around. In fact, since there are NO testers, and in the best case, the developers do the testing themselves, the actual number is zero, so the mathematics don’t apply.

Yes, I know, I suck big hairy monkey balls, I don’t understand open source, I’m a Microsoft shill, I’m a five-star idiot, you need to report a bug, volunteers don’t have time to test, whatever, choose your preferred narrative to justify your own bubble of ignorance. The simple fact is, I want to build a reliable, mature productive future for myself with Linux, and the ecosystem prevents me from doing that. Because reliable and mature seem to be alien words. The depth of my frustration, after TWENTY years of trying to nudge Linux in the right direction, is unfathomable. The Linux desktop refuses to be nudged. The messy underdog is what it ever wants and aspires to be. Just ok, never great.

I’m glad I’m not the only idiot to share such thoughts. This year alone, I criticized KDE as being vulnerable by design, only to add that KDE5 is the best DE so far. I bashed the open-source development model in the wake of the xz scandal and the increasing complexity of today’s software. I had an extremely long feature in which I described dozens of bad decisions, unbelievable bugs, and other unacceptable aspects of Linux, but only a handful of people were able to follow it through (I should have used 1,000 TikTok vertical videos instead). Tiling or not, I had some more criticism. FFS, there are still zero desktop environments in which one can right-click on the taskbar (or somewhere else) and choose “Tile Horizontally” or “Tile Vertically” (Win95), or “Show windows side by side” (Win7)! Windows versions from 30 years ago could do amazing things with two mouse clicks (one right-click and one left-click). That power has been lost in decades of progress. I also mentioned the systemd cancer recently. Then I decided that, for the immediate future, I’ll keep using AlmaLinux 9 KDE, and I’ll add openSUSE Leap 15.6 as my second distro. The latter seems a much better choice than Kubuntu 24.04 LTS.

This being said, I stand by all the criticism that Dedoimedo has, and will continue to have.