Thursday, November 1, 2018

Upgrading to Fedora 29 was boringly uneventful

I suppose that it is a good thing that nothing went wrong. Hats off to the many dedicated open source developers. I have become a Linux evangelist.

I remember a time when every upgrade was an adventure. One had to download the new version, burn it to a DVD and then, essentially, reinstall Linux. Then even the atheists among us had to pray that everything worked as it was supposed to. After all that one had to find the right incantations to get certain packages to yield to our will. That's all behind us.

The distribution is now upgraded over the Internet in a well choreographed process. Each new package is downloaded. Reboot the system and they are all upgraded with the old package erased.

Around FC-1 (essentially Redhat 10) I had about 800 packages installed and I knew what every one of them did. Now that number is about 4,400 and I have no clue what most of them do. They support the Linux infrastructure and provide libraries for the applications that I have installed. I am just happy that all of the apps work as intended. Even this page was prepared in a Linux app (I prefer to write with HTML code rather than using a WYSIWYG editor).

I have loved Fedora since FC-1 in 2003. I have tried them all. Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE, Mandriva and so on. I always come back to Fedora (on servers, I have preferred close Redhat cousin CentOS). The reason is simple. The package management system is, in my opinion, better than any other Linux distro. Many people would disagree.

One thing that I would recommend though. Every new Linux user should install the Gentoo Linux distro to a virtual machine. Gentoo is a source-based distribution. Instead of downloading pre-compiled packages the user downloads the source code and then compiles it on their machine. It is a pain in the ass but it is a very good way to understand Linux because you are starting from a completely blank slate.

Another great learning device is Linux From Scratch which is even more elemental than Gentoo. Again, this is best installed on a virtual machine and developed over time. “Out of the box” it is strictly command line (no GUI). No sound either. No lots of things without considerable development — and a whole lot of patience. The companion book (it is free to download) guides you through each step.

Getting back to Fedora, just about any Windows user can install Fedora and put it to good use within hours. It can run live from a USB stick. I have not spent a dime on software for about 15 years. Fedora provides everything anyone could want: Word processing, spreadsheets, presentation generators, drop-in replacements for Quicken (personal and business), various graphics editors, databases, email, web and so on. In fact, many popular Windows applications (like VLC) started their lives as Linux apps.

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