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Old 03-25-2024, 10:57 PM   #1
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Registered: Dec 2020
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Coming back to linux after a decade away

I was using linux quite a lot while I was a student many years ago. I found that in general, things mostly worked, but after 5-6 updates, and to generalise across hardware in general, things started breaking. That was fine while I was a student, but after a few years of really needing a desktop to just work I caved in.

I eventually settled on MacOS. But I was surprised how many annoyances this had as well. These were fixable, but it took a lot of research to get past expensive subscription based solutions. Eventually I managed to find resources and answers from skilled users. Brew was very helpful in this. In general, there is actually a linux-like community hiding in amongst the clueless.

Queue to this year. Apple are finally dropping support for my Mac after about 8 years of support that, to be honest, I'm happy with after having upgraded the SSD to 10x its original space and after replacing the battery 3x. That said, 8GB RAM is soldered on and causing problems.

I looked at new Macbooks and I'm underwhelmed. The RAM is still soldered on and isn't enough for much AI. Now they're even soldering on the SSD, which is a shame since I've utilised swapping drives around so much. The battery isn't as easy to replace either. All in all, upgrading from a 2015 MBP to an 2024 M3 is a step backwards in key practical terms.

So I had a look at the Framework laptops. However, the touchpads aren't Sensel quality, and while that sounds minor, touch is an intimate sense that can't be ignored, so it would mean carrying a mouse everywhere. Battery life is also not great on the Frameworks. AI is possible, but with a GPU expansion, which reminds me of some kind of 1990's experience to be honest. The portability of a laptop, just keeping everything local and avoiding cloud syncing just works. I even looked at remote cloud desktops but lag variablity in connectivity makes this a lot less portable than just carrying a laptop around.

Desperate, I just bought a 16GB MBP from the same year, swapping the SSD and immediately getting everything working with no more browser lags. It's madness, but it's bought me some time.

Time to recycle that old MBP 2015 into the server with Linux.

This is where I got some surprises. I thought Macs are common, so this should be a good candidate for linux. It's an old laptop with nearly a decade to get drivers right, so things should be OK.

On top of this I chose Fedora, not because I actually want to, but because I expect i tto be the most stable. It's got the biggest userbase, but also some commercial support, but IMHO, not too much to screw with the whole opensource approach, unlike Canocial.
Further, IMMUTABLE systems could well be the future, and this is an opportunity to try them out. So I went with Silverblue. Again, not because I really want to (I'm actually interested in BlendOS, which is based on Arch), but because it's the most well documented immutable system.

The first thing that went wrong was accidentally downloading the wrong system image. This happened because the direct download wouldn't actually resume, so I had to track down a link to give to wget. But all the images are dumped in a big folder and I ended up actually getting the standard Fedora.
I had no idea I'd installed standard Fedora until I started trying to install packages. It even took a while just to figure out that this wasn't Silverblue. However, the experience was interesting because it helped me realise just how much easier standard Fedora is to work with than Silverblue. Potentially, there's quite a lot of new concepts to get used to with Silverblue.

WiFi worked find out of the box, even though reports with airport cards mentioned issues. It turns out that the hardware needs to be shutdown manually before rebooting, so there can be a situation where WiFi doesn't work on boot. It's an easy fix... once you know how; reload the kernel module. The question is, why doesn't Fedora shutdown the wifi on this model before suspend/reboot? We can blame the hardware, but why not have a workaround?
The next issue is the keyboard. Keys get stuck when typing fast. It seems like a wayland thing. Doesn't affect Windows or MacOS, so it's definitely software.

Then there's the webcam. Keyword search for this problem is "Facetime camera". It's a closed driver from Apple. It just means it can't be bundled with Fedora. It's a simple module compile fix, but there's no script to assist with the process, and AFAIK, it will break on every update, since it's a kernel module that needs compiling every time. Again, no hand holding for this process. At this point, I've decided to sell the laptop. The idea of Silverblue was that I wanted to always update, and just reboot nightly to actually apply those updates. I wanted Silverblue to be more reliable. User reports mentioned updates on Silverblue to be very reliable.

There are other problems. The bluetooth mouse doesn't reconnect. I expect this is the mouse fault since I use it with other laptops?

The touchpad settings also just don't feel right. It's just hard to get anything like the same response as MacOS. 2 finger scrolling is too fast. It's hassle. I'm surprised that I can't find any post online with someone sharing settings for this.
This brings me to a critical linux problem all-round: If there was just one laptop that sold way more than others, support for that laptop on linux would be better. Yet even with Macbooks there's not enough users.

Overall, the last 3 years the laptop has actually been working for me, but generally it feels like I'm fighting tech and it's controlling me more than I control it, unless I put in lots of time figuring things out. It's a PITA.

This post could be seen as a bit ungrateful to tech as it is. A first world problem, as it were. I think that would be naive. We rely on technology to live. If (when!) the internet shuts down, we've got problems.
And I'm really disappointed with linux too. Can you cheer me up with an install that went smoothly for you? What was the hardware?
Old 03-26-2024, 08:09 AM   #2
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Location: Waaaaay out West Texas
Distribution: antiX 23, MX 23
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Howdy and Welcome. Relearning a language and file structure can be tough after a decade away. As you are learning.

I like you went with rpm distro choice at the beginning but with Open Suse.

Learned I was rpm distro dyslexic.
Fell into Debian based and kept running.
Happy camper now.

Good Luck.

Edit: all my stuff works

$ inxi -zv8 -r
  Kernel: 6.1.60-antix.1-amd64-smp arch: x86_64 bits: 64 compiler: gcc
    v: 12.2.0 clocksource: tsc avail: hpet,acpi_pm
    parameters: BOOT_IMAGE=/boot/vmlinuz-6.1.60-antix.1-amd64-smp
    root=UUID=7cdec373-91b8-41cd-99b4-e0b2cefe6bab ro quiet selinux=0
  Desktop: IceWM v: 3.4.6 tools: avail: slock,xlock dm: slimski v: 1.5.0
    Distro: antiX-23.1-runit_x64-full Arditi del Popolo 20 February 2024
    base: Debian GNU/Linux 12 (bookworm)
  Type: Laptop System: LENOVO product: 43843AU v: ThinkPad T510
    serial: <superuser required> Chassis: type: 10 serial: <superuser required>
  Mobo: LENOVO model: 43843AU serial: <superuser required>
    uuid: <superuser required> BIOS: LENOVO v: 6MET61WW (1.24 ) date: 06/07/2010
  ID-1: BAT0 charge: 73.3 Wh (100.0%) condition: 73.3/73.3 Wh (100.0%)
    volts: 12.5 min: 11.1 model: SANYO 42T4763 type: Li-ion serial: <filter>
    status: full
  System RAM: total: 6 GiB available: 5.59 GiB used: 1.24 GiB (22.1%)
  Message: For most reliable report, use superuser + dmidecode.
  Array-1: capacity: 8 GiB slots: 2 modules: 2 EC: None
    max-module-size: 4 GiB note: est.
  Device-1: DIMM 1 type: DDR3 detail: synchronous size: 2 GiB
    speed: 1066 MT/s volts: N/A width (bits): data: 64 total: 64
    manufacturer: 0443 part-no: RMT1970ED48E8F1066 serial: <filter>
  Device-2: DIMM 2 type: DDR3 detail: synchronous size: 4 GiB
    speed: 1600 MT/s volts: N/A width (bits): data: 64 total: 64
    manufacturer: SK-Hynix part-no: HMT351S6CFR8C-PB serial: <filter>
PCI Slots:
  Permissions: Unable to run dmidecode. Root privileges required.
  Info: model: Intel Core i5 M 520 bits: 64 type: MT MCP arch: Westmere
    gen: core 1 level: v2 built: 2010-11 process: Intel 32nm family: 6
    model-id: 0x25 (37) stepping: 2 microcode: 0x11
  Topology: cpus: 1x cores: 2 tpc: 2 threads: 4 smt: enabled cache:
    L1: 128 KiB desc: d-2x32 KiB; i-2x32 KiB L2: 512 KiB desc: 2x256 KiB
    L3: 3 MiB desc: 1x3 MiB
  Speed (MHz): avg: 1258 high: 1436 min/max: 1199/2400 boost: enabled
    scaling: driver: acpi-cpufreq governor: schedutil cores: 1: 1436 2: 1199
    3: 1199 4: 1199 bogomips: 19152
  Flags: acpi aes aperfmperf apic arat arch_perfmon bts clflush cmov
    constant_tsc cpuid cx16 cx8 de ds_cpl dtes64 dtherm dts ept est
    flexpriority flush_l1d fpu fxsr ht ibpb ibrs ida lahf_lm lm mca mce mmx
    monitor msr mtrr nonstop_tsc nopl nx pae pat pbe pclmulqdq pdcm pebs pge
    pni popcnt pse pse36 pti rdtscp rep_good sep smx ssbd sse sse2 sse4_1
    sse4_2 ssse3 stibp syscall tm tm2 tpr_shadow tsc vme vmx vnmi vpid
    xtopology xtpr
  Type: gather_data_sampling status: Not affected
  Type: itlb_multihit status: KVM: VMX disabled
  Type: l1tf mitigation: PTE Inversion; VMX: conditional cache flushes, SMT
  Type: mds status: Vulnerable: Clear CPU buffers attempted, no microcode;
    SMT vulnerable
  Type: meltdown mitigation: PTI
  Type: mmio_stale_data status: Unknown: No mitigations
  Type: retbleed status: Not affected
  Type: spec_rstack_overflow status: Not affected
  Type: spec_store_bypass mitigation: Speculative Store Bypass disabled via
  Type: spectre_v1 mitigation: usercopy/swapgs barriers and __user pointer
  Type: spectre_v2 mitigation: Retpolines, IBPB: conditional, IBRS_FW,
    STIBP: conditional, RSB filling, PBRSB-eIBRS: Not affected
  Type: srbds status: Not affected
  Type: tsx_async_abort status: Not affected
  Device-1: Intel Core Processor Integrated Graphics vendor: Lenovo
    driver: i915 v: kernel arch: Gen-5.75 process: Intel 45nm built: 2010 ports:
    active: LVDS-1 empty: DP-1, DP-2, DP-3, HDMI-A-1, HDMI-A-2, HDMI-A-3,
    VGA-1 bus-ID: 00:02.0 chip-ID: 8086:0046 class-ID: 0300
  Device-2: Lenovo Integrated Webcam [R5U877] driver: uvcvideo type: USB
    rev: 2.0 speed: 480 Mb/s lanes: 1 mode: 2.0 bus-ID: 1-1.6:4
    chip-ID: 17ef:480f class-ID: 0e02
  Display: server: X.Org v: driver: X: loaded: intel dri: crocus
    gpu: i915 display-ID: :0.0 screens: 1
  Screen-1: 0 s-res: 1366x768 s-dpi: 96 s-size: 361x203mm (14.21x7.99")
    s-diag: 414mm (16.31")
  Monitor-1: LVDS-1 mapped: LVDS1 model: Lenovo 0x40b0 built: 2008
    res: 1366x768 hz: 60 dpi: 101 gamma: 1.2 chroma: red: x: 0.620 y: 0.357
    green: x: 0.333 y: 0.584 blue: x: 0.149 y: 0.102 white: x: 0.314 y: 0.329
    size: 345x194mm (13.58x7.64") diag: 396mm (15.6") ratio: 16:9
    modes: 1366x768
  API: EGL v: 1.5 hw: drv: intel crocus platforms: device: 0 drv: crocus
    device: 1 drv: swrast gbm: drv: crocus surfaceless: drv: crocus x11:
    drv: crocus inactive: wayland
  API: OpenGL v: 2.1 vendor: intel mesa v: 22.3.6 glx-v: 1.4 es-v: 2.0
    direct-render: yes renderer: Mesa Intel HD Graphics (ILK)
    device-ID: 8086:0046 memory: 1.46 GiB unified: yes
  Device-1: Intel 5 Series/3400 Series High Definition Audio vendor: Lenovo 5
    driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel bus-ID: 00:1b.0 chip-ID: 8086:3b56
    class-ID: 0403
  API: ALSA v: k6.1.60-antix.1-amd64-smp status: kernel-api with: apulse
    type: pulse-emulator tools: alsactl,alsamixer,amixer
  Server-1: PipeWire v: 1.0.3 status: active with: 1: pipewire-pulse
    status: active 2: wireplumber status: active 3: pipewire-alsa type: plugin
    4: pw-jack type: plugin tools: pw-cat,pw-cli,wpctl
  Device-1: Intel 82577LM Gigabit Network vendor: Lenovo driver: e1000e
    v: kernel port: 1820 bus-ID: 00:19.0 chip-ID: 8086:10ea class-ID: 0200
  IF: eth0 state: down mac: <filter>
  Device-2: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 driver: iwlwifi v: kernel
    modules: wl pcie: gen: 1 speed: 2.5 GT/s lanes: 1 bus-ID: 03:00.0
    chip-ID: 8086:4239 class-ID: 0280
  IF: wlan0 state: up mac: <filter>
  IP v4: <filter> scope: global broadcast: <filter>
  IP v6: <filter> scope: link
  Info: services: wpa_supplicant
  WAN IP: <filter>
  Message: No bluetooth data found.
  Message: No logical block device data found.
  Message: No RAID data found.
  Local Storage: total: 119.24 GiB used: 13.29 GiB (11.1%)
  SMART Message: Unable to run smartctl. Root privileges required.
  ID-1: /dev/sda maj-min: 8:0 vendor: Toshiba model: THNSNC128GCSJ
    size: 119.24 GiB block-size: physical: 512 B logical: 512 B speed: 3.0 Gb/s
    tech: SSD serial: <filter> fw-rev: 0201 scheme: MBR
  Optical-1: /dev/sr0 vendor: HL-DT-ST model: DVDRAM GT30N rev: LT09
    dev-links: cdrom,cdrw,dvd,dvdrw
  Features: speed: 24 multisession: yes audio: yes dvd: yes
    rw: cd-r,cd-rw,dvd-r,dvd-ram state: running
  ID-1: / raw-size: 119.24 GiB size: 116.81 GiB (97.96%)
    used: 13.29 GiB (11.4%) fs: ext4 dev: /dev/sda1 maj-min: 8:1
    label: rootantiX23.1 uuid: 7cdec373-91b8-41cd-99b4-e0b2cefe6bab
  Kernel: swappiness: 10 (default 60) cache-pressure: 50 (default 100)
    zswap: no
  ID-1: swap-1 type: file size: 2 GiB used: 0 KiB (0.0%) priority: -2
    file: /swap/swap
  Message: No unmounted partitions found.
  Hub-1: 1-0:1 info: full speed or root hub ports: 3 rev: 2.0
    speed: 480 Mb/s (57.2 MiB/s) lanes: 1 mode: 2.0 chip-ID: 1d6b:0002
    class-ID: 0900
  Hub-2: 1-1:2 info: Intel Integrated Rate Matching Hub ports: 6 rev: 2.0
    speed: 480 Mb/s (57.2 MiB/s) lanes: 1 mode: 2.0 chip-ID: 8087:0020
    class-ID: 0900
  Device-1: 1-1.3:3 info: Upek Biometric Touchchip/Touchstrip Fingerprint
    Sensor type: <vendor specific> driver: N/A interfaces: 1 rev: 1.0
    speed: 12 Mb/s (1.4 MiB/s) lanes: 1 mode: 1.1 power: 100mA
    chip-ID: 147e:2016 class-ID: 0000
  Device-2: 1-1.6:4 info: Lenovo Integrated Webcam [R5U877] type: video
    driver: uvcvideo interfaces: 2 rev: 2.0 speed: 480 Mb/s (57.2 MiB/s)
    lanes: 1 mode: 2.0 power: 200mA chip-ID: 17ef:480f class-ID: 0e02
  Hub-3: 2-0:1 info: full speed or root hub ports: 3 rev: 2.0
    speed: 480 Mb/s (57.2 MiB/s) lanes: 1 mode: 2.0 chip-ID: 1d6b:0002
    class-ID: 0900
  Hub-4: 2-1:2 info: Intel Integrated Rate Matching Hub ports: 8 rev: 2.0
    speed: 480 Mb/s (57.2 MiB/s) lanes: 1 mode: 2.0 chip-ID: 8087:0020
    class-ID: 0900
  System Temperatures: cpu: 39.0 C mobo: N/A
  Fan Speeds (rpm): fan-1: 2643
  Packages: pm: dpkg pkgs: 1819 libs: 853 tools: apt,apt-get,aptitude,synaptic
  Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/antix.list
    1: deb [signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/antix-archive-keyring.gpg] bookworm main nonfree nosystemd
  Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/bookworm-backports.list
    1: deb bookworm-backports main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
  Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/debian-stable-updates.list
    1: deb bookworm-updates main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
  Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/debian.list
    1: deb bookworm main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
    2: deb bookworm-security main contrib non-free non-free-firmware
  Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list
    1: deb [arch=amd64] stable main
  Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/librewolf.list
    1: deb [arch=amd64] bookworm main
  No active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/liquorix.list
  CPU top: 5 of 159
  1: cpu: 27.6% command: firefox-esr pid: 2290 mem: 665.9 MiB (11.6%)
  2: cpu: 6.1% command: Xorg pid: 1775 mem: 109.0 MiB (1.9%)
  3: cpu: 3.7% command: firefox-esr pid: 3985 mem: 134.5 MiB (2.3%)
  4: cpu: 3.3% command: curl pid: 4914 mem: 8.92 MiB (0.1%)
  5: cpu: 2.2% command: firefox-esr pid: 2474 mem: 165.4 MiB (2.8%)
  Memory top: 5 of 159
  1: mem: 665.9 MiB (11.6%) command: firefox-esr pid: 2290 cpu: 27.6%
  2: mem: 165.4 MiB (2.8%) command: firefox-esr pid: 2474 cpu: 2.2%
  3: mem: 139.2 MiB (2.4%) command: firefox-esr pid: 2402 cpu: 0.3%
  4: mem: 134.5 MiB (2.3%) command: firefox-esr pid: 3985 cpu: 3.7%
  5: mem: 109.0 MiB (1.9%) command: Xorg pid: 1775 cpu: 6.1%
  Processes: 159 Power: uptime: 1h 20m states: freeze,mem,disk suspend: deep
    avail: s2idle wakeups: 0 hibernate: platform avail: shutdown, reboot,
    suspend, test_resume image: 2.22 GiB Init: runit v: N/A runlevel: 2
    tool: service
  Compilers: gcc: 12.2.0 Shell: Bash v: 5.2.15 running-in: roxterm
    inxi: 3.3.33
Not the latest and greatest hardware. But fits my needs.

Last edited by rokytnji; 03-26-2024 at 08:12 AM.
Old 03-26-2024, 03:07 PM   #3
LQ Guru
Registered: Sep 2011
Location: Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants Border, UK
Distribution: Mainly Devuan, antiX, & Void, with Tiny Core, Fatdog, & BSD thrown in.
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HP & Dell seem to work well, in my experience, but I tend to use older, pre used machines, (fairly cheap to buy, older Windows machines).

I'm a Devuan user, in the main, (basically Debian without systemd), maybe try the live XFCE image to see if you like it; else try MX Linux, a great distro for a 'newbie', lots of very helpful info & videos created by the developers.
Old 03-26-2024, 03:15 PM   #4
Registered: Mar 2004
Location: Canada
Distribution: Void, Debian, Slackware
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I like and use Void and Slackware. Void on two Dell desktops, and Slackware on an older T420 Thinkpad.
Old 03-26-2024, 05:17 PM   #5
Registered: Jul 2008
Location: Montana USA
Distribution: KUbuntu, Fedora (KDE), PI OS
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I like using (K)Ubuntu for my desktops/server/laptops. Everything has worked fine on all the platforms I use. Got an AMD HP 15" laptop for my dad just a couple months ago. No problem cleaning off Windoze and putting latest KUbuntu LTS on it. I've got a AMD MSI Laptop myself and same experience. All my desktops and server is home built (ie. I pick the parts) and no problem either. That said, I used to be redhat fan for years and years (~Redhat 4 through the start of the latest Fedora series) and being on the 'cutting edge'. Now I just want it to work for years and years, not months before it has to be upgraded . Fedora doesn't bundle things I use out of the box unlike Ubuntu or Mint either. Anyway, more than satisfied now with install and everything just works out of the box -- for me. And any software I might want to install is available for (K)Ubuntu. Oh, and for nostalgia purposes, I run latest Fedora in a VM just on my development Workstation.

Last edited by rclark; 03-26-2024 at 05:25 PM.
Old 03-28-2024, 09:14 AM   #6
Registered: Apr 2016
Posts: 472

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On my desktop computer I use Linux Mint Cinnamon because it is the easiest to use most updated and most supported version of Linux. I turn off all the fancy Cinnamon graphical gimmicks.

On an old laptop with 4 GB of memory I use Linux Mint Xcfe, with the Falkon browser, but it still often freezes and has to be restarted.

I have an ancient 32bit desktop that runs LMDE - Linux Mint Debian Edition - successfully with only 3GB of memory. The last remaining version of Linux Mint available for 32bit.

It is a disappointment that Linux Mint Cinnamon now requires as high a spec as Windows does, but there are light-weight GUI Linuxes that require much less memory, so can be used to revitalise old machines. I want to try some of them, antiX is maybe the best supported and maintained.

Last edited by grumpyskeptic; 03-31-2024 at 06:50 AM.
Old 03-28-2024, 10:30 AM   #7
LQ Guru
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Distribution: Debian, Ubuntu, RedHat, DSL, Puppy, CentOS, Knoppix, Mint-DE, Sparky, VSIDO, tinycore, Q4OS,Manjaro
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Welcome back to the jungle! Glad to see you here!

I have used refurbished HP, DELL, and Lenovo laptops with good luck. The Dell i have performs best, the HP business laptop is most dependable.
I never use the HP these days, it is my oldest working laptop and a real dog, but if other hardware fails I know it will still work.

Fedora is not a stable platform: the original release model was a new release every 3 months and the most recent 3 supported. You have less than a year before an upgrade becomes urgent. It is also a Red Hat product, which means it is now run by IBM and I do not trust them with FOSS projects.

I like more cutting edge: faster, newer, but I dislike bleeding. Rolling releases that do extra testing (Manjaro, not Arch for example) satisfy me and I have not had one break. (I have had Debian SID based break, and Arch, and Ubuntu itself once, so I only recommend those to people who LOVE backups and reinstalling Linux.)

For stability you might want Mint (I prefer MintDE myself, but main Mint is Ubuntu based and might be better for your use case), or something SUSE flavored.
If solid is key for you, look for the long term support versions.

I was shocked recently to realize that all of my platforms, even lower memory models, will run KDE/Plasma on Wayland or X.Org. I used to always go to X.Org minimal and fluxbox. I now recommend plasma if you can get it, it has gotten VERY good and far leaner than it once was. Although I like Wayland, I recommend X.Org for long term stability.

IF you like to "try before buy" approach to finding your distribution, I recommend grabbing a USB key you do not mind blanking and installing Ventoy. The install reformats and partitions the device, so back up anything you want to keep first. Once you have a Ventoy device you can just copy the ISO files onto it. When you boot form that device it will give you a menu and you can select the one you want to boot. Make sure they have a live mode, and you can run test them without installing.


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