If you had asked me if I was done distro hopping a year ago, I would have told you yes. Well today I prove myself a liar. I will be leaving the slightly unstable playground of Manjaro in search of a more maintenance-free distribution.

Manjaro has been getting on my nerves all year. It’s really getting to the point where every fairly large update screws something up. It’s usually some kind of package conflict. Some package got updated, changed or removed and now some other application is complaining about it. This has happened several times with Electron and Qt. Each time several applications were rendered useless until I was able to fix the package. On several other occasions, the package manager failed to update at all because some other package was up or down-graded the last time I updated the system. In that case I frustratingly get blocked from upgrading 26 packages because there’s a problem with 1.

Two years ago, I would not have complained about this at all. I had time to spare searching forums and reading wikis to sort myself out. And I was happy to do this and learn in the process. Today, with a new house and two children, and even two chickens and a coop to take care of, it’s a completely different story. I’m pressed for time. I’m searching and trying to think of what could be wrong while a baby screams in my lap or in the next room. This happened to me recently and eventually I gave up. I took a few screen shots of the error messages I didn’t understand coming from my package manager, posted them to the Manjaro forum and asked for help. I received this snarky reply from a DINKWAD:

Dual Income No Kids With A Dog Dual Income No Kids With A Dog

I have a house that needs maintenance, children that need TLC, a wife that needs help, chickens that need cleaning and feeding, a job in a factory 50+ hours a week. If I could work from home and my only dependents were dogs, I’d have no problem taking my time to sort these things out without this DINKWAD’s help. This reply made me a little sore, in case you can’t tell. It was the last straw. I can’t stick around using a distribution that fucks up their package dependencies once a month. Especially when their laptop-class users chide you for not having the free time to RTFM. Sorry Manjaro. It was fun and exciting while it lasted but it’s just not going to work out between you and I.

I still love computers, coding and cosplaying as a sysadmin. So I’m obviously sticking with a GNU/Linux OS. What are my options? Here’s a look at the top ten distributions at time of writing:

Rank Distribution HPD*
1 MX Linux 2654
2 EndeavourOS 2262
3 Mint 2038
4 Manjaro 1360
5 Pop!_OS 1147
6 Fedora 1135
7 Ubuntu 1106
8 Debian 1004
9 Lite 796
10 Garuda 739

I gave MX Linux some serious thought. It’s stable and popular. But it’s stability comes from being based on Debian stable, and the packages there can be running versions that are four years old or more. I’ll be retired by the time I can get the latest features of Thunderbird from their package repository. Endeavor OS looks very nice but it’s just another Arch-based distro with a riced-out desktop environment. Same goes for Garuda. I would likely run into the same package nightmares with those distributions as well. Mint, Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Lite might as well all be in the same bucket. They’re all reliably stable, yes. And also reliably boring with old software. It came down to the competition between 5 and 6: Pop!_OS and Fedora.

This decision was more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve used Pop many times before. I’ve installed it on my father-in-law’s computer because I know is easy and reliable. I used it for a while in a virtual machine. It has the same drawbacks as every other Ubuntu-based distro, namely the old packages, but I really love how they have customized GNOME. I think the way Pop!_OS does GNOME is the way GNOME should do GNOME!

Fedora has a better dedication to Free and Open Source software, which is a huge plus for me. In the FSF’s review of common distributions the paragraph on Fedora doesn’t sound so bad compared to the others. All the software is FOSS except for some firmware/drivers. Fedora also aims to be on the leading edge of software, so the packages contain more recent software versions than other just works distributions. Fedora is a corporate-backed project so it has lots of well paid smart people working on it. Unlike Manjaro, which is run by DINKWADs and Reddit moderators.

Fedora is also a unique distro in that it is a semi-rolling release distribution. It’s rolling in the sense that once you install it, you will never need to re-install for any major upgrade release. Twice per year the Fedora team come out with a new version release that sees upgrades to core components and applications. Combine this with the Fedora project’s aim to keep the software current, their repositories contain software versions very close to source code releases. In my experience this really gives you the best of both worlds and results in new, feature-rich, stable software. And for anything not in the binary repositories, there seems to always be a Flatpak easily available from the software store.

In the end I chose Fedora.

  • Semi-rolling release
  • Cutting-edge software
  • Large user base and good support
  • Raw GNOME

That last one is a little odd since I love the Pop!_OS desktop to much. What happened was after I moved house my main desktop machine was in a box for several weeks. I knew I would need a reliable machine that I could get up and running fast with no fuss. So I decided to give Fedora a shot on my laptop. I used it for about a month and by the end of it I really got used to the GNOME way of doing things and I really started to like Fedora. The software was not as new as what is available with Manjaro but it is new enough for me to not really notice the difference. Fedora installs many updates on restart or shut-down like Windows, which I thought was pretty odd at first but then came to not mind it so much. Most importantly, It just worked, and worked well. So I’ve decided to completely switch to Fedora and install it on my main desktop machine.

I guess GNU/Linux distributions are a little like dating and marriage. When I was single with lots of free time for fun having an OS that suffered minor break-downs once in a while wasn’t a problem. In fact it was fun! And it was worth it to get to use the latest greatest software features all the time. But when you’re married, when people depend on you, you need a OS you can depend on as well. For the foreseeable future, that dependable OS looks like it will be Fedora.