Monday, December 29, 2008

sidux 2008-04: a GREAT cutting edge desktop system

I've been promoting three different desktop Linux systems this year. All three of them are based on Debian software. Two of them are based on Debian Lenny, soon to be the latest "stable" repository of Debian binary software images. The third one is based on Debian Sid, the "unstable" one. (In Toy Story, the movie from which the Debian project code names are derived, Sid is the kid who takes pleasure in mutilating, destroying, torturing, and blowing up toys. Understandable why he is called "unstable?"). Well, Debian Sid is anything but unstable in the software that results for the desktop, but the packaging behind it certainly is volatile enough to deserve the name.

Debian Sid is awesome, but if you are busy and you do not have a lot of time to tinker with it, you may want to examine a few alternatives that are available to tame it. I've done just that over the years. The one that consistently stand out, and makes itself worthwhile to use, rather than just coping with the peculiarities of Debian Sid is a great distribution called sidux.

First organized in November 2006, the sidux project was already producing regular updates for public consumption by early 2007, and has adopted a practice of producing rolling updates, not surprising, given the Debian Sid roots. For convenience, and also for variety, plus the fact that the sidux project is always actively supporting new hardware, there are new releases available about once a quarter.

In December, just before Christmas, the sidux project, once again, gave us a green themed version of sidux, the 2008-04 implementation. This version uses a current version of the Linux kernel - which was, if I remember correctly, at the time of the release. My personal version has already been updated to, and will probably have another update real soon, maybe by the next time I get home to get my hands on it.

What is so nice about sidux is that you can just routinely use it every day, if you'd like, but you can also update it on a daily basis if you are crazy about current software. I can't even keep up with the changes, there are so many of them.

Lest anyone get overly concerned about that, you do not have to update every day, but you may do so, and you are likely to see changes to at least a few packages every day, and often one or two kernel changes as well. I have, on more than one occasion, seen at least two kernel package changes within the same day, and both worked. I recommend updating at least weekly, and if you are ultra busy, at least monthly. Daily updates are one of the things that make sidux fun, though.

Harold Hope, known as h2 on the sidux forums, is one of the active tool developers that works on optional sidux tools. He has one of my favorite tools, smxi, which is used to tame the wild Sid repositories, and easily get large groups of packages installed with a few easy menu commands.

sidux has a number of other handy tools as well. There is the siduxcc Control Center, the meta-package installer, and in addition, one of the finest up to date manuals around, which is regularly updated to keep it current, accurate, and relevant.

sidux has an excellent forum and a responsive #irc chat room where you can discuss questions or even concerns with the sidux software.

I've found sidux to be excellent software, and the latest release is simply the latest update to one of the best kept secrets around. I recommend any Linux desktop enthusiast to at least try out sidux, especially if you are already fond of Debian based systems. sidux falls neatly into a niche somewhere between easy and flexible. A really leery new user might find it intimidating, but frankly, it is not hard to handle, though it is best suited to those who enjoy a moderate amount of system tinkering. A person with moderate to strong system experience, who wants the latest software, knows how to use systems, but still wants conveniences, is the perfect match and the sweet spot for this software. That's me, and that is why I love sidux. This release is one of their best efforts yet. Check it out soon!

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