I'm essentially looking for a bit of distro advice. This is likely to be long-winded, I apologise for that. And I do hope this sort of question isn't unwelcome here.
And I'm being a bit Goldilocks about it. I've been using Linux off and on (more off than on) for years. I've always wanted to make the switch (for 'values' reasons rather than pragmatic ones) but I have, in the past, been weak. I've given up when it got tough.
This past year I've been a bit more successful, partly due to being a bit more resolved about and partly (predominantly, probably) because it's much easier now. Desktop stuff is far better than it was a few years ago.
So I've been distro-hopping, but I want conflicting things:
1. Well stocked repos and an easy to use, fully featured package system
2. ... which have the latest stuff in them
3. Something robust enough that it's not going to break every five minutes
4. But not so pre-built that I felt like I had no involvement - I want to learn, I want it to challenge me
5. Ideally rolling release. This just makes so much sense
I started off with Mint and also LMDE, as I've always liked that in the past. But it feels a bit too windowsy and a bit too sort of... packaged. I didn't feel like I could really mess around with it. There's something about the Mint approach which I can't really identify which puts me off.
I also stumbled into Gnome Shell somewhere around this point, which I love. So that became a must-have.
I've always been fond of Debian so I gave that a pop. It's much easier to install than it used to be, almost too easy (in that I didn't feel like I was learning anything). Getting Gnome Shell on Debian was... interesting. It was only in the experimental repos which... left everything very messy (general bugginess and I was wary of running a hybrid of testing and experimental).
I tried Ubuntu somewhere along the line. I've tried pretty much every release of Ubuntu over the years. It's ... ok. I dunno, like Mint there's something about it which bothers me. I can cope with Unity, so long as I can install others. It just feels a bit like it's trying to do too much at once and not doing any of it particularly well. Seems unfocussed. I love what it's done for Linux, the role it's had in raising Linux's profile on the desktop and so on but... I don't enjoy using it.
I've never got on well (though this is based on experiences 5+ years ago) with RPM based distros but people kept praising Fedora, so I installed that. And... it's really quite lovely. Seems to be very nicely put together, Gnome Shell as default (and very easy to install other WMs too - I like having a poke around). Just very solid and polished. I never thought I'd find something as good as apt but yum seems to rival it these days (if you ignore speed).
So I actually made the switch. I've been running Fedora for weeks on end, only booting to windows for games I can't get running in Wine (I do love PC games (which means being able to install proprietary drivers in a way I can comprehend is essential too)).
But, and here's where I get all Goldilocks about it, it's a bit too
well put together. I'm not really learning anything. I mean I am, I made a little bash script which reads websites using espeak while I play games, which made me very proud of myself. But there's so much *stuff*
on there and I have no idea what a lot of it is or what it does. I'm not learning anything about how this all works.
So the obvious choice seems to be Arch. But... I feel like I'm missing an intermediary step. I don't really know enough to make informed choices as to what I need and what I don't need, I'm not that knowledgeable. Arch sounds ideal in terms of: I would certainly learn about how this all works and my system would feel like it was really mine
- everything on there was put there by me for a reason, which is appealing. But then I don't want simple things to be unnecessarily hard. When I want to just get something done rather than learn how everything works, then I want it to be easy.
I realise I could go spend a couple of weeks reading and learning what I need to know but... I learn much better by doing/fiddling. I tend to forget what I read five minutes ago, whereas if I go through the process myself I understand it better and remember it.
So.. what's the next step? What's the bridge between distros which do it all for you and distros built around enabling you to do it yourself? (while retaining well stocked up to date repos)
So yes. If I just wanted to use this thing I'd stick with Fedora, because it really is lovely. But I want to learn and fiddle and break things and fix them too. But not something which difficult for the sake of being difficult, that would be silly. When I do
have it set up I want something which is easier to use both intrinsically and also because I understand it better and tailored it. i.e. I don't want to get to a working desktop and then have to read for three days to figure out how to get, say, Wine on there.
So yes, sorry about the length of this. I realise, as I say, that I want contradictory things to an extent. And I hope I've explained myself well enough. I'm just looking for advice - maybe it is time to take the plunge with Arch and someone knows of a really good noob-guide, maybe there's another distro I'd not considered - that sort of thing (I should probably list what I have considered and dismissed to save wasting your time. Though feel free to make a case for any of those too
And yes, I'm sorry if it's rude to come here and ask for so much and bombard you with so much text in my first post!
Ok so big list of stuff I've tried/considerd:
Debian: love it bit it's so old (naturally, that's its schtick)
Ubuntu/Mint/etc.: Great for newcomers and probably also great if you're already knowledgeable enough to know what to remove.
Fedora: Amazingly polished, easy, boring.
Suse: Tried it years ago and detested it. Also the MS thing makes it a 'no'.
Mand<s>ake</s>iva: Tried it years ago and hated it slightly less than SUSE.
Slack: Used it off an on over the years. Very customisable. Respect what it's doing but it never grabbed me.
Gentoo: I can't be arsed waiting for things to compile. I am an impatient gentleman. Also people seem to use this primarily so that they can brag that they use it, I'm not into that (I'm 100% sure this doesn't apply to any Gentoo users here
, I've clearly just met the few annoying ones)
Sabayon: Preconfigured Gentoo, not sure how much I'd learn. Also I don't like the logo and that matters a lot of course.
I think that covers most of the prominent not-based-on-ubuntu ones.
Wow this got long. I'm saying sorry again: sorry.
(why's my HTML off, it's on in settings? Oh well)