Linux has now been my primary desktop operating system for the better part of the last decade. Originally I had used openSUSE but found myself migrating to Debian for a number of reasons. I recently jumped back over to openSUSE, and have been impressed once again with the overall quality of the entire distribution.

I was originally attrached to openSUSE due to their truly innovative work in packaging Linux. They championed reiserfs, xfs, and later btrfs. From my understanding, they shipped the first production “delta RPMs” to users. Most of all openSUSE packaged numerous desktop environments well and emphasized user choice and flexibility, at a time when Ubuntu was chasing the One True User Experience, attempting to emulate the Mac OS X playbook.

When I left for Debian, openSUSE was at a bit of a cross-roads. The openSUSE Tumbleweed project had just started to get focus, but overall the entire distribution felt trapped between two extremes: old packages and high quality, or new packages and low quality. Over time, I also became rather frustrated that newer tools were never packaged for openSUSE, but almost always provided for Red Hat and Debian users.

I started to feel the itch again after successive upgrades of Debian on my primary laptop. That old problem of new packages with low quality or old packages with high quality was creeping into my day-to-day more and more. Reflecting upon much of the software I was using, I realized that much of it wasn’t actually packaged for Debian, but relied on the comedy trio of curl, pipe, and bash.

The catalyst for my return was an infrastructure issue in the Jenkins project, wherein I needed to re-familiarize myself with the openSUSE Build Service. An installation of Open Build Service (OBS), yet another openSUSE innovation, OBS allows for users and developers to easily create packages for a myriad of operating systems. I have long had an account in OBS, but had not really taken advantage of it. Looking at a smattering of unpackaged garbage strewn across the file system, and then considering this excellent tool for packaging applications for Linux, I had found a solution to (some) of my woes. One afternoon of playing around with packaging sway (packages here), I was sold: back to openSUSE.

OBS is what drew me back in, but I have noticed that openSUSE Tumbleweed is far more stable and mature than it once was, providing much newer packages with good quality. I am not sure what other tunables openSUSE ships with, but I have noticed a dramatic reduction in resident memory usage, running similar workloads to what I had previously under Debian. Finally, everything I was using previously is packaged now, which makes me feel much better about the state of the system. Signal, Sway, Docker, and everything else already provided by most systems is coming through easily managed and upgraded packages. The only things I’ve curl-bashed have been RVM and Rust, but I have no expectations that RVM or Rust nightly would fit into any sane packaging scheme.

I recommend trying out openSUSE, for me it strikes the balance between stability of a curated system and providing power users flexibility, with minimal sacrifices in either direction.

What can I say, a tidy system brings me joy.