December 17, 2016

Begin with Arch and add desired packages: any real benefits over existing distro?


I've spent about a year or so with Fedora and Gnome. My view has changed from being initially very impressed with the "out of the box" usability and seeming 'eye-candy' of it all to now becoming increasingly frustrated by what I see as avoidable issues caused by daily updates - many of which I see as simply bug fixes. What I'm looking for is stability and performance (aren't we all?).

I'm running five/six year old hardware but good for its time: quad core i7 2.6; 12gB DDR3; Asus mainboard; Nvidia GTX580. I've just added a Samsung EVO 850 SSD. I gather Linux is good with resources.

My main uses are entertainment and photo editing. But I'm becoming disillusioned with ongoing lack of full support for things like my graphics card. I don't claim to understand any of the issues underlying subjects such as session manager,s screen controller, compositing etc. but it seems nuts that in 2016, nobody has yet found a way to both support my graphics card properly, AND allow my video settings to be stored and loaded on boot. So playing DVDs can still be a slightly hit and miss affair, with occasional flicker, blocking, stutter. Surely this shouldn't happen even with this slightly older hardware? The various branches of DE's seem to have grown more out of philosophical or personal disputes than purely practial/programming issues, yet it's the end-user who lives with the results of those conversations.

So I'm thinking of starting with Arch Linux and then adding just the packages I need e.g. VLC, GIMP and a browser. That's pretty much it!

It's not at all clear from reading all the reviews etc. just what I might gain. For example, if I just get away from Gnome/GTK altogether and use KDE, could this bring any benefits or advantages in terms of better graphics integration and performance? I've no idea of the merits of Qt5 versus GTK. Are all distro's/DE's quirky in their own way and we simply end up having to decide which problems we'd prefer to deal with? Another example is in multimedia support. The ArchWiki says that "upstream prefers" phonon-vlc, as gstreamer was used by many as a way to deal with "patent encumbrance" even though the Mp3 patent restriction has just recently expired. But then a google search returns plenty of results about problems using phonon-vlc in KDE.

My question is to help me decide whether there is any genuine merit in spending the time and effort to learn through installing Arch and reading all the relevant docs, or whether I've simply become a 'geek' and am worrying about details that will finally have no real practical difference in terms of everyday use. It's not as if my current install is unusable (F25). It's largely very good, but I DETEST it keep breaking for seemingly silly, trivial reasons.

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