Episode 148: CentOS Stream

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Welcome to the DLN, have fun here.

I’m feeling depressingly negative today it seems, sigh. Why are Debian and Ubuntu out in the cold? Rolling is nice for those that feel the need for the latest and greatest but that’s not everyone. Some people want/need stable, long term and, dare I say easy?

Besides, I have a couple of Debian Testing installs and that’s “rolling enough” for me, Sid would be “rolling too far”. My main work horse distro is MX Linux, my kit isn’t the “latest & greatest” so it does me nicely. I have installs of ArcoLinux and EndeavourOS for playing with and those roll nicely, with a Manjaro install which I call a “slow roller”.

Horses for courses, distros for use cases.

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What I did realize is that desktop users want the newest and shiniest things all the time. Its just human nature I guess. Having a stable base is nice with Debian and Ubuntu but you can also have the best of both worlds by having the latest and greatest programs via flatpaks/snaps.

A couple of points here that might clarify this. The term stable vs rolling or bleeding edge is a concept that has been forged from rolling distros of the past which would push everything out and do little to no testing. Today, I can argue that many rolling distros have been every bit as stable as non-rolling. openSUSE, Fedora (semi rolling), Manjaro, Endeavour, etc.

Second there is the idea that stable is the only way to go for servers or important machines because of stability. The problem is the server world is changing and data centers are using more cutting edge hardware or upgrading to the award winning Epyc lines for example to save money and improve performance. Because stable distros take 6-12 months to update kernels or release HWE patches they’re unstable or don’t even work with these new processors. So companies want something stable and up to date. Users of Linux coming over are no longer just bringing older machines - they want to switch to Linux with their latest computer and they want it stable. People also don’t want to wait for a new distro to get updates to their favorite apps that came out months ago. Yes Snaps do help some but not all software is available as a Snap or Flatpaks.

As Intel, AMD, ARM, Logitech, Wacom and many other manufacturers release there hardware drivers into the kernel it becomes more necessary to have a stable rolling release. Not everyone needs it but some do. To Noah’s point Debian and Ubuntu don’t have a solution here yet.

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Maybe what Linux needs is a modular kernel, perhaps Andrew Tanenbaum and microkernels would have been a better, more flexible way to go. Security patched, hardware enablement updates, would bea module replacement, would be a discreet package for testing, smaller to deploy.

Sorry rich folks with the latest threadshedders with 128 cores and 512 threads, you’ll just have to wait 6 months for that Ubuntu Update, (18 - 24 months for Debian). Me and my refurbished kit will keep slow-rolling along.

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I do like the idea of a modular kernel. I think it’s important to note that needing the latest hardware isn’t just for “rich folks”, it’s also for those who are running businesses. start-ups, content creators, developers and doing research.

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To me, thems “rich folks”, I’m a retired pensioner, they have a need (or strong want) and they have the money to spend (maybe need to spend so have loans to get it).

I would also add to the discussion that kernel and Mesa updates from rolling releases are more than just improvements to brand new cutting edge technology. Many patches, performance, and security work is being done in the kernels for older hardware as well in the latest kernel releases.

Just this week there was discussion about price per watt performance improvements for Intel to optimize frequency scaling for a range of their CPU’s not just the latest ones. There is security patching hitting the latest kernel that will allow for new lock-down modes on servers to reduce risk of privilege escalation hacks. Enablement for older and inexpensive hardware such as Logitech devices, Wacom tablets, and ARM based devices. This is just in the last kernel updates.

So it is beneficial for everyone.

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The Linux kernel is not really a strict monolithic kernel and hasn’t been for a long time. There are dynamically loadable modules that are a part of the kernel. Mandrake / Mandriva implemented those modules in 2005 or 2006 quite successfully and you will see today that Virtualbox and Nvidia use that as well.

As far as Stable and Rolling… I don’t like that term “stable” as rolling can be stable. I would say “static” and “rolling” to be more precise. Essentially, Tumbleweed is not a true rolling distro, they assemble “static” releases they call “snapshots” that are rolled out at a more frequent cadence. They can do it because of the Open Build Service and their openQA system. Without that tooling, “rolling” in this case would not be practical.

I think the way openSUSE does the Rolling and static releases has a bit of an edge on the CentOS method. Lets say you have a client that you set up with openSUSE Leap, if you want to turn that into a paid service contract SUSE Linux Enterprise, you can do that. There is no need to Nuke and pave, it is quite literally a flip of a switch and you are off to the paid-support races. That switch goes both ways too, btw.

At the same time, I think CentOS Stream is a welcome advancement to the Red Hat portfolio but I think it is not as clean of a system as the SLE / Leap / Tumbleweed offerings. Of course, that is my opinion… and I am really quite biased.

This is why I love Manjaro. It’s been rock solid for me so far, with zero issues, but it’s a rolling distro based on one of the most bleeding edge distros out there. The fact that it’s a month (or slightly more) downstream of Arch main is fine with me, although I wish they’d be a bit quicker with pushing out kernel updates, as 5.3 has been out for a while now and it still hasn’t hit Manjaro Stable…

That is what Fedora is for. The problem I found with that it when I was using it for a while is it was very buggy. Then when I started getting more serious with Linux rather than just playing around with it, I found getting a new version very six months was not doable because those putting out supported tools for it were about three-four version behind, and would not function on the newer versions.

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This is why an LTS kernel with HWE stack is the best overall, at least for my use case. This means something ubuntu or debian based for me.

Sounds like fascinating coverage as it’s inspired discussion of stable/rolling and monolithic/micro-kernel. I’ve been wating to find out more about CentOS Stream too as Michael also mentioned on his show that it wasn’t clear if Stream was replacing the “normal” CentOS or if it’s an alternative.

In any case I’m a long-term user of Debian Stable, though it has to be said as all my hardware is quite old, I’ve never had a problem. Experimenting with Fedora (on a VM on Debian Stable) these days to see how that goes as I do find Debian Unstable rolls a bit too much for my liking!

Can I ask how? My choice of distro is MX so Debian stable based, but for about a year I’ve had installs of Debian Testing (at first Buster and now rolled on to Bullseye) and I can’t remember every having an issue. Or did you mean Sid, I haven’t gone that far myself, I fear it could be rolling downhill out of control, but perhaps that’s a myth, one day I’ll try it.

I don’t mind rolling, ArcoLinux and (the slow roller) Manjaro have given me no problems in the 9 - 10 months (I think) I had them on play partitions, and now EndeavourOS is looking good so rolling seems to work OK, I just don’t need it for my (admittedly limited) use case.

Yes, Debian Unstable (Sid), I’ve found it breaks on me every few months. Usually it’s the desktop breaking in some way; can’t logon except by creating a virtual terminal, panel disappearing, random things like this. I guess it’s not really recommended unless one can tolerate such breakages and knows how to fix them. Personally I prefer a system that just works. As I say I’m experimenting with Fedora 30 in a vm on Debian Stable. I’m finding Fedora updates very, very frequently, including the kernel, and no breakage yet, though I’ve only been trying it for a few weeks and have not tested it extensively by any means.

BTW forget to mention Debian Testing: I’ve never used that because it’s apparently the slowest with security updates and could remain broken for months whereas Sid, although unstable, does get very quick updates, as far as I’m aware.

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I had a quick play with Fedora 30 when it came out, it seemed OK but brought back visions of “RPM Hell” from years back (without it actually occurring) so I moved on. How is Fedora when going from, say, F30 to F31? Is there and upgrade route, or is it a re-install? That’s on thing I like about Debian, although with my MX it may be a re-install, I have doing that down now, having it reuse the /home and scripts to re-install my applications.

I haven’t heard the bit about Debian Testing being slow with security updates, how slow is that slow? It’s not my main distro, that’s MX, so I’m not going to worry too much is it’s just a day, maybe even 2.

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Testing has more up-to-date software than Stable, and it breaks less often than Unstable. But when it breaks, it might take a long time for things to get rectified. Sometimes this could be days and it could be months at times. It also does not have permanent security support.

Source: https://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/debian-faq/choosing.en.html#s3.1

Regarding sid or unstable. Yes, it is a myth. Though I am biased. Debian just does not market it as a rolling release because it is not a release. It is where all the development and packaging is going on and I would rather compare it to something like Fedora Rawhide or Mageia Cauldron but more conservative and not ‘unstable’ but moving constantly until the ‘freeze’. Debian usually only incorporates official upstream releases of software, no beta, alpha or testing packages.

If you follow the bug reports and install apt-listbugs you are good to go. I was using Debian sid for 5 years.
The problem is Arch, Tumbleweed and Manjaro are en vogue right now and people find those distros way cooler.

And for all of you that use Testing, I actually recommend sid instead. There is no big difference.
Your mileage may vary.

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I’m quite interested in trying Arch “the Arch way” though with all the hype around Manjaro I did give it a spin and found it wouldn’t even update from repos after install, all sorts of weirdness resulting in uninstall after couple of days. Maybe it wasn’t Manjaro, maybe it was Virtualbox which it was running on as a guest. Anyone, very poor first impression. Also Arch and Fedora seem to have far fewer packages supported than Debian which is another reason it’s unlikely I’ll switch any time soon. One can always build from source, but it won’t be until my systems admin skills have improved significantly that I consider switching from Debian Stable, I’m guessing.

I never trust a VM, it is just not the same as bare metal. Try it again, I think Manjaro and EndeavourOS are good candidates. There is no need for the ‘Arch way’. :wink:

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