Aptosid & Siduction
Someone asked in a comment how Aptosid has been running in the long term, so I thought I would provide a quick update on my experiences, and also introduce the new Siduction distro.
For those who haven’t followed the whole story… After discovering early last year that Arch Linux had no package signing, and after speaking with their lead developers and discovering they had very questionable attitudes and practices toward security in general, I moved from Arch to Aptosid as my main distro. Since then, Arch has added package signing. While I’m glad to see they’re making efforts in this area, I still view Arch with a wary eye regarding security, mainly because of the attitudes I encountered. Good overall distro security (not just package signing) is hard work, and if they don’t take it seriously, it won’t be done well. But I have not followed Arch’s more recent work or discussions, so I can’t comment on the current state of affairs there. I find it hard to believe they’ve corrected all the issues in their development process, but I’m glad they’re taking security more seriously. In many ways Arch is a great distro, so I hope they continue to improve in this area.
I’ve been using Aptosid for about one year. Aptosid is a rolling release distro – basically Debian sid with optimizations, fixes and support. As with Arch, one can update the system several times a day to get the very latest upstream versions of software, sometimes including breakage.
Before I comment on the results, it’s important to know what I use in general, since this can impact performance. I like a lightweight, very responsive system, so I run plain Openbox as my WM, with mostly independent GTK apps. I tend to avoid apps which are tied to particular DEs, such as Gnome VFS dependent apps. Some of my favorite apps include Geany (text editor/IDE), Claws-Mail, Firefox, LibReOffice, gFTP, Deluge, Mplayer, VLC, Asunder, Brasero, Geeqie (image viewer), Gimp, Evince (PDF viewer), Roxterm, LXPanel, and of course SpaceFM (file manager). I highly recommend these apps – most are ‘old school’ Linux with good attention to quality and rare breakage.
Unfortunately, on one system I require NVidia’s proprietary driver as my video card features are not fully supported by nouveau. And I have a Brother laser printer that requires Brother’s binary blob. I also run the non-free Flash plugin so I can view the entire web. I boost security a bit by running Firefox/Flash in a Sandfox sandbox.
For the most part, Aptosid has been running great, which says a lot for their development process. You don’t get this kind of reliability in a rolling release by accident. It’s also a pleasure to use because I have access to the Debian unstable repos, which contain just about everything I use. Part of my success with Aptosid is due to the apps I’ve chosen – they are well-developed and maintained. So even using their latest releases there is rarely breakage. In fact I can’t remember ANY.
Where I did run into trouble was with Aptosid’s NVidia support. The Aptosid devs don’t like non-free components, and I wonder if their support in this area is somewhat below par. But it could also be that NVidia decided to start breaking just when I moved to Aptosid, as the bugs involved were their fault as far as I could tell, and Xorg was going through some growing pains at the time. I don’t expect Aptosid to fix NVidia’s bugs, but they could do a better job advising users how to deal with the breakage, and being less hostile toward the use of non-free components. As a result of my NVidia issues, I occassionally couldn’t do a full update for several months at a time. I instead updated a few apps and components. Eventually the problems were resolved upstream, or in one case I needed to update my Xorg config to work around a change.
Despite the fact that I run a rolling release, I do not usually need the latest and greatest, so this wasn’t too inconvenient. By comparison, I had more routine breakage running Arch, but it wasn’t as long-term. And I had FAR more issues back when I used Ubuntu supposedly-stable (but with KDE involved).
I have also installed Aptosid on a number of laptops, such as the Asus A53E-XN1. In general I’ve had very good experiences with Aptosid in this area.
I have not had to reinstall Aptosid at all, though by comparing it with newer installations, I’m not convinced they’re the same. The packages are updated, but some of the system’s configuration may grow out of date. I haven’t had any problems with this, but after a year I’m wondering if a fresh installation would prove valuable.
My method toward rolling releases makes a difference too. Before every update (which in Aptosid is an apt-get dist-upgrade), I make a backup of the entire system partition (using Partimage or FSArchiver, as detailed here, and also automated in SpaceFM’s Device Manager). If any serious breakage occurs, I roll the entire partition back to its pre-update state. I then wait for a fix or sometimes participate on the forum. This makes updating about a 20 minute process and requires a reboot, but it is well worth the time. As a result, I don’t update all that frequently – usually every few weeks – but given the apps I use this isn’t a problem. (Aptosid recommends updating more frequently, and at least every 2-3 months, but I and others have gone longer without problems.)
So rolling release doesn’t have to be an unstable experience, and my system runs great. In some tests Aptosid has been clocked slightly faster than Arch, or vice versa, but they are very close in performance. I find Aptosid’s/Debian’s packages are more carefully put together, especially where security is concerned, but overall system maintainance is comparable in terms of time required fussing with it (minimal), if different in terms of the methods used. I think I slightly prefer Arch’s maintenance methods, but I prefer the work that goes into Aptosid’s (Debian’s) packages and their comprehensive approach to security.
In late 2011, some of the current and former developers of Aptosid broke away and started a fork called ‘Siduction’. Their reasons include creating a more user-friendly experience, and better support of non-free components. As user Kelmo describes:
The technical differences between the two are to the best of my knowledge untold so far – mostly conceptual/behavioural differences separate them at this time. The people behind “siduction” have a strong difference of opinion about the way the people behind “aptosid” conduct themselves in developing and supporting a FOSS distribution, so they decided to copy everything to somewhere else and started moving on with whatever it is that they want to change. link
It’s worth noting that the conduct on Aptosid’s forums leaves a bit to be desired. It is not the friendliest of forums, in part because of the developers and admins. I don’t think they mean to be as rude as they are, but their impatience and attitudes do offend some users. I think they’re working on it – I’ve seen some improvement lately. But I think Siduction is in part a response to this problem. On the positive side, Aptosid’s devs do participate on the forum, so often there is expert advice there.
Siduction is a creation of developer ‘fickleplatz’ and others who were major contributors to Aptosid. Some of Siduction’s web pages are in German, which makes it a bit difficult. Hopefully this fork will grow into another solid choice.