Monday, 24 September 2012
CrunchBang 'Waldorf' R20120806 - What a Shame
Several updates later the big one to KDE 4.8.5 came along and hosed the system. Crashes all over the place, the entire desktop crashing, coming back up, logging me out, me logging back in, in a loop. Judging by comments on Distrowatch Weekly and elsewhere I'm not the only one. I recently read that the best one can do is to not significantly update a release as it had all been tested against each other and was stable at that moment in time. There's something to be said for that philosophy, although it's obviously not valid for Fedora, Ubuntu, Sabayon and other distributions that get released with bugs in full knowledge and with the stance that they'll be ironed out later with an update down the line. It would also defeat the purpose of rolling distributions but it's a good point to bear in mind. Don't update to the latest just because it's there, you don't have to.
After this rather lengthy introduction, I chose CrunchBang, the 32-bit edition, to get back to the point where things just work, simply and reliably. What can go wrong with Openbox vs. the beautiful but overly complicated KDE framework?
As it turns out, a lot. After checking md5 sum I inserted #! as it is affectionately called into the CD drive of that ageing Acer Aspire 5551. Booting up I noticed some disturbing messages like 'module unix not found' but hey, maybe nothing to worry about, that's how it is sometimes with unsquashing live file systems. A bit more concerning was the message that the brcm firmware could not be found and this one is definitely needed. Hmm, thought CB came with all the required firmwares and codecs. It's one of it's many selling points and a good way to get Debian installed.
Once in the live session, the entire desktop became unresponsive within seconds. My network connection, unsurprisingly, was not on, and even with the firmware included I couldn't have entered the password. The cursor was still movable, but nothing responded. If you're really quick after the loading sequence you get to open the Openbox menu with right-clicking on the background, and that's where it will stay, no hope starting an application. I gave it 4-5 times to be sure and then gave up. Perhaps CB needs to be installed.
The installer is I think derived from the graphical Debian installer these guys came up with several years ago, apparently it's better than the old blue/red themed ncurses one I grew so comfortable with.
After you set your keyboard and language it loads whatever is needed to proceed with the install and detect your hardware, and this is where it all came to a grinding halt. Detect disks simply did not detect any.
To be sure it wasn't just unfortunate hardware or a strange partitioning scheme I tried the same on this Dell Latitude E4300 and got the exactly same results.
Maybe I just haven't been lucky with Debian. Ever since moving from desktops to mobile computing Debian has thrown a tantrum and refused to work in one way or another. Or perhaps it's a generational change. Up to 'Lenny' all was well.
The current CrunchBang 'Waldorf' images are based on Debian Testing and that might explain some things, but if you release an iso it should at least work to the point where it can be installed and users can troubleshoot it if so inclined. Whatever is behind it, you can skip this release and save yourself from burning more coasters.
In the meantime I keep going back to distributions that work best for me, which are Slackware and RHEL/Scientific Linux.
Addendum: This post barely went up and already there's an update to CrunchBang 11 dated 20120924 available. It seems the installer was affected by this upstream bug. Get it from the main site or view the announcement on Distrowatch.com with direct download link here.
Thanks for the comments and to Philip Newborough for so quickly releasing updated images (I'm sure the timing is pure coincidence and depended on the installer to be reworked, but anyway). I'll be trying the new iso and also 'Statler' when I'm back home with a stable connection, and try and upgrade from there to see how that fares.
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