Migrated my workstation this weekend from Ubuntu 16.04LTS to 20.04LTS (by way of 18.04LTS), and I don’t like it.
A lot can happen in 5 years, and much of the software I’ve come to rely on in my daily flow is no longer around. Stuff that I’ve learned, used, integrated, trust, put all my eggs in that one basket…it can be dropped from a later distribution with no notice. That’s my beef with release-based distributions like Ubuntu: when they freeze the source tree and elect the packages to publish, and pony up the labor to maintain security and bugfixes for the duration of the release support period, then you are locked in. That’s great if what you use is carried forward to the next point release.
But if you’re me, and you wait for 5 years before upgrading, you get nasty surprises.
Here’s what I’ve lost this weekend:
Banshee — I used Banshee exclusively to play, and more importantly, to manage, my music collection. It’s gone. This project was apparently abandoned by its devs in 2016, and the GNOME project saw fit to drop it from later releases in lieu of Rhythmbox. I used Rhythmbox years ago and remember hating it, which is why I loved Banshee. Well, now I’m back on my shit.
Tomboy Notes — This isn’t mission-critical, but goddamn, it was hella useful. I use it to stash miscellaneous scripting snippets and item notes, and for a long while used it as the canonical source of info for my home network (which I’ve now moved to a spreadsheet). It’s useful, but now gone. The project is dead enough that the packagers dropped it. Apparently there’s a new project called Tomboy-NG (Next Generation) which addresses some of the modernization concerns. I’ll have to look.
SleepyHead — I really, really bemoan the loss of this. I’ve been using this for the past 9-ish years to track and maintain the history of my CPAP usage (yeah, I have apnea; deal). I could go through and see when I’ve been having sleep issues, see how bad they are, etc. I could even look through the history and see when the weekends are, or when I was on shift rotation at my datacenter job, or what my natural sleep window is when I’m unemployed or on vacation. So, the issue here is that the lead developer, “Jedimark”, was under fire by some apnea group because he couldn’t address their bugfixes and feature requests fast enough. Apparently, they lent some devs to the project, nerves got frayed, and instead of working with him, they just forked his code repo, renamed the project, and shut him out of the picture. He has since shutdown his project, which is a shame. Looks like I’ll have no choice but to go with their stolen codebase just to keep these years of my own records alive.
Geany Markdown plugin — no biggie, but for some reason this package isn’t even in apt repos. I recently got interested in Markdown for documentation (GitHub and BitBucket support MD in readme files). Now that I have no live editor, I’ll have to figure something else out.
Aside from the lost packages, I’ve run into a stack of issues getting Chirp, Signal, Owncloud Client, Google Chrome, and most importantly Zoneminder, up and running with new PPA repos and versions. I’ll be working through those for a while.
I’m getting the feeling that the peace-and-love gold rush of people volunteering to write free-and-open-source software has gone. We got people who started and maintained many of these great projects putting them away or passing them down when life and real jobs and families and exhaustion take over. We have people leaving the beneficence of FOSS by turns because of the zero-sum returns many of them get. Seems FOSS is used as an incubator of tech and ideas which is then slurped up by big tech and squashed or taken offline into proprietary systems.
And I have to ask, as a corporate developer myself, if this is the inevitable future, where we develop only for personal benefit as long as someone directly pays us, or if we can still find enough fuel in our tanks at the end of the day to drive these passion projects for the benefit of people we may never meet. It’s one thing to write small, useful apps and put them out (which I’ve done), but it’s another to remotely manage a team that produces things like browsers or music players that do many, many things, well beyond the scope of one guy in a home office.
So 20.04LTS, eh. Yeah. Eh. I mean, the Unity interface wasn’t all that great, but I knew how it worked, and now I have to relearn with Gnome3 UI. It’s the small things, like quickly glancing at the clock, or quickly adjusting volume because some video is too loud, or finding the Apps menu (or, importantly, having to hack it to make alt-tab work again). The little things. But they add up.
And when I compare those to the big things stated above, it’s nothing.
It’s an adjustment period. It’s disruptive and painful and joyless and angering and all those things. And it’s exactly why I’m the kind of nerd who doesn’t court disaster until he is forced to do so. 16.04LTS support ends this month, and I was under the gun to upgrade. Hmph. Painful lessons. Hmph.