The Search for a Sustainable Operating System – Part 1 – Updates vs. Stability vs. Virtualisation
After using Arch Linux and Manjaro Linux for years I just figured out, that I download a lot of software only to update my system. It was really a lot, like 2 GB within a short time. That's just too much!
Every bit that gets transferred over the internet is using a lot of energy and produces CO2 emissions. The bigger the files, the bigger the environmental impact.
So if you always want to get the fancy new stuff for your software, you have to do a lot of updates and download them frequently.
Another problem with having always the newest stuff is, you will have the newest bugs and problems, too. I broke my system several times after updating it and I have been at a point where I don't wanted to update it anymore, because I had to do backups and complete all urgent tasks before updating the system, which is just ridiculous. Not updating your system for several months could lead into security issues. So I even stopped online banking (on this system), because you should never use it on an old system (Seriously! Update your system and get newest security updates before doing something sensible).
The solution would be to get a stable Linux distribution, like Debian Stable. I've never used it as my daily os, but in a virtual machine and I figured out pretty fast, that I need a “workaround” for some exceptions, because there is software I use, which must be the newest, like Signal-Desktop to communicate with friends or the newest Kdenlive to edit my videos.
What did I end up with?
Currently I am using MX Linux 19 and if you ask me why 19 and not 21, I just have to say “I don't know!”. The upgrade process must be something different than using
sudo apt get update && sudo apt upgrade. Maybe I do too much distro hopping and just don't have the knowledge of how to upgrade main versions (Please let me know if you know it).
But anyway... MX Linux is based on Debian and it is really stable. If you want to have fancy new stuff, which isn't in the
mx-packageinstaller, you have to “beg” for it in the forum so a developer can put it in the mx repository. I don't know the exact process, if they check if it contains harmful code or if they just copy Ubuntus repos. It's just a black box to me. But after asking, the package will be added (after days or weeks) and they might be even up-to-date. But sometimes they are not up-to-date and another workaround is needed, because it is just a lot of effort.
Yes, it's Flatpak with the package browser Flathub. I have a stable (and old) system on which pretty new software is running and it works. I just have to put
flatpak update into my terminal and everything gets updates. My problem with it is, that it brings the old huge-updates-problem back, because Flatpak is a virtualisation software, which is called a sandbox (even if it isn't), which is like it's own operating system on top of the main system. It brings advantages, but disadvantages, too. The biggest disadvantage is the huge package size and updates. This time an update doesn't kill my whole system, but it is still not sustainable if I have to download whole operating systems to be up-to-date for a few programs I use.
So I end up to pollute a stable system with virtualisation, which uses a lot of energy to run and brings back the huge-update-problem, which rolling-release distributions have.
At this point I don't know any other solution, which can satisfy my simple 2 requirement:
- Have a stable and secure system
- Have the newest/fanciest updates for a few applications
[UPDATE] I've started discussions on Mastodon and Reddit
Because a lot of people reacted to this blog article on Mastodon to post their opinions and recommendations, I read a lot of names of Linux distributions, I've never heard and I started discussions on their subreddits to get more information about if they are sustainable or not. Here are the names of the most interesting Linux distributions: