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Using a Computer or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Suck

After I stopped being able to use OpenBSD, a couple of things became abundantly clear:

  1. GNU/Linux sucks
  2. Everything else sucks more

These two unfortunate truths led to a fair amount of distro hopping. This forced me to change my workflow quite substantially.

When you reinstall your entire operating system every other week, state becomes something extremely transient. You start to look at all the configuration files on your system as completely temporary. You stop caring about minimalism as in “I can do whatever I want with it,” and start caring about minimalism as in “I can’t do whatever I want with it.”

The paradox of choice is simple: when people are faced with a lot of choices, they tend to be less satisfied with whatever they choose. The solution, therefore, is to eliminate choice. That’s why I started using Silverblue.

In Red Hat-aligned GNU/Linux as a whole, there is a very clearly supported workflow. GNOME in particular is highly opinionated. That’s a good thing. When a system is opinionated, you don’t need to be bogged down by choice. You don’t need to pick a theme, and GNOME tries to get in the way of you if you want to. GNOME goes out of its way to restrict your choices, which is something that takes a lot of courage, especially with the sort of people that GNU/Linux users tend to be. Themes become even more of a non-issue when you start using Silverblue. Flatpak basically doesn’t support changing the GTK theme to anything other than a few of the most popular themes, so if you use Silverblue as intended, nearly none of your applications will change themes even if you do install GNOME Tweaks. Not that there’s a Flatpak for it.

Opinionated systems are simply always the best. If whatever you’re using isn’t opinionated, it means that they’ll try to support everything. In terms of UX and UI—but certainly not in terms of code—GNOME is extremely minimal. Many GNOME applications don’t even have preferences, and the ones that do only have a few toggles.

Because they are opinionated, GNOME can give you an integrated system. Because they are opinionated, Fedora can give you an integrated system. Because they are not opinionated, other GNU/Linux distros like Debian or Ubuntu simply cannot. They’re subject to the whims of their users, and so they’ll end up bringing stuff in that doesn’t have to be there. They’ll end up wasting resources on things that don’t matter.

OpenBSD is also opinionated. They ship an entire system, and I never realized how important that was until now.

I’m not sure if Silverblue is the final solution to the distro hopping question. But I’ve stuck with it for longer than I have any distro other than Artix, and I’ve never had less buyer’s remorse. And now, when I set up a new machine, the amount of configuration is basically nil. A massive win for my time and my sanity.