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Safety and usability on Tumbleweed

Safety and usability on Tumbleweed⚓︎

There are two "don't-s" to keep in mind when using Tumbleweed:

  • don't use the "1-click installers" available from https://software.opensuse.org
  • don't install from Open Build Service home: repositories

Apart from that finding the sweet spot between safety and usability mostly depends on your preferences and your use-case.

Finding where you fit and moving from there⚓︎

Linux distributions try to strike a balance between the time and effort expected from two groups:

  • maintainers and developers, whose main goal is to produce the operating system(s) of the distribution with reproducible and streamlined processes;
  • end-users, whose main goal is to keep their running installation productive and healthy without too much hassle.

Moreover individuals have different priorities, preferences and degrees of curiosity. For Tumbleweed this means different possible answers to the question: "How should I maintain my running system productive and healthy?".

On one end there might be users who want to make the least possible effort to keep their system productive and healthy, or are not deeply interested in learning how it works. On the other end there might be users willing to sacrifice a lot of time and effort for tinkering and learning -- and hopefully in the long run, contributing to openSUSE.

The lazy way⚓︎

This is a workflow where the user minimizes the need for manual interventions on their running installation. The way is fine for most users who:

  • don't want to spend time configuring their system; or
  • don't want to take any risk associated with maintenance routines.

Here are some rules of thumb for following this approach:

User application

When installing user applications, favour containerized versions (ideally flatpaks, see here). Use software from the official repositories only when no containerized version is available.

System dependencies

Do not manually install important system libraries or codecs directly from zypper or YaST2. Instead prefer flatpaks or at least software that ship with their own static libraries and codecs (certain web browsers do). When you don't have the choice you can use .rpm from the official repositories but in this case, install them from opi to simplify maintenance.

Update pace and method

When updating, aim for least every other week or about twice a month. More or less frequently might create issues. Use sudo zypper dup, plus if that applies to you, flatpak update (see this systemd unit for automatic daily flatpak updates). Never update with gnome-software (GNOME) or discover (KDE Plasma), as they create unnecessary risks for your system.

Crucially fresh software with a set workflow

If you need fresh updates for essential parts of your toolchain (typically when working with a programming language stack), always favour the language's official, remote installer.

Kernels

If you don't need to always be running the latest kernel (and that's likely your case), use the multiversion zypp setting described here.

Start lazy, get busy!⚓︎

We encourage users to deviate -- little by little, as they build skills and self-confidence -- from the "lazy way" described above.

Doing so means that users will be more often using packages from the official repositories and get familiar with the typical openSUSE tools (such as Zypper, Snapper and YaST) and configuration scenarios. In the long run this will strengthen their understanding of Linux and of the openSUSE distributions, while improving their ability to troubleshoot with autonomy.

At scale the openSUSE Project benefits more from users in position to report bugs, provide feedback and make direct contributions.

openSUSE MicroOS as desktop workstation⚓︎

Although it is not recommended for new users, it is possible to use MicroOS on a desktop computer, taking advantage of transactional updates. Consider our guide to get started.

MicroOS might appeal to advanced users familiar with the command line and willing to configure the system in a fine-grained manner. The tradeoff of this extra bit of learning at start means that users get a tailor-fit system requiring little to no maintenance. This latter advantage makes the system especially suited for friends and relatives with little to no experience of Linux or openSUSE, provided the configuration is done by someone knowledgeable.

The reader might also be interested in the MicroOS documentation for the official documentation about this use case.


Last update: 2022-05-25