Life with Buster

Well I rushed to get Buster on most of my computers yesterday and this was mostly straightforward. The exception being of course mainpc which ran out of disk space while running the apt upgrade command due to the number of new packages downloaded and installed. There can be literally thousands of packages needed for an upgrade depending on what is installed in your system (of course), in this case about 1500. So there was not enough space on a 12 GB system partition for that. There was no issue with the /tmp partition being full; the space needed was on /. That would have been compounded with running apt dist-upgrade which installs about 800 more packages.

Since a half updated system would end up with potentially a lot of problems, I chose at that point to reinstall mainpc from scratch with the Buster alpha5 netinst installer on a pen drive. Balena Etcher has been a bit flaky on KDE, having issues with the privilege escalation dialog, but the latest version worked just fine on serverpc, and I soon had the installer running. I chose at that point to repartition the SSD and give mainpc more space for the root partition (back to 24 GB) while also maintaining the 8 GB /tmp partition, the 100 MB /mnt partition, and the rest (88 GB) for a smaller swap partition. Of course I hope sooner rather than later to have a second SSD in the system to make a really big swap partition.  Right now I am writing this on mainpc after having done the usual stuff to bring it up, with as per usual /home on the RAID array being unaffected by the reinstall and therefore instantly restorable to get everything back to where it was before, with the added advantage that Firefox Developer and Thunderbird don’t need to be reinstalled. Naturally I do have to reinstall a lot of other stuff but that will just happen over the coming week or so. Qgis is getting reinstalled at version 3.6 which requires Buster.
Some other good or useful things about buster so far: Buster makes hibernation work on mediapc which is a huge advantage for me in being able to come back to where I previously was on these computers. The key issue for hibernation of course is that you aren’t going to be able to hibernate easily with a very large swap file in use because it will take a long time and there may not be room on the swap partition for the hibernation file. So hibernating with Gimp open with a large file being edited isn’t really a goer, if I was hibernating serverpc. I think hibernation will be more useful if I have one of the computers whether serverpc or mediapc with stuff open like Google Earth, script windows and images or diagrams I am using as source. With maps you can end up with a lot of source documents you are looking at and up to now mainpc has been displaying all of these because of being the only computer that supports hibernating but now I can use other pcs to display these.
Another thing is that LXQt running on pc4 has all these HDMI sound options available, and while I don’t use HDMI for sound on that computer, it does bring forth the possibility of being able to use HDMI sound on the NUC and therefore eliminate the audio switch box and the TV will automatically switch the sound input – I am still thinking through this one, but it looks like it’s worth pursuing.
KDE is updated to the latest version (Plasma 5.8) on Buster which is supposedly optimised for better resource efficiency. Keeping pc4 on LXQt is more to do with things like MTP working better without KDE (KDE has its own attempt to implement MTP which was buggy on stretch). It may be that this is resolved in KDE on Buster but I am not going to look into it just yet. Since pc4 has plenty of RAM, running KDE on it wouldn’t really be an issue. LXQt is offered as an install option for Buster (alongside LXDE and the other usual options) so it can be installed when setting up a system from scratch. So far my experiences of LXQt on Buster are very good (as I noted yesterday it is improved from the version on Stretch) and I expect this computer will be easy to use. There has been one issue with not being able to reassign the second display to be the primary, which I resolved by changing the cables between displays.
Right now I have held back serverpc from upgrading because of an issue with Qgis that has shown up and I will need to keep using Qgis on stretch for a while on serverpc until the Qgis people fix the problem with their software. I still want serverpc to have buster on it as soon as it can happen because being able to hibernate serverpc would be a great blessing to the maps project (see above). As it is, I will have to use mediapc with its ability to hibernate to do as much of the stuff that can be useful to be saved across sessions and setting up the desk so that I can reach the mouse of mediapc more easily is underway over the next few days.

So that’s it for now. As I noted yesterday, the release of Buster is still a few months away and officially it is “alpha5” at the moment. Some of the earlier alphas had problems, but with hard freeze just a few days away, and good experiences to date, this alpha is clearly stable enough. We can be fairly confident in bringing up Buster for use as soon as it is released because debian is famous for the stability of their releases.