intel’s clear linux isn’t for me

I installed a ClearLinux VM guest into VirtualBox on my Mac, and I’ve spent several weeks working with it and trying to get it into something similar to what I already have with CentOS 8 and Ubuntu. Tonight I gave up and deleted the VM.

ClearLinux is a distribution maintained and released by Intel. It’s primary claims to fame is that the entire distribution has been built with every optimization available, and it is built with every up-to-date package that you can find including the Linux kernel. So I tried out the latest ClearLinux because of all the positive buzz.

Installing ClearLinux was straightforward enough, especially if you followed the directions on the ClearLinux website (https://clearlinux.org). After that, trying to configure anything simple (like the host name) on up turned into a nearly impossible trial. All the knowledge I’ve build up over the decades working with Redhat, Suse, Debian, and Ubuntu are pretty much useless when in ClearLinux. Rather than go over every problem, let me just say that nearly everything you think you can do with ClearLinux is either missing, or has been reinvented. It has been a good 25 years since I was this frustrated with a Linux distribution.

Even working with Ubuntu for IoT wasn’t this frustrating, although it sure tried to be.

If anything, ClearLinux shows what can be accomplished performance-wise with optimal builds across the entire software stack. But for regular daily-driver use, I sure can’t use ClearLinux. I have too many other excellent distribution choices that are all reasonably performant.

manjaro linux 18.1 – not ready for virtualization prime time

I read of a new group selling Linux computers, Tuxedo Computers (https://www.tuxedocomputers.com), which is bundling Manjaro Linux with the hardware. All the commentary about Manjaro is laudatory, especially when running on the Tuxedo hardware. So I navigated over to the Manjaro Linux site (https://manjaro.org) and downloaded the latest ISO release, 8.1.

I run a number of Linux systems virtually using Oracle’s VirtualBox on my Mac, all successfully. Before installing a Manjaro guest VM, I updated to the latest VirtualBox, 6.1.2. The update was no problem with my existing VMs, which are a mix of RHEL/CentOS/Oracle Linux 8.1 releases, and various Debian/Ubuntu VMs as well. I was able to update the guest extensions on all of them with no issues whatsoever. Keep that in mind.

Installation of Manjaro was absolutely smooth with no issues. It was attempting to install the guest extensions in the VM where I ran into issues. I tried the regular way of installing them by mounting the extensions CD image and running the installation script. I installed the minimal image, which meant I had to install the kernel header files matching my kernel, gcc, and make. I then ran the installation script and had no failures. On reboot unfortunately the extension that enabled folder sharing of the host’s filesystem failed. The dmesg error indicated a lack of kernel symbols. I then went looking in the Arch Linux forums (Manjaro is based on Arch) and discovered there was an Arch package with those extensions pre-built. Fine. I uninstalled the extensions I installed, then installed using pacman. On reboot the extension still failed to load because the module “taints the kernel”. The message is part of the screen capture at the top of the post.

I won’t put up with this. I would love to run this distribution because its tools are up to the very latest (gcc and Python in particular), and the kernel is the near-latest version 5.4. There’s an awful lot to like about this distribution. But this problem with the VirtualBox kernel modules, especially ones provided via pacman, is a show stopper for me. I need the ability to share files between my VMs and my Mac, or between VMs using the Mac shared folder. That feature works like a charm with every distribution I have except for Arch in general, and this version of Manjaro.

There’s also one other aggravation with Arch/Manjaro I really don’t care for, and that’s the attitude that crops up in the forums, and is exemplified by the comment “that’s not the way we do things in Arch.” Fine. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it all worked without drama, but it doesn’t. And I’ve already had my run-ins with Arch on my Raspberry Pi (3 and 4) systems as well as an attempt in times past to just get an Arch VM running. The Raspberry Pi installations eventually all failed to properly update after a time, and the VM never worked, including the VirtualBox shared filesystem module.

In April Ubuntu 20.04 will be released with the latest kernel and tools, and I’ll step up to that and call it a day. If I need to keep on the bleeding edge, there’s always the non-LTS Ubuntu releases as well, and there are also ways to keep a Debian installation on leading release tools. I don’t need Manjaro and the Arch attitude that comes with being derived from Arch. All the other distros Just Work. In the future when my clients ask what Linux distribution to install and run, Manjaro won’t be one that I recommend.

I might be retired but I still do a bit of consulting.