Today I went on a mission to find a distro to use on my Lenovo Ideapad 3 Gaming laptop. I've had Fedora 38 running on it but when I wanted to actually use the Nvidia card instead of the Intel XE built IGP everything went to shit.
To explain better what my setup is, I have an external 32", 4K monitor that I connect to the laptop via a HDMI cable. Everything works wonderfully whilst in Windows 11 and everything did work fine until I started fiddling with enabling the Nvidia driver.
Fedora (Gnome Shell)
So, as stated above, I had Fedora installed and I've had it for some time. But I've only been using the open-source Nvidia driver until yesterday. I was able to install it via RPMFusion and got it working, but the screentears were horrible! Just moving a window or scrolling whilst on a webpage, everything was jittery and cut diagonally whilst moving. And that just wasn't going to do!
So, I got my Ventoy USB stick and took a look at what distros I had on there. After that I went and downloaded a few more.
- Arch Linux
- Debian 12.1
- Fedora KDE
- Fedora Kinoite (immutable)
- NixOS 23.05
So I took a nice little backup of my homedir, a few files and dirs in /etc and started with Arch Linux. I've used Arch before and I like it, I normally use the archfi install script and this time was no difference. I got it installed and everything was working fine, but I couldn't get the Nvidia driver to work properly. The second display just wouldn't kick in after installing the Nvidia driver, like.. not at all! I tried a few different things but I just couldn't get it to work. So I went on to the next distro.
Installing NixOS was a breeze (like the default Plasma theme!) and I got it installed and everything was working fine. I got the Nvidia driver installed and everything was working fine and I got the second display to work! So since that worked I started to install the software I use on the daily and got about everything installed. But VSCode was a bitch.. The version available through the Nix package manager is at least one version older or so than what I've been using in Fedora, so the sync wouldn't work. I even tried yay and installed VSCode that way but no cigar. And since I was on a mission, I decided to carry on to the next distro.
This was the first time I tried any of the Fedora immutable distros and I have to say I am very disappointed with it. The installer asked me all the questions and such, I answered but then the install failed after about 2 minutes of working. Got not error that I could use to search online for a solution. I did try twice to install this version, the first time was when NixOS was still on partitions, the later try I had booted into a Gentoo environment and removed the NixOS partitions and left a 60GB empty space on the disk. But, the second install failed as well with the same lack of a usable error.
I use Debian 12.1 on the daily at work on servers I set up so I just thought: "The hell with it, let's give it a chance!" and installed it. Being Debian, everything was solid through the install and I was able to get to my Plasma desktop within a few minutes of starting the install. And remarkably, after installing the Nvidia drivers everything still worked! I was able to get the second display to work and everything was fine. I installed the software I use on the daily and everything was working fine. I even got VSCode to work with the sync extension! So I decided to keep Debian on the laptop and use it for a while. Only "issue" is that I can't run Wayland, but that's not a big deal for me currently.
I'm not that surprised that Debian worked as well as it did, since Debian is a no nonsense distro that just works. But I've just never run it on a desktop or laptop computers before, only on servers. But I'm glad I tried it and I'm glad it worked so well!
So, my daily driver from now on will be Debian! I'll keep you posted on how it goes and if I run into any problems.
Debian KDE Plasma
Now that I have a stable base I think I might want to take a backup of the system via CloneZilla or something, just so that I can have a secure and safe backup of the system if I do indeed fuck shit up again.
But the question remains, will I? =/