In Defense of Tumblweed: Why @BryanLunduke is wrong

What is OpenSUSE Tumbleweed?

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is a cutting-edge Linux distribution from the OpenSUSE team. It uses the latest versions of software applications and the Linux kernel for those who want to see what will be coming up in other Linux distributions in 6-months to a year or more from the time that they appear in Tumbleweed. This means that there are bugs; lots of them. Things break, This is the price that you pay for having the very cutting edge or software technology.

What did Bryan Lunduke actually say?

Let’s break down his complaints. There are only two.

  • SUSE Studio
  • YaST (ugly, cumbersome, hard to use, stupid, bloated)

The first complaint is an application stack that doesn’t actually have anything directly to do with Tumbleweed. I never used it. It was going by the wayside when I started using OpenSUSE as my daily OS of choice. The source code is still out there and maybe it should be forked and brought back to life. I don’t know. I can’t argue with this point because it is a red herring and has nothing to do the OpenSUSE Tumbleweed distribution.

The second list of complaints is pretty vague, but his complaint is basically that YaST has issues that are causing it to bring does the entire distribution as a whole.

What is YaST?

YaST (Yet Another Setup Tool) is a set of system management tools that are grouped together in a single management application called YaST though they can be installed and run separately as needed.

The modules allow the user to easily control most administrative functions that might be needed. Not all of the modules are the same though. Some such as the printer and scanner modules suck. Other modules like the Software Management module are great. I consider this to be on par with Debian’s Synaptic package management tool which is freaking amazing. If unevenness in the quality of the modules is the reason why he dislikes it so much, then it’s not a completely wrong reason but it’s not a really good one either.

I say that it’s a given that some of the modules are out of date or need a fresh new rewrite, but that’s not specifically what he is saying. He keeps his complaints vague and oddly personal. I’m not privy to much of the inner-workings of the OpenSUSE distribution but I’ve seen from social media that there is some bad blood there between him and folks in OpenSUSE and I really hope this isn’t just a rant against them instead of really against the distribution.

With that aside, let’s talk about the real issue with YaST and any GUI based configuration tool. It is yet another level of abstraction away from actually working with the operating system. For example, YaST has an module called HTTP Server. If you run it, it will set up Apache and any modules like PHP for you and will give you some basic options for tuning it without actually needing to work with the command line or configuration files directly. If someone told me that they had been a system administrator for 5 years but they had only ever used YaST, I wouldn’t hire them because many times things break and they can’t be fixed with YaST. Tools like YaST should mainly be a time saver not a replacement for good configuration and I think that’s what it is currently.

Even with my own genuine complaints above, they don’t really co-inside with Bryan Lunduke’s complains (it’s ugly, cumbersome, hard to use, stupid, and bloated) because I can’t see all of that. It’s no more ugly than any other tool (besides real nerds care about function over form). Granted, some of the modules are cumbersome and hard to use, but not all of them. It’s “stupid, stupid and it’s stupid” what the heck is that supposed to mean? Use your words Lunduke! Don’t just emote. “It’s bloated.” There are currently 183 total YaST modules. Many will never be used by an end user because they are only used during installation. However if you were to install them all, it would take up 176MiB which would average out to .96MiB per module. There are some required Ruby libraries that I’m not taking into account here, but this really isn’t what I would call bloat. You can even uninstall the modules that you don’t want without causing a huge fuss.

Let’s Wrap Up

Bryan Lunduke is wrong when he says that OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is one of the worst distros out right now. He is wrong when he says that YaST is dragging down the entire distro. YaST has problems, but they aren’t what he says they are.