CentOS going away, moving to Debian

The recent announcements about CentOS have left a lot of us frustrated to say the least. I’m ok with it actually. I don’t blame them either. On the other hand, I’m not going to stick with a now rolling release and beta version of RHEL. I moved away from Ubuntu years ago, for several reasons, but in part because they change things too much. The 2010’s decade has also left me burned by too many companies pulling the rug out from under me or pricing me out of their products and services. Now, I’d probably use Ubuntu LTS, except I’m just fed up with companies that can turn on me. Also, Ubuntu has changed things like networking configs way too much. I don’t even remember the new way. Upstart or something weird like that? And I can’t stand Network Manager.

I used RedHat 5.2 WAY WAY WAY BACK. That’s what I started with learning Linux. Wasn’t long and Debian had apt-get… WOW! Sold! Started on Debian. Loved it for a while. Then Ubuntu came along and impressed me with a lot of things made easier and nice looking, like a graphical login and desktop. I liked it for a long time. Stuck with it until 2012, ran “Precise” for a year or to and ran into so many changes in 14.04 it bugged me. That was in part due to SystemD , if I remember correctly.

So at that same time (about 2013-2014) I was in the process of finally getting around to learning how to do KVM and Qemu, which impressed me so much it totally changed how I do servers for clients. (along with ZFS, which I started in 2009, totally changed all my deployments.). Anyway, with SystemD bugging me, all the changed in Ubuntu, changed with using VM’s and ZFS, and having to learn a lot more to get awesome and stable servers, I thought I’d take on CentOS 7 instead of Ubuntu. That served me well for my own use, development, home labs, learning, and several small business client servers.

CentOS rarely changed, or changes were minor, for 6-7 years now. It really annoyed me that I couldn’t upgrade directly to CentOS 8 though. But that’s ok. I still have security updates for a few years I think on 7. But now… ugh. Now I have to start thinking about upgrades anyway moving from 7. So now I may as well just move to a new OS.

I have to give huge credit to all the Linux devs out there making these distros these days. Linux has gotten so much easier to setup! I spend way less time doing tweaks and installs now. Any server takes some extra effort to tweak for your network and software, of course. But I love Linux in part because, while it does take me a little longer to tweak the way I like it than it does for me on Windows, its much much faster now, and Linux is still more “set it and forget it”, to a point. So many little things are already close to the what I need right after install. CentOS 8 is better even just because its newer, more things are supported. It’s not just the OS’s, its a lot of the packages, like PHP, ZFS, SSH, everything takes less time to tinker with.

So the other day, after the CentOS news, and after having some NVMe issues, I thought I’d yank out CentOS and start a new Debian load on my dev server. I had a few issues, which I’ll explain later. But it went very well. I was very impressed with the easy setup and that what I needed was there or easily loaded and that configurations were quick and easy. I very much appreciated that I can disable Network Manager and use the /etc/interfaces files the easy way when I want to setup my bridged connections. Although, I did fight with NM for a day until I realized I could opt out.

I used to dislike SystemD, but to be honest, my servers have been easy to configure and have been stable, so I can’t complain. Took some getting used to, still getting used to it even! That made moving to Debian easier too. Much of what I would do in CentOS is the same now.

I really like Ubuntu 20.04 actually, and we may end up using that still. I just have a couple things that bug me enough that I just don’t want to use it. I don’t like how they are using yet another networking system. I also feel like I run into other things that configure in a different way from other distro’s (can’t remember which right now, but networking was a big one). And after all the last 10 years of being burned by corporate software, I’d rather just use Debian.

I’ll see how it goes on my dev server and I have few other things to upgrade soon, so we’ll see. I’m definitely happy with it over the last few days with the ease at which I took my VM’s on ZFS pools and also loaded directly into Debian Buster, and how it installed on an mdadm mirror with EFI.

OH yes. One struggle I had with Debian was in trying install a server on a mirror with LVM, finding that selecting packages would not work, while using the Live DVD installer. After doing a VM guest install and running into further graphical issues, I’ve learned its best to just use the “net install” version and use the advanced graphical option, and then I can pick packages and do all the things I want. Not a big deal now I know it.

On my first install try I messed up and had left my server in CSM mode for the EFI boot. Whoops! That messed up loading grub files and NVMe boots. But I finally realized I didn’t have the system in UEFI only, and then the boot disk made it super easy to chroot , apt install extra things grub options and install the loaders correctly. This kind of stuff, mirror setup, LVM and EFI, Debian made it pretty easy.

Didn’t mean to write this much! Just had to rant a bit. Its annoying to switch, and I’ll miss CentOS. It is also fun to nerd out and tinker with Linux and get to know Debian again.

PS. Virtualization Differences:

GPU passthrough was also a piece of cake with Debian. But the VM XML libvirt files had to be changed slightly for KVM/QEMU going from CentOS to Debian: /usr/bin/qemu-system-x86_64. And the OVMF lines were different.

Also while installing a new Debian guest, the graphical installer would not load at all. But I found that setting the XML <video> to this (below) worked really well:

	<model type='virtio' heads='1' primary='yes'>
	<acceleration accel3d='yes'/>
	<address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x01' function='0x0'/>

If I run into more Debian tweaking I need for my installed I’ll probably add some quick posts.