Geckolinux-422 — a review
Geckolinux is a distro that is based on opensuse. The maintainer uses the handle sb56637 (at least at sourceforge). He use the suse studio site to build his releases. His releases version amount to opensuse that is configured to his liking. The releases are iso files for a live session, and can be installed.
In the move to the Leap series, opensuse no longer provides live versions (except for Tumbleweed). So I have occasionally recommended geckolinux to people looking for a live version that they can test.
I saw the announcement of the 422.161213 release, via a link at Distrowatch. I proceeded to download the bare bones version. I was not fully satisfied with the result, so I tried the XFCE version. I wasn’t happy with that either. Yesterday, I rechecked the site, and I see that there is now a more recent 422.161228 release.
I’ll note that the “422” part of the release number is a reference to opensuse 42.2, while the remaining part of the number is a reference to the release date.
Why bare bones?
My choice of the bare bones release was because I thought this would make for a useful live rescue system for 42.2.
When I originally tried that out, I found that the bare bones version would not boot with UEFI. Them bones seemed a little too bare. Most computer purchased over the last 4 years are UEFI systems.
Apparently the maintainer recognized the problem — or perhaps somebody pointed it out to him. The 1228 release now does boot with UEFI.
It was my tentative plan, using that as a rescue system, that I would install some additional tools on the boot USB that I would be using. In particular, I wanted to add “dar” (a backup/restore command line tool).
That it would not boot with UEFI spoiled that plan. Additionally, for that to work, I would need the ability to save changes to the USB. This is supposed to be possible if one adds
to the boot line (the command that loads the kernel). So I gave that a try. And the system ran into some kind of error and indicated that it would reboot.
So much for my plans for a rescue disk.
Retry with 1228 release
I tried again with the 1228 release. This time it at least booted with UEFI. However, the “kiwi-hybridpersistent=true” option still caused problems.
I was not deterred. I had noticed that the hybrid partition (where changes are save) was formatted as “btrfs”. Tumbleweed had run into a problem with that last summer, and I had found a workaround. So I decided to give that a try.
I mounted the USB flash drive on my main desktop. Using Yast partitioner, I reformatted the hybrid partitiion to “ext4”, but with the option to not use a journal. I used Yast for this, because I know that it preserves the file system label when reformatting.
This worked with geckolinux, as it had worked with Tumbleweed. Booting with “kiwi-hybridpersistent=true” now succeeded. I have not yet added any tools, but the possibility is now there.
The bare bones desktop really is bare. There is just a blank desktop with no icons, no panel. However, if I right-click on empty space, there is a menu. I can use that to open an “xterm” (a terminal session). When doing rescues, I mostly work from the command line, so the ability to open one or more “xterm” windows is sufficient.
I should have noted that the normal login to the desktop is as user “linux” with password “linux”. If I use “su” to become root, again “linux” is the password.
The bare bones desktop does come with an installer (named “calamares”). I tried running that from the menu with my original download, and nothing happened. With the 1228 release, the announcement mentions that it has to be run at the root command line. So I tried that, and the installer did start out.
A little background here. Opensuse long supported a live installer. But recently they have dropped support for that. So the geckolinux maintainer has added “calamares” as an alternative.
Running the installer, I decided to try a test install. I have partitions “sda1” through “sda9” on the computer where I tested this. And “sda8” is where I often do test installs.
I chose the option to replace the system currently on “sda8” with the bare bones installation. The installer told me that what was previously “sda9” would become “sda8”. That did not look right to me. And if that happened, it would cause problems in my currently installed opensuse system that mounts the partition. So I decided to abort the installer at that point (with no actual changes made to the disk).
Possibly this is just a cosmetic bug, and the partitions won’t really be renumbered. But I was unwilling to take the chance.
I’ll also note that “calamares” did not have an option to install into an existing encrypted LVM. So it is more limited than the opensuse installer.
The bare bones release looks like a good choice for a live rescue system. But be aware that it will fail on the first attempt to boot with persistent storage. After that failure, reformat the hybrid partition to “ext4” and keep the label “hybrid” for that partition. It would then be okay with persistent storage.
The geckolinux series are also a good choice if you are looking for a live system to test. I’m not so sure about installing, since I aborted my own install attempt. If you are installing to free space on the hard drive, I expect that will be trouble free. For more complex situations, you are probably better off using the official DVD installer or NET installer.