I've had a good relationship with Ubuntu since about 2006. I've used Linux on a lot of laptops, from a G3 Pismo in 2001, various HPs, Dells, Samsungs and a first generation Intel Macbook Pro - with varying amounts of grief. Ubuntu lowered the grief level, and had a polished interface. I also build IGs for immersive environments, and have workstations all over the place - it was good to not have to spend hours configuring a Linux desktop to get a workable and consistent environment. On servers I've used FreeBSD, RedHat/CentOS, SuSE and Debian mostly, so I know my way around different package managers, config files etc - I suppose I had most affinity with Debian, so Ubuntu fitted. Like a polished Debian. I have a lot of respect for FreeBSD, it's just such a well thought out system, but as my development stack got more precarious, it became difficult to use it for graphical and audio duties.
Every now and then I'd install Xubuntu over Ubuntu - and I quite liked it. It was quick, but often hard on the eye when you've become accustomed to Ubuntu. With the Gnome/Unity debacle, I decided (like others) to adopt it permanently. With the "Greybird" theme - it actually looked quite slick. So I stuck Xubuntu on a few boxes, and starting getting back on with things. But, an itch started forming. I figured that if I'd weened myself off the eyecandy, I might as well jump ship to another platform, and benefit from a more conservative attitude to updates and software choices. You can go and read a few reviews of distributions all over the net, but often they're written by people who've only installed them into a virtual machine - with analysis exngtending about as far as the colour of the desktop. To really test a distribution you need to install it onto real hardware - and the hardest test I have is my first generation Macbook Pro. Old school ATI GPU and EFI make for a rough ride. Initially I thought I'd go back to Debian - but EFI and Debian isn't fun, and the documentation is all over the place. Mint was the same. OpenSuSE works like a charm with EFI, and the original SuSE was the first distribution I ever got friendly with. The problem is I've never been totally happy with RPM. There's nothing wrong with it, just unfamiliarity, and a few of the tools I was after (Panda3D and CLAM-audio) would need compiling from source.
While I was fishing around I gave Arch a try. It worked with EFI for a start - which was quite a shock given its paired down nature. More and more though I'm liking it. It feels quite FreeBSD-ish, especially with 'rc.conf' and no SysV - but all the weird bits of software I need are there in binary form. There's quite a bit of work to configure things, but the mystery of all the stuff under the hood has disappeared - not the low level things, but the bit's that had made Ubuntu so comfy, automounting usb drives, wlan, laptop lid and suspend...that kind of thing. Arch has amazingly clear and succinct documentation, and really sane config files - so you find yourself being able to configure things really quickly. I even found a way to get a '#' out of my Mac keyboard, I even added '°' for good measure. Just for reference here's the magic line in ~/.Xmodmap
keycode 49 = numbersign degree
I tried to setup a Nginx + Django server on Amazon's EC2. It only took me 25 minutes - I was amazed! The only rub could be the rolling release schedule - I'm looking for a way to pin an install to a particular point in time so that I can be confident that my dev box will be in sync with deployment boxes...weĺl see. Other than that, I think I've found a new home....