Loving Linux

Choosing to stop using Microsoft Windows was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Oh, as a Gamer I still have to keep the thing around for games that just don’t work on any other system but these days I’m spending most of my week using Linux for everything else.

And I love it. Love it love it love it.

I’m being exuberant, I know, but I hope you’ll forgive it: I’m simply not used to feeling like this about an Operating System.

Windows is many things but most of the time using it feels like a fight. A battle of wills between you and it to accomplish your objective, a war that rages but never ceases.  In my twenty five years with Windows I’ve learned how to tame the beast.  I’ve learned how to tweak and change her to within an inch of bluscreen. I get around deficiencies with third party software cleverness. I’ve been able to tune that damned thing until she sings. Windows XP and 7 were flexible and stable enough that I could polish ‘good enough’ into ‘genuinely pleasurable’, enough to satisfy me that I was using the very best available. But Windows 10….

OMG, Windows 10. Now that Microsoft have veered into Software-as-a-Service, and have also decided that Google, Apple, Facebook et al have the right idea treating their customers as product upon which to make money selling advertising…it just got harder and harder to see Windows 10 as anything but an attempt to control you, even own you. Unfortunately, their quality control seems to have taken a turn for the worse at the same time. Updates have been especially bad for me this year, refusing to work and costing me weeks of lost time trying to resolve the issues, some of which are still unresolved six months later (Beyond aggravating). Their latest big feature update, 1809, even seems to be deleting users personal files making room for it to update. Microsoft have grown in arrogance AND incompetence – never a good combination.

So I installed Linux alongside Windows on the same drive. I’d had two previous attempts to move across but after the second attempt in the early 00’s I concluded it just wasn’t quite ready for regular use, and sadly turned back to Windows. This year, trying Linux, I’m happy to say it has matured into everything I needed it to be. Crucially, by contrast to the thing Windows has now become, the Freedom that Linux has always offered has become so much more important. Linux not only doesn’t care who you are it actively goes out of it’s way to avoid finding out. It isn’t trying to make money off you, either. By all means donate but you are never coerced or encouraged into that decision. Linux just wants to help you do what you need to do.

Linux doesn’t just offer philosophical advantages. There are very significant practical benefits to be had. Programs start in less than half the time Windows takes. Using the system feels much more responsive – it’s like giving your hardware a new lease of life, although it’s probably more accurate to say your hardware is being used more effectively. Not only that but you have the ability to change just about every feature of the OS. Linux offers a tremendous amount of options that can be bewildering but once you find your way through them you learn to appreciate them. For a tinkerer like me it’s pretty much heaven. But I’ll never tire of seeing a program like GIMP or VLC just pop open, no fuss no muss. Or how about a File Explorer that’s just as fast, and offers genuinely useful option to help you? Microsoft are so concerned with offering shiny new features that appeal to consumers they’ve forgotten how to craft workflows and tools that genuinely assist their users. I’ve lost count of the number of message boards and forums where exasperated IT Admins have had to resort to venting their frustrations at some new feature that has made their job more difficult.

If anyone is thinking along the same lines I’d be delighted to help if I can, with suggestions or explanations of anything you might need some help with, or go hang around somewhere like Reddit where there are always people willing to share their knowledge and help out.

Peace out, folks. Until next time.

39 thoughts on “Loving Linux”

  1. It’s like the culmination of the dream I had when I first found Linux. *happy sigh*
    At the point where I can get a laptop to use for work, my computer will be Linux only! Unfortunately, for graphic design, Linux just doesn’t have the support but it’s not surprising. It’s the geeks of the world that made Linux an end user reality, not the artists. Eventually, though, I absolutely feel that it will happen!

    1. The Gaming community has just had an enormous shot-in-the-arm from Valve who’ve started supporting Windows Games on Linux, which has been one of my major hurdles adopting Linux in the past. with Windows 10 being such a royal pain this year I’m hoping this is the start of a trend of bigger companies taking note and supporting Linux where they classically haven’t.

    2. I attempted the Linux Switch. Gave it a month.
      Worst. Decision. Ever.
      There was no one big issue that was a deal breaker for me. It was the small things that started adding up and growing into a big pile. The hours and hours wasted hunting down solutions to get apps working, or finding alternative apps to replace ones I used on Windows that just turned out to be limited in functionality. The snarky Linux elitists I ran into all to often while looking for solutions who would rather have a chuckle at your expense rather than help you solve your problem (There were MANY very helpful people, just to be clear).

      I do miss one thing from Linux though, a little app I can’t remember the name of that let me make karaoke songs very easily. If I could find a good replacement for Windows that was also free, I’d be so happy.

      1. I suspect I’ve only made the switch to Linux so smoothly this time around because I’ve tried Linux twice before, that and I think Linux has improved considerably since even the mid-noughties. I went in this time with a lot of knowledge that helped me prepare to be in Linux. It’s not for everyone, though.

        I know what you mean about the Elitists, though. I’ve encountered a few on Reddit. Most of them deserve a slap, and being reminded that “Go and Learn How To Code” is not really within most people’s reach, for whatever reasons. Thankfully there seem to be more of the helpful Linux users out there.

        I don’t know any karaoke apps but my first place to start looking for Software is Alternativeto.net. You can usually find what you’re looking for there, or someone will suggest it in the comments.

  2. I think the main thing with a computer is that if you can’t control it 100% and somebody else is telling you what you can install, what you must install, and even when you must restart, then you have paid money but don’t own it, and have therefore been scammed/ripped-off. Micro$haft Windows is a scam. That’s why I dual-booted Linux and Windows for a decade, then removed Windows 10 altogether recently.

    I started using Linux when Red Hat released Fedora Core (i.e. Fedora 1). Back then, it was a real pain and required lots of messing around for hours on end to get it to work, but it was worth it. You’d trawl forums for ages to find out how to get Windows fileshares (smb/cifs) to mount, to play anything other than an open format such as ogg, or even to get the most basic hardware to work (WiFi support was essentially nonexistant). Forget reading, let alone writing, to an NTFS filesystem! Java was also painful to use. Despite all those flaws, once you’d got a system up-and-running, that was it! You could concentrate just on getting the job done. In short, after the initial setup, it “just worked”. And it worked well. It didn’t crash, it required no maintenance, and it didn’t get in the way.

    I came to computers in the days of DOS, CP/M and Sinclair BASIC (don’t give me a zimmerframe yet!!), but I have been a Windows user since approximately Windows 3.0 (a very similar predecessor to 3.11/Windows for Workgroups). I also used the 1.x and 2.x series too on legacy hardware. I loved each improvement in both the home-user and the NT family. 95 was awesome. 98 polished it. ME was terrible and buggy at first, but you got used to it and it got patched… but XP to me was the absolute pinnacle. It was more stable and secure. They added a new start menu and style, but, crucially, kept the Windows 9x start menu and style for those who wanted it. Unfortunately, during the XP era, something went badly wrong, and the decline has only accelerated since the launch of the disgusting abomination known as Windows 10. Given my computing history, I think I can argue against the suggestion of “baby duck syndrome”, when I say that Windows 10 is so bad it is unusable.

    What made me dual-boot Windows with Linux for a number of years was that Windows hadn’t got that bad until 10. Even in the days of XP, it’d occasionally run an update, then tell you it was restarting in 60 seconds whether you liked it or not – but most of the time it respected you, and you could tell Windows update to ask you first, or even ignore updates. However, it has got steadily worse, to the point that Windows 10 “updates” my graphics card driver to a version that crashes the system. I remove the offending driver, restart, and Windows forces it upon me again… I can be running a long calculation on a computer, only to have it fail because Windows forced a restart without waiting for my permission. I keep on getting Xbox and Candy Crush rubbish I don’t need forced onto its alphabet-for-idiots type of start-menu. I have to install numerous 3rd party tools to disable all the pre-bundled spyware, and re-run them after every update to keep disabling it. Enough is enough.

    My current distributions of choice are Linux Mint Cinnamon edition for work, and Trisquel GNU/Linux (Mate desktop) for my personal machines. In both cases, a simple update (I favour “apt-get”, but there’s a GUI) gets me an updated OS and updates all the installed programs in one go. The only time I restart when I don’t need to shut down, is if the kernel was one of the updates. The only updates and restarts are the ones I plan. I’ve never had a kernel panic (blue screen equivalent), crash or freeze since switching in approximately 2003 (unless you count when I’ve been doing serious messing about on an experimental test system that was a bleeding-edge rolling release, with gcc’s “-O3” and other dangerous flags set globally). I’ve certainly never lost all my files in an October-2018-style “update”!

    I don’t have time to be fiddling with and fixing a broken computer all day, and waiting while it updates itself and restarts several times. “Computer! My work is more important than your update. Me human, you computer. Either update quickly, or stay out of my way and let me get the job done.” Windows: “Hang on a minute, I need to restart then apply even more updates, then maybe restart again to install some new tracking features you’ll love, oh and I need to restore that Candy Crush icon you must have accidentally deleted…” Linux: “What are you talking about? I already updated like you asked, get back to work!”

  3. You maybe able to play some of the Windows games on Linux via Wine, seeing it work a little bit on macOS using CodeWeavers’ CrossOver. I have the original Command & Conquer Red Alert running on macOS via CrossOver and using CnCNet it can be played online (have played online with a Windows user).

    1. Oh, you big ol’ Hipster, you! If Red Hat/Sabayon had been any good I’d have been right there with you. If Mepis Linux in 2004 had just been a touch more stable and capable, I’d have jumped ship then. But I’m here now and that’s all that matters. 🙂

  4. Linux is fine… unless you need compatibility with Microsoft proprietary file formats. I am a writer and a blogger. “.docx” and “.doc” are just must have in the business. As long, as you don’t convince institutions and companies to switch to open software, I’ll stay with Windows.

    1. Maybe more clarification needed from you here but I work with .docx and .xlsx in Linux all the time these days (as well as their predecessors)? File formats don’t appear to me to be any reason to not shift across. If you’d said specific software packages I’d be right there with you. But I thought the format war was a settled thing?

  5. The new GIMP 2.10 Is actually pretty good. The previous versions were good, too, but this one is groundbreakingly better. Non-destructive editing, true support for 32bit color space, lots of improved tools. It’s really amazing.

    1. It’s come a long way in the last few years. Most of the arguments people used to throw at it are gone now, “horrible UI”, etc. I’m glad I stuck with it all those years because now I’ve got that experience using it.

  6. I really like Windows and I’m satisfied with Windows 10 so far. However, I always had a place in my heart for Linux. But to be honest, it has been ages since I’ve last tried it (besides the Linux system that’s on my Raspberry Pi). So because of this blog post, I just downloaded Ubuntu 18.10 Beta and I will give it a spin this weekend.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

      1. First tinkering with Ubuntu went fine, but I think I’ll continue next weekend after the final version of 18.10 has come out. And I’ll definitely have to install it on a second partition next to Windows 10. Playing around with the Live System on a USB drive was nice for getting a good overview, but I want to go deeper next time.

      2. Guess what: I just installed Ubuntu on my Chromebook Pixel (2013). Since it no longer gets updates by Google, I’ve ditched ChromeOS in favor of Ubuntu. Still have to work out a few kinks, but first thing I did was of course installing Vivaldi.

        Loving it so far and might switch to Ubuntu permanently on my main PC as well.

        1. Am delighted to hear that, HBD! I really hope you enjoy using Ubuntu. Props too for Vivaldi: the only browser for the truly discerning Internet user. 😉 Lastly, I’m also a fan of ditching Google products in all their guises (I’ll probably write on this topic in the near future) so , if you’ll permit me dragging an old pop-culture reference out of its grave: “I’m making a note here, HUGE SUCCESS!”

          If you get stuck with any of your niggles, let me know. I may not know how to solve it but as I’m still learning Linux myself seeing how it breaks is always valuable.

          1. Thank you for your kind offer, I appreciate it a lot!

            Quick update on how things are going for me: Ubuntu is running fine on my Chromebook Pixel. Sometimes, the keyboard backlight won’t work, but I guess that has something to do with the custom firmware rather than Ubuntu.

            Anyway, I’ve learned so much in the past two days using Ubuntu on my Chromebook Pixel, that I’ve decided to go cold turkey, as one might say. So I’ve completely erased everything on my main Desktop PC (AFTER making backups of everything and then making backups of the backups, just to be sure) and I’ve just finished installing the final release of Ubuntu 18.10 today. I’m now in the process of copying my files back to my second hard drive (I’ve formatted that one as well) and then the real fun begins.

            Sure, I thought about installing Ubuntu alongside Windows 10, but I know me too well and I would still use Windows 10 for 80% or 90% of the time. That’s why I decided to go all in and really embrace Ubuntu. I’m still concerned about a couple of things, for example: What’s the best music player (I really love MusicBee on Windows) and what’s the best program to rip my CDs (FLAC is preferred)? And how can I sync my files across folders and devices (FreeFileSync for Linux does exist, but the installation looks rather cumbersome)? But I guess that will all come with time. One step at a time! But if you have any suggestions of Must-have software, I’m all ears.

            If you like, I can give you further updates on my Ubuntu journey.

            By the way: I would really like to read your thoughts on how to ditch Google products. Myself, I already started using DuckDuckGo as my main search engine on all devices a couple of months ago. And I don’t miss Google Search at all. For Cloud Storage, I’m using OneDrive with an Office 365 subscription, but that might change in the future. I like the idea of not just using one company for all your online activities. But I’m still using Google Maps a lot because I couldn’t find a good replacement yet.

            Anyway (and to come to an end to this rather lengthy comment): Thank you so much for your inspiration that finally made me use Ubuntu/Linux again. I haven’t tried Linux in years and it has come a long way since. Installation is super easy and so far, all of my hardware and peripherals are running out of the box, without having to tinker with the Terminal or some third-party packages from ominous sources. Linux has matured a lot and might I say: Damn, it looks quite pleasing on the eyes, too!

  7. There are some obstacles related to moving to Linux, related to professional-level commercial software, such as office apps, video/graphics apps, and games. Other than that, Linux is pure advantage.

    1. Yeah, I am Gamer and struggle with that still. I keep Windows 10 around mostly for the games I still want to play that Linux just makes so difficult. And I do get that other software just isn’t at the level of Windows for certain use cases. But hey, dual boot exists. 90/10 in favour of Linux is still using Linux. It really is amazing, too.

  8. My experience:
    There are a few things holding me back from using Linux desktop (Plasma 5).
    Autohotkey. I’m a shortcut-wizard to put it mildly. Plasma 5 has custom shortcuts, and they work until you start to use closed-source software such as jetbeans IDEs. Xbindkeys, xautomation etc. doesn’t work well. Currently I can’t live with default shortcuts and being a default shortcut user most people. I need my global custom shortcuts that works well everywhere.

    Secondly, the mouse-scroll is bad. You can’t decide the scrolling speed, at least not in Plasma 5. Maybe it is just my mouse, but it slows really slow and I can’t change it. At least not easily or properly. Something so basic doesn’t work. That’s a really turn-off. Very disappointing.

    I have tried hard top get comfortable with Plasma 5, but it currently doesn’t work. It hurts sometimes to be special in this sense and setting. Sometimes it would perhaps be better to be in the mainstream.

    Linux is very customizable, open and free. It is yours like you say, not something you borrow from Microsoft or Apple. Tools, development and software is very native and natural. It is all good. If it floats your boat guys, great. Doesn’t float mine.

    1. But that’s the beauty of Linux: there are so many options out there. I take it the keyboard defaults in KDE are hard-coded? You can’t switch them off? If so I’ll watch out for that limitation in future. And can’t say I’ve noticed any issues with scrolling apart from the frame-tearing which is a driver settings issue. But hey, I’m relatively new to modern Linux so am still learning.

    2. > Plasma 5 has custom shortcuts, and they work until you start to use closed-source software such as jetbeans IDEs
      For me that’s the main reason I changed most of the default Plasma Ctrl+F* shortcuts to Ctrl+Meta+F*. It just works, and I prefer to use the default shortcuts for IDEs rather than Plasma. I haven’t noticed any of my custom shortcuts to stop working when running JB IDEs either. However, I have few of them defined, so my set-up might not be the best to represent issues in this area/

      > Secondly, the mouse-scroll is bad. You can’t decide the scrolling speed, at least not in Plasma 5.
      I’m on Plasma 5.8.9 and I’ve got “Mouse wheel scrolls by” option in my Mouse settings panel. Not sure if that would help you.

    3. Autohotkey is what is holding me back too. I feel lost without my carefully-constructed-years-in-the-making AHK script.

  9. Thanks for writing this nice post gtlc!
    Totally agree with you on everything!

    I took an old, horribly designed Acer aspire One “netbook” that used to run Windows XP at some time when dinosaurs ruled the world, then the damn thing died, and I infused new life into it by installing Manjaro Linux with xfce window manager. Then yesterday I installed Vivaldi 2.0 in it, and now this machine works like a charm, except that the hardware (the keyboard is cramped, the screen is tiny) is crappy but the machine runs fast!
    Without doubt, Linux is a great alternative for almost any kind of machine, fast or slow, old or new. If you can find a lightweight distro (check distrowatch for that matter), you can do magic.

    I can tell you that even on this ancient “netbook”, Vivaldi 2.0 on Manjaro linux has provided me a very satisfying experience of working on the web. True that I cannot run complex statistical data analysis, and while R and python loaded, I could not get Rstudio or Tidyverse to load and run well; for these purposes, I can use online services. For writing MS Word compatible documents, I’d use Abiword (Libreoffice is free and open source but resource heavy). For spreadsheet, I’d use gnumeric, and so on.

    All in all, I enjoy working in Linux.

  10. I switched to Mint Cinnamon a couple of years ago.
    Sure there’s a learning curve and you will spend some time in stupid things like nomodeset for nvidia devices or useless broken 4k scaling across applications but once I settled in its very smooth and easy.

    Plus no evil windows sucking up all your activities via telemetry and selling you to advertisers.

    I only use windows for proprietary applications nowadays.

  11. At first breaking away from the clutches of Microsoft can be tough. But once you have made the switch and keep persisting with it, it does get easier; and after using it for a while you realize that you can do day to day tasks successfully without the need for costly, licensed software. Check out this school that made a switch to Linux!
    News article: https://dot.kde.org/2013/07/04/year-linux-desktop
    epub/pdf Book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/718734

    1. Thank you. I’m getting a very lovely tan now. 🙂

      I’m on Antergos Linux, using KDE Plasma, and loving both very much. KDE has finally crawled back into usability after the horrors of version 4 (I liked v3 back in the day), while Antergos’ bleeding edge update system suits my update-happy soul. Plus, it uses Arch, btw.

  12. I moved to Linux at work and at home about 10 years before. Right from the very beginning, I didn’t even think about getting back to earlier platforms.

    Recently I came across Manjaro (GNOME Edition) , which turned out to be an excellent discovery, and with Vivaldi as the ‘cherry on the cake’ (hence the red colour of its logo?), I am now more than happy.

  13. SO many happy Linux users here! Great to meet you all. Will try and write more Linux-y things in future so you can come back and share your experiences some more.

  14. There is nothing to fear in the Linux world, and you may just learn something!

    Happily using Linux (on and off) for the last 15 or so years. :-)}

  15. Could you tell me what distros are best choice? That means ready to use for everybody, but easily customizable after learning more. Something like Vivaldi. I’m trying Linux about half a year but still don’t know.

    1. Well, iI’ll assume that if you’ve been learning Linux for a year then you already have a few things figured out. So most of the usual names would be good for you. Manjaro, Antergos, Solus, Mint, Ubuntu…even some of the older guard like Fedora or OpenSUSE would be good. I’d stay near the Distros with larger communities, so you can get help if needs be.

      I installed Antergos and while I’ve had an issue here and there I’ve become very comfortable with it. I wasn’t exactly a novice but am a long way from being experienced with Linux, and am taking my time to learn it properly and at my own pace. But my experience of installing it was very smooth. Nothing was too complicated and everything I wanted either worked or had an easy answer somewhere.

      It’s really a very personal choice but hopefully those suggestions will help you make your decision. Best of luck!

      1. Thanks for the tips. Today I’ve tried Antergos and Solus (which I haven’t knew before I’ve read this post) and Solus looks like the best for me (but I’ll test it more next month). The other I don’t like. So thanks once more.

  16. I have a home server and a so-called cloud-based server as well. I also have a desktop Linux mint. My computers perform different functions and there are quite a few users on my network. I also have a few Windows 7 pro’s. I have use Linux for years and years I do not play games on a PC. I also have a couple of HP workstations Z840 running Windows 7 pro. I use smb: a lot! There is no privacy on windows.

    I hate typing messages I forget when to do caps lock, and so on I hate it… When I do formal LibreOffice 6.0 documents I worry about getting the flow right. I always switch back to Windows 7 pro and rely on a program called “Dragon NaturallySpeaking.” The more I use it the more I depend on it.. It speeds my workflow up dramatically.

    For videos I can use Linux mint and “Openshot” but I have come to like “MAGIX movie edit pro.” And for windows I am addicted to “Xara Photo & Graphic Designer for my Canon photo work.” On my Linux desktop I have Vivaldi, and I have it on my graphic workstation, unfortunately on a workstation Vivaldi tells Internet snooping websites how many Intel processors I have it gives too much of my information away which gives the snoopers an idea on how to attack my Windows platform.. Even so I use Vivaldi, on all systems. ( I can use no scripts but that spoils my browsing ).

    On this machine I have just spoken this message and I never touched the keyboard, I used Windows 7 pro, with a program called “Dragon NaturallySpeaking” a voice recognition product, and posted it using Vivaldi. I am very good with Linux and Linux desktops, but I absolutely love not having to type.. This windows system makes my life a lot easier and the Linux desktop does not.

    I did not proof read this message a program called “TextAloud” did it in a clear English accent. it speeds up my workflow dramatically..

    The only problem I have with Windows 7 pro is I must use a virus scanner/malware Kaspersky and they demand money off me every year. I know where ever I go on the Internet they go with me..
    I know that if I do not firewall off “MAGIX movie edit pro” they also go with me along with a dozen other Windows programs. Windows is the equivalent to spyware. Those are the downsides windows. Nonetheless I use it because it is convenient and Linux desktop is not.

    I sent this message to smb: to a Linux desktop where I can see your story and I copied and pasted it into your feedback.

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