A Year in Linux

About a year ago (a few months longer actually) I switched to Linux as my main operating system. My goal was to become more proficiant in the use and administration of Linux and unix-like systems.

Software

Switching to Linux didn’t just mean ditching Windows, but also the applications I was used to working with. Software like Microsoft Office springs to mind as an obvious one.

Since MS Office doesn’t run on Linux natively I had to find another solution. I considered running MS Office in Wine, but I felt it would be better to fully commit to working in the Linux ecosystem as much as possible. At first I switched back and forth between LibreOffice and OnlyOffice. While LibreOffice is way more powerful, it has some trouble opening and saving .docx files, especially if more advanced features where used in the file. At this point I have both installed on my systems. When I know I’ll only edit a document myself, I use LibreOffice. When I have to work with Windows or Mac users, I switch to OnlyOffice.

There are more similar examples but overall I have to say I’m very happy with the software available for Linux, and I have been able to find alternatives for most software I used on Windows.

Distributions

Like most people I started with Ubuntu. I had the most experience with this distribution, it has good hardware support, and a ton of information is available online. When it comes to desktop environments I settled on XFCE (I could live with Cinnamon, KDE or Mate, but I absolutly hate Gnome3). I was able to make XFCE fit my work flow perfectly. The only issues are the slow development of the XFCE desktop environment, and the screen tearing (which I was able to solve be changing to another compositor).

When I got comfortable using Linux on a day-to-day basis I started distro hopping. I went from Xubuntu to Debian, to Fedora, a short trip outside Linux with FreeBSD, and finally Arch Linux. I wanted to try Arch as a experiment to learn more about the inner workings of Linux, but fell in love with the simplicity and customization.

Linux gaming

I have loved video games for as long as I can remember. So gaming was part of my consideration when moving to Linux. About 1/3th of my total PC game library has a native Linux port. Another 40%/50% run decently under Wine. There are only a few games (like for example Fallout 4) that do not run well on Linux. This is the main reason my desktop PC has both Linux and Windows 10 installed. I’m looking into GPU passthrough for a Windows VM as an alternative.

The Terminal

One thing I did not anticipate is how much I would love working in the terminal. As most people coming from a Windows background I was used to working in GUI’s, but once I embraced the terminal I found myself spending more and more time there. Tools like cat and grep make it easy to work with text, and definitely lead to me preferring plain text formats over proprietary binary formats for taking notes, text editing, etc.

Learning

Before the switch, I read multiple articles recommending the use of a FOSS *nix variant to learn more about computers and hacking (in the traditional sense as well as security), as Windows just wouldn’t work for this purpose. As a former Windows power user I found this statement to be odd, but now I’ve switched, I can absolutely see the reason for recommending an free and open-source system. Not only does Linux and other free software give you the freedom to tinker with your system, it encourages it.

Conclusion

I consider the switch to Linux a huge success. Linux will absolutely be my daily driver for years to come. I’m also looking forward to learning more about Linux and FOSS software, and one of my goals is to contribute to an open-source project in the next year, to learn more about it, and to contribute to the software that makes Linux awesome.