Cheri's Hypertext Monster

03 Feb 2021

Linux: First Impressions

I’ve been running Linux for a couple days now, and I think it’s spiffy! Here are my first impressions:

Challenges

Missing Software

Not all software is available on Linux. So you need to check out the programs you use and look for their Linux equivalents.

An Intimidating Install

I won’t lie: Installing Linux was a bitch and a half. Granted, Patrick did my install while I watched and asked questions, so I had plenty of help. And he was doing complicated things. He shrunk my Windows install, and he added a partition to my machine (plus a special boot partition to make Windows play nicer with Linux), and then he used something called Architect to install Manjaro with lots of custom settings.

If I didn’t have help, would I have been able to install Linux? Yes, but I think the dual boot thing may have been beyond my ability. If I were installing Linux on its own machine, and if I used the normal installer, I probably could have gotten it done without help.

Tweaking Things to Make Them Work & Accepting Limitations

Linux requires some tweaking and troubleshooting. Not all hardware is equally supported. For example, my touch screen kept glitching. This is horrible when you’re trying to fill out a web form and the screen keeps “touching” the wrong buttons. We were able to figure out how to turn my touch screen OFF, which ended up being our intermediate solution.

On Linux, some hardware simply won’t work at all. Manjaro doesn’t seem to be compatible with my built-in webcam. The next time we have a video call, I’ll either need to plug in an external webcam or boot back into Windows.

Why it’s Worth It

Making My Computer My Own

Pretty much everything in Linux is customizable. I chose Manjaro KDE in part because it’s what Patrick uses (and therefore I have an in-house expert) but also because it’s downright pretty. Do you want fatter menu bars? You can have fatter menu bars. Do you want windows to lock together a certain way? Have at it. Do you want a special symbol connected to a keyboard stroke? Just add it.

I’ve only scratched the surface, but I already like it.

Privacy is Baked In

Windows sends a crap-ton of data back to Microsoft without my explicit permission. If your computer is off, it will simply package that data up and wait for the next opportunity. I never quite know what it’s sending or why. Some people don’t care about this. I do.

I love-love-love that I can run Linux without an open internet channel between me and who-the-fuck-knows on some corporate server. And I love-love-love that the software I use is open source. Even as a non-programmer, the knowledge that Linux OSes and Linux software are being poured over by salty, privacy-obsessed nerds is a great comfort to me.

Better Software

For lack of a better word, I find Linux to be a very considerate operating system. I’m constantly running into small design decisions that are better than what I’m used to. Here are a few examples:

When logging into Windows, I usually need to bang my keyboard a few times to bring up the login menu, and then I can enter my password.

When logging into Linux, I just type my password. By the time the computer wakes up, those key strokes have been entered into the login box.

When using the app selector in Windows, it can take a while to find the right app, select it, and open it. I use the mouse, and the menu always pulls up crap I don’t need.

When using the app selector in Linux, I can just type the first four letters of the app and hit enter. I hardly even need to look at the menu. I can trust the application is there, opening up.

I’m not a huge “keyboard command” person but Linux makes keyboard navigation so fast and easy to use that I’m spending less time mousing around. I have a feeling that once I find my groove, Linux is going to be super-fast and far more convenient. Using Linux, I feel like I’m constantly bumping into easier and faster ways to move through my machine and get things done.

Linux and I are still getting acquainted so there’s plenty to learn. But so far, so good! I’ll also note that I keep all my data on a household server, not on my local machine, so if Linux decides to explode one afternoon I’m not going to lose my data. Given that Linux has a reputation of being touchy, I think it’s wise to avoid putting your data-eggs into a Linux basket.

That’s all for now! Happy computing.