Year of The Linux Desktop, for me at least.

Posted on • 6 min read

Tags: linux

We're 7 days into January, and I still hate New Year's Resolutions! I never make any, and you certainly won't see me pounding the streets, out of breath - jogging! I prefer to lay out goals and targets for the New Year (perhaps they are the same as a resolution, but who cares). This year I have a number of main goals, and some lesser goals. One of my main goals, is the subject of this post - and I'm sure if you've read the title you'll now know what it is.

I'm acutely aware that I've grown up using the Windows OS. I'm surrounded by it at work, and have been at home as well, I'm even studying towards my MCSA for Windows 10 - so in many ways I'm living and breathing Windows.

However, dominant as Windows is, I don't want to be a "Windows only" type of guy, and so I'm forcing myself to adjust this year. As of 1st January, I wiped Windows and installed a Linux distro on my main machine (a Dell XPS 13), my resolution this year is to use Linux full stop on my main personal device.

Why do I want to use Linux for a year (or more)?

I've used Windows all my life, I am vastly more experienced in Windows then Linux or MacOS (urrgh!), and to be honest, I have such a fondness for Windows it'll be hard to "let go". However, I work in technology, and I'm extremely passionate about it and that means there's a number of reasons I want to become more familiar with Linux.

I don't want to limit myself to only being an "expert" in Windows.

Windows might be by far the most popular OS in business environments when it comes to desktop operating systems, but Linux, on the server side plays a huge part in the corporate world, and limiting myself to a knowledge of Windows and Microsoft technology would only hurt my future potential. I know that using a desktop version of Linux, is not going to help me learn server-side things (I have other plans for that), but it will help me lay the basic foundation of understanding how Linux actually works as an OS.

I do have issues with Windows and Privacy.

It's very easy to go down what I like to call "the rabbit hole of paranoid computing". You only need to take a visit to r/privacy and spend a few weeks there, to come out believing that every computer program and service is spying on you! The irony is the truth probably isn't far from that, but I've been there, done it, and realised that if you take it too far, you'll never use a computer or the internet again!

Instead I've used this knowledge to be more in control of my data, and what I share or "leak" onto the internet. Windows 10's privacy issues are well documented. I understand some of the reasons for doing it, and I expect telemetry can shed some interesting insights on how to improve features etc, but that doesn't mean I like it, and this is part of why I want to try an OS that respects my privacy more than Windows 10 does.

I do really like Open Source software.

The Open Source software "movement" really interests me as a whole. The fact that if you have the programming skills you can fork a popular open source program and add your own features, or contribute to the community and help improve what's already out there is fantastic. Over the past year or so, I have found myself using the absolutely brilliant AlternativeTo website to find Open Source alternatives to apps and programs I use. Sometimes there really is no good alternative, for example, OneNote (come on, how hard is it to build something similar in Linux?!). Yet sometimes the Open Source alternative is actually much better, and comes with the added benefits of privacy.

Some of the Open Source software I have discovered and really enjoyed this year includes: FreeMind, Anki, ghostwriter & KeePass. These are all superb programs, that respect my privacy, and don't lock me in to proprietary formats. I really value that.

As a result, part of my decision to use Linux for a year is to further embrace the Open Source community by using a free operating system.

I do want to experience what else is out there.

As mentioned, I have always considered myself a Microsoft man, I've used Windows all my life and I'm extremely familiar with all of it and that's great, but it's now time for me to become just as familiar with Linux. I'm not naive to some of it's issues, and I should also clarify that I've used Linux on numerous occasions in the past few years, including 3 months last year of manic distro hopping between Ubuntu, Fedora, Antergos and Mint - you name it, I probably gave it a go. Yet I've never been able to forget about my Linux experiences in the past, I find it always calls me back! So I'm looking forward to discovering Linux in more depth and spending some quality time with it learning how it works.

I do want to push myself in regards to technology.

I'm so familiar with Windows that nothing phases me, I can fix most problems quickly, and can quickly pick up new things in Windows with ease. I'm comfortable troubleshooting even the most complicated of issues on Windows because I know my tools. This will be very different for me on Linux. I don't know the tools of Linux, I'll struggle, I'll get frustrated, but slowly I'll adapt, and become familiar with them, and that'll help me grow my technical skills. That's something that excites me because that's why I love technology, because there is nothing holding you back from any direction you want to take.

I have used Linux before.

As I briefly mentioned, I have used Linux exclusively before, early last year I used Ubuntu Gnome for a few months, and before that I've used various distro's over the years, but never for that long before going back to Windows. Often the only reason I actually went back to Windows was because of laziness and familiarity.

One year is a long time, and I'll probably try to convince myself on numerous occasions to switch back, I'll make out that there's things I just have to have on Windows, or that Linux is just broken and silly things like that, but If I can get over that wall who knows what Linux holds for me in the future.

How will I study for a Windows exam using Linux?

Well, that's why virtual machines are so good! I use my XPS for studying, and I've just installed a couple of Windows 10 virtual machines. Simple!

What Linux distro will I use?

I had thought about this prior to 1st January. I wanted to get it right, and I've banned myself from "distro hopping" I want stability. So I had to be sure I would be happy with the distro I picked. I've previously used Ubuntu Gnome (and absolutely loved it), and have used every other mainstream desktop environment out there (KDE, XFCE, Cinnamon etc) but really keep coming back to Gnome - it just works for me, and you can really customise it to look the way you want it and I like that.

So with the knowledge that Ubuntu has dropped Unity, and Ubuntu Gnome will be no more, I have gone with the latest version of Ubuntu (17.10), because as I said Ubuntu has switched back to Gnome. So it gives me the benefits of a distro that is easier to use for beginners, with loads of support online, and a desktop environment that I feel comfortable with.

On the plus side 17.10 runs like an absolute dream on my XPS 13, significantly cooler than it runs on Windows, and everything works straight away with no hunting around AskUbuntu for hours!

Also, I know I said no distro hopping, but I will be upgrading to Ubuntu 18.04 when it's released, for the stability of an LTS release, and because 17.10 will run out of support later this year.

Happy Year of The Linux Desktop to you!

I hope you've enjoyed reading my rambling thoughts, and if your using Windows why not join me in switching for a year!