I’m an impulsive person. When I see something new and shiny, there’s generally little thought put into planning to see if it really makes sense for me. Which is why when I read about the ongoing issues Microsoft keeps having with Windows 10 updates, and its overall telemetry, I feel the need to make a change. Since the newest Mac I own is a 2009 MacBook, and I have no interest in Hackintosh-ing, the next step is Linux.
I’ve been messing around with Linux since 2010 when I discovered Ubuntu. I remember installing it on a Asus Eee PC, and was amazed at how much faster it felt than Windows XP. Not to mention, Compiz Fusion, a 3D effect window manager, was built-in to Ubuntu at the time, and it was endless fun turning on the feature that when you close a window, it sets it on fire to get it off the screen. From that moment, I was hooked. Not so much hooked in the sense that it became my daily driver, but I gained a massive amount of respect for Linux. It was fast, and free; both in the sense that it cost me nothing, and I didn’t have to worry about a license.
On the netbook, it worked well because I wasn’t doing much with it besides extremely occasional use. When I set up Ubuntu on my main desktop through Wubi, a defunct program that automatically set up dual booting Ubuntu and Windows through an easily installable and uninstallable wizard, I was conflicted. While it worked fine most of the time, but there were odd bugs that would pop up, and at the time around 2012, there simply wasn’t enough software that could replace what I had been using, like a solid video editor. Since then, I have been using Linux sporadically, with either a flavor of Ubuntu or Linux Mint Cinnamon, and after each initial use, I seem to always go back to Windows. Which is exactly what happened when I attempted to go full Ubuntu last week.
I recently bought a second SSD for my desktop because the primary SSD is only 120 GB, so I was looking for a bit more space. Around that time, the Linux bug got stuck in my mind again, and I figured since I have the second SSD in there anyway, let’s install Ubuntu on that and give the Linux life a shot. I chose Ubuntu because while I feel proficient in Windows and Mac, Linux is a whole new ballgame, and when there’s a 100% chance I will need to Google how to do or fix something, I thought it best to use the most popular distribution. I chose against Linux Mint simply because Gnome 3 looked cool.
The install went smooth and I installed Chrome, Discord, Steam, and a few other programs I use on Windows with little to no issue. Except for Chrome Remote Desktop, which would cause a login loop bug where when the system boots up and I log in, it would bring me back to the login screen as if I never logged in. The same thing happened when I installed a VNC remote desktop app, but TeamViewer didn’t cause any issues, so I stuck with that. Overall, the initial experience wasn’t so bad, with the only striking issue being that overall animations were not smooth. Expect to see many dropped frames when opening and closing windows (at least on my Ryzen 7 with a Radeon RX 550).
There were a few things I missed from Windows. Office was a big one. While it’s true that Google Docs, Office Online, and LibreOffice are pretty close, nothing beats full Office (in my eyes). I also missed some of the overall ease of Windows. While nothing is quicker than opening the terminal and typing a quick command to install a program, that program better be in the software repository. Otherwise, it’s no quicker when I have to go to a website to download TeamViewer or Chrome. I especially ran into this issue with a video editor I like to use called DaVinci Resolve. The install requires a few changes for the Debian-based Ubuntu, as Resolve is built to run on RedHat or CentOS, two very robust distributions. I can understand this, but going back to the fact that I am very impulsive, this goes hand-in-hand with me being impatient, so if I can’t get something to immediately work, I tend to get just drop it.
Issues I Had
This brings me to my main issue with using Ubuntu as a Windows replacement: tinkering. Don’t get me wrong, I love going into the terminal to fix things. There’s a great satisfaction you get when you feel like David Lightman from WarGames, but I found myself needing to tinker a lot more than I really cared for. One issue that occurred involved my third monitor. When I turn it on while the other monitors are on, Ubuntu then abruptly treats it as if that monitor was unplugged and plugged back in, which causes the windows to adjust. I even ran into an issue where the third monitor never connected properly, and would endlessly readjust the windows as if someone was unplugging and plugging it in, until I turned the monitor off. This may have been what caused the system to lock up numerous times after it sitting idle overnight. I like to keep my computer on all the time, and it seemed like every two or three days, I’d go to use it, turn on the monitors, and the monitors would show no image, and the number lock light wouldn’t toggle.
I had at least one issue on the other two computers I installed Linux on. Every second or third wake up on my ThinkPad X240 running Ubuntu would result in the trackpad and trackpoint not working, requiring a reboot. My cheap Lenovo IdeaPad 11 inch running Xubuntu would tear graphics diagonally, either with moving a window or an animation on screen. Seemingly nothing I did would fix the issue with the ThinkPad’s trackpad, and I just gave up on the IdeaPad.
Are there deeper troubleshooting steps I could’ve taken to fix these issues? Sure. Should I have investigated getting drivers set up prior to use? Yes. However, when I contrast my experience with Ubuntu to installing and setting up Windows 10, there’s far less work with the Microsoft route. I either had to just open Windows Update and let Windows do the rest, or I downloaded the manufacturer’s nifty driver executable and let it do all the work. Now, is it unfair of me to judge Ubuntu’s inability to deal with my specific set of hardware? Of course: Ubuntu and other flavors of Linux have to deal with billions of combinations of hardware. Not to mention overall support has improved greatly, as I remember a time where getting the WiFi to work wasn’t a given. Is this my problem? No. Especially when I simply do not have the programming knowledge to fix these things.
Don’t get me wrong, Linux is great. I really don’t need to say this when Linux is the clear leader in basically every other market outside of desktop. This includes mobile, set-top boxes, IoT devices, and servers. Even Microsoft’s Azure cloud runs on Linux. Linux is robust as hell. But for desktop, the GUI side of Linux seems to requires some love, and that’s not something I’m interested in doing. I could just get a System76 computer, or perhaps build a computer with parts known for being Linux friendly, but I’m not interested in spending money to make Linux run better. No operating system is perfect, and Windows has its fair share of issues, but since I’ve reinstalled Windows, I haven’t had to fix anything.
This doesn’t mean I’m done with Linux. Although my daily drivers continue to be Windows on desktop and Android on mobile, Ubuntu still lives in a virtual machine on my desktop, and I have enabled the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which is very exciting. Admittedly I don’t really have a use for it, but it’s still a massive step forward considering Windows’ past. I’ll continue to keep up with Linux. Perhaps I should’ve installed Pop_OS with its robust graphics drivers, or CentOS for its renowned reliability. One thing is for sure, I’ll continue to keep my eye on the open source side of computing.