After a Month of Linux – Newbie Thoughts

Wow, it has been a month since I installed Linux Mate as my only operating system on my primary laptop (yes, I got rid of Windows 10) and during that time I have been experimenting, digging around, hell I have even started taking a basic Linux course to actually learn more about this new fangled operating system I am running.

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Come on Harold, Linux is not really new fangled anything, but it is new to me and there have been a LOT of changes since I played around with it five or more years ago.

The biggest surprise for me over this last month has been that I haven’t missed or been tempted to re-install Windows on my primary laptop at any point. Which is something that I figured when this whole thing started that I would probably want to do after a couple of weeks immersion in Linux.

If anything, I wish that I had done it sooner – but then again I wasn’t ready.

A little background

I have used DOS, Windows 1.0 through Win10, with a three-year foray into the world of Apple and an ongoing love/hate relationship with Chromebooks since 2012. So I am pretty familiar with how things work and don’t work for me on laptops in the Windows, Mac and Chromebook worlds.

A Brilliant Idea

However, after a couple of weeks I was not entirely happy with Ubuntu Mate, I am not sure about the why and can’t really articulate the issues, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in an OS. Being the tinkerer kind of guy that I am, this lack of appreciation for Mate, made me want to see which flavor/distro of Linux worked best for me and how I like to do things.

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Which got me to thinking about how I could test other distros, without loosing all the work that I done to set up the ASUS.

Then I got the idea to see if my 2009 MacBookPro was up to the task.

After all it had sat out in the garage for over a year and then in my desk at work for another six months after that. However, it still booted up and has been left on the side of the road for dead by Apple’s policy of moving onward and upward with their OS-X updates, despite the hardware being some of the best around and still working like a champ. Plus my MacBook has been “updated” a little over the years with more RAM and a new hard drive, which makes it a perfect Linux machine.

It was a brilliant idea.

Not to Worry

My ASUS became my stable laptop that I could put all my stuff I wanted to keep, do actual work on if I needed to and the old MacBookPro became the labtop laptop. Which meant when not if, but when – I screwed things up, well it wouldn’t matter all that much.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been playing with different Linux distros to see which ones worked for me.

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and I looked at a few other distros, but didn’t bother to install them for various reasons.

I really didn’t want a laptop that looked like it had just rolled off some Windows OEM shelf, but at the same running a clone of the Mac environment was not what I envisioned for my laptop either.

Although I did want some of the features that I like best from both.

The biggest things I was looking for was a clean look, RELIABILITY, ease of use, let me be in charge of my computer, not need the Internet and not having to use the Terminal all that much as a newbie.

After a lot of installs, trying things out for a bit, breaking things a couple of times and reading a lot of blogs, tech articles and watching more than a few YouTube videos.

It finally came down to the Linux Mint or Elemental-Loki distros.

Both did what I wanted, but I found myself having to use the Terminal a LOT more to get Elemental-Loki to do what I wanted, which was  something that I had wanted to avoid as a newbie. I am not afraid to muck around in the Terminal, but I am not ready to do a lot of stuff there yet, since I don’t have a clue about what I am actually doing most of the time.

When I played around with Linux Mint Cinnamon, I wasn’t that impressed initially, it seemed very close to Mate and I actually liked the Pantheon desktop on Elemental quite a bit more. I overwrote Mint 2-3 times with other distros, but kept coming back to it.

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However, it was my perceived limitations of Elemental-Loki finally made my mind up for me and I installed Linux Mint on the old warhorse and have been playing around with setting it up the way that I want for a few days now and will probably never stop tweaking it.

While I could have left Mint in its stock condition and used it quite nicely, one of the reasons that I moved to Linux was that I could make it more my computer than some OEM’s.

Down the road, I might even attempt to find a Pantheon desktop for Mint and figure out how to install it.

They all serve a purpose

I have four laptops (I know about 3 too many, along with an Android phone) and I had to decide how I was going to use my MacBookPro going forward. Playing around with it over the past couple of weeks reminded me of how much I love the MBP keyboard and it is has always been a good laptop for me.

Unfortunately, it is too heavy to be my bag computer, the battery isn’t in great shape and doesn’t have enough hard drive space to be my home laptop, photo/video manager and music player. However, it does a decent job on Never Winter Nights 2 and other older RPG single player games I prefer, does well browsing the web and has a CD drive for watching DVD’s.

So my 2009 MacBookPro with Linux Mint is now my newest couch laptop.

My Asus still has Linux Mate on it and as I learn more about Linux, eventually I will go back and clean things up (you know fix all the stuff I screwed up), get my photo and music collections setup correctly and will use it for other things as I need to.

The Toshiba Chromebook will stay on the kitchen table as my online consumption device and my old Samsung 550 Chromebook will be my travel, stave it up computer where it doesn’t matter if it gets beat on or breaks.

Although one or both of them might end up with a different Linux Distro on them someday, because while the cloud is nice, I don’t like be that dependent on it always being available (call me old school), at some point the Internet will break or be changed into something not as easy to use as it is today.

The 550 will probably be first, since Google has officially ended support for it recently, even though it still works great.

Planned obsolescence at it best, gotta get a new computer every 5 years or sooner.

Thinking Out Loud

It is funny and I did chuckle more than a couple of times when I was writing this post at some of the things I have done and thought about since I got rid of Windows.

A lot of what I call tinkering at its best.

No, I don’t think that Linux is perfect, but what I like is that for the most part it just works well enough for me and there is a good community of users who are willing to help newbies like me make the transition to Linux. I think it is made for those of us who love to tinker with our computers.

The biggest issues I have had with the move to Linux are:

  1. that commands or where they are located are not always that intuitive to me as I learn the Linux way of doing things.
  2. The few times that I have used the terminal, it is something that makes me think that I am moving backwards in time – back to using DOS or those old Unisys and Wang computers that I had to work on way back when. Which if I am being honest, I didn’t like and was always the reason that I didn’t bother to look more closely at Linux sooner.

Do I see me going back to Windows 10? 

Not anytime soon.

For me Windows 10 has gotten too complex/sophisticated for my purposes and I often wonder if commands are purposely deeply embedded behind multiple screens. You know, to make it more difficult for other than for most the most ardent users or computer professionals, to do much more than just use the system the way that it is set up for them by OEM’s or administrators.

I will not bash Microsoft, since they are doing what they believe is correct for their corporation to be successful in today’s world. However, it does not mean that if I am not comfortable with what they are doing or the direction that they seem to be going that I will continue to use their products.

Sometimes it is just time to move on.

So far

Overall, I have been very impressed with my experience during the move to Linux. I was particularly impressed with how easy it has been to install, experiment with the different distros, software and use Linux for what I want to do on my computers.

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Which is much different from the preconceptions and misconceptions that I and more than a few long-time computer users have about Linux.

However, let’s also be real, I have used computers since the early 80’s, have most of my stuff somewhere in cloud or backed up on a portable disk drive, as well as on my primary laptop. So actually moving to and using Linux was probably easier for me than it would be for many others who don’t have similar experience.

Plus and maybe this is the most important part, I was ready to leave Microsoft behind and ready to accept that I would have a learning curve during my move to Linux.

Now to figure out what software, err apps, nope Linux still calls them software, that I think will work best for me.

Who knows maybe I will learn that the Terminal ain’t that bad after all – we shall see…and the journey continues. 🙂

11 thoughts on “After a Month of Linux – Newbie Thoughts

  1. You are a brave man! I’m still on Win 7, which needs to be restored, but it works better than XP.
    The one thing I hate about Windows is that a system restore basically wipes your HD. How convenient!
    I’m reluctant to do the restore and rebuild my apps, going all Linux seems beyond me.

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    • I don’t know about brave, more likely just adventuresome and willing to break things along the way :-). Yeah Windows does have a lot of quirks and I am finding that while Linux has its own quirks, I am enjoying learning them and am not stressed out about when I am in the middle of something, the freaking machine doing an update and shutting down on me or what data is being collected that I can’t stop from happening without doing major geeking out to figure out all the outgoing stuff that bypasses firewalls setup to stop it. So far I am enjoying the learning process and computer operating systems are a lot like running shoes, you gotta try a lot of them out to see what works for you. I thought the same thing about Linux, but actually many of the Linux Distros remind me a lot of Windows XP and work better than it did and I consider XP to be Microsoft’s best OS.

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  2. I’m not super knowledgeable about computers, but I know my brother (computer scientist major) likes Linux more than Windows or Mac, so it’s good if you get used to this system, because it’s probably better.

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  3. Cool update … was wondering how it was going! 🙂 How have you been finding software compatibility? That is one concern I think most people have – how the different distros impact compatibility … fortunately one piece of software I use a bunch (statistical programming tool called ‘R’) works on Mint. But another key tool I use dropped Linux support a few years ago … oh well.
    At the same time, I think that just like you have said, there is a realization of how little we really need a specialized platform – working on Mac, Windows or Linux doesn’t matter much.
    I have been thrilled with how well my rebuilt Alienware laptop has been doing for the last month! I really thought I was out of luck, but their support center ‘shot-gunning’ a bunch of stuff really did the trick! I am getting a ‘Samsung Book’ (something like the Microsoft Surface) in the next week to review … not sure how I even feel about that type of thing.

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    • Mike – I have been so busy the past couple of weeks, that I haven’t even had time to see about older RPG games working, Wine should work fine, I will probably try more this week 🙂 I have been focused more on figuring out which browser to use, since I do about 70-80% of my stuff in one and the Linux equivalents to other software that I am using and will be doing a post later next week on that. I would like to be oS agnostic and use whatever is available, but at some point the strict siloing that has been part and parcel of today’s world is a pain, but there is hope since many see the browser as their conduit to getting things done than which computer they are using. Alienware computers are awesome and I always wanted one, but couldn’t figure out a way to fit it into the budget – pricey. I like the Surface approach to things a tablet when you need it and laptop when you want it. Best of both worlds, but like I said, I don’t see me heading back to Windows for other reasons than the hardware you can use. Good luck and I look forward to seeing how you make out with it. You will have to send me a link to your review.

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  4. One of the joys of cloud backup and external HDD is your not reliant on one machine. My printer and scanner wont work with linux but I rarely use either. They do work with windows so I can still use them. Linux mint cinnamon has an XP feel to it maybe thats probably why its so popular. I too take satisfaction from tinkering with old computers. Windows 10 is so full of stuff you have to turn off just to getting it running nicely. Most of my internet browsing is done on my old samsung phone my grandson gave me. The joy of linux is it works you can tweek it till you break it. When you break it , you just reinstall and start again. Keep a install copy on a usb stick. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

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    • Thanks Neil, yeah I wouldn’t know what to do if I was required to rely on a single machine again. I haven’t tried the print/scanner yet, haven’t had any need so it will be interesting to see if I can get the Canon to work or not. Yeah have that install usb right beside the computer and have all the different distros that I am interested in on the hard drive or my primary laptop. I am having fun tinkering and not worrying about anything with the oS. 🙂

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  5. I think my first Linux distro was Mandrake 7.2, and I loved it right away. The main problem then; however, was the lack of crucial apps we were using at home at the time — there was no Quicken-equivalent, for example. I taught my older daughter (her request) how to build a PC and install Linux — I was always a fan of the Mandrake-Mandriva line, as it focused on the desktop user.

    I waited for the first Android phone rather than buying an iPhone because I knew Android was Linux.

    To make a short story long , I began using ChromeOS (which is a specialized Linux distro, basically) when the Samsung 3 came out in 2011 (I had long before — 2006 or earlier, when Google Docs was Write — become a fan of what was to become the Google suite). I added a Chromebox to my world in 2013, but have used ChromeOS as my PC platform since 2011 with little looking back. I do keep a Wintel around, because for my geophysical consulting I need programs that are neither available on Linux and certainly not on ChromeOS (I have run Ubuntu on my Chromebook for some applications). Largely though, and especially with eMusic (member since 2004) ridding themselves of their download manager with their recent site upgrade, I am ChromeOS day-in and day-out, not missing Wintel in the least.

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    • There is no lack of apps from what I can see, maybe a lack of porting of games older RPG games that I like (there is always Wine, but it can be persnickety at times. I am enjoying the challenges of learning Linux and unfortunately or fortunately, I am not afraid to break things 😉 I have been using Writely and Google’s cloud Office solution since it came out. It has come a long ways since then and for what I need that is mostly enough, although I do like to have a computer based Word Processor and Spreadsheet program, just in case, but I don’t really need a full fledged Office Suite at this point. My needs are pretty simple and if it were not for enjoying certain older RPG games and a certain amount of needing the Internet to work better (which most computers need today) I can work effectively with my two Chromebooks. I actually still like my old 2012 Samsung 550 better than the newer 2015 Toshiba I am using right now 🙂

      I have had both phones and keep going with Android phones. It just works better for my needs.

      Nope I don’t see me heading back to the Apple Silo, anymore than I would go back to Microsoft at this point.

      Linux seems to fit who I am a lot better than either of the other two major silos and well Google at least they tell you up front they are going to use your data and make money off of you for the ability to use their products for free or at a very reasonable price.

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