Nine months of Linux Desktop

Miro Albrecht ⋅ 2022-01-01

Committing to the Linux Desktop

Last spring I installed PopOS on my main notebook aside my Windows installation. I did know what Linux is and how it works (more or less) from my apprenticeship and my interest in computers. However my Linux experience was limited to lab environments and virtual machines.

It was not my first attemt to use some Linux operating system, but I never managed to get used to it. The effort to reboot my machine or start a vm for some brief developer task was always too high for me.

This time I wanted to switch my main system. Windows is neat to use, but I was fed up with the never ending story of policy changes, reviewing all privacy settings after each update and the increasingly difficult task of not getting trapped into signing in with a Microsoft account. On top of this already big pile came all my objections to propreitary software. And beeing almost entirely dependent on one single for-profit US-based business.

So I decided to commit: I made PopOS primary desktop. Too feel a bit more save I also reinstalled Windows and created a dualboot setup. Most applications I used on Windows I could easily install on PopOS: Firefox, Thunderbird, Code, Element, Signal and Telegram. No issues there.

I underestimated my Linux-familiarity in advance a bit. Only after the switch I realized how fluent I was in using Windows. And that I could not translate many habits to the new desktop. Additionally one can do a lot in Windows just by clicking through all the layers of the interface. A Linux system requires tinkering with config files way sooner.


Naturally, the change wasn't without challenges. Since I'm studing and we have a pandemic at the moment, my cources were all online. That meant: Zoom, Webec, Teams, BigBlueButton and Jitsi. It was very annoing to either use the crippled web versions (looking at you, Zoom) or to deal with halfheartedly supported beta versions for Linux. Time passed and the software improved, my knowledge improved and most cources are (were?) live again. So it's not as smooth as on Windows to make video calls, but it's no deal-breaker whatsoever.

The next challenge was more difficult. I always was and currently I am an iPhone user. Syncing your iPhone with Linux...? Not so fast, kid. This was (almost) my only reason to dualboot into Windows. I need so sync my phone regularly, since I have my music on the device and I'm also using smart playlists heavily. Recently I improved the comfort of syncing my phone by moving my iTunes library from the host Windows into a virtual machine. Actually I wanted to be able to directly boot Windows or start the same installation in a vm. I didn't could make it work.

The last (not yet defenitively solved) issue I have is my backup: I started it on Windows and sadly, it didn't work out of the box to backup the same ntfs partition from PopOS. I didn't tried too hard and instead made a new backup each time I used Windows to sync my phone. While still relying on my rdiff-backup, I recently created two new backup repositories with duplicati and restic respectively (with Linux). I think for know I'm fine with taking a backup exclusively on Linux, as long as I'm able to access it from a Windows machine too. However I'm still struggling with the process and what I want to backup when and where...

Linux Love

What really surprised me, was how good Steam with Proton works. I can play the unoptimized Monster Hunter World with no big issues. It's noticable that the performance is not exact the same, but it's really good and more important: playable. To get the controller working needed a bit of work, but just until it was set up.

And there are some neat tools and applications: I pleasantly found the scanner and printing software to work without configuring anything. On Windows I had to install the annoying printers software suite.

I also like the flexibility and customizability of the Linux system. There are some beautiful themes. I already like the look (and simplicity) of the Gnome desktop. On the other hand I want to try more things. I think that soon I can trash my Windows partition and the remaining copy of my personal data. With this disk space I'll test some other Linux distributions like Manjaro with KDE or even just a window manager.