Part 1 – Introduction – My Descent into Linux

Hello everyone.

For a couple of months now I have been strongly considering installing a Linux operating system onto my main PC with the intention to use it as my primary OS. How this will go or how long this will stick we will have to see.

This won’t be my first foray into Linux. Sure I’ve used it in virtual machines and at the various companies that I have worked at over my IT career but I have never used it properly. By that I mean for extended periods of time or taken to using it for more than either recovering files from a corrupt Windows installation or just as a curiosity.

Over the years I have tried a few different flavours (or distros) of Linux: Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Fedora, Debian, CentOS and a few other strange distros like Raspbian, Dreamlinux or PartedMagic. There certainly is a lot of choice that blows the mind of someone like myself who has really only ever had to choose which generation of Windows he uses. The flavour I am going to choose in the first instance here is Xubuntu. Xubuntu is just Ubuntu but with the Xfce desktop environment – which I like for its simplicity. Xubuntu is also the distro I have had the most experience with so far, and used to run my server before I swapped to a HP Microserver with a “hybrid” RAID card that isn’t supported in any version of Linux.

So you’re probably wondering why, or maybe you aren’t – either way let’s talk about why I want to do this. In the 10 years + that I have been tinkering with computers I have heard time and time again “This is the year for Linux!” and that year passes and still most people are using either Windows or MacOS (or then OS X). But for the fans of Linux, those who wax-lyrical about it online, there is something about their articles, comments and tirades against the opposition that is quite convincing. They speak with a grass is greener over here mentality and to be honest for someone who has sworn and cussed about Microsoft’s inane design decisions over the years  that is very appealing, so much that I am now about to launch myself over the fence. The problems have begun to arise with the advent of Windows 10. I like the operating system, it does some things very well but it also does some things really.. really bad. I understand that a lot of the Linux world is community driven, and that there are a lot of passion projects out there for the operating system – so the following probably won’t make much sense; but I really do sometimes feel that Windows 10 is a very much half baked product. Time and time again it feels like we are the lab rats being tested on, irregardless if we are in the beta testing groups or not. Updates are pushed with little to no quality control with some causing massive amounts of damage. Not only that but features that people aren’t really desiring, such as bundled apps and games, appear to be prioritised over fixing existing issues within the operating system or developing the fluidity of the UI (Windows 10 still suffers from some items appearing only in either the Control Panel or the Settings app).

Another point to add for my reasoning to test Linux properly is to see how much control I regain over my privacy. I feel like I either don’t have a choice or I am limited in Windows 10 when it comes to controlling my privacy. There are many articles out there from people much smarter than I who can break down exactly what is being sent to Microsoft. But I feel uneasy and anxious with every Windows update that I perform with what is going to change next. What else am I going to have to sign in to? What previously completely off-line tool will now be subject to “the cloud”?

So those are my reasons. I have to admit they aren’t anything new or groundbreaking, these are the reasons a lot of people moved away from Microsoft and/or Apple’s operating systems years ago. There is the saying there’s no time like the present so I am applying that logic to making this move. Why should I wait another 6 months, 1 year or more to see how things develop when I could start using Linux now and see how things are presently and if they are in a state where I can comfortably call it home; and possibly assist and help with developing the operating system so that other people can adopt it further down the line.

Prerequisites

The problem with being a Windows user for over 10 years is that I have built up a long list of utilities and applications that I know how to use and have come to love. Some of these now have mainstream Linux support, but some do not – and so an alternative will need to be found. Along with that I know for certain that all my peripherals and components currently connected to my PC, gathering dust in a cupboard or hiding in a drawer will probably work with Windows 10. Moving to Linux doesn’t give me the same level of confidence, so it will be interesting to see how many of these items will work with the operating system and if they work, how stable they are and what the support is like for them.

So this section is going to be pretty long. I am going to split it out into a few sections.

  • Hardware – which includes components installed in my PC at the moment and any attached devices or regular use devices.
  • Software – which focuses on all items of software from office applications, to diagnostic tools, chat applications and web browsers
  • Games – which focuses primarily on the games in my digital libraries, with some consideration towards my physical collection as a second priority

What I am now going to do is make a list. More for my own records, as I am hoping to blitz my Windows 10 installation in the coming 24 hours which will mean losing my current list of installed programs, and also as a list of applications that we will address in one way or another in the series.

Hardware

So my current PC has the following components:

  • Intel Core i5 4590 processor clocked at 3.30GHz
  • 8GB of Dual-Channel DDR3 RAM (which is a bit slow at 666MHz, probably mismatched sticks or something else – never really noticed an issue)
  • A Gigabyte Z97P-D3 motherboard with your typical set of IO including USB3.0, Audio and video outputs
  • A NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 graphics card with 4GB of video memory
  • A Corsair Force GS 120GB SSD, a SanDisk 480GB SSD and a 1TB Western Digital HDD
  • A HL-DT-ST CD DVD writer with Blu-ray support optical drive and a HP OEM (Toshiba manufactured) CD DVD writer optical drive.

With the following peripherals:

  • AOC 27″ IPS monitor
  • Acer 24″ IPS monitor
  • Corsair K70 Keyboard with Cherry Brown switches
  • Corsair Raptor M40 Mouse
  • HP Deskjet 2600 All-in-One Printer
  • Microsoft Lifecam HD webcam
  • Blue Snowball Microphone
  • Logitech G430 USB Headset
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 gamepad
  • Logitech Precision digital gamepad
  • Epson Perfection V200 flatbed scanner

Software

The following software is currently installed and in regular use:

  • 7-zip
    My preferred archive tool for extracting, creating and modifying zips, rars, iso’s etc
  • Adobe Photoshop CC 2019
    Used for editing photos, making graphics for the website, scanning in various bits and pieces for archival reasons.
  • Audacity
    Used for archiving vinyl records and cassette tapes. Also used for recording from my microphone.
  • Google Chrome
    I know I spoke about privacy control earlier, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite for this, but Google Chrome still is my “main” browser. However I may be swayed to try something else if it can provide me similar conveniences to that found in Chrome.
  • Discord
    My primary choice when it comes to voice chat with friends and for community chat rooms.
  • Exact Audio Copy
    Used to rip FLAC’s from my growing physical CD collection.
  • f.lux
    Utility I have used over the years to slowly and gradually remove the harsh blue-light of a monitor.
  • Handbrake
    A very important application that I use to rip MP4’s from my DVD collection into my PleX library.
  • ImgBurn
    Used for authoring ISOs and burning optical media
  • MakeMKV
    Used to rip the content from my Blu-ray collection onto the PleX server
  • Media Player Classic
    My DVD playback application of choice. Never really got on with VLC for the playback of DVD’s for some reason.
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop
    Used to manage and control my Windows based micro-server
  • MP3Tag
    Used to manage and add ID3 tags for FLAC files
  • Notepad++
    Primary choice for editing or making any kind of plain text file or editing them. Creating web pages or scripts etc.
  • Spotify
    As an early adopter the only client for Spotify that existed was a desktop client. It’s something I still really like to use.
  • Steam client
    My primary repository for digital games. Very important to have this as it contains a lot of value for me.
  • WinSCP
    My primary choice for FTP transfers.
  • WhatsApp client
    Used because I am often too lazy to find my phone to respond to group messages.
  • VideoLAN VLC Player
    Used to play back everything else but DVDs.
  • VNC Viewer
    Used to connect to other devices in the home when RDP doesn’t work
  • VSO Inspector
    Used to inspect DVD regions for when I’m doing Filmogs contribution work

And the following software is installed but not in regular use, but I do like to use:

  • Adobe Reader
    For reading PDFs when the web browser PDF’s readers fail me
  • Adobe Lightroom CC 2019
    For quick touch ups / edits of photos
  • AVerMedia RECentral
    For recording from my Avermedia capture device – which at the moment is in a state of misplacement
  • Battle.net client
    Although I don’t really play any Blizzard titles at the moment, it’s always good to keep these around if I feel a spot of Diablo
  • BullGuard Internet Security
    Probably not going to need an anti-virus product in Linux, this was a freebie. I often use these freebie AV’s that OEM’s give away.
  • CrystalDiskInfo
    Used to do spot checks on the state of my hard drives
  • Duplicati
    New product to me, was testing its functionality to do backups from my PC for things like settings etc.
  • DVD Flick
    Used to author DVD videos if needed, which is rarely these days
  • FileZilla
    Used as an alternative, and was my primary choice a few years ago, to WinSCP
  • get_iplayer
    Barely used on my client PC, use it more on my server to download items from iPlayer for later viewing
  • HxD Hex Editor
    Haven’t used this in a while. When I do its usually to identify unknown files.
  • Oracle VirtualBox
    Again used more on my server these days, is for running VM’s when needed
  • Origin client
    Similar to Battle.NET, there aren’t many titles I have from EA on this service. But helpful to keep around if the feeling strikes me.
  • PuTTY
    Used to use this a lot when I had one of those consumer NAS boxes. Good to keep around, although I don’t have any devices that I can SSH to Telnet to on a regular basis.
  • qBittorrent
    Rarely do torrenting these days, and if I do I will use a shared VPS
  • Resource Hacker
    Probably not going to need this in the Linux world. Use it to extract things like bitmaps and icons from old executables for articles on the blog.
  • Revo Uninstaller
    Use this to remove any stubborn or possibly dodgy software from Windows. Software like this might be redundant on Linux…
  • Rufus
    Use this often to make bootable USB drives for OS installs etc.
  • Speccy
    Use this to get my system specs because I am too lazy to get on my knees and open the case.
  • TeamViewer
    Infrequently used when I have to do tech support for family or friends.
  • TightVNC
    Used if RealVNC (preferred) fails to connect for whatever reason. Always prefer TightVNC server however.
  • TreeSize
    Used to identify disk usage. Seldom used day to day but useful when needed.
  • UPlay Client
    See descriptions for Origin and Battle.net
  • VMWare Player
    Alternative to Oracle’s VirtualBox, used if that for whatever reason fails to work
  • Win32 Disk Imager
    Used infrequently to take as-is copies of flash disks

What Comes Next?

So with all of the above established. Anything that I care about backed up to the server, and a copy of Xubuntu install media downloaded and written to USB drive – we begin the descent into the world of Linux.

 

2 thoughts on “Part 1 – Introduction – My Descent into Linux

  • 12th January 2019 at 10:24 pm
    Permalink

    Interesting to see you opt for this route, would be great to see how you manage gaming in Linux as I believe that’s moats people’s biggest gripe, there seems to be plenty of alterturnative apps for most ultility applications however there seems to be a noticible lack in gaming and high end application support.

    Looking forward to the next instalment!

    Dan.

    Reply
    • 12th January 2019 at 10:59 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Dan

      Thanks for the comment. Yes a lot of people have expressed that concern when I have mentioned it. The tipping point for me (which I will cover in a later part) was a Linus Tech Tips video about gaming on Linux (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWJUphbYnpg) where Linus demonstrated that the support for the latest range of NVIDIA graphics cards is getting much better. I haven’t done any gaming on Linux yet so it will be interesting to see how well it goes.

      Reply

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