The Year of the Linux Desktop (For Me)

~or~ How Boar-b-Que Got His PC Groove Back.

Tepig/Pokabu by Ken Sugimori

Boar-b-que writes:

The year 2016 CE was hailed as one of the worst in recent memory. While I'm certain survivors of certain horrific events in the less recent past would beg to differ, there was a kind of terrible synchronicity about the year that made people feel as if they were under personal attack.

For me, personally, the year saw joblessness, loss of my home, and a dramatic increase in the severity of my medically treated depression and anxiety disorder. I'm certain that there are some causal links there, but I've been fighting the anxiety disorder for a while. The financial problems and job interview stress combined to become a battering ram against my defenses. The icing on the cake, near the end of the year, was a series of computer hardware failures on both my wife's and my own personal workstations.

We're very much 'cord cutters', which has saved us quite a bit of money over the years. What little video we watch, we get from streaming services. We watch very little television... what happens to be on if we visit someone with a television, or if there's a television playing while we're out somewhere. Most of our entertainment is in the form of books, personal creative projects, and video games. The two latter, and even some of the former usually involve our computers.

When my wife's computer failed, I had to replace the motherboard, CPU, ram, and video adapter. She got a nice upgrade out of the ordeal.

The most onerous part of the ordeal for me was, after reinstalling Windows 7, shepherding the computer through hours and hours of updates.

For the nth time, I berated myself privately for not having a working 'slipstreamed' installer. I bemoaned to myself how much more difficult it was to install Windows than it was any of several Linux distributions.

That hasn't always been the case. I've worked with Linux for many years in various incarnations... usually as a server OS, but more recently as a utility OS run in a VM on my Windows workstation and as the underpinning of Android OS on various phones and my tablet. Installing Linux used to mean fighting to get myriad drivers working, editing endless configuration files, and frequently compiling your work environment from source.

This is no longer the case. Linus Torvalds and the many, many Linux developers have polished the Linux kernel so much over the years that it gleams like a terawatt laser. Thanks to efforts by the many people and businesses who realize that being tied to Windows and Microsoft is ultimately a losing proposition, hardware that doesn't have a Linux driver is frequently a thing of the past. Additionally, thanks to companies like Valve Software and Good Old Games (gog.com), I've found that most of the PC games I want to play have native Linux versions.

In an effort to make myself more employable, I've re-enrolled in college classes. I purchased an inexpensive Dell touchscreen laptop for school work. It came with Windows 10 pre-installed. I also own a license for Windows 10 from the period where Microsoft was basically giving them away. I told my wife, "I ain't even gonna let Win 10 boot on this guy."

I had to argue with the BestBuy cashier that I didn't want the copies of Office 365 or Norton Security that were tucked under the spider-wire security device that kept me from shoplifting the computer. I had to explain that I wasn't ever going to install them. This confused her, but eventually dropped $50 or so from the price I paid for the laptop.

When I got it home, I stuck in a Mint Linux 18.1 thumbdrive and immediately installed that, obliterating the Windows 10 preinstall. Sayonora!

I figured that the laptop and OS would probably take a little tweaking before they were usable for my school work. Nope. To my surprise, EVERYTHING worked perfectly upon install. Even the touchscreen performed flawlessly.

Then my main workstation failed. I had to replace quite a bit of hardware. When the time came that I realized I was going to have to reinstall the OS, I stopped in my tracks. I certainly wasn't going to install Win10, but I dreaded the lengthy install process for Win7. I realized that I was tired of fighting Microsoft for my privacy and preferences. I did not need or want Clippy... er... Cortana offering to help me every time I performed basic system administration. I certainly did not want to be advertised to every time I opened my Start menu.

No, it was time to take the dive, regardless of the shock. My workstation setup is quite a bit more complex than a laptop. I realized that I was going to have to learn a bit to make it work like I wanted. Regardless of the extra effort I was incurring, I plugged in that same Mint Linux thumbdrive and installed.

I've had to boot Windows in a Virtualbox VM exactly once so far. I wanted to run a game utility that used the .Net framework. It just doesn't have a Linux counterpart yet and it didn't run under Wine or Mono.

I was surprised to find that Win10 seemed clunky and hard to use compared to the Linux environment in which I am now spending the majority of my time.

For me, at least, the year of the Linux desktop has arrived. I won't be going back any time soon.

- Boar-b-que

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.