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Mike Kreuzer

The year of Linux on the desktop

6 March 2021

This is my leaving the Mac for Linux blog post. I think I'm obliged to write one of these.

I've used various Linux distros on servers over the years, but up until now the desktop alternatives have always been a better fit for me. Far better usually. Until now.

For me it's not about the "free as in beer". I've paid endless amounts for Apple & Microsoft OSs in the past, and if that was the easy option now I'd still be doing that.

It's also not about "free as in speech". Not really. I'm not in this to change the world.

For me it's about free as in "feel free to get off my lawn". It's about the freedom to be left alone.

After all the failing hardware and slowly tightening restrictions of the Mac world, and all the Oh-my-God-what-even-is-that of trying to use Windows, it was a simple pop-up ad for Safari on my Mac that pushed me over the edge. The proverbial straw, it was one intrusion into my desktop life too many.

I've got one M.2 drive set up with Windows, but that's for games only. I tried WSL, and WSL2 for development and they were laughably slow. But I needed to install Call of Duty, to test out the graphics card you understand.

I've still got my Macbook Pro too (while it lasts), for Acorn mostly, my preferred image editor. That's just out of habit really, I haven't looked at a Linux replacement for that yet.

I'm slowly working my way through all the software alternatives, but most of what I do on a computer is use VS Code (actually VSCodium) and docker and various scripts, and that's all the same stuff but with a solidly better experience so far. Solidly. It's night and day. It's not even close with how much faster Docker runs. The other stuff I can work on replacing over time. I'll write up a list when I'm more done on that front in case it helps anyone else.

At the top level, my choice of distro, I went conservative. I'm typing this on Ubuntu, the dad-core of the Linux world. I tried (and even mildly preferred) a few others, but the ability to run the same distro on my machine & on various Raspberry Pis (including the super cute keyboard 400), as well as those AWS EC2s, that made the decision for me.

It hasn't all been sweetness & light. An update killed my wi-fi drivers. I may have interrupted it I think, but I'm not sure. The fix was to kick off a reinstall of linux-modules-extra, no connection required. The magic incantation being:

sudo apt install linux-modules-extra-5.8.0-44-generic

You can use uname -r to find the version to use if it happens to you.

Update: Turns out it wasn't Linux at all – the annoying part of Ubuntu? Windows being a bad neighbour. In Windows: go to device manager, select network adapters, the wi-fi adapter, & untick turn this device off to save power under power management. Stupid Windows.

So here I am. Finally. It's early days, and who knows, it mightn't work in the end, but so far it's that beautiful, almost mythical thing: it's the "year of Linux on the desktop". At least for me.