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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Moving to Linux for a Beginner

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It is no secret that Windows is the most used operating system on planet earth. And that does not seem to change at all. It is simple enough for casual users, and has the capability to entertain more advanced users. It might be expensive, but it comes pre-installed in most systems anyways so you get it for free with pretty much any computer that you buy. Not to mention, that computer does not have to be very expensive for it to ship with Windows.
I have been a Windows user for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would play games, fiddle around with paint, write gibberish in word, all this in Windows XP and Windows 2000. Over the years, I have extensively used Windows, with my last Windows OS being Windows 10, followed by Windows 8 and Windows 7.
However, I had fallen out of love with Windows. I had just been using it for too long, and I needed something new. Just a breath of fresh air. So, I started looking at other options. Ultimately moving to Linux appeared to be the right choice for me
Note: Linux is not an Operating System, but an Operating System Kernel. However for the ease of discussion, I will use the term Linux.

 

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The Alternative Options

As I have quit gaming for my exams for the most part, I didn’t really have to focus on gaming. So MacOS felt like a good option. But I, just like any sane human being, wouldn’t buy a new Mac just to get a feel. Hackintoshing was right up my alley. However, that was not an option as I use an RTX card. I was thinking of Linux, but the software compatibility was something that I particularly concerned me when thinking about Linux.
Being left with no other choice, I decided to update to Windows 11. But it appeared to be that Microsoft had placed boundaries at every single step. Ultimately, I screwed up and at ten in the evening, I was left with a PC without an operating system. I was cussing at Microsoft at that point, and I was absolutely screwed by them. I was just wondering, whether they want users to use their new operating system, and why they put a barricade at every single step.
Unwilling to revert back to Windows 10 or literally any operating system that is made by Microsoft, I made a decision. I moved to Linux.

Moving To Linux

Unlike Windows or MacOS, Linux is not actually an Operating System. It is an open source kernel that you can use to build operating systems. The operating systems built on Linux are called Linux Distros. I was not exactly alien to Linux when I made the switch to it. I previously had experience using Raspberry Pi, so I knew how Linux worked.
Thus, despite looking for something beginner friendly, I wanted something that didn’t lose function trying to hold the user’s hand. I previously had a tiny bit of experience using Raspberry Pi OS (Previously known as Raspbian). It used Debian so I had a bit of experience with it. Thus, I decided to go for a Debian based Distro.
Among the Debian based Distros, Ubuntu, PopOS and Linux Mint seemed to be popular. Ubuntu apparently has too much bloat, so that was out of the equation. I seemed to like both PopOS and Linux Mint. However, I went with PopOS because it was under System76 which is a brand I knew about previously. However, later down the road, I tried out more Distros, and finally stuck with EndeavourOS (An Arch Linux Distro).

Choosing a Linux Distro
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How I Liked Linux

The Drivers are included in the Linux kernel.

Think about every time you have to do a new Windows installation. You have to install a dazillion drivers before you can do anything with your machine. But that is not a thing in Linux. The drivers are a part of the Kernel in all Linux Distros. It’s plug and play!
Likewise open source community drivers are a part of the Linux Distro. However, these are actually community made open source drivers. Thus, they don’t allow the system to use the GPU to its full potential. As such, Nvidia has their proprietary drivers for Linux which you have to install. However, it is relatively easy and does not require any login. As such, installation is very fast as well.
Thus, there is little to no sweating required before you can use your new OS. This is what I believe makes Distro hopping so easy. You can just install a new Linux Distro, and use it out of the box.

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How Linux Kernel Works and the Driver Integration

Linux is faster than Windows in general.

Linux Distros are typically faster than Windows in terms of performance. They are often used to breathe new life into very old systems. I have a rather high end system, but even after that, I have noticed that Linux runs faster and with less hiccups.
Linux is also comparatively lightweight. You can have an entire Linux installation under 20 megabytes with a user interface. A not-so-pretty user interface, but yes a user interface. I have seen people shrink their Linux installations down to a few hundred megabytes and still have pretty user interfaces. It is also worth mentioning that you don’t have to deal with bloat like you have to when using Windows. That is the perk of open source software. You get unlimited customizeability, and you can make software your very own.

Desktop Environments are capable of making two installations of the very same Distro might look totally different.

Linux Distros are the groundwork for your system. The Distros dictate which commands you run, how you do certain stuff and all that. However, they do not really dictate how your OS looks and feels. The Desktop Environments do. The desktop environments basically dictate how your OS looks. It bundles together various graphical user interface elements to give you a cool graphical user interface.
Some are resource demanding, but are modern, aesthetic and pretty, like Gnome.

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Gnome

There are Desktop Environments that are very cheap on resources, but are rather simple, XFCE for example.

XFCE
You can also look at KDE Plasma, which is moderately resource expensive, but gives you unprecedented control over your desktop.

KDE Plasma

Ultimately, it is all preference. Linux users are spoilt with choice. All Desktop Environments have their ups and downs. The number of choices that are available to a Linux user makes it possible to find something tailored for one’s specific needs. Two users can have two absolutely different looking systems, but under the floor, they can be running the same thing. Running the same commands and all, but have vastly different looking desktops.
In fact, there is a very popular subreddit called r/unixporn entirely dedicated to customizing Linux.

r/unixporn

Moreover, Desktop Environments come with a suite of applications which can make your life more convenient. KDE Plasma for example, has an application called KDE Connect. It can be used to connect your smartphone to your PC. In fact, you can reply to your texts with it similar to iMessages.

KDE Connect
If you do not want all this mumbo-jumbo, you can also go full middle ages, and use Linux as a Command Line Interface based Operating System. I have yet to try it, but I believe it can be usable, even for day to day use. I will surely try it out when I get time.

Linux From Scratch

Contrary to popular belief, Linux is rather easy to use; easier than Windows in certain aspects.

The first thing most people fear is the learning curve when making the switch. However, in reality, Linux can be extremely easy to use.
For day to day use, Linux is easy. You don’t have to type in a dazillion commands just to open something up, no. Applications can be easily found in your start menu or the equivalent for your Desktop Environment. You have countless desktop environments, so you can fine pick the one your grandma (Or maybe you!) will be comfortable with.
Moreover, people commonly say you can’t install an application without the terminal. However, that is a myth. Depending on the Distro, you can totally skip the hassle. Most Linux Distros have a store like application. These apps function similar to Google Play Store and Apple App Store. However they mostly contain free applications. For the average user, that is more than sufficient in my honest opinion. Some of these are more advanced than others. Pamac for example, can even satisfy advanced users. In fact, during my first few days of Arch Linux, I heavily utilized Pamac to ease out the learning curve. Using these is easier than downloading a setup file and going through the setup process in Windows.

Pamac

Moreover, there are package files, such as .deb and .rpm. These files significantly ease up the installation. With a package manager (Most Distros come with one, such as Discover), you can get a one-click installation provided that you have a package file. Moreover, for certain applications, you can get AppImage files which are more or less executables. They contain all it takes for the application to run, and can be executed in Linux. You can also find .run files which act as installers. These facilities make the transition to Linux extremely easy.

Linux has a better file system than Windows.

I have personally noticed that copy-pasting files and extracting or archiving operations run faster on Linux than on Windows. Not just faster, lightning fast. A ninety gigabyte folder can eat up half an hour, or even an hour of your time depending on its contents. On Linux, the same file can be copy-pasted within a few minutes, thanks to its file system.
Windows’ NTFS file system is notorious for being slow when working with many tiny files all at once. On the other hand, Linux primarily uses the ext4 file system. It is very much better at handling those tiny files, and also noticeably better at handling larger files. However, ext4’s better management of tiny files allows me some comfort when I work with project files and install games.

Security

In general, Linux users enjoy more security compared to Windows and MacOS users. Linux is more secure, because one, security is more or less built into the core structure of the Linux kernel. And two, lesser viruses exist for Linux compared to Windows and MacOS.
Being an open source platform, Linux enjoys continuous reviewing from the global community. Any security vulnerabilities are identified and reported quickly. Thus, they get fixed fast as well. On the other hand, other proprietary Operating Systems employ a method called “security by obscurity”. This basically means that their source code is not available to the public. This hides the vulnerabilities from cyber criminals. However, there’s only so much the development team can do. For this reason, it takes them forever to iron out the vulnerabilities.
Moreover, Linux has built-in kernel security measures. That includes things like packet filters, UEFI Secure Boot firmware verification mechanism, SELinux, etc. This is know as Linux Kernel Self Protection.
Moreover, Linux has way too many Distros for a virus developer to code a virus for. So that gives the users some safety. In contrast, Windows and MacOS don’t have that many versions. That makes it easier to code viruses that can harm all users.
Ultimately, Linux is safer but not foolproof. If you are a security geek, you will obviously love Linux. However, you should still keep your eyes open for vulnerabilities.

Gaming on Linux works great, and is very much doable.

Linux has held a reputation for being gamer-hostile for as long as I can remember. However, if you can do a bit of tweaking, most games will run rather decently. You might run into issues with a thing or two, such as Ray Tracing. However a couple of launch arguments on Steam will generally fix it.
I have had time to try out a little bit of gaming on Linux, and from my experience, it is only a challenge the first time. Performance can be better or worse than Windows. For example, after launch, Elden Ring got at around 10-15 more frames per second on Linux than on Windows. For me, Hogwarts Legacy ran just fine. However, I had to add a couple of console commands to get Ray Tracing and DLSS.
At this point, the main problem that plagues Linux gaming is developers adding DRMs and anti-cheats to their games. This hinders the multiplayer play-ability. However, single player titles work decently. Despite all the advancement, if you’re a gamer, Windows will fare better.
You should refer to ProtonDB if you are interested in learning about how good a game runs on Linux, if at all.

 

Software Support is what you should look for before making the switch.

For the creative individuals, Linux can be great and provide a more efficient workflow. However, it all goes to vein if your software programmes don’t run on Linux. Adobe applications for example, don’t run on Linux at all. Wine doesn’t even run the installer. Photoshop CS6 works fine for many, but that is pretty old now. There are some GitHub projects that download newer versions of photoshop. However, they are barely useable for the most part.
The Linux alternatives can be great however. For example, DaVinci Resolve from Blackmagic Design works great on Linux. Moreover, we have learnt that it is a great software from our tests. It utilizes your hardware extremely well and runs very smoothly. GIMP is also a decent alternative to Photoshop. But honestly, no matter how great they are, the transition will hurt for somebody who is comfortable using Adobe applications.

DaVinci Resolve
DaVinci Resolve

Microsoft Office Suite is also incompatible in Linux. LibreOffice can be a decent alternative, and Writer works rather decently for me. I find it faster than Microsoft Word, however I don’t do anything too complicated. So take my word with a grain of salt.

LibreOffice Writer
LibreOffice Writer

Before you make the move, do some research on whether your softwares are compatible with Linux. You may even boot from a Live USB to find it out for yourself.

 

Conclusion

I more or less regret the fact that I didn’t move to Linux earlier. Windows or MacOS can be good for everyone, but not perfect for most. Linux on the other hand, thanks to all the customization, can be modified to be perfect for a specific user. That is what mostly attracts me towards Linux. The security aspect also relieves me of worries. Moreover, the file transfer speeds allow me to waste less time waiting. Being able to use the terminal fastens up my workflow too.
There is little to no bloat depending on the Distro and that is also a welcome feature. When faced a problem comes up, it is easier to fix generally. Moreover, Linux does not barricade you from doing your work with forced updates and similar hindrances.
Ultimately, no matter how good Linux is, if the softwares don’t work, it is worth nothing. If your software works on Linux and you like how Linux is, Linux might be great for you. If not, you may want to stick with the OS that you presently use. You may boot up Linux from a LiveUSB to test out whether your software will work. That will help you make the right decision.

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