I mention on my about page that I’ve used Linux for years, and this post is all about when and why I made the switch and some of the things I’ve done with Linux over the years.
Why don’t we start at the beginning? When I was about 13 years old and still in secondary school, my grandad (who I lived with) got a new computer, well, new to him. It was a white Compaq full-size midi tower, and it worked fine from the get-go.
I remember a few times he asked me to fix it, and the solution 90% of the time was to close my eyes and blow at the insides through a straw to get rid of the dust cloud 😆 But one particular time, there was a problem with the Graphics card, so I actually interacted with the software for the first time and, as someone who’d only known Windows Vista and 7 at that point, it was like nothing I’d ever seen.
I was fascinated by the weird colours and layout, I asked my grandad what this was and he told me it’s Ubuntu – he used it because the updates worked (remember that Windows 7 meme??) and it was free. As someone who grew up with Windows, this was an alien concept to me.
I spent the next few days Googling what Ubuntu was, which led me to the wider world of Linux – and the fascination only git bigger and bigger. Eventually, I stumbled across the fact you could try Linux live directly from the install disk, without affecting the rest of your PC. I still have that DVD, I used Linux Mint 18.2 as the trial because it was the highest rated distribution I found at the time, although not the most downloaded.
After a few days, I realised I was using my PC from a Linux DVD all the time, rather than the Windows hard drive. Shortly after, I finally decided to install Linux Mint for real.
However, it fell short as my only OS, at the time. It was great for homework and watching YouTube, but it couldn’t play any of the most recent games back then, and as a big gaming fan, that was a major discouragement for me, so after about 2 weeks, I ended up reinstalling Windows 7 instead of Linux Mint. Sadly, I got busy with school and games after that and kinda forgot about Linux.
I was soon reminded, however, when I started college and they issued me with a mini laptop that had Ubuntu Mate installed. Ubuntu Mate was very quick, snappy, easy to use and not to mention pretty compared to true Ubuntu. This re-sparked my interest in Linux and I soon had Ubuntu Mate installed on my PC alongside Windows, which was something the installer let you do now.
Ever since then, every computer I’ve had has had both Windows and some distribution of Linux installed in a dual-boot configuration.. I’d play games on Windows then reboot into Linux for web-browsing, assignments, watching videos and basically anything else. My most recent PC was the pinnacle of this, as it had a 500gb SSD for Windows 10 and a separate 120gb SSD for Linux. The computer BIOS would load up the bootloader for Linux (called GRUB), which would briefly pause and show me a menu offering either Windows or Linux. If I didn’t choose an option after 10 seconds, it would automatically boot into whatever I last used.
My next PC probably won’t be any different; Linux has come sooo far in the last few years in terms of gaming, thanks to projects like Steam’s Proton project – a project that allows some games designed only for Windows to run under Linux. However, other companies are explicitly looking for this in their anti-cheat software and banning players who use it. Easy anti-cheat is a notorious example.
And that, ultimately, is the one and only reason I still use Windows 10 – most games don’t support Linux yet. This in itself isn’t a major problem. Some games even work better through Proton than they do natively on Windows 10, I noticed this myself with Subnautica, but some of the money-hungry big companies are explicitly blocking emulation with software like easy anti-cheat.
These days, however, I don’t normally tend to use Ubuntu anymore as I believe it’s started to go against what Linux is all about (that’s a post in of itself). I have 2 go-to distros: Arch Linux and LMDE.
I’ll be honest, Arch Linux is a pain in the arse to set up. But once you’ve got it going, it’s probably one of the most robust and unique distributions:
Packages tend to be more up-to-date than Linux Mint or Ubuntu, particularly the core ones
The ArchWiki is a an amazing resource that’s very informative and rarely incorrect
The Arch User Repository (AUR) is absolutely brilliant. The community can upload packages that help you install software that Arch doesn’t keep on it’s core repositories
Once fully installed, your distro is lightweight, as you only installed what you need for your specific system
However, sometimes you just need a distro that’s quick to install and easy to use and maintain – that’s when I use LMDE. LMDE is a project of the Linux Mint team. In their own words:
LMDE aims to be as similar as possible to Linux Mint, but without using Ubuntu. The package base is provided by Debian instead. Its goal is to ensure Linux Mint would be able to continue to deliver the same user experience, and how much work would be involved, if Ubuntu was ever to disappear. LMDE is also one of our development targets, to guarantee the software we develop is compatible outside of Ubuntu.Source: Linux Mint Download Page
The reason I use LMDE instead of plain Linux Mint is again because Ubuntu is, in my opinion, not what Linux tries to or should be.
A lot of the content on this blog will probably end up being about Linux, as I’m building myself a new computer soon – my first mini-ITX build – and I plan on sharing all about that, perhaps even recording it in a video.
But for now, thanks for reading guys and I’ll see you all soon for another post!