Full Migration from Windows to Linux – Report #5 Long-term Madness

It’s been a while, in fact I had a whole post ready for “1 year on Linux full-time”… Yeah it’s now past 2 years, I dropped the ball on that one and just let it roll under the couch.

I’ve been soaking in as much Linuxy related info as possible in these past 2 years.

https://www.fosshub.com A nice list of software that I looked at a couple times but haven’t really looked at recently.

https://linuxjourney.com A website to help you learn about operating Linux in handy lessons.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.enki.insights is an app on my phone where you do daily questions and challenges related to Linux and/or Bash, this has helped with a lot of nit picky details on navigating around when the desktop freezes/crashes.

https://github.com/zfsonlinux/zfs/wiki/faq I’m using ZFS for my local file server so this was my main jumping platform on what to do or fix.

https://www.pantz.org/software/cron/croninfo.html there was a strange amount of times I had to fiddle with cronjobs

https://access.redhat.com/documentation/en-us/red_hat_enterprise_linux/7/html/system_administrators_guide/index This is when things started getting out of hand…

Alright so why so many links? Well Linux can get pretty deep. And found myself in it's deepest parts, looking and reading at things that I genuinely find interesting but rather than casually filing it away for reference later, I found myself studying quite a lot of it.

I’ve always enjoyed reading technical manuals. When I used to work at a TV station I spent time during lunch reading the manual to the Chyron from front to back twice over. Now it wasn’t in my job description to do anything other than type in names and locations on the lower thirds. This TV station was super scrappy and under staffed so everyone had least 2 jobs. Also I had a really good boss, I’ve proved to him that fixing things is something I’m good at and enjoy quite a bit.

s-l16002.jpg

Other than killing the mini-fridge, screwed that one up real good.

This Chyron is super old and running on an old platter drive that has it’s own spot on the rack; Old, large and slow. Typing on this beast took forever, luckily it had enough memory to queue up all of my key strokes and then be able to walk away and come back 10 real world minutes later to see it just finish.

 This was just the terminal input. It had 3 screens and the Chyron itself was on a rack.

This was just the terminal input. It had 3 screens and the Chyron itself was on a rack.

Now for the most part this wasn’t a huge problem but this was a live news broadcast and there was often times when a name, place or correction had to happen on my AUX screen (the display that didn’t show live) and often times the Chyron would take to long to fill in the letters, by the time it was done the next segment was already showing and it was much to late.

So after reading this manual and knowing how platter drives read data faster closer to the center, I completely reformatted the disk uploaded the most important data first. The Chyron even had a function to reserve physical block space depending on what number I FTP to it so I sent super large images towards the middle of the platter.

Now it wasn’t screaming faster but oh boy did it run way smoother than before and I was able to make live on air corrections in time.

Wait, what part of this is about Linux?

My point to this is that I’m aware that once I want to learn everything about something I will typically make it happen. I’m the sort of mad man to take a month of my free time to learn how something works.

However this approach with Linux has really hurt my creative output, there is always something more to discover with the Linux stack, to the point where you could simply scroll through the entire source code to every program running on the very computer you’re using at that point in time.

A good week was spent looking at and figuring out a way to become RHEL certified, why? Just wanted to and maybe something for the future but honestly I wasn’t going to be a sysadmin or even anything close to that.

At that point in time it finally hit me that I’ve been desperately trying to play catch up at a rapid pace. I used to fix up Windows computers and my know-how of Windows was good, where compared to Linux was just next to nothing.

It took some restraint but I took a step back and saw that everything running (RSS feeds, Podcasts, Youtube, Twitter, Ect.) was delivering me something Linux related, be it news or some reference blog. First thing I did was removed the (Five) Telegram rooms that were Linux related (wasn’t even using them anyway!), Telegram is back to just a messaging program with my friends and family. Not going to bog you down with every little program I went through to trim the excess but it was every where to the point of overwhelming distraction.

Which shows, as I haven’t posted much of anything in the entire year of 2017.

Now here is the (maybe) useful part for everyone else; Things I’ve learned.

Discovery

Linux distros are all very similar, as in practically exactly the same, it all comes down to how packages are delivered, what pre-loaded software or extras are included (such as SELinux) and what Desktop Enviroment you like.

Discovering how you like these things is the more time demanding detail than anything else. What I did to try out desktops was just install all the well maintained DE’s, log out, switch to whichever one and give it a whirl for a week or so. They all had something to them that was enjoyable and as someone used to the Windows world I'd recommend MATE or Cinnamon.

GPUs

Nvidia proprietary drivers… Well I could rant on about this forever- short version: Pain in the ass.

If you’re using Ubuntu or a flavor of it, just make your life easy and load in this ppa

ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa

If you use some other distribution find some 3rd party maintained repo to plug in (RPM Fusion for Fedora in example)

Then finally add nomodeset to your grub file, this is just needed anywhere you go no matter what distro.

I think thats the shortest most informative way to installing Nvidia drivers I can get. Manually installing the drivers are there on Nvidia’s site, you can even load in beta ones. I wouldn’t waste time on it unless you had a reason to do so.

As for AMD GPU users I’m afraid I know very little other than from what I’ve heard using the open source drivers these days is fairly smooth sailing if you have a semi-new card.

Software Locations

Be aware the repo that a distribution runs on is not the only place to get software from, there are things like Flatpak, Snap, AppImages, PPAs for Ubuntu based, .run files, tar.gz files or even build from source. I've personally come to dislike it when software is packaged in a DEB or RPM, as a desktop user I don't really see the advantage to doing this. Even had .deb files made for the version of what I was running and had it fail to run.

And now that I’ve learned how to build from source, discovered all the locations for keeping the software I use up to date, how to navigate using the terminal and over saturated my brain with sysadmin commands… It’s time to change just about all of that and stash it away.

Where to now?

For over almost 2 years I’ve stuck to using just Linux Mint, I figured if I stick to one distro there will be less time spent on reinstalling or learning a different layout. That worked for the most part. Everyday normal users I don’t imagine will have the nit picky details I do. There is a lot of software in my day to day, from photography, digital art of 2D and 3D, music production or some other odd ball thing that I just enjoy making. A lot of this stuff is just hobby projects and hardly any of it sees the light of day, or rather the black hole of the internet.

I found myself spending a lot of time looking at what is the best way to keep software up to date whether that be an AppImage, PPA, Flatpak, Snap or tar.gz.

One of the strange obstacles with Linux distributions is either having super bleeding up to date software or something that is months old, even if that distro version just came out.

For the most part I had about 17 or so PPAs loaded in, this isn’t exactly terrible but it did cause problems and even had to go in to directly tell apt-get to download the same library from both the offical repo and the ppa repo then make symlinks so the software I was using could function with it’s new version but keep the rest of the system in line for the other software could run as well. Fun...

Flatpak and Snap programs each have a different home folder. For example the .gimp-2.8 folder was in different places for each one. Little things like this drive me nuts, I understand it’s to keep things from conflicting but I can’t put up with it. Oh and some appimages did this too, just to rub it in.

With all this ranting I can hear it now, ARCH!1!!

I did look at Arch Linux a few times, now I like cutting edge but not bleeding edge. Also with the amount of software I load in, conflicts are just going to happen.
Even considered running on Debian sid, but same thing as Arch, just the newest bleeding edge builds.

Now that I’m reading this over, it wasn’t the agony I’m quite describing above, it’s just lots of little things I was putting up with that rubbed me the wrong way. Was willing to make it work, to put the effort into it. The alternative was Windows 10 or OSX (who am I kidding, only Windows). Just in retrospective thinking about it is really annoying.

Something new that works for me

One late night reading through r/Thinkpad I came across a couple of posts involving the Carbon X1, in each one it was either the poster or in the comments about how Solus Project worked great for their shinny new Thinkpad.

Found myself the next day backing up my laptop home folder and sticking Solus on it to fiddle around. Color me impressed. I’ve heard other people remark on how it’s a great distribution but really, if you look around that is said about every distro. Even Arch <3

Just going to summarize what important bits Solus does for me.

The repo has software that is the newest stable release, this one is a huge for me.

The repo has software loaded in that doesn't have to abide by a guide line of some sort of strict open source license. Along with every single bit of software I use that is open source.

Newest stable Nvidia drivers in the box, it's just there. Also does the nomodeset thing for you.

Steam Linux Integration. It handles a lot of pesky problems with loading in games, such as having it load on the wrong monitor. This just isn't a problem any more. Along with other snags with older unity engine titles, gone.

Lastly

These reports originally were intended to help Windows users that are fed up with the ecosystem Microsoft has been shifting towards. Give that person some perspective about how this Linux stuff works. I'm not entirely sure that I've achieved that here, perhaps this will help someone out there?
Honestly the best advice I can give is, download a Linux distribution, make a bootable USB drive and install it (make a backup of your other drive first). After that just simply use it. Everything I mention above makes it sound like you have to learn so much but that's just how I tick when it comes to new things.

Naturally the question "Which distro?" will come around, so I'll just say it here; Solus Project. It's what I'm currently using.

This past 2 years has been a very dense amount of learning and even burned myself out on it, however overall, I’m still glad I did it.

Now to worry less and enjoy working on more creative projects.