My Transition To Linux And Back Again
For my first blog post, I’d like to tell you about my Linux Story. The things I loved, the things I hated, and finally why I moved back to Windows.
tl;dr - I enjoyed using Linux but i’m sticking with Windows until there’s better 4k monitor support.
My first exposure to Linux was during the mid-2000’s when studying computing at college. While looking for an installer for a particular piece of software, I noticed that the manufacturer’s website offered an installer package for Windows, OSX, and what’s this…. Linux?
I then spent most of the next week reading about Linux, installing VirtualBox and trying various distro’s. Eventually my interest moved elsewhere due to the lack of games support and a poor suite of tools for C# development on Linux.
Around 2010 I found myself knee’s deep in Linux after becoming a Minecraft server admin. At one point I was managing 5 different Linux VPS’s running Minecraft server.
By 2012 I’d lost all interest in Minecraft and only touched Linux every now and again.
2019 - The Year I’d Move To Linux
By 2019 I’d become a full-fledged Web Developer. With more responsibilities I no longer cared about using Windows 10 for games. All my code was available in the cloud, hosted on various Git services. Document’s and spreadsheets in Google Sheets or Office Online.
At this point in my career I’d found myself managing several Linux servers, much like my Minecraft days. I’d become comfortable with the command line and setting up a .Net Core web server on Linux became 2nd nature.
It felt like the right time to drop Windows on my main machine and embrace Linux.
I work remotely and my main workhorse is a dell Dell Inspiron 15 7559.
- 16 GB RAM
- 512gb m.2 SSD + 1tb HDD
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
Ubuntu 19.04 had just been released. KDE has my preference as a desktop environment, so I chose to install Kubuntu 19.04 from USB.
During the installation it was apparent that the scaling was totally off. The installation menus were tiny on the 4K screen, but I battled on, understanding that this could be fixed post-installation.
My dell had the new OS installed in around 30 minutes.
Post Installation - The Bad Bits
The scaling issues stuck around after installing the latest Nvidia drivers and playing around with the display settings. Some windows were huge while others had tiny text.
While working from home, I have a second 1080p monitor attached to the laptop via a HDMI cable. KDE is unable to scale one screen at 100% (1080p monitor) and the other screen at 150% (the built in 4k screen) which means that you must choose one setting or the other for both monitors. Apparently, this is going to be fixed with Wayland.
The media keys on the laptop keyboard stopped working. This was fixed after updating packages using
sudo apt updatesudo apt upgrade
My laptop suffered the known issue where YouTube videos get all jumpy and display lots of horizontal lines. This is apparently an NVIDIA driver issue and can be fixed by switching to the built in Intel graphics however the Intel drivers caused me some issues with random slowdowns.
Something I didn’t think to check before migrating to Linux was the Google Drive support. There’s no native Google Drive client for Linux so your choices are to either use web app or install a third-party client.
Post Installation - The Good Bits
This is a matter of personal opinion however I believe that the KDE desktop offers a far more streamlined UI for fast paced workloads. After 2 days I was quickly moving between virtual desktops and darting about using keyboard shortcuts.
Updates are much less intrusive in Kubuntu compared to Windows 10. Many users of Windows 10 (myself included) have suffered from the OS restarting by itself while powered on overnight. This happened to a PC of mine while it was rendering a large video file overnight. Guess who wasn’t happy when he had to restart the process from the beginning the next morning.
While Microsoft have made updates less of a pain as Windows 10 has matured, I like having the ability to manage when updates are installed, and my machine restarted.
Talking of updates, I like being able to update all the software on my machine via the package manager. In Windows, every app either has its own updater or you need to manually check for updates. Linux definitely wins here.
Why I Switched Back to Windows
The display scaling issues became unbearable after just a few days. 4k screens work fine if you’re just using 4k.
However, mixing a 4k screen with a 1080p extended display causes all kinds of problems where windows and fonts will either be too large or too small depending on whether you are scaling at 100% or 150% globally. And you can’t scale each monitor individually until Wayland hits.
During freelance work, I usually share files with clients with Google Drive. The third-party clients didn’t live up-to my expectations and the web interface wasn’t ideal.
This and the other negatives I listed above drove me to reinstall Windows 10.
I’m sad to say goodbye to Linux for now but maybe 2020 will be my year of the Linux desktop.