On the 14th of August 2022, I had officially and successfully, switched to Linux from Windows 10. This post is a list of things I wish had told myself before I switched, and other things that I have to remember in the event that I end up somehow resetting my laptop for some reason. This is in no particular order, and yes, it has only been 6 days, I have only scratched the surface. Please do tell me if I get my terms wrong.
1) Installing Linux is incredibly easy (most of the time)
Trying to switch from an operating system which you had been familiar with for your entire (short) life is a very tall order. What if I need to switch back? What if I completely brick my system? What if… What if… The doubts kept piling up. Despite this, I continued on and managed to install it successfully, in under 10 minutes.
Alright, let’s get the elephant out of the room. The ease of installation varies immensely depending on the distribution you’re installing. From the stereotypical movie-hacker-looking compilation/installation of Gentoo, to the simple GUI of the Linux Mint installer, there are many ways to install a Linux distribution. I am currently running Fedora Linux 36 Workstation, and its Anaconda installer was, for me, really easy to use, despite some people saying otherwise. After the swift installation process, I thought to myself, “Wait, that’s it?” Yep. That was it.
2) Install Preload (for those who have 8 GB or more RAM)
Preload is essentially a program that runs in the background that detects the programs you use the most, and load the files used by those programs in the RAM rather than the SSD or HDD. This incredibly reduces launch times, since RAM is much faster than SSDs in transfer speed. Also, after installing, there’s no need for any additional configuration, just give it some time to learn what programs you use the most. This is best for those with 8 GB or more RAM, since this may increase your idle RAM usage by a lot.
3) Know thy Desktop Environments (focus more on them, not the distro)
While it may be important to give some thought on what distro you want to use, you should really give some thought on what desktop environment you want to use. To keep it simple, it is a bundle of components with the common GUI elements such as icons, toolbars, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. They provide ‘the looks’ and also the default software of your distro. Yes, I know, Linux is extremely customizable and it’s true! However, the default experience is everything for most new users, and it may be what makes or breaks their Linux experience. There are a lot of DEs (as they are called), but I want to mention only 3 here as a brand new Linux user.
GNOME is great for productivity, simple and efficient. However, the default experience (as seen in Fedora) is very different from what you’re used to on Windows. It also has less customization options by default, but you can easily increase them with GNOME extensions. The distro I am currently using (Fedora Linux 36 Workstation) has GNOME by default, and I absolutely love it. It is especially good for laptop users who are using the touch-pad, as the gesture implementation is 10/10.
KDE Plasma has an interface that many Windows will be familiar with: a taskbar, notifications popping up on the right side, a start menu. It is insanely customizable, and you seriously may end up spending way too long trying to customize it, realize that your configuration is absolutely dog-water, look at how much time you spent not touching grass, and reset to default. Jokes aside, it is a beautiful DE that I wish wasn’t so buggy for me when I tried using it on Fedora Linux 36 KDE Spin. From those who I have talked to, it’s mostly just me, but I am a busy man and don’t have much time to fix a lot of bugs, so I stayed on GNOME instead.
Cinnamon is a DE based on GNOME 2, which has a legendary reputation for being simply the best for its time. It is developed by the chads at Linux Mint and is also available in many other distros, including Fedora (I’m really selling Fedora here aren’t I?). It also has a similar interface to Windows, having a taskbar and a start menu. It also has a rather dated, nostalgia-inducing interface. I mention this as the their DE mainly because Linux Mint has it as the default DE, since they are still the go-to place for new Linux users looking for stability. (and I have never tried XFCE, MATE, i3, etc.)
In the end, all of these can be made, more or less, to look like each other. Distros may also decide to add their own extensions/configurations by default, deviating from the original experience, for the better or the worse.
4) Make sure you have ample time (to troubleshoot)
There will be bugs, there will be missing packages, there will be your 0 IQ moments. Linux is not like Windows where there is a troubleshooter lying around which can fix 60% of your problems. You will spend a lot of time to troubleshoot things yourself during the beginning (unless you’re on Arch, then you will end up troubleshooting/maintaining the system quite often), but it will all be worth it in the end. Most major distros will have extensive documentation, which you will have to learn how to read. That’s right, you’re gonna have to get used to it. RTFM should always be your first option. If you don’t want to, then there is the community. Most major distros will have large communities which will be willing to help you if need some help, as long as you’re being helpful as well. Don’t just vaguely state the problem, try and pinpoint it yourself and give a detailed explanation on what the problem is, it will help others when trying to find a solution for you.
5) Software support is good enough (unless you want to game)
As a student, my priorities are simple: stable, has the software I need, and at least capable of running some games. For most of the student workflow, I pretty much only need a web browser and an office suite. Vivaldi is supported on Linux, and runs perfectly. And OnlyOffice is my current office suite, which has great compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats. If you really need Microsoft Office and the Adobe Suite, well good luck, you will have to run a compatibility layer. Otherwise, the world of FOSS is a godsend and it is incredible. Gaming on Linux, while getting much better thanks to Valve’s direct support of WINE and the release of the Steam Deck, is still pretty iffy. If your games require some kind of anti-cheat installed, then be prepared to do some tweaks or not play them at all, as they can cause severe performance issues or even break the game. Also, since most games don’t run natively on Linux, you have to run a compatibility layer in order to get them running. Compatibility layers on Linux are on the right track and still have some ways to go, but they should run many of your games smoothly.
These are things that I find are important to note when switching to Linux. I am beginning to really like Linux, and I am interested in how it will help me in becoming more productive when the new school year begins. So far, I have no plans to return to Windows 10 at any time, and I definitely do not want to switch to or install Windows 11 ever. Hope this helps for those who are curious about Linux. Also, if you have more tips, do tell me in the comments!
Who, what, and also where have you been?
Well, this and that. I have a number of drafts which I’ll probably never finish. Do expect some more Linux posts. As for the anime, it’ll come. Sometime. School’s a real pain, and am gearing up for its return. Here’s to the 2022-2023 academic year!