A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about me trying out Debian on one of my laptops to figure out if it was something for me. I have been using Linux since the 1990ies and have at time used it as my main OS. The last couple of years I have been living mainly on MacOS but also spent some time with Windows (client requirements) and only used Linux on the server side. This experiment was to see how easy or hard it was going to be to live as much as possible with Linux on the desktop. My conclusion is:
The desktop was not ready for Linux!
Let me break this down abit. The laptop I used was a pretty old Sony Vaio machine. It came preinstalled with Windows 7 or 8 and was more or less unusable with this OS so it was stashed in a cabinet as a backup machine for a long long time.
The bad stuff
Let start to talk a bit about the things I did not like and also made this experiment fail.
Hardware was to old
This laptop was really slow. And that was something I noticed quite quickly when I started to do real work on it. My normal work is in a browser and using a couple development tools alongside. Firefox ran considerably slower than Chrome/Firefox on my normal computer.
Not enough memory
Probably the biggest problem was the amount of memory available. This laptop was only equipped with 4GB and during the installation the system was configured with the same swap-size. I ran out of memory and swap multiple times and this resulted in a complete system freeze. Most of the times I was able to login using the console to kill a process or two to be able to start working again. Going over 6-tabs in Firefox was playing with fire… or, ehh, maybe ice.
This laptop got warm. Really warm. When sitting and working, especially if I was working using the onboard keyboard, my hands and fingers got all sweaty during use. Not at all a pleasant experience. In addition to this the fan more or less went on full speed all the time. This is pretty annoying if you try to concentrate on a hard task.
As I mentioned I chose Debian 9 as my distribution. The main reason for this is that I have been working with it before and is familiar with the dpkg package manager. But I ran into some issues getting certain software as prebuilt binaries since the libraries used in Debian 9 where getting old. Since this Debian 10 has been released and this issues has probably been alleviated somewhat. However this is a well known problem with the Debian distribution.
This was more likely due to me missing something during the installation. But the system did not use an encrypted filesystem and after installation it is harder to get that working. Next system should definitely be encrypted.
The good stuff
That was a pretty long list with bad things. Lets looks at the things I enjoyed. and worked really well.
This is probably something very personal but I enjoyed the Gnome desktop environment a lot. It was really fast even though the laptop was old. After figuring out some keyboard shortcuts I could work very fast with multiple virtual desktops.
You either love or hate the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, Gimp. I have grown into liking it and prefer it for all the work I do on images. I am not a professional on this area but a couple of times a month I need to do some image editing and this is the tool I chose. It started super fast and worked really well. I could start it, edit the image and save the result in the same time it took to start Gimp on my iMac that is a lot newer.
Printing experience has improved
In the past I have always struggled setting printing up on Linux based systems. I am using a Samsung wireless laser printer at home (Xpress C410w). I was expecting to not get it to work at all. But to my surprise, the setup took less 2 minutes and it worked really well.
In my article “To root or not to root” I talked about flashing a Samsung phone with the /e/ OS. To do this I needed to custom build some tools. I also tried this on a Mac without getting that to work. But on this box it was quick and easy to do. I booted up the machine the other day since I needed to flash another phone.
Peace of mind
There is something when you use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) that makes you feel good in your soul. I felt secure and that I didn’t need to worry as much about my privacy than I need to when I use proprietary systems instead.
As you may have understood by know, I am no longer using the laptop. I am back to using my iMac as my main system. I did use the Linux laptop for two months and only used the iMac one or two times; I used it to play music since the speakers were way better than on the laptop. The main reason I stopped using it was the low specced hardware. It didn’t do the job. Linux performed marvelous with what it had.
But based on this I will likely buy a PC (without OS if possible) when it is time to buy a new system in a couple of years. I will without a doubt go for a Linux installation and it will most likely be Debian again. I am hooked.
Meanwhile I will, as often I can, use FOSS software on my current iMac/OSX computer.