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My experience with Linux

Sunday, 19th February 2023

I've been using Linux sporadically since the early 2000s but it wasn't until about 2013 after getting a new PC at the time; when Linux in some form became a permanent fixture on my PCs along side the traditional Windows installations and where I really decided to take it seriously and give it the attention it deserved.

To be honest though, my initial experiences of Linux was not that great. I tried various distributions over the years, many that I was given by others through installation CDs or computer magazines etc. Though I managed to get a few installed on the computer and to boot up to desktop, there were usually some serious setbacks that prevented me from considering Linux as a potential operating system I could actually use other then just for playing around with.

For one thing, there was always usually something that just refused to work out of the box, and I couldn't figure out how to get working after the fact; no doubt a few times because of my lack of Linux experience but I am sure the support just wasn't there at all regardless. Whether it be graphics cards, network cards or sound cards etc; there was always atleast one of these or more, along with other things that just refused to work at all or if it did, not correctly such as it would through Windows. This would usually end up frustrating me until I gave up on that distribution and going back to Windows until I decided to try another distribution out in time.

It wasn't until I believe around 2006/2007 when I came across and installed Linux Mandrake that I finally had some relative success. Everything finally just worked. Atleast to usable degrees. That graphics cards operated at preferable resolutions, the soundcard actually played audio and the network card allowed me network/internet connections; finally!

Linux Mandrake as I remember also came bundled with KDE and Gnome desktops environments, with others too if I remember correctly. I can't remember the exact version of Linux Mandrake that I had, I have since lost the installation discs I had at the time, but it did really open me up to Linux in general and I was finally able to get some useful Linux experience from it. I did give Linux Mandrake a decent run at the time but the software it had atleast for my purposes was limited and the games I had on Windows had no Linux counterpart and was in no way able to be operated on Linux successfully; atleast as far as I could figure out.

Though Linux Mandrake remained on that computer for a period, I found it difficult to justify giving any serious time into that Linux installation. I was really into gaming at the time, especially online multiplayer games, so Linux didn't really provide me what I was actually looking for on a day to day OS. It was also installed on the same drive as my Windows installation just via a separate partition, so when a Windows update eventually took out the Linux bootloader, which I believe was Lilo at the time, instead of repairing it I just nuked the Linux installation and reclaimed the disk space back to Windows.

Around 2013 with my Serena PC I decided to give Linux some more attention. I had actually learnt from previous mistakes so had decided to provide a separate dedicated harddrive specifically for Linux, and have my BIOS boot into the Grub bootloader that would show on system start and provide the option to boot into Windows or Linux as required. This way no Windows updates could interfere with the Linux installation and as far as Windows was concerned it could continue to believe/pretend it was the only OS on the computer for all I cared.

I had initially installed Ubuntu but only used it briefly until I came across Linux Mint 16 and replaced Ubuntu with it. I kept the Linux Mint installation up until 2019, iterating through the available versions up until I had become aware of Arch Linux. After testing Arch in various virtual machines, I had become confidant of the installation procedure and decided to try it on the hardware. I actually provided it its own separate harddrive as well even though I was initially only going to just experiment with Arch Linux and test things out so to speak. I did though end up replacing Linux Mint with Arch Linux after managing to get it successfully installed on the hardware. After experimenting with it I eventually found I appreciated the Arch Linux environment better so ended up removing the Linux Mint installation. The drive Linux mint was installed on became a backup drive for Arch. Windows itself also had a separate backup drive so these four harddrives in that PC actually represented the two OS drives and respective backup drives for each. This configuration is actually exactly reflected on my current mobile workstation. That separate OS/data separation has become an important setup for my computers.

Arch Linux has remained installed on all my following computers from that point and has actually become my "daily driver" as it is called. I even use Arch Linux as the OS for this very websites server (despite the online objections I have read about using it as a server OS). Though even now, I still have a Windows install available on my current machine, that is mostly for work requirements. I am not as much of a gamer as I used to be, and for the games that I do use now and again, in 2023 for example with the use of Steam Proton, Wine and GOG etc, the ability to operate many modern and even Windows based games on Linux has never been more possible and reliable. It isn't perfect for sure. But I've managed to get games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) and Star Citizen running within my Arch Linux installation. Given enough time and perseverance it is possible to get many even modern demanding games installed on Linux. Though they don't always run perfectly, but sometimes they actually do or very close to it.

For years I had just tolerated the Windows experience and through my own complacency and familiarity with Windows allowed that experience to deteriorate without truly giving myself the desire to seek a better alternative. Considering how much I am into computers it is almost embarrassing that I allowed myself to fall into that trap for so long. If it wasn't for gaming though I am sure I would have taken Linux seriously a lot earlier. Ultimately, it is what it is I guess.

Very rarely do I ever boot up Windows nowadays for my own personal requirements. If it wasn't for work I am sure that Windows itself would have been nuked off of my computer quite a while ago. If something like some game refuses to run on Linux, I usually just go play something else.

My journey into the Linux ecosystem was sporadic for sure and I had to deal with my own changing priorities over time, but I eventually got there. Though at some level I do regret not getting into Linux earlier, I don't regret my computer experience in general. Even my experience in Windows has allowed me to learn a great many things about computers regardless. Now that I see myself as a permanent Linux user though I don't ever see myself going back to Windows; especially with how Microsoft is dumbing down and pushing even more corporate control into their OS such as with Windows 11.

Linux provides me with a level of freedom and control over my own computer that has been lost in modern day Windows. Now that I feel I have truely had the Linux experience, I have also come to greatly appreciate and respect the general philosophy and community behind Linux in general. There was also the air of mystery and curiosity that came about by stumbling into Linux so late. This feeling I remember from when I was young and came across computers for the first time. Something new to figure out and enjoy.

I also now feel like my computer actually serves me again, instead of the other way around.