I’ve recently decided to return to my open source roots. I’ve been using Windows 10 for the past couple of years, and OS X for a few years before that.. but back in the mid-2000’s, I ran only Linux on all my machines.
For one reason and another I’ve been growing frustrated with the state of proprietory operating systems, especially with all the emphasis on pushing all your data to the cloud and making everything subscription based. I can’t be the only one that just wants a simple machine that works without constantly wanting to nag me with “helpful suggestions”?
So this past weekend, I decided to try installing Linux on my laptop. I didn’t want to dual-boot, because the only way to really get to know an OS is to use it full time. I did leave myself an escape hatch though, just in case things go wrong, by using a completely new SSD. I took out the SSD with Windows on it and kept it aside, and put in a brand new 256 GB SSD. This blog post chronicles my first impresssions of Linux, in 2018, on a modern laptop.
I have a 2017 (5th Gen) Thinkpad X1 Carbon. It has 16 GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i7-7600U CPU @ 2.80GHz, so it’s no slouch, and the battery lasts anywhere between 5-9 hours in Windows. I chose the Full HD screen, so I don’t need to worry about High DPI support (more on this later). I checked online and apparently my machine is very well supported by all the major Linux distros, so I was feeling pretty good about trying out a few.
I tried Fedora first. Installation went smoothly, and everything (with one exception) worked out of the box. Wifi, bluetooth, Thunderbolt, all the function keys for volume, brightness, etc.. everything except the fingerprint reader. I knew this going in so I wasn’t disappointed. However, I ran into a software issue that forced me to stop using Fedora.
I have a Synology NAS, and I use CloudSync (Like Dropbox, but it syncs to my own NAS) to keep my files in sync between my various machines. I was unable to find an RPM for CloudSync - Synology provides a .deb instead. I did about 20 min of Googling, but didn’t find an immediate solution. A couple of forum posts said I could use alien to convert the deb… but I really couldn’t be bothered.
This wasn’t too much of an issue since I was intending to try Ubuntu 18.04 LTS in any case. I tried Fedora just for the heck of it. I’m sure if I spent a couple of hours I would have found a solution, but I decided to move on to Ubuntu instead.
Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
Once again, installation was quick and easy. I like the new minimal install - instead of getting a lot of software, the minimal install just sets up a Firefox and the base Gnome system. There’s no Libre Office, or RhythmBox, or Thunderbird etc.
Once again, all the hardware (except the fingerprint scanner) worked out of the box. I didn’t have to tweak anything at all. This was a pleasant surprise - yes, I know my particular laptop is very Linux-friendly, but there’s still something nice about not having to tweak config files.
Tweaks and Software
Half the fun of using Linux is customizing your system to suit you. I spent a fun couple of hours getting re-acquainted with Gnome Extensions and Themes, and ended up with something that I really think works well for me. The feeling of not being beholden to a giant mega-corp is the cherry on top.
Here’s a quick list of software that I installed
- TLP -> https://linrunner.de/en/tlp/tlp.html
- KeePassXC -> https://keepassxc.org/
- Remmina -> https://remmina.org/
- Visual Studio Code -> https://code.visualstudio.com/ (this is free and Open Source)
And the Gnome Extensions that I used
- Frippery Move Clock - moves the clock to the right. I have no idea why a clock in the middle of the screen makes any sense
- Panel OSD - Notifications now show up on the right, not the middle of the screen
- Transparent Gnome Panel - Does what it says on the tin
As you can see, I didn’t go too crazy with the extensions. I know from experience that it’s best to keep things simple.
It’s been a few days now, and things are really working well. I’ll post an update after a month, or possibly sooner.