12024 will be the year of the Linux desktop!
Unironically. For me, anyway. I've been sick of Microsoft's shit for the past decade, but my existing systems remained supported and usable until recently. At some point I realized that the majority of the programs on my PC, being open-source, have native Linux versions, so it'd be quite usable!
Choosing a Distro
But, if you're going to run Linux, you have to decide which Linux. While I had some prior experience running Debian and Ubuntu in VMs, that was before systemd was adopted, so I searched around to learn how things have evolved since then.
After hearing about how well-documented and supported Arch is, I first considered Manjaro with i3wm. That's more of a meme answer, though. More serious research (sitting around in Discord) led me to DistroChooser, which recommended Devuan, GentooYES I UNIRONICALLY GOT 'INSTALL GENTOO'D LMAO, and Void.
Void sounded interesting, and would have very low resource usage when combined with JWM. On the other hand, it being an independent branch not based on any more ubiquitous distro gave me pause, so I sat on it for a while.. Then Valve announced the Steam Deck! Aww yeah, shit's about to get exciting.
In the meantime, I had a couple of old work PCs that I intended to replace with a pair of less-old laptops. Mint is usually recommended as the beginner distro, so I grabbed the lightweight Xfce edition and threw it on some fresh SSDs. It works flawlessly with everything we use here, indicating to me that modern Windows can successfully be avoided.
For my personal system, I knew I wanted to go with something that comes with KDE Plasma, because it has some nicer customization options. Throwing HoloISO (SteamOS 3) onto an all-AMD system sounded appealing for a whle, then further research led me to Nobara - Fedora-based and gaming-optimized. Sounds like a winner to me.
|Distros Hopped||DE/WMs Used||Achievements|
|Debian 9 (12018-01)
Mint 21 (12023-03)
Nobara 38 (12023-09)
KDE Plasma 5.26
Unknown Command 'dpkg'Installs failed in interesting ways due to faulty RAM!|
Even Solider StateFirst time using an NVMe storage drive!
GUI Logins Are BloatReplaced SDDM with Ly and had zero issues!
Droppin' BarsSet up i3wm with xfce-panel because I can!
If you're also looking to dip your toes into FLOSSier shores, here's some of the app recommendations I've been gathering to check out in your local package manager.
- Ardour: Audio and music editor/DAW.
- ClamTk: Basic protection. Viruses are rare, but not nonexistent.
- ISO Master: Useful for getting arbitrary files into PCem systems.
- Krita: Excellent digital painting canvas/editor.
- Lutris: Integrated games list and launcher.
- QOwnNotes: Self-hosted syncable Markdown notebook.
- Tenacity: Privacy-respecting decorporatized fork of Audacity.
A few useful things for the terminal:
- Alien: Software package format converter.
- Auto-CPUfreq: Extends the battery life of laptops and UPS-equipped systems.
- Dragon: Small but mighty beast that drag-and-drops files between CLI and GUI programs.
- Fuck!: Anti-exasperation tool to correct typos and find commands.
- micro: nano but with sensible/modern shortcut keys and mouse support.
- Nala: Modernized frontend for APT that presents information in a more comprehensible way.
- TLDR: Simplified manpages that just say How To Use The Damn Thing.
Some functional replacements for the Windows-only apps listed on Essential EXEs, according to sites like AlternativeTo.
- If you turn on the system and instead of booting to desktop, it goes to BusyBox with an (initramfs) prompt, type exit to see what the error is. It should be able to tell you what is needed; usually something must be run manually to recover.
- If you do fuck up hard enough to need to recover/reinstall with a live USB, provided your partition was not encrypted, files can be copied off of it by opening the file manager window as root. (Both source and destination!) If backing up to a non-Linux filesystem, remember to compress as .tar.gz so file attributes (chmod/chown data) are perserved.
- For something that comes preinstalled with Mint, xed is a fantastic text editor that does 90% of what I usually want from Notepad2e. But that last 10% is a problem, since I can't actually find any extra plugins to replicate the statusbar math parser and tag wrapping features.
- To have the same audio play through all available interfaces, paprefs is needed on PulseAudio-based systems. Install it, enable simultaneous output, run pulseaudio -k, and set programs to use the new combined output in pavucontrol.
- If attempting to play video or audio in a browser or Flatpak app doesn't work, you might have both PulseAudio and Pipewire active simultaneously. Disable and kill either service to restore playability.
Flatpaks using different cursors than the pack set globally is fixable through
the Flatseal program or by executing:
flatpak --user override --filesystem=/home/$USER/.icons/:ro
flatpak --user override --filesystem=/usr/share/icons/:ro
- Qt apps not respecting theme settings is fixable through qt5ct after adding QT_QPA_PLATFORMTHEME=qt5ct to /etc/environment
- On a Fedora system and see a program you don't recognize? Find out who the fuck invited them with dnf rq --installed --whatdepends (app-name)
Fire the Managers
- Don't like the file manager? Install a different one! Top-rated programs to try include Thunar, PCManFM, and Krusader. Or, if you prefer the terminal, there's NNN and Ranger!
- Don't like the desktop environment? Install a different one! Most distros' package managers include a variety of alternative window managers. Chill things down with IceWM. Upgrade to Awesome. Or say fuck it and use Twin! Why not!
- Don't like the login prompt? You guessed it, install a different one! It's as easy as disabling the existing display manager's service and activating the replacement. Why not try Ly?
- Don't like the terminal emulator?! INSTALL A DIFFERENT ONE SoNnNnN! Spin up cool-retro-term or eDex-UI if you need more flash, grab Guake or Yakuake for gamer console status, or try Sakura or LXterminal to save those precious bytes!
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