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My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

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My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#1 Post by josh5k » Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:48 am

I decided to move back into Linux after a decade and a half of using just windows on all my machines and after a few queries on here I settled on Elementary OS as my OS of choice for a couple of weeks, but a SD Card issue and boredom made me start trying a few other distros and I ended up running through 15 to 17 distros before finally resting on MX Linux as my new regular OS for now. I thought I might pen my experience out briefly for others who might want to try these on their Thinkpads.

The main options I ran for a week at the least were Elementary OS, Zorin OS, AntiX and Mint.
There were a few other distros such as Linux Lite, Fossapup, Sparky Linux and Pop OS for a day long test as well. But didn't spend enough time on them to comment much. I specifically didn't want to try any Redhat based distros right now and didn't have the braveheart to try Arch as of yet, but might try Endeavor OS at a later date as it appears to have made Arch very much noob friendly.

Elementary has managed a clone of the Mac OS to extent where beginner users may not know that it's not Mac OS. And Mint or Zorin have reached a stage where normal Windows Users can be blindly brought over and migrated with a couple of hours of hand holding at most. Most of the installs were both extremely smooth with just booting off the Live ROM and installing from within. Only had one grub failure when trying to dual boot between Mint and Sparky. Fossapup didn't load the Wifi drivers on boot, but I'm sure that a couple of minutes of troubleshooting could fix it (I didn't bother). Kali is meant to serve Security Professionals and I double that it's a good idea for anyone else. For one, the devs have been very clear about it from their homepage to the download page, and almost all software on there, are relegated to the security and PEN Testing world apart from the Internet Browser and a couple of utilities.

Also MX pushes one to learn a couple of things as the daily routine goes on, while Elementary or Pop Os have now become 'consumerized' to the point of boredom. They were however very visually appealing, and I wouldn't mind recommending it for any consumer/beginner on any thinkpad at least starting from the T400 series and onward. I've not had the experience of trying Linux on the T60/61 or prior, but obviously others have had great fun on these legends.

AntiX was fast, but I think I'd rather run it on much older machines as this T430 is still my faithful daily driver and MX provided a good bridging opportunity. Linux Lite is another choice for Machines with 2Gb or lower RAM. If I didn't have 8 Gigs of memory on this machine, I'd have Linux Lite on here full time.

I missed the Software installing choices of Elementary OS or Mint with their rather colorful install 'stores' for about a day, but Synaptic is wonderful and productive for any power user, when taking a break from the command line.

Now the target is to run MX for a few months and learn it enough to then look at Dual booting with FreeBSD; although I don't have any good reason to push towards BSD from Linux other than running on a 'real UNIX' platform.

So if you are running second or third generation 00 Thinkpads, Endeavor is my recommendation for anyone other than yourself and Linux Mint or Zorin OS for yourselves. Mint has a slightly larger software repository I think, but between snaps, flakpaks and apt-get - I think any Debian based distro is great right now.

20 years on Windows has removed almost all Unix knowledge away from the cortex and I'm hoping to get back into the command line for a daily driver as Cloud computing becomes the norm.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#2 Post by TRS-80 » Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:29 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Maybe I am weird, but I never did the "distro hopping" thing, which seems to me like some right of passage for so many others coming into GNU/Linux. I just did my research, and purposefully chose a mainline, stable, and well known distro, with a long history, who I also happen to align with politically (in a Free Software sense). Of course I am referring to Debian. Anyway, I have stuck with that ever since. I have switched DE/WMs though a few times (KDE -> StumpWM (I don't think I was ready for that at such an early phase in my journey) -> XFCE -> i3 which I am now very happy with and feel like I will stick with for a long time; those were the main ones anyway in addition to a few others I tried only briefly or as live USBs).

It also never even occurred to me to try and be like Windows as much as possible while switching to GNU/Linux, and therefore no wonder I have barely heard of any of these distros. I guess I went into it with mindset that GNU/Linux is a completely new thing, and tried to just take it for what it was, which is after all very different than Windows. Taking that approach, I actually learned that I prefer it in pretty much every way. In fact, after dual booting for some months, I finally realized I didn't really need Windows for anything in particular any longer, and eventually I removed that partition completely. I've not only never looked back, but I have also never been happier. :D No more worrying about spying, painstakingly checking every update one by one, or any of the other nonsense that comes from a position where your OS vendor is your adversary. 8) :lol:
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#3 Post by atagunov » Thu Feb 18, 2021 5:39 pm

TRS-80 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 3:29 pm
No more worrying about spying ... or any of the other nonsense that comes from a position where your OS vendor is your adversary. 8) :lol:
Heh, how much do we know about Ubuntu spying tendencies? Somehow I've always been an Ubuntu fanboy - mainly because I've been considering life too short to keep fiddling with anything else
Also with Debian, do you download your packages compiled to binary or do you build from source?
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#4 Post by shawross » Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:14 pm

No more worrying about spying
So you are not using a browser then?
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#5 Post by TRS-80 » Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:55 pm

atagunov wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 5:39 pm
Heh, how much do we know about Ubuntu spying tendencies? Somehow I've always been an Ubuntu fanboy - mainly because I've been considering life too short to keep fiddling with anything else
Also with Debian, do you download your packages compiled to binary or do you build from source?
I mentioned politics briefly before. I think this is something a lot of people gloss over, if they are even aware of it at all.[0] Ubuntu simply do not share the same commitment to privacy and other ideals that the upstream Debian project do (as can be read in Debian Free Software Guidelines and elsewhere). Therefore it is not surprising to me that they have been criticized for doing a number of shady things here and there over the years. I don't think you will ever hear those sort of things coming from Debian. It's just a completely different mentality IMO.

The vast majority of what I need, I have been able to find in the repositories, already compiled. Of course, some times I need to compile, or get things some other way, but whenever I go down that road it always seems to me like there is maybe 50% at best chance for success. :lol: But then again, I am (at best) only a low to medium level wizard in my own right, after all. :lol: But I try to learn as I go.
shawross wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:14 pm
So you are not using a browser then?
Funny you mention that. You could refer to my reply here (from just a couple hours ago) where I outline some of the steps I take to mitigate things on the browser end. There is actually even more than I mentioned there. I take anti-fingerprinting measures as well. And I always use a VPN and/or Tor.

The situation on browsers, is indeed, a mess. I do not think that this holds logically that we should then not try to simultaneously plug the other holes (i.e., from the OS, as we are discussing here).

In addition to all of those, I also exclusively run Libreboot and other fully (or nearly so, to whatever extent possible) blob free hardware. And self-host almost all of my own "cloud" services. And on and on.

But it's never-ending. One thing I seem to have realized in the last few years, is that things do get much easier when your suppliers are not your adversary. Hence my turning away from Windows, Microsoft, Android, Google, etc. towards GNU/Linux. And also away from Intel/AMD to others like ARM (not that ARM based stuff are perfect, either, but they are a lot better). And it's why I am so excited about nascent GNU/Linux phone ecosystem with projects like PinePhone and Librem 5...

There is a lot to be negative / cynical about, to be sure. Should we just curl up in a ball and give up? I don't think so. I will continue to do whatever I can (which includes talking about these issues whenever possible). I simply don't know what else to do. And there are a few rays of hope, here and there, after all...

Cheers,
TRS-80

[0] Or perhaps, avoid entirely, due to toxic connotations the word "politics" has unfortunately taken on more recently due to legacy corporate media driven "discourse" (at least here in the West).
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#6 Post by Omineca » Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:08 pm

Debian really is easy to recommend. I run it on my ThinkPads and my servers, with either LXDE or no desktop. It's unbelievably stable and fast.

Usually, it just works. If it doesn't, there's an unofficial non-free repository, which includes more drivers: https://cdimage.debian.org/images/unoff ... -firmware/
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#7 Post by atagunov » Thu Feb 18, 2021 9:19 pm

TRS-80 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:55 pm
things do get much easier when your suppliers are not your adversary. Hence my turning away from ... Android
Well Lineage OS doesn't feel like an adversary
TRS-80 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:55 pm
Google
Are you hosting your own email then as well? I never pulled off this feat to my shame, still a gmail servant... I got FreeNAS running at home and if they offered email "out of the box" I could use that..
Also google maps are effectively irreplaceable aren't they? For practical navigation out and about.. Yes I try to keep location off but even then I need to search Google maps by street name. I also try to drive by memory but once in a blue moon when I'm lost.. Who else will help me? Certainly not the SatNav in this Peugeot I got, it's useless compared to Google maps.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#8 Post by TRS-80 » Thu Feb 18, 2021 11:29 pm

atagunov wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 9:19 pm
Well Lineage OS doesn't feel like an adversary
Oh no, that's much more like running into a dear old friend, far behind enemy lines. :wink:

I have been using LineageOS these last many years, and CyanogenMod before that. It is only through their efforts that Android was usable at all for me.

But I have felt like a slowly boiling frog for some time now, every Android "upgrade" seems like Google (or the carriers, or whoever) are slowly tightening the noose a little more each time, removing features (all in the name of "security" of course), and so on. And I realized, that even LineageOS guys can only do so much. Behind them are Google, and Google are the 800 pound gorilla who are ultimately going to get their way, as long as you stay on their platform (and there is no competition).

It seems like I feel like I went over this already, but I guess that was over at Armbian forums instead of here. :D
atagunov wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 9:19 pm
Are you hosting your own email then as well? I never pulled off this feat to my shame, still a gmail servant... I got FreeNAS running at home and if they offered email "out of the box" I could use that..
Aah, email. The "final boss" of all self-hosting challenges. 8) :lol:

I wanted to do it for many years. Researched it many times. The conventional wisdom is "don't do it, it's not worth the hassle" (especially amongst fellow techies). I considered that (probably sound) advice for a long time. And then I decided I was going to do it anyway. Well, until I realized a few things:
  • Email is inherently not a private/secure protocol. There have been things bolted on (PGP, etc.) after the fact, but basically, it was never designed for secure, private communication. You can accomplish some level of security / privacy (if you are careful) however even techie people barely understand how to use PGP, much less anyone else.
  • Google controls too much of the market. If even one person in the email chain is using GMail, the entire chain is compromised, for everyone. That was a bit of an eye-opening realization for me, personally.
  • It is (apparently) a never-ending job to keep yourself off blacklists, etc. But that only really applies when you are actually sending outbound email on port 25 from a real server. The good news is, you can contract this part out, which is essentially what I have done, by using the email which is included with any standard cheap web hosting package.
Is that worth $30 per year, per domain? I think it is. And so that is what I have done. Which solves maybe half of the problem.

The other half (private communication) I solve by self hosting my own XMPP server, where I can have a (reasonably) private and secure conversation, with much less friction, and even with some non-techie people!

Now, circling back to that first half (hosted domain/email), there are a lot of conveniences and upsides to this approach:
  • First, I now also have a nice, long term, reliable place to host my cat pictures on the Internet. Years from now, you will still be able to find pictures attached to my forum posts, unlike the vast majority which will have very likely long bit-rotted by then.
  • I am able to segregate identities and communications more easily. I have one email address (entire domain, in fact) for people who know who I "really" am (any online market, bank, employer, etc.) and another for this TRS-80 persona. And some others, in addition.
  • In addition to the identities discussed above, every single (company, individual) I hand an email address out to gets their very own unique, personalized address. If I ever start receiving spam on that particular address, I not only know exactly where it came from (who leaked it), but I can shut it down easily, without affecting any of my other email communications.
  • I can sort and process all my email at the server. This is really convenient. Something I had gotten used to while being in business (and having similar setup), that I now cannot live without. On my mobile client, I only receive notifications on certain folders. It really cuts down on noise.
So I am quite pleased with my email setup, and can highly recommend it. It only requires a little bit of initial setup and forethought (and a few bucks), and you can increase your sanity by magnitudes. Which is priceless.
atagunov wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 9:19 pm
Also google maps are effectively irreplaceable aren't they? For practical navigation out and about.. Yes I try to keep location off but even then I need to search Google maps by street name. I also try to drive by memory but once in a blue moon when I'm lost.. Who else will help me? Certainly not the SatNav in this Peugeot I got, it's useless compared to Google maps.
I had a job where I had to drive a lot, often in unfamiliar places, where I would go to only once. I ended up buying a separate 7" tablet strictly for navigation (Google Maps). It was the only thing I had any Google services on, and it did not have any of my personal information, contacts, or anything else on it. It did not even have the parts of the framework required for voice recognition on there. It only connected through my phone hotspot, and even then, always through VPN.
All good things are Wild and Free.

What is free software and why is it so important for society?

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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#9 Post by jdk » Thu Feb 18, 2021 11:59 pm

josh5k wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:48 am
I decided to move back into Linux after a decade and a half of using just windows on all my machines
Welcome back. This took me down the rabbit hole of what Linux was like 15 years ago. I think I was running KDE 3.5 or Gnome 2.x and chatting with my wife (then girlfriend) over Pidgin. All on some AMD homebuild desktop which ended up dying when I tried to remove the CPU and broke the socket. I was still a year away from my first ThinkPad. The big names were Red Hat, Mandrake, Slackware, Gentoo, Debian. Ubuntu, Zenwalk, MEPIS were up and coming.

A lot has changed since then. Gnome has been rewritten once, and KDE twice. Things are a lot easier and work out of the box now. You can pretty much do anything that you can on macOS or Windows these days. I finally moved to Debian for philosophical reasons which is rock solid on my MacBook. Curious though, 2006 was about when Windows Vista was coming out. Why did you switch over at _that_ particular time?
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#10 Post by ajkula66 » Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:12 am

TRS-80 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 11:29 pm
I had a job where I had to drive a lot, often in unfamiliar places, where I would go to only once. I ended up buying a separate 7" tablet strictly for navigation (Google Maps). It was the only thing I had any Google services on, and it did not have any of my personal information, contacts, or anything else on it. It did not even have the parts of the framework required for voice recognition on there. It only connected through my phone hotspot, and even then, always through VPN.
This is pretty much where I'm headed.

I don't need to have web access on my phone BUT will likely be travelling to spots that I'm utterly unfamiliar with in a few months from now. Having a separate, dedicated "Google Map" device is the idea that I've been toying with for a while now.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#11 Post by josh5k » Fri Feb 19, 2021 8:57 am

jdk wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 11:59 pm
josh5k wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:48 am
I decided to move back into Linux after a decade and a half of using just windows on all my machines
Curious though, 2006 was about when Windows Vista was coming out. Why did you switch over at _that_ particular time?
I just got busy in my career at that point and stopped having an additional linux machine since most of my work was happening on Windows or a Mac. Just couldn't handle the whole 'mission control' level of 6 screens and 5 desktops anymore. Even before that I'd pretty much only playing around on linux for geek interest and using Windows or the Mac for work since about 2003. Oh, and I used to more for Microsoft for about 7 years around that time, but that honestly h

I'm with you on the rest of your thoughts. Homebuilding a Red Hat 6.0 machine on a Cyrix MII setup was one of my learning lessons in the post DOS/Win3.1 Era. It took me a whole day to get it booting to X as the display driver just wouldn't load. Can't remember what it was that fixed it, but I'm glad that we're in an era where a free and open-sourced Elementary OS ISO can load on most mid-level machines and just flow into a smooth and easy experience for most non-mundane tasks.

Heck if I had an old T42, I could probably run Antix/Linux Lite on it and have a successful Cloud Infrastructure career sticking mostly to the terminal. I could probably do it on a 50$ netbook, if I didn't love my Thinkpads as much as I do. It's a pretty good time to be in IT.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#12 Post by shawross » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:30 pm

TRS-80 wrote:Funny you mention that. You could refer to my reply here (from just a couple hours ago) where I outline some of the steps I take to mitigate things on the browser end
I also use Firefox and with duckduckgo but I am not using a VPN and as you point out, browsers in default mode are easily traceable.

I only use ublock origin and I believe extensions leak privacy just as easily as browsers.

For Firefox and Thunderbird I setup my connection to "Enable DNS over HTTPS" I have "Browser Privacy set high with clearing cookies but I use CCleaner 4.19 to clear cookies also.

With that being said I believe we have to assume that we are always being tracked and just live with it to a certain degree. In Australia they hold a tight rein on "Data".
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#13 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Feb 19, 2021 10:14 pm

These days even Debian can get you up and running just fine, as long as you know the pitfalls (almost guaranteed no WiFi during installation due to binary-only firmware), and not get too ambitious like installing a nearly-two-year-old-stable-release on bleeding-edge hardware.

First time I tried Debian was 2.2 I think, back in the early-mid 2000s. It ran, but had no sound and other stuff, so I immediately swapped to Red Hat 9. Over the years, I hopped a bit, Mandrake, then Ubuntu, then back to Debian--for good-- from Etch onward. I think I tried Void on a spare machine in 2019 but didn't last at all-- I discovered I lacked the patience I once had, and the idiosyncrasies of its package management tools were on a different level from apt. Also, some programs I had come to prefer weren't there, and I think the breadth of Debian's package repository cannot be matched by distros with much smaller communities and developer teams.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#14 Post by josh5k » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:16 am

If I ever get really thinking about Privacy and safety, I'd probably use only Tails or Septor to use the Internet and even that with an iota of caution. Don't have any hands on with Subgraph, but that appears to be a choice as well. At this point, the sacrifices in comfort and speed are not worth the level of anonymity and safety that I'd get. Heck, if I really think about the consequences of everything that can affect me, I'd probably only use Discreet Linux and not ever use a smartphone ever.

For now though, a limited use of TOR along with a pretty locked down version of 'any' linux with as little proprietary code as possible appears to be the comfort zone.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#15 Post by skx » Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:21 pm

with all this distro hopping and zero love for debian? the world is nearing its end :eek:
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#16 Post by josh5k » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:38 am

skx wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:21 pm
with all this distro hopping and zero love for debian? the world is nearing its end :eek:
Well it is .. but not because of me :-)

Almost all the distros were Debian based and didn't think of trying Debian because I saw a couple of comments online about wifi drivers and ethernet isn't just a choice right now. Once my local switch is setup and wired networking is assured, I'll start trying the purer distros without worrying about proprietary drivers.
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Linux Machine - T430 - (2349-7N7) i5 3320M, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 1600x900

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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#17 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:42 am

If you have an Android phone, you can use its USB tethering feature.

Have the phone connect to the Internet via WiFi, plug it to the computer via USB, then enable USB tethering.
Boot the Debian installer. It will detect the phone's USB connection as a virtual LAN port.


Once Debian is installed, add the contrib and non-free sections to the /etc/sources.list file. It may be a good idea to add the backports repo as well. From there you can install the firmware packages. Once you've confirmed that the WiFi works, you can disconnect the USB cable.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#18 Post by josh5k » Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:18 pm

axur-delmeria wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:42 am
If you have an Android phone, you can use its USB tethering feature.

Have the phone connect to the Internet via WiFi, plug it to the computer via USB, then enable USB tethering.
Boot the Debian installer. It will detect the phone's USB connection as a virtual LAN port.


Once Debian is installed, add the contrib and non-free sections to the /etc/sources.list file. It may be a good idea to add the backports repo as well. From there you can install the firmware packages. Once you've confirmed that the WiFi works, you can disconnect the USB cable.
Thanks much; My phone doesn't have a USB Tethering option AFAIK, but I'm sure I can figure something out and then add the sources. Debian is added to the 'distroplaylist' :-)
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#19 Post by TRS-80 » Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:39 pm

I have noticed this apparently widespread misconception (by no means limited to this thread) that certain hardware does not work on Debian, when the reality is (as pointed out above) it is simply a matter of enabling the non-free (and/or contrib) repos in apt sources.

Now is this a (very minor) hassle? I suppose so. But it only takes a moment. And it is a very important feature, IMO. Because how else are we to know where to vote with our feet / money? And this very important feature is treated as a bug by many of the downstream Debian derivatives, who enable these non-free repos "out of the box" which I think is very misguided (and one of main reasons I am not a fan of them).

I think Debian strikes the balance very well here between fulfilling their committment to Free Software philosophy, while at the same time not really preventing you from doing anything that you might need to do (e.g., using some proprietary Wi-Fi driver, if you must, for the time being). I think adopting Free Software is a progression. You may want to do it, but you have this hardware you already bought. So Debian allows that, while letting everyone know very clearly who the guilty parties are (proprietary drivers) so that you can avoid those companies the next time you go shopping for new hardware.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#20 Post by josh5k » Tue Feb 23, 2021 10:03 pm

Anything that stops a machine from working out of the box, is a bit of a hassle. That's just the way it is in the modern era where smartphones have taken over and thanks to Apple we have soldered down everything but the power cord on most laptops for saving a millimeter of space and losing all but our souls to lesser bezel and greater enslavement to cute screens. /me Ends rant.

To me this issue is neither a bug, nor a feature. It is people sticking to their respective principles and building software that corresponds to it. Debian fulfills it's free software philosophy and Mint fulfills it ever more by making it easier to use it. Wasn't that the whole point of the FSF? To be able to change it to how the user would like it to be? Are there parts we don't like? Certainly. But I'm sure adopting Mint or other such distros and increasing the overall usage of Desktop linux would equally provide an incentive for manufacturers to pay attention to the growing market and look as open sourcing their driver development and get together with the community at large?

I really doubt that making me add repos is the way to bring about the change. The only change that happened was the distro. Because to the larger audience, Ubuntu or Mint is just that. Debian with all the repos and sources added and available OOB. And yet there is a misconception that having a user experience be a hassle is the only way to spread the message, and I fail to understand that.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#21 Post by TRS-80 » Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:58 pm

Yes but who made it a hassle? Stop and really think about that for a moment.

In my view, the vendors who will happily take your money in exchange for a piece of hardware, while in many cases not so much as releasing proper documentation, much less F/LOSS drivers, are the guilty party. And Debian simply turn the attention back around on them. Of course, people who are just consoomers in a hurry will never understand this. They will just blame GNU/Linux. But trying to explain anything (at all) to such people is folly, anyway.

Debian is not even actually on the FSF approved distro list, just because they even allow non-free software at all. Now of course the FSF are very strict in their definition. But it is a spectrum. Those on the FSF list like Trisquel, Parabola, gNewSense, etc. take it too far IMO (and I'm a pretty staunch supporter of Free Software). Which is why I said I like where Debian strike that balance.

The downstream distros like Mint, Ubuntu, et al do not go far enough (IMO). In my experience, the vast majority of their users are not even aware of the actual issues at hand, precisely because they never had to stop and consider them. And it's not just about drivers. Those distros go out of their way not to ever mention anything about the underlying philosophy. Which makes it a bit like lying by omission. Which is the same problem with the term "Open Source."
All good things are Wild and Free.

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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#22 Post by josh5k » Mon Mar 01, 2021 6:00 am

I did try Trisquel yesterday btw - After these multiple conversations on what FSF really means and reasons use a specific distro of Linux, I just had to experience what the pure FSF scene was like. And my immediate experience was 'Not that bad'. The Mobile Phone as a temporary Ethernet connection works very well on start and that reduces most of the other issues to RTFM and learn the commands. Without the connectivity, most newcomers or beginners like me would be a little stressed on finding the solutions in such a setup.

On the topic of who makes it a hassle, perhaps it is the manufacturers who cause the situation, but to the consumer we need to provide solutions. And I'm of firm belief that only by increasing the usage levels will there be any market pressure to make them create more open development environments. We really do exist in a world where Apple defines the customer for most consumer spaces. People do not want as much openness or freedom as they proclaim, clearly! Ease of use, ease of access and ease of support have now ruled the market - At great cost to freedom of choice and usage.

To break into such a market and make any real inroads, we need to find a different way of educating the customers while providing them easy enough alternatives for now. Hopefully, situation will change soon. We can hope.

PS: I freelance in IT Solutions and esp work probono with a number of non-profits trying to identify the most open and accessible solutions and frequently face the apple tax.
Daily Driver - X230 - (2324-E41) i3 2370M, 12GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, 1366x768

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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#23 Post by axur-delmeria » Mon Mar 01, 2021 8:53 am

I challenged myself a bit and put MATE as the desktop environment for a fresh Debian install on a spare/rebuilt X220.
I found it a bit disappointing as the default menu widget uses up a lot of pixels. The alternative menu launcher (named Brisk) isn't completely keyboard accessible.

Ii has a fancy-looking Task Manager/System Monitor, but things like the custom actions menu and batch file renamer in Caja (file manager) are add-ons and not integrated like in Thunar.

The terminal emulator lacks something as basic as "keeping the window open after executing a command" as a command-line option. Instead, a profile that has that function enabled must be created , which can be then loaded via a command-line option. Needlessly complicated IMO.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#24 Post by josh5k » Thu Mar 04, 2021 12:32 pm

I went with KDE of all things (Haven't used it since version 2) on my Debian install on the W541. There were some issues in adding the non-free source list but those were due to some mirrors not having the release list. The wireless is now working thanks to iwlwifi.

The challenge is now to get nvidia quadro working with or without Optimus.

Overall, the process wasn't too complicated as compared to installing Mint or Zorin and I'm going to assume that it would have been a similar experience if I'd used the non-free ISO that does include iwlwifi.
axur-delmeria wrote:
Mon Mar 01, 2021 8:53 am
I challenged myself a bit and put MATE as the desktop environment for a fresh Debian install on a spare/rebuilt X220.
I found it a bit disappointing as the default menu widget uses up a lot of pixels. The alternative menu launcher (named Brisk) isn't completely keyboard accessible.

Ii has a fancy-looking Task Manager/System Monitor, but things like the custom actions menu and batch file renamer in Caja (file manager) are add-ons and not integrated like in Thunar.

The terminal emulator lacks something as basic as "keeping the window open after executing a command" as a command-line option. Instead, a profile that has that function enabled must be created , which can be then loaded via a command-line option. Needlessly complicated IMO.
I've tried MATE on MINT and Trisquel and did enjoy the traditional approach. For the Terminal, couldn't you just install a different emulator if that's the major painpoint in using MATE?

For a pure Keyboard based usage, I'm yet to find something as Keyboard friendly as i3wm, but it does take a bit of a learning curve and I've not spent enough time at it to make it my default as of yet.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#25 Post by TRS-80 » Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:56 pm

OK, mentioning i3 got me motivated to respond again. :D

Kudos to you for actually trying Trisquel! For all my FSF advocacy, I cannot even say I have actually done that. :mrgreen:

So, I have not done much any "distro hopping", but I sure have done some Desktop Environment (DE) hopping. :D

Started with KDE I think, which was nice and customizable, although it has a reputation for being "heavy" (which I am not sure it actually deserves).

Briefly tried MATE, found it too limited, and a few things were just ever so slightly "off" as mentioned above (maybe different things, in my case, but I seem to recall roughly similar experience). But I am picky and like to tweak.

Early, brief encounter with StumpWM which I was by no means ready for. :lol: But I think this planted some seed for tiling window managers, which I was always fascinated by.

Eventually I settled on XFCE (instead of MATE, or others I tried) for "basic" use cases. This is also what I install for other people by default. It's actually quite customizeable while still being very light weight. The brilliance of XFCE is very subtle IMO, but it is there in many different little ways. I even used it myself for quite a while, before ultimately moving to i3 more recently.

EDIT: Oh yes, I briefly tried dwm here, too, but re-compiling for every config change I just found to be a bit much. I really like "the idea" of what they are going for, but in practice it was just a PITA. Also I was trying to perhaps combine too many patches at once, and I was just not good enough at writing C at that time to get it all to work together.

About a year ago, I tried i3 (-gaps, technically). I guess all my playing with Emacs and GNU/Linux in general for a few years now had primed me for success. After some days of getting the hang of it, and creating some custom keybindings, I haven't looked back. I love it, and cannot see ever returning to "regular" (non-tiling) window manager ever again. But it's definitely not for everybody. There is a learning curve, but it will pay off if you spend a lot of time at the computer as many of us do.

After that, I even ended up writing rofi-in-elisp which is just what it sounds like. :D
All good things are Wild and Free.

What is free software and why is it so important for society?

(2021) Actively on the lookout for for 15" T60 FlexView / Hydis LED displays and parts, for my own usage. Kindly PM me your demands if you are willing to part with anything. :D

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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#26 Post by jdk » Sat Mar 06, 2021 1:51 pm

axur-delmeria wrote:
Mon Mar 01, 2021 8:53 am
I challenged myself a bit and put MATE as the desktop environment for a fresh Debian install on a spare/rebuilt X220.
I found it a bit disappointing as the default menu widget uses up a lot of pixels. The alternative menu launcher (named Brisk) isn't completely keyboard accessible.
On those 768px ThinkPads, I always got rid of the taskbars and did a CDE/Window Maker style setup. Right click anywhere on an empty desktop for an application menu; to hide an app, minimize to an icon on the desktop (we used to call this action "iconify").

XFCE still offers this behavior as an option, although it's not the default any more (and hasn't been since 2004 or so). Of course Window Maker makes this possible as well, as it hasn't changed its behavior in decades (despite being continuously updated with HiDPI support coming soon).
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#27 Post by axur-delmeria » Sat Mar 06, 2021 7:59 pm

jdk wrote:
Sat Mar 06, 2021 1:51 pm
axur-delmeria wrote:
Mon Mar 01, 2021 8:53 am
I challenged myself a bit and put MATE as the desktop environment for a fresh Debian install on a spare/rebuilt X220.
I found it a bit disappointing as the default menu widget uses up a lot of pixels. The alternative menu launcher (named Brisk) isn't completely keyboard accessible.
On those 768px ThinkPads, I always got rid of the taskbars and did a CDE/Window Maker style setup. Right click anywhere on an empty desktop for an application menu; to hide an app, minimize to an icon on the desktop (we used to call this action "iconify").

XFCE still offers this behavior as an option, although it's not the default any more (and hasn't been since 2004 or so). Of course Window Maker makes this possible as well, as it hasn't changed its behavior in decades (despite being continuously updated with HiDPI support coming soon).
I set up like Win95-- single taskbar at the bottom, autohide. Never been a fan of having one panel at the top and another at the bottom, as is the default for Xfce and MATE. Seems like they're aping Apple or something.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
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In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#28 Post by jdk » Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:42 am

axur-delmeria wrote:
Sat Mar 06, 2021 7:59 pm
I set up like Win95-- single taskbar at the bottom, autohide. Never been a fan of having one panel at the top and another at the bottom, as is the default for Xfce and MATE. Seems like they're aping Apple or something.
Windows 95 through 2000 was peak Microsoft for UI consistency, IMO (minus the whole MDI stuff). Not a bad setup, and I remember having that one panel setup at even 640x480 in the mid-90's.

The two panel setup of MATE/old Gnome/Gnome Classic Mode has an interesting back story. During the early 2000's, before the last tech bubble burst, Sun Microsystems and maybe Red Hat poured millions of dollars into UI research, testing, feedback, etc. They wanted to make the next enterprise operating system as user friendly and intuitive as possible.

The two panel split that came in Gnome 2.x, as well as the spatial mode file browser of Nautilus, the Evolution mail client, and the consistent Clearlooks theme was the end result of that research. For a time, Gnome was the enterprise Linux standard, and had a much more consistent and usable interface than anything else on the market, Apple included.

Everybody but openSUSE defaulted to that two panel setup. But openSUSE was under Novell at the time and wanted a Windows look-alike clone for their enterprise product. One of their devs created the kickoff menu for KDE 3.x which ended up becoming the default KDE menu a few years later with KDE 4. That menu was a ripoff of the new menu in Windows Vista and not the other way around (timestamps of the kickoff menu commits, as well as a slideshow introducing the kickoff menu and its influences, reflect this). It is still the default menu in KDE 5.x.

For all the research in user interface design and consistency, Red Hat ended up throwing that two panel setup out door about a decade ago when it started writing Gnome 3.x. Everybody thought touch screen devices were the future and Gnome shell was written that way. But Gnome 3.x was such a mess on bigger monitors that when they released Enterprise Linux 7, a couple of really large customers demanded they revert back to the Gnome Classic two-panel setup by default for enterprise desktops. Hence Gnome Classic mode.

Check out xwinman.net for what Linux/UNIX used to look like before big money got involved. It was a mess, but it's also what I remember as the good old days.
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Re: My 6 weeks of trying Linux Distibutions

#29 Post by ajkula66 » Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:45 am

jdk wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 12:42 am
Hence Gnome Classic mode.
I, for one, always liked Gnome. And have a soft spot for Red Hat to this day.
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