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What it's like to use Linux in the past 15 years?

It is not something I actively think about. but I am now using Linux longer than Windows. Which I have never thought I would do, but here I am. I originally didn't start 15 years ago, but much sooner. Mandrake Linux came with a PC Magazine, and I still have the CD (and probably the magazine somewhere). As I was young I couldn't really followed the instructions, but I was fascinated with the system. Back then there were no LiveCD systems, and I didn't want to risk it to install it on the family computer.

In sping 2006 I finally had the courage to check out this system, and I experimented with Linspire and there was another distro I just don't remember. Anyway it was KDE based, and I really liked it. I could use another HDD, but I still didn't use it as my daily system.

A few months later however I was truly fed up with how badly Windows behaved, and decided to install this system, called "Ubuntu" weird name, but as I checked other Linux distros, they have all weird names. Windows and Apple was taken I guess…

So anyway on October 8th, I installed Ubuntu, then a few days I installed it again, because a new version came out. Plus I learned to partition during install, so I could make a separate Home partition. I use Linux like that ever since. I was extremely proud of myself. I had to learn Gnome though, which was weird at first, but OK. I knew that terminal was my friend, and since I started my computer studies with MS-DOS, I wasn't afraid of the command line.

People say that you can't play games on Linux. Well, my last game on Windows was FlatOut 2, a Destruction Derby like game, with 3D graphics and shit, and even back in the day I could play it in Wine. Back then it was like 1.x something version.

I remember buying a cheap nvidia card just so I can enjoy the cube and other effects of compiz, showing it to my parents.

Note that I am not a programmer or particular good with Linux. I just have a little bit more knowledge than the average user. In my second year I first tried Zenwalk, and then quickly switched to Slackware. A distro with no package manager on their own, and no dependency check. Yes, if you have a software that needs 15 dependencies (not to mention their dependency), you had to install it all by hand. I learned a lot about compiling from source too, because sometimes you don't have packages, no matter what. Slackware was never really a fresh distro. But I loved every minute of it. Recently returned to it, last year and I spend some months with it, while I was learning dwm, a tiling window manager. But I don't want to run into the future.

When you start using Linux, you quickly realize that there are so many choices out there, you don't know which distro is good for you, or that you can just hop from one to another. That's what I did during all these years. I used every major distro and sometimes their variation (like Kubuntu, or the Mint variants). Everyone except Arch. I just couldn't install it. Me the Linux noobie could install Slackware (has a nice ncurses interface with clear direction what to do, you don't need a wiki to install it). Arch is not my cup of tea.

Instead I used Manjaro for several years. Most of the stuff worked most of the time, until I realized that frakking systemd just holds my machine back. See I don't have money for top machine, my last two was basically a refurbished second hand computer. 3 years ago I got my first icore computer. Lightning fast compared to earlier ones, and I still have only 8 GBs of RAM.

Let's talk about the desktop environments. Everything become flat. If you used KDE 3 and Gnome 2, you know what I am talking about. Most of the themes in those days had depth, colors, and flashy icons, many of them 3D. Nowadays everything is flat, either white or bright or black and dark or variations. Barely green, blue, red or other colors. Not to mention orange. We simplified too much in design. Flat themes makes every design element the same and it flow into each other too much, and there are no distinction between them. Luckily I eliminated them more or less.

I loved KDE 3, and lesser extent KDE 4. It had freedom, but it looked freedom, because I didn't know any better. Sadly new desktop environment wants to a be a complete package of the average user, but they make it that way that the devs want and not allowing the user to expand their own system. If you know what I mean. Gnome is a disaster. Or Elementary. I can accept Elementary's choice, because it's just one distro, but Gnome is on millions of computer and dozens of distros use it, while it tells people, "hey this is Linux". No it's not. Linux is expandable. I recommend Xfce or MATE to people, new or old user of Linux. They are a good compromise in my opinion.

I switched from the KDE4 world to Xfce and then tiling window managers. The didn't like the new trends.

Each distro uses some kind of package formats, that makes installing software easy. You need a package manager, and most of the time it's very easy to use. I prefer this much more than Windows' next-next-finish system.

Hardware support can be a pain in the ass, but everybody should do some research what works and what does not. I realized this early on.

People are complaining that we have too many choices, and that we should have only one Linux distribution. The problem with that is, who decides? Arch people wants their distro, but it's no good for new users. Ubuntu or Mint is probably too lazy and simplistics for veterans. Even if we find a middle way for a base, then comes the question: which desktop environment? We have like dozen: KDE, Gnome, Xfce, Pantheon, MATE, Deepin, etc.

I think choice is wonderful and that makes Linux so unique, unlike Windows and OS X where you have none. Well that's not true. You either use those systems or not.

After years of hopping distros I realized that two things matter for me the most.

  1. My distro of choice shouldn't be a systemd-based distro. I feel like it makes Linux just bloated and not useful at all. I had problems on Manjaro and every update I got I prayed to not have to fix things. After many years I found Artix Linux, but I can recommend Void, Gentoo, Devuan, Slackware and many others.
  2. I feel most comfortable with tiling window managers. My first one was i3, and after about 2-3 years I left it for dwm 2 years ago, and now I am using xmonad, which I am really happy with. The idea behind tiling windows is that you don't need to order your windows, because they are floating, that will automatically happenes, based on how you like. These window managers aren't coming with much, xmonad doesn't have a panel at first, so it's really for the advanced users. I like tweaking even though I don't really know any haskell programming language, which is what xmonad was made in.

So yeah, using Linux has it's up and downs, but overall I wouldn't change it for anything. I find Windows limited, and gaming has less appeal for me than before. Linux is very good for my needs. I like that I can basically make my own system, that probably doesn't look like anyone elses. I can use it for creative (writing) and entertainment. The software pool is deep and have great variety, and for the most part it's in one place.

This is post #2 of the #100DaysToOffload challenge, where we write 100 posts in a year. If you are interested in this event, check out the official website: Happy writing everybody! :)

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