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Back to Desktop Linux (after ten years)

Ten years ago, I bought my first Apple computer, a shining MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard. It was time to replace the current MacBook (the third I ever owned) but a new custom mechanical keyboard had led me to something I was thinking of doing for some time: going back to using Linux as my primary desktop operating system.

The same month I got the first one, I also founded the company that became my work focus for the better part of the decade, so this also symbolically closed a cycle.

I’ve built a “gaming computer” two years ago, but, confronted with the realities of parenting, I was using it only to play Netflix. Nevertheless, its specs are still as good as a brand-new MacBook Pro, so it was perfect for this experiment.

However, the real reason I thought this could be “the year of Linux” (anyone still remember that phrase?) was the raging reviews of the latest Ubuntu: “The best Ubuntu release Canonical has ever put out!”.

Unfortunately, the sizzle didn’t quite match the steak. I found the default GNOME desktop kind of ugly and limiting. But hey, I was a KDE fan before anyway so, I downloaded the latest Kubuntu and tried again. This time, the resulting experience was much more pleasant. Not mesmerizing, but quite enjoyable and practical.

KDE
Yep, I'm using a trackball 😱

The good

KDE, especially the windows manager and the Dolphin file browser. Full of little details that make life enjoyable.

Surprisingly, Dolphin doesn’t have tabs, but it took me a while to notice, because it can split in exactly two panes, which is exactly for what I use tabs in a file manager. Being able to “cut” files/folders, not only “copy” and “paste” also helps.

–UPDATE–: Turns out that it does have tabs, hidden behind a shortcut.

The bad

I did miss some software that I regularly used. Like 1Password, that is only available as a browser extension. I’m also going to miss iWork, although I’m happy that I can still use their web version (yes, there is a web version at icloud.com!)

In the time I was away, some technologies for packaging universal Linux desktop applications emerged: Snap, Flatpak, and AppImage. Sadly, all of them are based on containers, and some apps run slower or crashes, and everybody seems to hates them.

The facepalm

I completely forgot that desktop computers don’t have a single integrated port for headphones and microphone, so I had to buy a splitter. But it still I can’t make it work with my EarPods. Don’t know if it’s a hardware or software problem.

I have to buy a webcam too, duh 🤦.

Conclusion

I love it. Maybe I’m still in my honeymoon phase, but I feel less constrained with this system, free to try new things. I don’t have time to lose tinkering it like when I was in college, but I don’t feel the need it either; the KDE defaults are great.

KDE
You cannot say is not “cool” ;)

So the experiment will continue. I wish more people did the switch back and were, once again, a worthy target for developers’ tool makers. We need to feel like there are real alternatives to macOS that are not only viable but a joy to use.

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Juan-Pablo Scaletti

Hi I’m Juan-Pablo Scaletti

I’m a software writer and open-source creator. This is my corner of the Internet.