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8 years of using Linux as my daily drive.

     
10:35 am on Aug 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Quite some time ago I wrote this post…
[webmasterworld.com...] (A week without Microsoft Windows)

I decided to spend a week using Linux as opposed to the Microsoft Windows operating system that I had been using since Windows 95. I used that thread to document my progress and explain what tools and software I was using under Linux to carry out my daily tasks.

That thread is now 8 years old and I feel it’s time to revisit the topic because my journey didn’t end when that week was over, far from it. I became a full-time Linux user.

My current home/office setup consists of a desktop running Kubuntu (Ubuntu with KDE desktop). My laptop running Kubuntu a couple of phones and tablets all running Android and a LAN server running Ubuntu Server.

The server acts like a web server for developing projects on, I have also set up NFS (Network file system) so that files can simply be dragged from the laptop or desktop to a folder on the server. This is a fairly simple method of backing those systems up, although It’s not enough. The server also has a 2nd HDD that is purely used for storage. I have a script that runs nightly on a cron to create a folder and copy the contents of disk 1 backups and the systems own home folder.

It simply creates a folder called [unix-timestamp] with the backed up files in there. I manually delete these folders as they get outdated to save disk space.

What do I do now compared to then?
Back then I was a designer/Developer and I mainly worked on my own projects although I did have client work as well. Now I continue to work mainly on my own projects, but I am a lot less of a designer. I am still a back-end developer, but I tend to use frameworks or outsource the design stuff.

What tools do I use?

Browsing the web
For surfing my default browser is Firefox. Firefox developers have not focused purely on Windows, every release is also available for Linux and Mac. They have been releasing in parallel for years.

Email
I use Thunderbird email client. It is also from Mozilla (they create Firefox) and I have found it to be very useful and stable. There are other email clients that do perhaps have better integration with a contact manager, but it works for me. It’s light, not obtrusive and just does what I want it to.

Text Editor
When referring to plain text editors people will always think of Notepad. On many Linux distributions, the default tool for .txt files will be Kate. It’s just a simple text editor. The developers have tried to “up the game” with features like projects where you can assign groups of files and tab views where you can open multiple documents.

For an extremely easy way to edit a text document, there are also many tools available through the console (Think command prompt). This sounds daunting and challenging, but after a while, in Linux, the console just becomes another tool to help you get things done.

Code Editor
I only code in HTML/CSS and PHP so my needs aren't that great. I use an IDE called Bluefish for all my coding needs.
It can be great for simply opening a script file and making an edit right down to creating a project from the ground up. It’s good being able to see the project tree to the left whilst having tabs of files open in the main pane. If your needs are much more advanced and you need to be able to work on larger more advanced projects Java, C, Python etc there are many more full-featured IDE’s out there such as Eclipse or Netbeans.

FTP Client
I use Filezilla for FTP, or in my case SFTP. (Secure FTP) There is no reason not to use SFTP in this day and age. If your host doesn’t support it, Move to one that does. The files you upload on a daily basis contain some fairly sensitive information. Think of a database config file with a username and password.

I use FTP for moving files to and from various hosts including my LAN server.

Office
I currently use LibreOffice. When I first became a Linux user OpenOffice was the typical office suite. Libre Office is a port of Open Office and from the user interface point of view, they are almost identical. It’s under the skin where we see real improvements. More reliable and more secure.

On a windows machine, you will typically use Microsoft Office. How does Libra office compare and what files can it work with?

Text-based documents:
Libre Office Writer, This can open or edit documents created with Microsoft Office. It can also save files with an extension that can be understood and opened by Microsoft Office.

Spreadsheets:
Calc is the default tool for opening such documents under LibreOffice. It has a very similar look and feel to Excel and they can open, edit and save the same file types.

Database:
Under Microsoft Office, users will be familiar with Access. With LibreOffice, there is a database package called “Base”. Both do a similar function, just in a very different way.

Presentations:
LibreOffice boasts “Impress” as an alternative to Powerpoint. They are very compatible. Under Impress you can open, edit and save a .ppt file.

Many of the tools available under LibreOffice (Or OpenOffice) are designed to offer a direct replacement for various items in the Microsoft toolchain. The ability to create and edit files that can later be opened and accessed by Microsoft users in no doubt a key consideration.

Under LibreOffice we also have the following…

Draw: For creating graphical documents

Math: Formula editor (for documents, spreadsheets and presentations)

The one area where I think Libra office could improve is far better integration with an email system. Think about how well-integrated Outlook is with Microsoft Office.

Linux has certainly changed a lot since I first tried it back in the dark ages. Now it is certainly a viable alternative for the home user.

Mack.
12:20 am on Sept 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Good point PCInk. It's worth noting that the backup location is only for the current backup. Each backup is archived as it is created so I have several backups from previous backup runs.

The archives are on a separate HDD to the current backup location on the backup server.

Mack.
10:53 am on Sept 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I use luckyBackup - it's a front for rsync. Simple enough to get working for "home" but sometimes tricky for "file system" (root) backup - at least, for the cron part of it on some OSs.

To backup online web/mail I download the online-generated backups using rsync over ssh for linux and curl for windows, all controlled by cron.

Backups go to (mostly) terrabyte USB drives connected to each computer.

I have a small script that checks the luckyBackup logs for failed backup errors that runs as a final luckyBackup task and emails a "failed to start" report but luckyBackup reports on in-process errors other than that.

I sometimes find I miss one or two remote backups after a machine reboot due to forgetting to open a path for ssh; one day I'll work out how to auto-connect between various local and remote machines whenever a computer reboots. :(
11:52 am on Sept 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Regarding testing websites, Microsoft now provide free Windows VM images for just this. They expire after a while, but that is not a problem if you are just using them to test websites.
11:27 pm on Sept 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am back to removing windows and putting Linux (mint 19) on a bunch of machines around the house and at my wife's stores.

I was pretty happy when I switched from Win & to Mint 17.

But then, microsoft did the big thing where it was "last chance to upgrade to win 10 free if you are on win 7" so I mistakenly decided to boot in to win 7 and do the win 10 upgrade at the last moment.

Of course, that pretty much made Mint 17 unbootable (at least, for someone who is as computer un-savvy as I am).

Anyway, think of this as just a warning that I am back and will probably have all kinds of stupid Linux questions in the immediate future.
3:22 am on Sept 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Welcome back. What was your main reason for moving back to windows after your experience of Windows 10? Was it just that you prefer Linux from your recent experience, or was there an issue with Windows 10?

Mack.
2:12 am on Sept 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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"Welcome back. What was your main reason for moving back to windows after your experience of Windows 10? Was it just that you prefer Linux from your recent experience, or was there an issue with Windows 10? "

Well... a couple of different things.

On one machine, my wife's account just got locked out. Every time I tried to use her account, there was an error (can't remember what it was off the top of my head). Contacted microsoft support and they basically said, "Well, looks like you will just have to set up a new account for her."

The other thing is that it is really slow... at least if you aren't updated. I was using the NEW account I created for my wife (a non-administrator account). Thngs were just crawling along. I logged in to my account (an administrator account) and it was really slow, too. I eventually turned off the computer and I got the "Windows is installing updates, don't turn off or unplug your computer."

That took about 30 minutes. Now that the updates are installed, it is faster, but since my wife will be using a non-administrator account on that machine, I don't want to have to keep checking that it isn't slowed down.

I also don't like that microsoft wants you to have a Microsoft account. I already get spied on enough using gmail / google search, I don't really need Microsoft spying on me too.

Plus I don't like the way that microsoft is going to be charging to use windows as a service (if I understand that correctly). Especially since I wasn't that enthused about their customer service in the first place.

And finally, some of the computers we have around here and at my wife's store are older. One box runs win 7 and the other still runs XP. I know that mint isn't the lightest weight distro out there, but it still seems to run fine on an i7-2600 with 6 GB of RAM and a 150GB spinning HD.
2:11 pm on Sept 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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"Windows is installing updates, don't turn off or unplug your computer."

That was one of the many factors that made me switch. On a Windows machine updates really do take over. It should be a smooth process running in the background. Not the main even in full view.

On most Linux distros you simply get a notification that updates are available, you can select to install them and it just goes back into the background. You can also background the entire process so you just don't notice it.

Mack.
4:55 am on Sept 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I remember enjoying your original thread mack. Back then I enjoyed playing with Linux in VMs, but I never took the plunge and committed an actual desktop (had a few Linux servers, but most others were BSD and Windows). I eventually setup and maintained some other people's PCs on Linux. They seemed to have no issues using Linux on a day-to-day basis, and I enjoyed the relative lack of support issues. Those Linux desktop machines, once setup, almost never had problems. That was really refreshing as these same people had Windows on the same hardware previously and it was a maintenance nightmare when problems arose.

Then came Windows 10...
The writing was on the wall for me with Windows heavy handed upgrade campaign. I had my machines set to block these updates because I couldn't afford the downtime or disruption to my setup. I'm not sure how it happened, but one of my machines managed to get hit by the Win10 upgrade. I was not happy with that. Around that time I began seriously testing out all the Linux distros and taking online Linux courses.

Today I have moved all of my primary and most of my secondary desktop machines off Windows (save one laptop for testing). No more dual booting to Windows. I've gone full Linux. Windows now lives in VMs if I need something, but it's no longer my primary OS.

Even in my office, which is nearly a pure Windows environment, I am now (the only person) happily using desktop Linux. It's certainly not as easy to get things done after years of familiarity with Windows. However, I've enjoyed the process of figuring out how I can do the same stuff I used to do in Windows on Linux. It's probably going to take me a while to get things to work seamlessly inside a Windows domain, but the learning process has taught me a lot.
2:50 pm on Sept 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Another reason I have (pretty much) given up on Win 10 is that I recently had some BSOD errors (they were actually Green screen of death, not blue). Anyway, the system would crash, and then it would say, "We are just gathering some information, will reboot after complete."

Except it would never reboot. I would have to power down by holding the power button down for 6 seconds.

Then when rebooting it would have problems. I would sometimes have to re-boot two or three times in a row to boot into windows.

I would try to find the right logs to figure out WHY it crashed (which was difficult in the first place) and then when I did find the "right" logs they wouldn't eben list what went wrong. They would just say something like "unexpected power off" which I am guessing means when I had to power off the computer manually since the BSOD would go on for infinity.

It's hard to work not knowing if the system is just going to crash for no reason.
4:42 pm on Sept 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Bill once you get your tools in place you will be fine. I was quite fortunate in that many of the tools I was already using are on Linux. I can imagine there would be a bit of a learning curve if that wasn't the case. Office suites for example... They do the same thing, it's just a case of mastering the navigation systems and getting to know where everything is.

I think If I were to try and use a Windows machine now I would be in the same situation as you only in reverse.

Planet13 I'm honestly not familiar with the Windows 10 variant of the BSOD. It might be worth running a memory test to try and eliminate a hardware issue. It's never nice using a machine that you know could and may crash at any moment.

Mack.
4:44 pm on Sept 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The only thing I've 'missed' on Linux is some retro gaming, Wine does OK on some things but fails on others where Windows 'simply works', but the 'simply works' has a $100 overhead.

I've done some GPGPU work with an NVIDIA card and it worked great on a Linux machine, the drivers are fine and perfectly supported. The only gap IMO is the devs that do UI stuff believing their market doesn't exist on Linux.
1:09 am on Sept 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Bill once you get your tools in place you will be fine.


The only thing I can't really replace is Office365. LibreOffice just doesn't cut it for compatibility on a lot of files where any sort of layout, macro, or advanced formula is involved. I need to fire up a VM and run Office on Windows for a lot of files. Then there's Outlook and the corporate Exchange server... Ugh. Thunderbird just can't keep up. Fortunately there are browser based options available for some of these packages, but with a reduced feature set. I'm doing what I can to move away from the reliance on Microsoft software, but there's no perfect solution that I can find.

Although I can't fully escape from Office I'm making a valiant effort....
5:16 am on Sept 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yea that will be a problem. I suspect the same would apply to any system that was "outnumbered" on a network or organisation. You still need to be able to work within their environment. A little compromise is worth it to get the job done.

Regarding games... Yea that was also an issue for me when I first made the switch. I had some games that I used on my Windows machine, now if I want to game I need to use my Xbox.

Mack.
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