I recently moved from Windows to Linux on my personal laptop and thought I might share my experience. This isn’t directly network related, but hopefully of interest to some portion of the large and diverse PP audience, especially considering recent events in the Microsoft realm. Ignoring that, using Linux ‘at home’ is a great way to learn about it if you haven’t already.
I take my privacy (and, as Greg would make a distinction that I really can’t disagree with), my anonymity seriously. I’ve blogged on the subject here on PP a number of times. Most don’t seem to care, but for quite a few reasons, I do. I don’t think I’m an uncompromising or overly principled person, it’s just what I think and feel. Perhaps I’ve experienced one too many dystopian novels or films or perhaps it’s something to do with the very real human impact of the 20th century Soviet Union.
Anyway, it’s important. That and I’m a Windows user. I liked Windows 7 despite myself and managed to live with 8.1 (without a Microsoft account); Windows 10 improves things I’m sure. Only, it’s a privacy nightmare and to put some icing on top, you lose ultimate control of your operating system and thus your device, whatever it may be. See here, here and here for some examples. It seems Microsoft are also backporting these invasive ‘features’ to Windows 7 and 8/8.1.
Lastly, I do a large amount of command line work with various tools (git, wget, Vagrant, Ansible, VirtualBox, SSH, SCP etc.) and this was becoming a real pain on Windows, even with good terminal software that often uses BusyBox to provide the most commonly required tools. Note: I suspect Babun would have eased my pain considerably – thanks to Einar for making me aware of this in the comments.
What (Did I Need)?
This was fairly simple for me, I’ve been moving away from Windows specific software (quite unconsciously) for some time. I mostly write either online or within a simple text editor (no Word here), I use an online product for email* and diagramming, I use cloud storage for important professional files and a NAS (with file sync) for personal and impractically large files and images. I’m pretty good at keeping everything well organised, making backups a simple affair. So, my requirements came down to this;
- CLI based SSH, SCP and SFTP clients
- Git, wget, Vagrant, Ansible, VirtualBox etc. at the CLI
- Good text editor (both CLI and GUI)
- Media client (VLC)
- Web Browser
- Cloud storage
I suspected the only likely sources of difficulty might be Skype and the cloud storage.
Where (Did I Install It)?
My laptop is a HP Envy 15 with backlit keyboard, FHD touchscreen, an AMD A8 processor and 8Gb RAM. It’s far from the best but not bad and at the time of purchase, it was the only laptop around with a Full HD screen and an affordable price (for me anyway).
I took the easy route, not bothering with any kind of dual-boot setup. I just downloaded a Fedora Workstation .iso image, burned it to DVD, enabled legacy boot in the UEFI BIOS** and booted up in Live CD mode. Everything worked without any additional work on my part – result. I then simply installed to hard drive, removing all existing partitions (I probably could have kept the recovery partition but there you are). It all took maybe an hour.
Really, everything just works, wireless, wired Ehernet, Bluetooth (all Realtek), touchscreen, display resolution, sound, keyboard (including backlight and ‘hot’ keys), mouse scroll wheel, memory card reader – the lot. Quite a relief. Update: I forgot to check at the time but I can also mount and browse my Windows Phone’s internal and SD card storage. I’ll test with an Android phone when I can and update this comment when I have; I doubt it’ll be a problem.
Performance (in my subjective view) isn’t any different, boot up is perhaps a bit faster. My productivity, however, is much improved, mostly thanks to the bash shell and standard Linux toolset (and tmux – sweet).
Obviously, most of my software requirements were met ‘out of the box’, or were just a dnf install x command away. My current cloud storage provider has a Linux client so that was no problem. Skype wasn’t a problem either, despite the client only being available in 32-bit and my install of Fedora being 64-bit. After manually downloading the RPM, DNF managed to recognise the mismatch and install all the 32-bit dependencies without fuss.
The built in SMB client meant connecting to my NAS was a breeze too.
For general purpose privacy (clearing caches and histories etc.), I’m using BleachBit.
I did find wireless performance was a bit poor, a quick Google, kernel module tweak and reboot later, all was good.
I’d say tweaks and installations maybe took another two hours.
This migration has exceeded my expectations and I’ve yet to miss anything from Windows so far. I’d like to probably go one step further and move to an immutable client ‘model’. In other words, simplify the process so I would never worry about losing the laptop, or any data upon it at any time. All the data would be available elsewhere and as much of the build/rebuild (of the same laptop or some other device) would be little more than a series of dnf install and git pull commands. That in itself poses it’s own security issues where remote NAS access and private git repositories are concerned. One step at a time.
*I’m not too happy about this but time takes priority in this case, for now at least. When I do get some, I’ll probably be going with OwnCloud and Rainloop Webmail; hopefully there’s a git server plugin too.
**I’ve no idea if this was actually necessary – I reversed this after install without any issues.