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Setting Up My Linux on My Laptop, Changing My Approach

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I tried again and again to setup a Linux OS on my laptop, hoping to eventually making it my main operating system, but, again and again, I find it just not practical enough. There was always something that doesn’t work correctly. Things like programs that kept crashing, windows that suddenly froze, drivers not working, or simply, everything being sluggish. All that time, I always kept thinking that Linux on desktop is good enough to be used the same way I use Windows, or maybe, OSX. I was wrong. So, why am I doing this again this time? Well, for one thing, final exams are coming, and I should be studying instead of messing with my computer, so yeah, that dreadful ‘P’ word. But, other than that, I also want to try a different approach this time.

The usual pitch with Linux on desktop is that they are no longer hard to use as they used to. They require less resources to run. They can be made whatever you want them to. Truth: the ones that are user friendly are nowhere near lightweight, and many of them aren’t even that configurable by design, in the name of user friendliness. I do believe that overall, they are all moving to the right direction. Especially the work Linux Mint team done with Cinnamon has been very exciting. Canonical has also been hard at work with Ubuntu, coming up with all kinds of stuff that makes Linux more and more viable as a desktop OS. They even plan to develop their own display server. The trends are going towards an OS that is tightly integrated, better hardware support, and of course, easier to use. Customizability might be the only thing that are going away. I personally don’t really care for it, as long as they work well enough for me, I wouldn’t really need to configure much anyway.

Seems like easy enough for me to just pick a distribution and use it. Too bad, it is not that simple for me. Here are some of my problem with the existing ‘mainstream linux’: * I mentioned that the ability to configure the OS doesn’t matter that much to me, as long as it works well enough. Problem is, none of them are good enough, so my only option is to use one that I can customize to suit my use. My laptop is almost 4 years old. It runs Windows 8 smoothly. It can even run some of the recent heavyweight games with no problem. But, surprisingly, believe it or not, running vanilla Ubuntu with Unity doesn’t come without noticeable lags. I believe the hardware drivers play quite a part in this. Looking around, seems like most people seems pretty happy with the open source graphic card driver, so I guess its time for me to upgrade, but, I am still saving up. Related to my first point, in my attempt trying to bend the OS to suit my taste, many things became a tangled mess. This makes unexpected things to stop working during unexpected times. Since many of the distribution tried to make things easy to use, many things became hidden away. This also makes it hard to reproduce the configuration because I am not even sure what I changed.

So, with all that in mind, I decided how I want this attempt on using Linux would be: Lightweight. A must. I don’t think I can use an OS that aren’t at least as fast as Windows. Customizable. I think I was looking for the wrong thing if I focus on ease of use when trying out Linux out of the box. For now. This time, I would look for something that may requires some configuration overhead, but overall, would make everything easier to use. Works. Of course, By this I mean I don’t want having to install codecs to play music, or not audio jack not working, having to dig for drivers for wireless card, multi-monitor configuration, etc. Doesn’t hide things from me. I want to know what is going on in as many places as possible. As little magic as possible. I want to be able to reproduce my configuration easily. Makes me more productive. The whole point of me thinking to switch to Linux is so that I can do things, especially programming related things, faster, easier, and better. I want to take full advantage of UNIX. I want to use as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. I don’t expect this to be there out of the box, but I want it to be at least configurable to achieve this. Looks good. I don’t need shiny and fancy, but at the very least, I don’t want it to be unbearably ugly.

Of course, I can’t simply blame everything on the OS. There are also mistakes in the way I approached this in the past. I just expected everything to work without making an effort to know what is happening behind the scene. So, this time, here is how I am going to do it. No configuration tool such as ubuntu-tweak and such. If there is a file that I need to edit, I want to know what it is, and how to change it. Read the man. I always avoided having to read the help page of most tools, as I preferred to just have the command to enter presented to me via the great wisdom of Google. Take it slow. No need to rush to make the OS for me to use. Making sure things work properly is the priority. Document everything. I want to know the steps I took to achieve something, and I want to make sure it can be easily reproduced. Maybe write a build script for it.

All that covered, I have some plan in mind on how to do it. Lightweight, customizable, reasonably low-level, stable, friendly. Next will be on setting it up. By the way, while I was writing this post, Linux Mint 15 “Olivia” was announced! and look at them! So pretty! This can be harder than I expected with that kind of temptation.

This entry is posted in 2013.

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