Linux for regular users

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60% of my blog visitors are Windows users followed by 20% of OS X users and only 5% are Linux users. Probably, at least once in awhile you get tired of your OS environment as you get bored of staying too long in one place. Throughout my career I was mostly a Windows guy with some occasional use of server Linux systems. I’ve always been attracted to things that I didn’t understand well. The challenge of mastering something geeky and difficult always got me excited. Because I found Linux to be one of the geeky and hacky things, I committed several unsuccessful attempts to become a full time Linux user.

I was around 12 when I saw Linux for the first time.  I got a call from a friend of mine, who was the only kid in a neighborhood who had a computer. Somehow he managed to install Linux and called me to check it out. I had no idea what Linux was, but an enthusiastic voice of my friend made me to think that Linux was some kind of a very cool game. Imagine my disappointment when I saw a blank screen with a blinking text cursor, that was Linux. And almost a decade later I dared to revisit the “very cool game” again.

It all started back in 2012 when I burned a DVD with Fedora distro. I picked Fedora because it was the closest distro to Red hat and CentOS which I used at some post-production facilities in Europe. The promise of ease of use and native support of Softimage and Maya played a great deal too. After a quick and easy system installation, it took me more than 2 hours to setup Softimage XSI. Once I finally made it, I opened Softimage just to realize that my laptop video card drivers were not working. I’ve spent several evenings reading forums and doing some weird mumbo jumbo command line magic, before I had Softimage running properly. One evening, when me and my wife decided to watch a movie over HDMI, we found out that Linux drivers didn’t support HDMI and more surprisingly it didn’t support some of online streaming video services. Instead of enjoying a family evening, I found myself mumbo jumboing commands in a Linux shell. After one week of terrible UX, I realized that Linux was ruining my life 🙂 I switched back to good old Windows.

A week ago, I felt the need to involve myself in a geeky adventure, so I installed Fedora one more time. 4 years passed since my previous attempt, so I was almost sure that it has become more user friendly. Once I installed Fedora it took me 15 minutes to understand that I’ll be spending another week trying to make things running smoothly. As I was smarter this time, I just erased it from my laptop and tried Ubuntu instead.

It was a delight. Ubuntu worked out of the box. For a guy like me who likes 3d, programming and watching movies online over HDMI, Ubuntu was the lucky choice. Sure it has some quirks, and I have to open Linux shell once in awhile, but generally speaking, I’m very pleased with the distro. Before installing Fedora, I made a little online research about Fedora and Ubuntu. Though there are plenty of articles that compare the two, I found most of the articles to be vague. I have no doubt that people who wrote these articles are Linux professionals and they know and use Linux at much more profound level, but for some reason all of them fail to point out very simple and obvious things that dummy users like me actually need to know before they jump into a Linux world.

So if you are tired of your OS and want something fresh and interesting for home use, I recommend Ubuntu. Here are small but very useful things that Ubuntu offers for beginners like me.

All media plugins are pre installed. Mp3, mpeg and flash players are all there already. Once you open Vimeo or YouTube they just work. No need to spend time in command line figuring out how to install trivial things.

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Ubuntu Software Center. Easy way of installing apps. Reminds me of App Store and Google Market. It just works. Though, some of latest versions of apps are not there, so a bit of Linux shell work is still required.

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Automatic search and installation of GPU drivers. This is huge! No need to spend days trying to fix things that work usually work by default. HDMI wokrs too, though my laptop video card doesn’t support audio output though HDMI on Linux. Aside that issue, I can switch between various drivers without even restarting my laptop. Good bye driver problems.

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Ubuntu automatically finds all the drivers

With all these nice features it takes half an hour to setup the system. Ubuntu comes with LibreOffice pre installed, which is also nice. So far it feels like a mature solution for HOME desktop use. Moreover, my old laptop boots 3 times faster with Ubuntu installed.

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NVidia GPU settings

I wouldn’t use Linux as a main workstation OS, because it doesn’t support Adobe products and some professional video formats. However, if you plan to setup a render farm or a file server, Linux is a good solution.

I’m very happy with the distro, and now my old Dell laptop works much faster with Ubuntu installed. Looking forward to further explore the OS.

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Atom and Eclipse workspace in Ubuntu

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