~theoryware.net - 9 Months on Linux - A retrospect.

9 Months on Linux - A retrospect.

Posted: 2022-02-20 #commentary #linux
6 minute read.

Contents:

Introduction

Its been more than half a month since I made the jump to using a ’non-standard' operating system as a daily-driver for all of my computing tasks. In retrospect, I have to say it has been quite the adventure. Before I jump to talking about my experience with GNU/Linux, I have a few things to gloss over.

I will not cover everything in depth, as I feel like its too cliché anyway. Secondly I won’t be giving an ‘introduction’ to Linux, because there are better introductions out there anyway.

With that out of the way, lets get on to the real meat!

A Contextual Recap

I think it’s important that I cover a bit of context about my history with computing first, before I start a deep dive on GNU/Linux. (I will be calling it ‘Linux’ for sake of brevity) My first exposure to ‘computers’ was in the form of a Game Console, specifically, the Xbox Original. While not a ‘real’ introduction into the realm of computing, it acted as a catalyst for my interest in computers.

Fast forward a few years, and I attained my first laptop. This was mainly a gaming machine for a while, but as I grew and used it more, I would pivot my interests from just games, to the actual computer itself. Around 2017, I would start my first ever PC build. With this new rig, I would learn a whole collection of neat skills over the course of time, until May of 2021 rolled around the corner. When I would formally dive into Linux.

My discovery of GNU/Linux

If I am honest, I cannot fully connect my first real discovery of Linux to a single event, as I can’t remember it that well. However, my interest for Linux as an operating system probably stemmed from the discovery of a very intriguing video from the youtube channel Some Ordinary Gamers.

The main content of this video was SOG showing off and ‘guiding’ through his build of a Linux gaming rig using Virtual Machines and VFIO Passthorugh (GPU Passthorugh in plain English). Seeing what was accomplished in this build was really astounding. This pushed me to learn about this ‘Linux’ he was talking about. And so began my adventure into the wonderful (and deep) rabbit hole of Linux.

What makes Linux Great (In my eyes)

In my opinion, Linux has two great aspects about it that not only increase its utility, but overall improve the experience of using it day to day.

  1. Your system is a toolbox of tools to manipulate stuff with
  2. Your system can be tailored to you as a user, in any capacity you desire.

In my usage, Linux presents itself in a very different manner than most (conventionally popular) operating systems, in that it is a glorified collection of parts that work together, depending on how the user integrates them. Secondly Linux, since it is a collection of different parts and tools, various tools changed, modified, or exchanged with different tools. This allows the user to have full control over every aspect of a system, and tailor the system to the work that they do with it. This is the hardest concept to understand if you aren’t familiar with it already. However because of this, Linux has inherently more worth to a user who is willing to spend a bit of time learning it.

This is what I believe is the primary and main advantage of using a Linux (or Unix-based) system.

To add more, here are some other things about Linux system that I value highly.

Automate EVERYTHING

Because Linux is built upon a command line interface (cli) or shell, it allows you to use programs and actions in a programmatic manner, allowing you to do anything that you can do with command line commands.

For instance, I have a shell script here, that acts as a wrapper for compiling documents using pandoc.

#!/bin/sh
# simple pandoc document compiler

input="$1"
output="$2"
filetype=$(echo "$1" | grep -o "\..*$")

if [ -z "$2" ]; then
	output="out_doc.pdf"
fi

case $filetype in 
	".pres.md")
		pandoc "$input" -f markdown -t beamer -o "$output" 2> /dev/null ;;
	".md")
		pandoc "$input" -f markdown+raw_latex -o "$output" 2> /dev/null ;;
	*)
		echo "Improper input given"
esac

You can chain various programming concepts, such as functions, variables, and comparisons, all within your system at a very high level, without having to worry about programming languages and libraries and such.

You are also able to call scripts/programs on a timer, so allow for automated tasks. (via crontab)

# sync email
*/5 * * * * /usr/local/bin/mailsync

# make system backups
* * * * 0 /usr/bin/rsnapshot alpha
* * * */1 * /usr/bin/rsnapshot beta

This is a super powerful tool that is native (most of the time) to your Linux system, and can save time by automating repeated tasks for you.

Powerful and simple tools

Unlike other mainstream operating systems, whose goal was to be a distraction to modern man, Linux was built by developers, for developers and power users. Thus, Linux already has a vast library of powerful and useful software and tools that compliment it. Some of the tools I use are the following:

Customizable Graphical Environment

Along with your tools, you also can fully customize how your graphical environment. You can have full on desktop environments with all of the necessary tools bundled in, or you can take the time to hand-pick components, and build your own desktop to your liking.

For instance, here is a screenshot of my current desktop, powered by the awesome window manager.

It’s free (as in freedom) software

This aspect of Linux (and the various other tools alongside it) is often overlooked. These projects are free software. This means that these projects are licences under copyleft licences that allow you to have full access to the source code and full ability to use, modify, and redistribute that code. As long as you can maintain those same freedoms for others.

Final thoughts

Overall, I am very happy the I have taken the time to both learn and experiment with Linux as a daily driver machine. Now that I have used it for quite some time, I can’t see myself going back to my old way, as everything GNU/Linux has is just too amazing to leave behind.

While I have not covered everything that I have done with my newfound knowledge, there is still a lot more for me to learn, so stay tuned for when I post about something new, or when I make a new video on YouTube.

Enjoy the rest of your day and stay healthy!

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