Linux Endeavors

For the past 10 months, I’ve been using Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and now just recently, Ubuntu MATE 18.04 LTS, as my day-to-day operating system on my main laptop, a Dell XpS 15 9550. It’s been quite an adjustment, and overall I’m pretty happy with it.

In the past I’ve primarily used Windows (XP, 7, 10) at work and OS X / macOS at home. When I worked in technical support, all but one of my test VMs were Linux-based (CentOS in that case), and I really enjoyed working on them. In 2011, for a few months I owned an HP Pavilion laptop and tried Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and eventually a niche distro called Pinguy OS; but the hardware wasn’t really up to scratch, and at the time, there was still too much I needed to do in audio and video that just wasn’t practical on Linux.

Now, with just a couple occasional exceptions, the ecosystem around Linux-based OSes has grown and flourished to the point that I can get everything done that I need. Unlike Windows, I get to install updates and restart when I feel like it, and my OS is not attempting to constantly reset my privacy settings behind my back or install unwanted software. Unlike macOS, I can run software on pretty much any commodity hardware (with ports!), root really is root, and there’s a lot more flexibility around how I can use software.

It hasn’t been without challenges; there’s been an awful lot of configuration to do to get everything dialed in to the point that I truly feel at home. For example, I have many years of muscle memory - I want to use the Alt keys next to the space bar as “Command” keys, not the Control key way over in the corner. But, install a custom keymap plus a few tweaks in AutoKey and it’s just like macOS!

There are even some commercial, professional DAWs appearing on Linux, and as a result I’m moving primarily from Logic Pro over to REAPER. That’s also been a bit of a learning curve, but I’m thrilled to see some truly top notch software - especially since it is not locked-down and a portion of the code is even open source!

The only painful drawback to going Linux full-time is losing native access to the Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut Pro. I’m keeping a Windows 7 VM around for Adobe, and I still have my desktop Mac in the studio, but it sure would be nice to have CC running natively on the laptop. GIMP 2.10 includes a lot of improvements from its GEGL backend refactoring, but it’s not my preferred workflow and there are still some “papercut” issues like insufficient antialiasing of selection shapes, and one really major drawback - lack of adjustment layers. It’s fine for occasional use, though.

I’ve even been contributing to some open source projects, at least in terms of detailed bug reports, and that’s really a good feeling - the contributions you make may be small individually, but each fix improves the lives of many, many people, at least by a little bit. I’m excited to become more of a part of the open source community, and look forward to contributing what I can in time and skill.