Moving from Windows to Linux

I've been looking to make this move since Microsoft went full evil with the release of Windows 10. I have used Windows for as long as I can remember, and always wanted to completely move to Linux but it hasn't really been a viable option until recently.

The problem has always been gaming. For programming and work, Linux has always been a viable option, even as a desktop user. It isn't until recently that it was possible to game on Linux with AAA games. The SteamDeck really opened my eyes how far Linux has come in terms of gaming.

About 4-5 months ago, I took switching to Linux seriously. The last 30 days I haven't booted into Windows at all. I still maintain a fallback Windows install on a separate disk if I ever need it, but so far I have been able to replace everything I needed.

Distro Hopping

Initially, I wasn't really sure what distribution to use. I had a few requirements, but you really don't know until you give it a try. So I started trying out distros on a separate disk until I found one that felt usable.

I first went to PopOS, which I really liked. PopOS is an Ubuntu flavored distribution, with it's own custom Gnome Shell customizations. I really liked PopOS, but the biggest problem I ran into is their packages were stale. They were heavily focused on their new Desktop Environment called Cosmic Desktop and have publically stated they will be slowing down the release of updates until this is finished. Seeing as I want to use KDE instead of Gnome, I was stuck as the bundled version of KDE was slightly older and didn't play well with Nvidia GPUs.

At this point I decided to give kUbuntu a try, this is an official Ubuntu distiribution that uses KDE instead of Gnome. While this worked well, I found I was still stuck with Snap packages if you disable them, you have to go through hoops to ensure new packages don't install as snaps. Snaps are Ubuntu's way of bundling apps so they can run on different releases without problems. They are with problems though as they are really slow to launch. This is the main reason I didn't want to use Ubuntu, so I moved on.

One of my big requirements was using a Debian/Ubuntu flavored OS. Although I don't like Apt, it is the most widely supported package manager. For example, Hive Vessel is only shipped as a .deb (Apt Package). While there are ways to convert packages, the dependencies are the real problem. There is an open standards way of dealing with this called Flatpaks, which while similar to Snaps, they are much more efficient and open.

At some point I started to mess with Arch. Arch users are considered very elite (by other arch users) because the barrier to entry was so high. Arch is a lot more complicated because you basically choose every aspect of your installation. With the new Archinstall, this has become a lot easier. I mainly left arch because of the complicated process of installing software that isn't available on Arch or the AUR package library. Thinking back though, this is less of a problem as almost everything is supported, I just didn't want to depend on a third party to maintain packages I wanted to use. Specifically, I wanted to maintain support for a commerical package I use for SSH called SecureCRT. They only support Ubuntu, and not even the latest version of Ubuntu.

I decided to give this up, and try Nobara, a Fedora fork maintained by one of the best Linux gaming developers out there. The one who is responsible for many of the Proton improvements to support gaming on Linux. The experience with Nobora was great, it worked great out of the box, and had excellent GPU support. I couldn't get over the fact it was maintained by mainly one user and didn't support Apt, so this became a deal breaker for me. I ended up switching back to PopOS for a time.

I have tried Mint in the past, and it was suppose to be the solution to Ubuntu's mistakes, but it had many of it's own. Debian while currently fresh, typically has stale packages and as you get further out from the last release date, it becomes more and more of a problem. PopOS was suppose to solve this but being updated more frequently but since they were more focused on Cosmic Desktop, this wasn't the case.

After using PopOS for a while, I came across PikaOS. This is basically Nobara but for Ubuntu, this is exactly what I have been looking for. I installed PIkaOS, and have been using it ever since. PikaOS has a few of the same contributors as Nobara. In fact, the PikaOS Hub is the same install engine Nobara project uses.

This allows me to have current gaming support, while having full Ubuntu flavored Linux for work related projects. PikaOS ships an ISO for Gnome, KDE, and Hyprland. This is pretty unique as Hyprland is typically only supported on Arch and some other distributions, not on Ubuntu. I briefly gave Hyprland a go, but ended up back with KDE.

While it isn't perfect, I have managed to replace everything I needed from Windows. One particular process that was a headache was scanning documents. I scan everything, I do not like having paper for anything that isn't needed. I use a really nice double sided scanner that can scan 30 pages a minute both sides in full color. Under windows, this is just pressing a button and it gets scanned into my inbox. I can then file it anywhere I want. While my scanner has Linux support, all the applications have a very poor workflow meaning I would spend a lot more time doing something that was pretty much hands free. I managed to write a small script that directly communicates with the scan driver and does exactly what I want. I just type scan, and it does exactly what I had on Windows.

Most software I use these days has a Linux version. The ones that don't, I have managed to find a good replacement. At some point soon, I will format my Windows installation to be a clean install with only the handful of games I can't play in Linux and that's it. So far I haven't found a game I can't play in Linux that I want to play, so this may in fact never even be needed. I have Wine and Bottles installed to attempt to run any Windows software I need to run.

I do however have one problem I haven't been able to solve. I have over 400G of pictures I have taken over the years and I use Adobe Lightroom to manage them. This currently only supports Windows and Mac and they have no plans on supporting Linux. Nothing on the market comes close to what Lightroom does, which is a massive time saver. I am looking at Dark Table and DKIM that try to replace Lightroom but they are clearly not nearly as good. I might end up running a Windows VM when I want to use Lightroom/Photoshop as of right now, this looks like my best option.

I am so thankful to be off Windows. I hated still being tied to it and have wanted for years to move off but I refuse to run a dual boot system where I got to keep switching back and forth.

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