March 30, 2015

November 25, 2019

Is Linux for desktop use? Thoughts after years of use.

Recently I've started thinking about some new laptop. At the moment I have Dell Inspiron 17R - Intel i7, 17.3" screen, 8GB ram, SSD. I've bought it about 3 years ago as my primary computer. I wanted something for work, games, movies, etc. I think that it's very good but.. not very mobile. It is hard to work beyond the desk or take it to the conference, 2-3 hours on battery is also not impressive. Recently I've bought Playstation 4 so i don't need computer for games and I'm wondering if I need such a huge laptop.

What I need? I'm a (WEB) programmer so the main requirement is that I must have good environment to make a code. Today I have Fedora 21 on my laptop and as every Linux it is ideal for me for programming. Sublime, Python, Nginx, PostgreSQL, etc, I can have everything what I need. OK, to tell you the truth, I can not imagine programming in other environment than Linux. What else? I've recently noticed that application which is used the most is.. web browser (Chrome). Gmail, Spotify Web Client, Tweetdeck, IRCCloud, Inoreader, Google Docs, Google Drive/Dropbox/Flickr, Teamwork, everything through Chrome. Except Chrome I'm use Sublime, linux terminal and Skype.

What about hardware? I'm thinking about something smaller, 13-14 inches should be good, with matte screen. SDD? Must have. I'm not sure if less that 8GB ram will be good for me and what about Intel i7? Do I need this for programming, movies, music? I don't use laptop for games. Maybe i3 or i5 will be enough? Full HD? It will be nice to have. Basically I don't want to have slower computer than I have now but im not sure if I will notice any difference between i7 and 8GB ram and i5 and 4GB ram. Last thing, battery, 3 hours on battery is short time, I want more.

Some time ago I've read a lot about Chromebooks, mostly about some Acer Chromebooks. I like the idea, everything in the cloud, 10-13 hours on battery, very fast boot, easy system, everything works because system is adapted for hardware, it is secure. I didn't see Chromebook in real but I know the limitations (software, wifi requirement). I thought that if I move to Cloud9 (I've tried it some time ago, it works good, I like the idea that I can have the same code editor and environment everywhere, accessible by browser) instead of Sublime then Chromebook can be ideal for me. The only thing that won't work is Skype. I've read that there is some way to run it on Chrome OS and I know that Skype is working on a Web version. So.. if CPU and 4GB will be enough, I can watch full hd movies.. why not Chromebook? It looks really interesting for me but I need more opinions and it will be good to try it in real.

Why not "normal" ultrabook with Linux? What about Windows? Good questions. I have been using Linux for about 10 years, 10 years without Windows. I like it, every year it is better but.. Heh. Yesterday my girlfriend wanted Windows system instead of Fedora. She has some Lenovo laptop with 2 CPU cores and 4GB ram. I've installed her Windows 10. Installation was very fast. Because it is a preview version so I thought that it can have a lot of bugs. But.. WOW! It is really fast. Seriously. It is a lot faster that Fedora and Ubuntu, twice faster? Maybe more? (I have comparison on this laptop, before Fedora she had Ubuntu but it broke after update..). Everything works. WOW! Synchronization with OneDrive, login connected with Microsoft account, 2-step verification. No issues with drivers. I've always thought that Windows looks much better that KDE/Gnome but it is not a primary thing. I've noticed that sound is much better than on my laptop (tested on Brainwavz HM5 headphones with FiiO E10K). Screen colors, sound, speed, everything looks like.. hm, like it should, it looks like drivers on Linux are old, not (correctly) maintained, without good support, it looks like Linux can't use hardware with full benefits. I've installed Avast, Spotify, Steam, Origin, Battlenet, Skype. Wow! Games on Linux? Please.. Ok, so.. Windows. Looks better, works better, 0 issues, a lot of fresh software. What else? For example.. printer. Linux have drivers for my printer (Epson) but.. it doesn't work correctly. I can print but the quality is not as good as on Windows. I can't check the ink level, etc. Second display. One year ago I bought second display, some LG IPS with 27 inches. Because I have Nvidia Optimus (hdmi only on Nvidia which is turned off by default) it was very hard to run additional display on HDMI. After some time I did it. It worked correctly on proprietary Nvidia drivers.. 2 months. After some update it was broken, again. I've tried to fix that but after some time I gave up. At the moment LG is not used. From time to time i'm trying to use Nvidia drivers, nouveau drivers.. no effects. And with Windows? No issues! After one hour with Windows 10 I've started thinking "Why I'm using Linux?" Some time ago I wanted to buy Chromecast. Guess what? It is not working under Linux.

Question. Can I work on Windows? The only limitation for Windows is that I need Linux environment for programming. But.. if I can use Cloud9 on Chromebook then I can use it also under Windows. I can do everything on Cloud9 (it have linux, root, ssh), I have additional linux server so I can use it if I need some work in shell or with Linux software. Optionally I can install Linux in VirtualBox. If I can use Windows then I can buy some ultrabook with Windows. Or.. I can buy tablet with Windows! Why not? I can connect keyboard, additional display (my 27 inches LG) and it will be cool! Everything will work, it will be mobile, it will have good time on battery.

Should I leave Linux on desktop? I don't know. It seems that I'm using Linux because it is something like a habit, I like Open Source idea, I like this community, it is really cool that some guys work on all those things, good job! I like to have more control on my laptop. But is it worth? Is it worth that I can't use my printer or my second display? At the moment I need a comfort. I want to have a system where everything works. Of course, I can find a laptop where everything will work correctly with Linux but what if after some time I will want connect something more? Like I wanted Chromecast? I don't have time for that issues. I can't be sure that on Linux everything will work everytime. I need to do my work, I need to listen music, watch movies, I need to have fun with all those things. I prefer to play games instead of trying to fix my additional display. Life is short, isn't it? ;-)

There is one issue in Chromebook and Windows. Privacy. Everything is in the cloud, on their servers. But.. I can live with that.

What now? I don't know ;-) I know that I want my second display work. I want a laptop/tablet which will work a lot of time on battery so that I can take it and go to the park, drink beer and work outdoors. I don't want issues. At the moment I think that Windows will be good for me. Chromebook? It looks good (battery!) but I'm not sure if hardware will be enough for me. What do I prefer? I think that Chromebook could be better than Windows. It is some kind of Linux, I'm using Google Apps. If CPU and 4GB ram will be enough then I can use Chromebook, if not, I can try to find some tablet with Windows. But still I'm not sure if I want to leave Linux. After 10 years.. it is not easy. I always told that Windows is worse than Linux.. ;-) And what if it is a momentary doubt?

Anyone is using Chromebook for programming? What about Skype on Chromebook? What about 1080p movies? Is Chrome OS good to everyday use? Do you prefer Windows over Linux? What do you think about Linux as a desktop system? ;-)

PS. No, I don't want MacBook or anything from Apple.

© 2020 Przemysław Kołodziejczyk