Software Thoughts from a Linux Newbie
Last weekend, I wrote about my first month’s experiences in moving over to Linux from Windows 10 and said that I would be writing about the software I have been using since I left the world of Windows.
One major change is that I didn’t stay with Linux Mint and instead went back to Linux Elementary-Loki. After I started to use Mint, not just play with it – I found that I was not as comfortable as I thought I would be and moved to Linux Elementary OS. Another Linux distro that I had been experimenting with, but that is a different post.
Getting back to software.
I might be a newbie to Linux, but I have used computer software for many different operating systems since the 80’s. So I have a bit of experience with integrating different and new-to-me software into how I use a computer.
As part of this change I wanted to use software that wasn’t the usual stuff you find on a Windows or OS-X machines that I have used lately. Preferably use a Linux alternative, but at the same time I do use four different laptops, the wife’s desktop and my phone, in addition to my work computers, so I will still use a lot of web-based apps that sync between multiple platforms.
However, I also want to be able to disconnect completely from the Internet and still have a computer that will be an asset if there is still power, not just a paperweight.
Well at least that was what I initially planned.
I have a feeling that most casual computer users do about 70-80% of what they do in a browser in today’s world. Since I am no longer a teacher and significantly reduced my social media stuff, I have changed how I use a computer over the past couple of years and now put myself in that category – a casual computer user (who knows too much, but not enough to be helpful).
Epiphany – is the web browser that is the default browser in Elementary. I have never used it before, but when I got to reading about its features and initially started to use it, Epiphany piqued my interest. Unfortunately, for me at least on this computer, Epiphany did not render the WordPress.com site correctly, Google Drive is buggy and there are a few other websites I have visited that do not render correctly. While I like it and it shows real promise, Epiphany is not quite ready to be my primary browser.
Opera – I like Opera and have it installed for those times I get pissed at Chrome for some reason or Google puts out an update that sucks. However, I find that Opera is more a back-up browser than my primary one.
Firefox – I love their premise and keep attempting to use Firefox. However, there is just something about it that never seems to work quite right for me. I didn’t even bother to install it.
Google Chrome – So I went back to Chrome. I used it when it first came out, lived through its growing pains and have pretty much stayed with it over the years. It is machine agnostic, syncs quickly between devices and works well for the way I work online. Yes, I know it is Google and I share concerns that many have about Google, but as I have said for many years, if you are looking for privacy, stay off the Internet.
The biggest thing that I didn’t like about installing Chrome was the added software that automatically was downloaded with it – each time I installed it on a distro. Google I like your stuff, but I don’t need a Chromebook recovery tool program and didn’t want/need Sumo Paint or Hangouts on MY laptop. If wanted them I would download them myself.
A bit of a rant, but don’t bundle shit onto MY computer that I don’t want. I don’t want crapware or other things added when I download a program, which is one reason that I moved Linux. They will all go away, when I take the time to figure out how uninstall them since they were installed by way of the GDebi package installer, not the AppCenter.
I tried the default Mail and Calendar apps in Elementary OS, but they didn’t do what I wanted and Evolution – well it just felt eerily like using Outlook and I never really liked Outlook, so that wasn’t what I was looking for. Besides I don’t need a big do it all program that ties together my email, calendar, contacts, tasks and notes into one package.
After all the experimenting with these and other different Linux productivity desktop program, I knew the direction that I needed to go.
Back to Google.
Gmail Offline, Google Calendar and Keep. It is a combination that I use and have used at work or home successfully before this move into the world of Linux. Why bother to fix something that is not broke.
Elementary OS does not have an office suite installed, which I think is the best way to do things. That way I can choose the one that I want to use.
Most of the time I use what is now called G-Suite, since that is what we use at work and something I have used personally since it was called Writely. So I am familiar with how most everything works.
The other part is that there is no dedicated Drive folder from Google developed for Linux (there is a Insync, but I don’t feel like paying for software yet), which is a bit of a bummer, but there are work-arounds. Yes, G-Suite does have offline capability, but for some reason I am not completely comfortable with how that works and want desktop software to open documents and spreadsheets.
When I thought about it, I only need a Word Processor and Spreadsheet, all the other stuff in an Office type suite just sits there unused 99% of the time. AbiWord and Gnumeric are programs that when I combine them with G-Suite seem to do everything I really need, so I didn’t bother installing LibreOffice.
Photos, Music, Video – I will stay with the Elementary OS versions for most offline use, although I have VLC installed. VLC is software that I find plays videos when others do not. I do have most of my photos, videos and music in the cloud and my Android phone syncs photos automatically to Google photos/Drive when I take pictures, so I will continue to use Google for these as well.
My old MacBook does not have the space locally for all my photos and music, so I will put them on the ASUS, in addition to my external hard drive and in the cloud when I get around to it.
I prefer to use social media sites in the browser versus having a specific app or desktop software, especially when it comes to Facebook. I feel a little more control over what they and other social media sites have access to that way. Not that I could really stop them from doing whatever, if they want to, but it requires a little more effort on their part to get into my device, whichever one it is.
Corebird is a Twitter client for Linux, but not what I am looking for, so I will go back to a cloud-based client – probably TweetDeck and use it as a web app through Chrome at some point.
Although I did install the WordPress.com desktop software. I love to blog and having access to my blog editor if I am offline is a big deal to me. It is a lot easier than using a word processor and then having to go play with formatting issues after you transfer what you have written to your blog.
This is where Linux falls behind Windows and OS-X in my opinion – porting of games, although Steam is now available. I don’t do a lot of gaming at this point, but I will probably install Majong and a card game, just to have them available if I want to use them to kill some time. Then at some point I will install Wine, so I can access my old reliable RPG games like NWN2, Baldur’s Gate 1&2, Devine Divinity, etc.
Yeah, I am still pretty well tied to the Google silo, but I have been for several years now and am comfortable with the tools they provide in exchange for using my personal information. I know up-front what they are doing and accept that as the cost of using their products. No, I am not always happy about it, but their tools work the way I do, so it is what it is.
The above is about the extent of the software that I will be using, until or unless I find something better. Knowing me, I am pretty sure that I will probably keep experimenting with different software packages to see what is out there.
However, it by experimenting that I have found out there are many different options out there to do just about anything I or anyone else needs in Linux. Which is not the perception that is out there among those who use Windows or OS-X computers. There is still the myth that the software sucks on Linux – it doesn’t.
However, my computing needs today are now relatively simple, more cloud-base and having specialized software to get something done is pretty much a thing of the past. However, I am confident that if I need to do something, it will not take a lot of time to find, install and setup a software package that does meet my needs in Linux.
The best part about the move to Linux has been that I can still do things in ways that work for me and the biggest surprise has been that it really is not all that different from what I was doing when I was on a OS-X or Windows operating system. I also like that I am not tied to some store that is the only place that I can easily install software from.
At some point, I will make my Linux MacBook into a mostly offline machine, but for now it is my couch laptop and the software I have written about makes the most sense for the way that I currently use MY computer.
Can you tell that I am enjoying my move to Linux?