Be a Software Vegan!
or: 'Supporting those who support Linux.'
Matt ⋅ 12/5/2021
With the disfavored launch of Windows 11, many are looking to escape the big tech duopoly of operating systems. Can Linux satisfy the computing needs of these dissidents?
Windows 10 is NOT the last version of Windows as once believed, and many want off of the neverending Microsoft train. What viable alternative is there for today's gaming, surfing, emailing, working, streaming computer nerd?
Recently, Linus Tech Tips, a super-popular YouTube tech channel, has challenged its team to use Linux instead of Windows for its daily computing needs, including video production and gaming. In true YouTube response, many channels followed with reactions to and suggestions for LTT's Linux Experiment.
Spoiler alert: The LTT team did not have a good time. Issues arose from bugs and incompatibilities, which resulted in his streaming hardware not working as planned, and eventually his desktop environment deleting itself! Just, wow, ... who in their right mind would want to switch from Windows or Apple to deal with that?
GNU/Linux is a state of mind.
Don't rush to wipe your Windows drive without recognizing a few things. Linux is NOT an operating system, but an open-source kernel created by Linus Torvalds. Websters defines a kernel as "an integral or central part". Indeed the Linux kernel is essential, as it determines how the hardware in your system communicates with each other as well as with installed programs. The "GNU" part is the graphical component, the buttons, pointers, things you type in, all that stuff, created by Richard Stallman. The combination of these two technologies makes up the operating system. These combinations can be made, modified, and enchanced by other developers, which creates the vast number of Linux "distributions" (or "distros") available.
Here's the long and short of it. Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX are self-contained operating systems, built on code no one else has access to, with all elements tested and linked in-house to work together before hitting the market. Many software companies, like Adobe, make software that works solely on these systems to maximize profit. One major thing that keeps creative professionals stuck on Windows or Microsoft is the ability to use PhotoShop, Premiere, or Adboe's other tools outside of these operating systems.
Linux, however, contains may separate parts made by different people, brought together to work in harmony. Its development is a beautiful concept, reminiscent of the development atmosphere pre-Bill Gates - independent programmers working together to create alternatives to the products of massive corporations. This also causes issues for Linux as Adobe, Electronic Arts. or other software companies would rather shake hands with Apple and/or Microsoft for large contracts instead of extending this support to free software.
Software advertising centers around products for Windows. It can be dificult, but with a bit of consumer awareness, we can overcome obstacles to piece together a Linux system that will suit our needs without the help of unfriendly mega-corps. For such discernment in purchasing, let's look to the example of the vegan.
What would Vegans do?
Let's say I'm a new vegan. I saw a food processing documentary last week the slaughter within grossed me out, and I am now a PETA-card-carrying hippie stoner who sews his own pants from hemp and does not eat any animal products. I will not have good outcomes if I continue to visit Burger King like I used to. I will have to shift my routine, using different sources of food or groceries, to get on with my new life.
I must research and find new dining options that fit my new lifestyle.
Why would I put in this extra effort? Honestly, this is where I draw the vegan comparison. Just like a vegan does not want to see animals hurt by the likes of mega-corporations like Monsanto and Tyson, I do not want to see open-source software hurt by the likes of mega-corporations like Microsoft or Apple.
New options for a new lifestyle.
The same thought applies to Linux. Substitute "I am a vegan" with "I am a Linux user" - you must do research to ensure that the tools you use daily, the compontents of your computer, are vegan- err, Linux-friendly.
Enter the INTERWEBS! Use it to find Linux-friendly resources, OR read a blog like mine that can help you out!
Earlier I mentioned the Linus Tech Tips Linux challenge. It's a good example of someone going vegan without researching compatibility with his current lifestyle. it's also a good example of someone not reading the command-line output and thus deleting their entire desktop, but that's another matter of discussion.
Support those who support Linux.
Although my employers have provided various Windows and Apple laptops over the years, I have used Linux on my personal machines since 2014. A lot of trial and error has brought me to my current setup. I'm not only prooud to have a fgully working Linux system that I can modify, erase, update as I please -- I also enjoy supporting the companies below, who take the time to make their products useable on Linux.
AMD video graphics
A quick web search can show many comversations and articles about NVidia vs Linux - even the Linus Torvalds himself publicly flipping NVidia the bird. NVidia can work with Linux, but AMD drivers are open-source and included in the Linux kernel itself. This means one less obstacle while setting up graphics and gaming.
Brother printers and scanners
If you need relaiable printing and scanning on Linux, look for a Brother. Their website has a great command line tool that walks you through printer installation, setup and testing. CUPS can be used to set up any printer, but it can be difficult to configure for your needs. The tool Brother provides makes things much easier.
Brother printers are also durable! I've owned my color printer for about a decade, and my black and white laser printer for three years, both printing and scanning through wifi.
We've talked about picking the parts for you Linux machine, but no one is building their own laptop from parts. If you don't mind opening up your laptop, you can do some helpful things, like upgrading your storage and memory, as well as your wireless adapter.
Many will tell you to look for a used Thinkpad for Linux. I agree the keyboard quality i sunmatched, although I'm no fan of the big red nub. I'm also not a fan of many Lenovo laptops, as I enjoy upgrading my machines with new or spare parts. Lenovo is known for "whitelisting" parts in their BIOS, which prevents you from using parts not approved by Lenovo.
I prefer used Dells. My 7 year old Dell Latitude (e7240) has run several Linux distributions, all of which worked well on install. Access to the wireless card, dual-channel, memory, and SSD are only two screws away.
I've also heard good results from Acer and ASUS installs.
You may see may newer laptops labelled as "gaming", with mobile graphic cards added. "MX-this" or "RTX-That"I strongly suggest against these.
These are NVidia graphics integrations, which we already discussed the evils of. For basic computing purposes look forS Intel or AMD integrated graphics. Many of the newer AMMD solutions are great for gaming and require less driver integration.
Still, driver integration IS possible. Ubuntu and Linux Mint offer tools to find proprietary drivers that will find and adjhust for your NVidia equipment, ... in most cases.
Laptops can come with an array of adapters from a wide range of companies. For Linux purposes youw ant to avoid "RealTek."
Long story short - REALTEK Wifi Cards have HORRIBLE Linux support.
If you have booted Linux on an old laptop and could not access wifi, you probably had a RealTek adapter in your machine. Support for these is not native on Linux, but drivers can be downloaded later.
You're pretty SOL here, unless:
- you have access to an ethernet connection to complete the install and appropriate driver uploads
- you have access to a USB WiFi adapter that plays nice with Linux. Once you find and install your device's drivers, you can happily access wifi and go about your Linux journey. I cannot really advise you on where to find these drivers - Google can though. I prefer to just go the Linux-friendly route and find a WiFi card Linux supports.
You cannot go wrong with Intel. Their cards are engrained in the Linux kernel and work out of the box.
I've installed Linux on many old laptops, and Atheros has never given me issue. I believe these are only in older machines as the company has been acquired by ...
Qualcomm has been known to be hit or miss with Linux. Older models may not work as reliably on older kernels, but recent models are included.
Don't be THAT kind of vegan!
Running Linux will make you feel special. You should definitely be proud of setting up a working system and the satisfaction of running software not developed by "the man". Do not let that pride turn to arrogance.
You may like your Linux setup a lot more than the offerings Microsoft, Apple OR other Linux distributions. There's no need to become a pushy evangelist over it. Some may say arrogance and impatience are cornerstones of the Linux community, but I'd like to think that over the years, with increasing access to information amd easier installs, we will find more people turning to Linux to steer clear of the big tech monopolies on their home PCs.