Return to Level1Techs.com

New to Linux - helpful advice & tips

linux
guide
#1

This is a repost of an original response I made here which I hope will help people learning Linux be more productive & recover from broken desktop issues more easily.

======================================================

I’ve run various different flavours of Linux over 16 years so here are my experiences & what just works for me. I too do not have time to tinker & fix things.

You don’t mention which flavor of Linux you were using but it sounds like Fedora if you felt like a beta tester (or maybe vanilla Arch or Debian Testing) - I’ve run them all & more besides. When you are new to Linux it is natural to try everything. It’s also the best way to learn.

As always there are pros & cons for each solution. If you want a system that just works you should consider:

Stable Linux distributions:

  • Xubuntu LTS / Debian Stable (but old software versions can be a nuisance if you use your system for development or gaming) - the same goes for Centos 7. Your desktop will never break & they are great for servers but not so good for gaming.

  • For me Manjaro just works. The testing they do before moving packages into the stable repos catches most problems. It’s a rolling release too so software is always up to date & you never have to reinstall your system. It makes a great development workstation. Fedora are planning to move to a similar model to improve stability. Steam works & I sometimes use this for Linux native games but I mainly use a Windows 10 kvm with GPU passthrough.

  • Ubuntu / Linux Mint are good choices for new users (good forums) but are not a rolling release so you may have to reinstall every 1-2 years or so if a dist-upgrade does not end well (in Ubuntu this is replaced by do-release-upgrade). This shouldn’t however be a problem if you partition your disks correctly with a separate /home

Stable Desktop Environments:

  • XFCE - I cannot remember any major show stoppers in 15 years. Manjaro use it for their flagship edition for this same reason. I am probably a bit biased but it’s low memory footprint & default apps I’ve always found to be good enough for day to day use. This stability is also why xfce is the top rated DE for developers.

  • I never liked gnome or kde - shiny but too slow & often changing & breaking.

  • If you are new to Linux it is probably a good idea to also install a 2nd desktop environment so if you have a broken desktop you can login to your secondary desktop & fix it. I use to also install fluxbox for this very reason alongside xfce when I had more time & ran Debian Testing. I don’t remember fluxbox ever breaking & it is a tiny install. It just takes a bit of time to configure.

Terminal choices, choices, choices:

  • I’ve tried lots of different terminals & nowadays I just use pacmanager. Tabbed ssh / remote sessions & keypass support are great. Being able to run commands on multiple machines simultaneously is also sometimes useful. The xfce default terminal xfce4-terminal is a good alternative & backup terminal with tabs.

Showstoppers:

  • Nowadays a broken grub is usually fixed with a simple update-grub run as root from a live cd or usb stick after you chroot into your broken installation. Having a Linux live usb stick is always handy. If you dual boot Windows it needs to be installed before Linux at the beginning of the disk.

  • Broken desktop logins are often due to corrupted session data which are fixed by CTRL ALT F2 & logging in as root & deleting the appropriate desktop manager user session data & forcing the logout of your user session. Alternatively login to your secondary desktop as mentioned above to fix things.

  • For gaming fiddling around with proton & Steam on Linux for each game is a little tedious so I have a small SSD for a Windows 10 KVM virtual machine & I also passthrough an AMD Rx 570. I get around 95% of bare metal speed & I no longer dual boot. I run dual monitors with either 1 or 2 for Linux & 1 for Windows gaming running on the 2nd input of the 2nd monitor. I have some vfio notes here.

  • The Arch Linux wiki has the solutions to most problems (whatever Linux distribution you run). If you have a secondary desktop manager or Linux live usb stick (as mentioned above) it is simple to fix a broken system. The other advantage of running an Arch system is you can downgrade broken packages to a previous version while waiting for a bug to be fixed.

  • Disk space is cheap - running a dual boot system is sometimes useful if you are new to Linux (& do not keep a Linux live usb stick handy). I no longer boot into Windows due to my vm performance being good enough to play The Division on high settings.

Linux inside Windows:

  • Years ago before I setup KVM GPU passthrough with libvirt & VFIO on my gaming machine I ran Linux inside vmware on Windows. This worked quite well with the vm being a full screen window I could minimize & maximize like any other application.

  • The downside of this solution are the privacy issues from Windows & the less than ideal performance. If you have 8 or more cores available virtualization with kvm in Linux makes much better use of your hardware if you use pinningfor the cpu cores & iothreads. Using real-time schedulers for the pinned cpu cores is the secret sauce with vfio performance.

  • You also lose flexibility with your networking configuration. It is much simpler to run multiple vpn's simultaneously in Linux for instance.

As always YMMV.

13 Likes

Why i'm back to Windows 10 from Linux
#2

You’ll be a nice addition to L1T

5 Likes

#3

I saw this response in the original thread and was really impressed by the breakdown of certain aspects of how Linux is the same but different.

I’m just a basic pleb that runs Ubuntu with Cinnamon and have been consistently for about 10 months now. I’m happy with what I’m running and I feel like I’ve really learned how to use Linux as a workstation OS now instead of just on servers.

I hope to fully switch away from M$ when Windows 7 goes EOL but I’m loving what I’m doing here so far.

1 Like

#4

Nice post :slight_smile:

I using Linux quite regularly myself (basically all major distros: debian, ubuntu, fedora and manjaro) and I enjoy it most of the time. (Unless it stops working, then it can go to hell! :smiley: )

Anyway, what’s keeping me from using Linux on my desktop PC is gaming. I only have one GPU and passthrough doesn’t work with one card. (I’d have purchased Vega if it had SR-IOV support).

1 Like

#5

@Azulath - AMD cards will always be less trouble than Nvidia under Linux as the open source drivers are built into the kernel & the performance with them is good enough for daily use.

I originally had an Nvidia GT730 for the Linux host but the nouveau drivers did not work with the linux-hardened kernel (xorg crashed after startx). For the security benefits of starting a desktop without a Display Manager see Rootless Xorg.

I also bought a GTX 1070 to passthrough to the Windows 10 vm but sold it after 1 month as I have a freesync monitor for gaming & nvidia didn’t support adaptive sync at the time.

I then bought a used MSI Rx 560 4gb for the Linux host so I can also play games in Linux (but I always play on the MSI 8gb Rx 570 I passthrough to Windows). An AMD R7 250 or R7 260 would have been good enough for the Linux host.

I also have some notes here for how I update the AMD drivers inside the Windows 10 vm.

To configure dual monitors in xfce I used arandr to generate a shell script to start with my desktop session. I also bind the Windows Super Key to run this script.

1 Like

#6

I’d like to try to debunk the idea that KDE and Gnome are on the same level when it comes to resource usage. KDE is much lighter than Gnome nowadays, just using about 100MB of RAM @ idle more than XFCE

6 Likes

#7

Woah. KDE lost weight.

2 Likes

#8

no effort has been made on my part to slim it down either, this is just what it is now

1 Like

#9

It may have lost weight but for some reason my mouse does not like KDE. It jumps all over the place. Doesn’t do that in any other DE except KDE for some reason. I like Cinnamon though so I think I"m going to run this for a while.

0 Likes

#10

Man, it’s been 10 years now since I’ve been using Linux - off and on as a desktop (and I’ve tried many distros), but I’ve had a server almost the entire time.

Fedora has been my distro of choice as well, though I’ve come to the realization that it’s not the best distro to use as a server for various reasons. Otherwise it’s a great desktop, though if you know intermediate Linux, you know that you can turn almost any distro into a somewhat similar experience unless you’re talking about proprietary drivers or more advanced and specific capabilities.

Recently, I stumbled across Pop!_OS and I would probably have to recommend that for beginners or those wanting to jump from Windows and try their hand at Linux. I think we likely all agree that the name is less than inspiring, but otherwise I am very impressed by what they’ve done. I encourage anyone to at least give it a try.

0 Likes

#11

I’ve heard a lot of good things about PopOS lately. Isn’t it “just” another Ubuntu spin? Or are they doing something particularly different?

0 Likes

#12

This compilation is GOLD. Everything described here is what I encountered in the one year of using it.

Finally somebody mentions Logins. Really what the hell is going on with GDM for instance. Half of the time it works half of the time it logs you into a grey screen…

Now I use Win10. Just temporary until ryzen 3 comes out so I can put this thing into a container.

0 Likes

#13

Have experienced the gdm bug only on a old intel onboard gpu. Installing Intels driver solved it for me. Haven’t experienced this on another system.

1 Like

#14

It is based on Ubuntu, yes, but seems way better put together. Probably because the default featureset is a bit more well-defined. They have their own app store and the having current proprietary drivers seem to be a priority. You can, if you wish, use Ubuntu’s package store as well and can, in theory, do everything that you can do with Ubuntu. If you’re a gamer, things work beautifully there too (steam in particular).

1 Like

#15

I recently toyed around with MX Linux and was pleasantly surprised. The project is a cooperation between the antiX and former MEPIS communities, based on Debian 9.6 (Ubuntu and Mint are also based on Debian), includes tons of drivers, boots to a quick XFCE desktop, includes many interesting tools, and provides easy access to its own repos, Debian backports, and popular flatpaks. MX Linux seems like a great learning platform for aspiring Linux power-users.

0 Likes

#16

Just a note on distribution upgrades for Ubuntu, do-release-upgrade is the approved method, superseding dist-upgrade as it runs additional helper scripts, outside of the apt package management system, that work to avoid many of the potential pitfalls with the older dist-upgrade.

0 Likes

#17

Another +1 for Pop!_OS for beginners, particularly those with laptaps and/or Nvidia graphics. System76 has been integrating consumer PCs with Ubuntu since 2005, and Pop!_OS is the latest result, with bundled latest graphics drivers (and other proprietary drivers in the Pop!_Shop), Intel/Nvidia switching, better power management, better default package selection, a system recovery partition, and other goodies. Pop!_OS is a true Ubuntu remix (unlike, e.g., Mint), and all of their work is published in git and ppa repos.

1 Like

#18

KDE also doesn’t assume you’re mentally retarded in terms of UI decisions either.

0 Likes

#19

I’m currently testing Budgie. It feels a lot like the Gnome consistency in Design without the Resource Usage and Lag. Plus a little more customizability and a little less Mac like. I’m thoroughly impressed with it so far. Only the Gnome Google-Drive integration isn’t working atm.

0 Likes

#20

I read on phoronix that fedora 30 will have Deepin and I believe Elementary’s new theme. :slight_smile:

I have Deepin on a VM and its an interesting DE :slight_smile:

We are getting more choice than ever.

0 Likes