My journey into Linux -- Part I

First encounter

I don't remember why I decided to try Linux back in 2017. The reason might have been a growing concern over lack of privacy and ownership on Windows 10. Or it might have been me getting fed up with Windows' updates and background processes. Whatever it was, I spent a good week trying out a couple of Linux distributions ("distros") on my laptop via a live USB. (For those that don't know, a "live USB" is a USB stick with an operating system inside that can be run when booting up the computer.) Again, memory is fuzzy, but I do remember liking Ubuntu and disliking Mint (in all its variants). After years and years of using Windows, I wanted something entirely different, and Ubuntu fit the bill. Mint, on the other hand, felt familiar and old fashioned. Sadly, because I was still tied down to Windows software for my day job, and not being tech savvy to "dual-boot" (i.e. alternate between operating systems at boot), I decided to stick with Windows. Linux was cool, but just not for me.

Second chance

Two years later, I am using Vim for the first time on Windows. This after looking for a way to replace the bulky and disorganized OneNote. Vim was new, exotic, with a steep learning curve, and just all-around great. And with the vimwiki plugin, I was finally creating a true knowledge base. No more struggling with tabs, tree hierarchies, formatting that breaks down, etc. However, there was one thing that bugged me: it seemed to me that a good portion of info about Vim on the web relates specifically to Linux. So if I needed to run a bash command to fix or add something to Vim, I had to use the Cygwin environment on Windows. This eventually became a headache, as I had to translate Linux-speak into Windows-speak: for example, every Linux user knows what the Home directory is, but Windows doesn't have one... or, it does have one but it's not called "Home". Despite the annoyance, I was gradually getting more exposure to Linux content.

Enter Luke

While researching what Vim could do, I found a YouTube channel by a guy called Luke Smith, whom I'm sure most new Linux users know about. It is thanks to him that I got excited again about Linux (and LaTeX, but that's another story). Seeing the operating system in action, instead of just reading about it proved to be pivotal. What particularly piqued my interest was the speed with which Luke could transform (compile) documents from one format to another. Not to mention, his "desktop" looked about a 1000 times cooler than any customization one could achieve on Windows 10. (I say "desktop" because back then I hadn't the faintest idea what a window manager was.) With Vim and Luke's videos, I could see how stripping down software to bare-bones could actually improve my workflow and make computing fun again. Still, about another year would pass until I finally made the switch. In the meantime, I would try to "customize" Windows to imitate what I was seeing on the YouTube Linux community. (How naive I was!)

The last straw

Sometime in the spring of 2020 I think I just got fed up with Windows' constant updates & heavy background processes that made my laptop run hot and its fans become noisy. Some early mornings I would hear my laptop running, even though I had set it to sleep the night prior. Windows has a habit of turning the machine on to run an update. On top of that, many of my customizations disappeared at every new version. I *needed* to make the switch, and soon. But, how? I did not have the courage to erase the Widnows disk. If for some reason I didn't like Linux, or if there was some incompatibility with my job requirements, I might have to go back. (At this point I should point out that I had only 1 machine---a 2017 Dell laptop.) Dual booting seemed like the only route... but I had heard that it could create a lot of problems down the road. Windows, they say, doe snot play nice with other operating systems on the same disk. In the end, I decided to purchase a new NVMe disk and use that for Linux, and keep the Windows disk somewhere safe, in case I needed to revert to it.


For a couple of weeks, I did my research. I didn't want the transition to be a headache, so for my first Linux distro I went with Ubuntu. It was what I liked back in 2017, and it was/is the best-known distribution. So, on the evening that I received my new NVMe disk by mail, I went to work! The installation itself went smoothly, but the reboot gave me a failure. Turns out that I forgot to enable UEFI in boot! Some researcher, eh! But I can't tell you how stressful that was. When you are a "normie" trying to venture into forbidden tech territory, every little glitch and bump in the road seems like the end of the world. And, recall, I didn't have a spare laptop. So I was really on edge, worrying that I might mess up my machine. Fortunately, it didn't take long for me to find the solution on my phone. What a relief! Immediately I began to explore my new OS, and I found that I really liked it! So, all was well... for about a week.

They say Ubuntu is a really stable distro. After all, it's built for the normies! That might be the case, but something weird happened to me a week after installing Ubuntu. The time came for an update, and so I updated. (Hadn't I left Windows precisely to escape updates? Oh well.) Midway through the process, I notice that the system is downloading large files of something related to "Pop! OS" (another Linux distro). And then the updater hangs. I force quit and reboot... and now my system is messed up. Some icons disappear, menus are wonky, and restarting the update does not work. OK, what to do? Well, the only thing you *can* do as a newbie---reinstall the whole enchilada!

(To be continued...)