The Switch to the Linux Desktop

Making the switch from another OS as your primary desktop to Linux can be daunting especially if you are switching from Windows. This is something that I have tried a few times in the past but have been unsuccessful each time because of something that i needed at the time not being supported they way I needed. For the last week i got the itch to try again, so I threw an installer CD in my laptop and installed Ubuntu 16.04 to a USB 3.0 flash drive as my SSD with Windows on it is 250GB so I didn’t want to take the time carve any of that away to make room for my Linux install in case I was not happy. In this article I am going to outline the things that I thing you should consider prior to attempting to switch to Linux.

Before I get into the details of what I have experienced I would like to take some time and talk about what you should consider prior to attempting the moves

  1. Take a look at your existing work flows and habits on the computer, what applications do you use, what functions that you NEED and can not live without in your computing environment.
  2. Take the data gathered in step one and find out if there is an alternative that is available on Linux or if what your currently using is cross platform and already supported.
  3. Research each of those points and identify if you think the solutions found or lack there of will be acceptable for you to adopt.

One thing that will halt you in your tracks is if you need a local install of a Microsoft word processing suite, there are alternatives that are quite good such as libre office and open office, they have a different look and feel but are very capable alternatives, this is one thing that has prevented me from switching in the past, I wanted to work with the MS Office suite and it was a big enough deal for me at the time to be a big reason to stay with Windows for a while.

My current list of cant live without requirements was as follows:

  1. Needed to support a USB 3.0 Display link docking station
  2. Needed to support an easy to learn SSH connection manager
  3. Needed to support KeePass
  4. Needed to support Steam to allow for Steam Streaming
  5. Needed support to open VeraCrypt volumes

This was the list I had in my head that if only one of these didn’t come true I would abandon my efforts. The first thing I did was check Display Links website for Linux drivers and they do support Ubuntu, i’m sure any Debian based distro would work but they only support Ubuntu 16.04 and 14.04. I then did a Google search for “Linux SSH connection managers” and right off the bat it became clear that PAC manager seemed to have what I was looking for, so far we are off to a good start. KeePass is cross platform and have tested that in the past so I know it will work with my KeePass databases, Steam has a desktop client for Linux and when checking on Steam’s website streaming is supported on Linux with certain known limitations that did not interfere with how I game. And lastly VeraCrypt is cross platform and does work on Linux although it is unable to do a whole disk encryption of the Linux OS, which is a knock but I can still access the file system of my Windows install and access any VeraCrypt volumes I have.

With that information I was ready to do an install so as I stated earlier, I installed it on a USB drive and used the entire drive for the Linux install, since Display Link fully supported Ubuntu 16.04 I elected to install that as issues with the USB 3.0 docking station was the absolute last thing I wanted to deal with. It took me 2 nights to convert over what I needed to allow me to login to my servers, and get all of my applications installed but as of right now I am very happy with what I have seen so far from a usability standpoint.

One huge perk I have now because of installing Ubuntu on a flash drive I just pull out the flash drive, put it into another computer, and as long as that computer’s BIOS will allow booting from a USB, my Linux install will boot up no problem as it was when I powered it down, that combined with a VPN allows me to bring my Ubuntu install with all of the networked features of my home anywhere on an extensive amount of hardware. I am no where near comfortable deleting my Windows partition yet, I would only do that after 6 months to a year of virtually zero use, but if I continue to be as satisfied with Linux as I currently am that may be on my ‘to do’ list in the near future.


All in all I would say if you are wondering about making the switch to Linux for whatever reason – to be familiar with the OS, access to the Command Line, move away from potential privacy issues with the newest versions of Windows, as long as what you currently use in your desktop is cross platform with Linux, has alternatives, or you can live without I think it is worth your time to try it out. You can definitely expect more posts in the future rooted in the things I have been doing with my new Linux install.

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