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Trying out Fedora linux


Like millions (maybe billions) of people, I use Windows as my main operating system. After being a Mac user for years, I tried out Windows on my 2012 Mac Mini - and I was instantly hooked. All of my games ran better, overall performance was snappier, and I had a far greater library of applications and games to choose from.

I now use Windows 10 on my custom-built PC and my Dell Latitude laptop, and I've had relatively few complaints. Unlike many other people on Windows 10, I haven't been stuck in an update, and I haven't received an advertisement in the file manager.

But in the past year or so, I've become increasingly annoyed with how Microsoft is treating Windows users. Windows 10 was the subject of criticism for forcing Windows 7/8.1 users to upgrade, sometimes breaking the system in the process. Privacy is hot topic as well.

I don't really have a desire to go back to macOS, but I did want to give Linux a try. I've been an on-and-off Ubuntu user for years now, but never have I tried using it as my main operating system.

Choosing Fedora

There are countless Linux-based operating systems to choose from. Ubuntu has the greatest market share among desktop users, but technically-speaking, Android is a Linux distro too.

I decided to try out Fedora for two reasons - Gnome and Wayland.

Ubuntu uses the Unity desktop environment, which I am not a fan of. I much prefer the Gnome Shell desktop. There's a version of Ubuntu with Gnome Shell, but it lags behind official Gnome releases, and substitutes some packages for Ubuntu equivalents. Fedora can be described as a 'vanilla' Gnome distribution - it doesn't mess with much.

Fedora just recently switched to the Wayland display server, which was designed to replace the old X.org server. This ELI5 answer explains why Wayland is better than X.org/X11, and Fedora is one of the few distros that have made the switch. I was curious to see how well Wayland performed.

Setting everything up

After going through the painless install process, I was at the Fedora desktop in no time. My first goal was installing my most-used programs from Windows on Fedora.

This was made much easier by Chrome, which of course syncs all my bookmarks/extensions perfectly. Truth be told, most of my work can be done from inside a web browser, which makes the underlying operating system less important.

The Gnome Shell window switcher.

I also needed Slack for my work, which thankfully provides packages for Fedora. Steam works just fine too, but only about a fourth of my games are Linux-compatible.

My main hurdle is Photoshop, which is only available for Windows and Mac. I use Photoshop CS6 daily on my Windows install, but mostly just for basic image manipulation. GIMP is the image editor of choice for many Linux users, but after installing it, I realized the layout was significantly different from PS.

Thankfully, an amazing person developed a set of tweaks for GIMP to make it more like Photoshop, and it became immensely easier to use.

Tweaking Gnome Shell

Customization is one of the hallmarks of Linux - you can make it look and act pretty much however you want. Gnome Shell even has extensions, which can be turned on or off individually. Here are the ones I'm currently using:

  • Places Status Indicator: This adds a dropdown menu to the status bar, containing commonly-used folders and network locations. Pretty handy.
  • Sound Device Chooser: This makes switching audio input/output devices much easier.
  • TopIcons Plus: For some stupid reason, Gnome Shell hides tray icons in the corner of the screen by default. This moves them to the top status bar.
  • Dash to Panel: I no longer use this, but I thought I would include it anyway. It moves Gnome's status bar to the bottom, turning it into a Windows-like taskbar.

In addition, I installed Gnome Tweak Tool, which unlocks more customization settings in the Gnome desktop. I don't really know why, but Gnome hides the Minimize and Maximize buttons by default - this is easily reversible with Tweak Tool.

Obviously, there is a huge library of custom themes available for Gnome as well. I'm still using the default theme, but it's nice to know I can change the look of my desktop very easily.

Annoyances

I expect I'll find more annoyances in Fedora as time goes on, but there are some that are already bothering me.

First off, Google Drive. Google doesn't provide a Linux client for Drive, but Gnome does have limited support if you connect your Google account in the settings. But this solution is extremely slow, because the files aren't synced locally. There are a few paid solutions, which I'll probably look into soon.

Another problem is working at night. I've come to rely on F.lux to make working at night easier, but the Linux client doesn't work with Fedora's Wayland display server. Gnome 3.24 has night mode functionality built-in, but it's not available in Fedora yet.

To be continued

I've only been trying out Fedora for a few weeks, and my time is still split between it and Windows. I will likely never fully switch to Linux (I like my PC games too much), but so far I am liking Fedora a lot. I'll continue writing posts with my thoughts on Linux, so stay tuned.

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