hello linux, my old friend
I miss my work laptop. Not the urgent messages, impending deadlines, and neverending stress it came with, but the machine itself—a 14" Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It was light, fast, and lap-sized, everything I could've asked for in a laptop. I loved curling up in bed with it, especially in the winter when I could keep myself warm under its whirring fans. Since I shipped it back to the office I've mostly been using my iPad and Mac mini for my daily computing tasks, both of which perform admirably, but I really miss having something with a keyboard to type on while I'm in bed. I even contemplated buying a wireless keyboard for my iPad or a Chromebook just so I can journal or chat with friends while under my toasty sheets. I don't want to blame my creative slump entirely on my lack of bed-compatible devices, but it's certainly played a part.
I actually have a laptop of my own, an ASUS Zenbook Pro that is now old enough to be in first grade. It is everything the ThinkPad was not. At 17" with full numpad, it is the largest non-gaming laptop I have ever laid hands on, and its heft is exacerbated by an all-metal chassis. I paid a pretty penny for its specs back in 2016, and at least to me they still don't seem terribly shabby—Intel Core i7 and an NVIDIA GTX 960M—but my Zenbook has been showing its age for years now. It shows me the blue screen of death and shuts down without warning if I jostle it even slightly, and the metal casing gets hot enough to fry eggs if I so much as hover my cursor over the Chrome icon.
As much as I've grown to dislike that old hunk of metal, I couldn't bring myself to buy another device without at least trying to repurpose it, so today I rescued it from its coffin, dusted it off, and spent the afternoon dual-booting Linux Mint onto it. This isn't the first time I've done something like this: while cosplaying as a computer science student in undergrad I tried both Antergos and elementary OS to varying results. (These are both Linux distributions, or 'distros' for short, i.e. operating systems built on the Linux kernel.) Although I didn't stick with either long-term, I enjoyed using Linux enough to want to return, and figured getting away from Windows (gags) would make using this old laptop more bearable. (I've also noticed how many Linux users are on Bear, and maybe secretly hoped that writing about my experience would make some of them want to reach out and
help me say hi.)
Fortunately, getting started with Linux was pleasant as I remember. The installation process was slightly more painful than had I hoped, but after a few hours of prayer and Google-fu, I finally settled in enough to write this post on my new-look laptop. (From the comforts of my bed too, I might add!). Had I been running Windows, my laptop would be branding my thighs and whining about it right about now, but with Linux the fans haven't even turned on and my battery life is almost doubled. I can find a lot to like about this new OS, like how simple and unpretentious everything is, the community's can-do ethos, and the emphasis on free and open-source software, to name a few. As an added bonus, while I don't like putting in any more than minimum effort to fix bugs or tweak things to my liking, solving the problems that have cropped up thus far made me feel a mild (and very welcome) sense of accomplishment. As a technologically illiterate boomer trapped in a programmer's body, I can rarely figure out the problems people ask me to, but boy does it feel great when I do.
I'm aware that this honeymoon period with my new operating system might prove short-lived. My past flings with Linux both came to an end when I ran into issues I couldn't fix (from what I could remember, broken graphics drivers), but I'm crossing my fingers that I can keep the wheels on the wagon longer this time. I feel like a bull in a china shop as I try to answer silly questions without breaking things (How do I type an em dash as easily as I did on Windows/Mac? How do I get the date/time widget to text-wrap in the toolbar? Can I make everything less ... ugly?), so if you're reading this and have any Thoughts or advice about using Linux (Mint) as a daily driver for a newbie like me, please don't hesitate to send me an email! Lord knows I need all the help I can get.
A list of the tasks I had to do to make this a reality:
- delete unused apps and files on my Windows partition
- shrink my C drive to make free space for a Linux partition
- create a bootable USB drive with Linux Mint using Rufus
- boot into the bootable drive and install Linux Mint
- rearrange the boot order in the BIOS
- download necessary software: KeepassXC, Sublime Text, Github Desktop (which I use to write), Discord, Spotify, Dropbox
- install my preferred browser extensions (Dark Reader, Vimium, adblock)
- make cosmetic changes
- remap Esc and Caps Lock
- move taskbar from the bottom to the left of the screen
- dark mode all the things!!
- make all text HUGE so my blind ass can read it
Things I still have to do:
- figure out how to use the Timeshift feature
- expand the Linux partition if I decide to stick with it
- make the UI less ugly