I’m no stranger to Linux. I’ve run numerous distributions since about 1995, even venturing into BSD territory, running FreeBSD and some other Berkeley variants. I’ve also used Linux quite a bit in my professional life for servers. However, I’ve never made the jump to using it as my primary desktop operating system at home; it’s always been a novelty to play with and never a desktop workhorse that I would use to actually get things done.
Linux Mint is a Linux distribution that has become more popular recently. It’s based on the venerable Ubuntu distribution and appears to be taking some market share from Ubuntu. Ubuntu in my opinion went off the tracks with its migration to the Unity desktop. For the first time recently I hit a brick wall trying to install the latest Ubuntu within a virtual machine. While Ubuntu was quite polished and arguably had the best usability in the Linux world, I still felt that I was often fighting the operating system to make it work.
Linux Mint seems to have taken care of those issues. Last night I made the plunge and partitioned off some space on my hard disk and installed it so I could dual boot between Windows and Linux. The installation went extremely well and within two hours I was able to browse the web, play videos and hear sound, send email, work on Kicad schematics, compile Arduino code, open Excel and Word docs, do my banking with the same program I used on Windows, and I had amateur radio logging and digital programs installed. The only speed bump was getting my wireless working. I was able to fix that in five minutes after Googling and finding one command line to run. On previous distributions, items like this would take hours to resolve and there would be several of them to deal with. For the first time I feel I have something equivalent to what I had on Windows, and it doesn’t look goofy and didn’t require days of tweaking with arcane command line syntax to make it acceptable. The browser actually renders things like they look on Windows. You install a program and it actually appears in the menu. Quite simply, Linux Mint isn’t a compromise like previous desktop installations.
I’ve often complained about the state of amateur radio open source software. I stand by my previous statements as I think we still don’t have a suite of amateur radio open source software that compares with offerings in Windows, mainly in the areas of logging and contest programs. However, CQRLog has evolved quite a bit and I’ve decided to take a more minimalist approach and see if I can make it work. I still think Ham Radio Deluxe is the gold standard, but lately I’ve become annoyed with its bloat and the commercialization and marketing of it.
I’m still keeping my Windows partition, mainly to run one particular contest program and store my documents (which I access from Linux), but I may eventually run Virtual Box on Linux and have a small Windows installation virtualized to run the contest program rather than booting back into Linux.
Will this be the time I finally run my shack on Linux? I hope.