My Linux Adventure

Jolene Benoir

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So...I decided to give Linux a go. I have fiddled around with it a number of times in the past 15 yrs, give or take, without it really taking. The last time was maybe 2012 with Ubuntu as far as using dual-boot but never really booted into it much? Anyhow, I have an aging netbook that doesn't play well anymore with Windows 10. It came with Windows 7, upgraded to 10, has a dual core processor, onboard graphics, 4GB Ram and so on. The processor is the weak link and often will run at 100%. The graphics card hasn't been supported since the Windows 10 switch (AMD card and is using the Windows supplied driver) and I've begun having issues with the Broadcom wi-fi driver (also not really supported). Reading up on how Linux has progressed I decided to take the plunge (well, kind of). I'm testing out different distros in VirtualBox first and then I've installed a couple as dual-boot with Windows 10 on my tower pc.

So far, I have tested in VB Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Linux Mint Mate & Cinnamon, Manjaro Gnome & KDE, tried with Antergos but it wouldn't install the KDE DE and a few others I just tinkered with and removed quickly like Peppermint OS.

On the actual tower dual boot I have tried Kubuntu 19.04 (brand spanking new) and Elementary OS (which is running on a 18.04 LTS base). I really liked the KDE Plasma Desktop for its customization ability and it ran really well. Gnome I liked less and noticed as time went on the memory footprint just grows and grows, unlike Plasma.

Elementary is the one I'm tinkering with now. I do like it, but it is really stripped down in terms of customization. I know I can do some things, but not nearly to the same level as some others. With both I have run into assorted packaging issues. With Kubuntu, because it was the brand new version some of the PPA repositories haven't been updated yet. Kodi, Retroarch etc.. With Elementary OS it is because its package mgr is based on 18.04 LTS so lagging behind and I constantly have to add PPA's. However, once I've added them they have the proper version unlike some missing items for Disco (19.04). More packages work out of the box once I've added the PPA's. I really don't like adding PPA's all over the place though. I'd rather have a more up-to-date repository.

I really would like to use a KDE version of Arch. I have no illusions that I know what I'm doing with Arch, so Manjaro or Antergos would be my choice. When I fiddled with Manjaro in VB I was impressed with the Arch User Repository, but know that could be dangerous if I'm not careful. I have been unable to get a Manjaro KDE or Antergos Live CD to even boot so that I can dual-boot for real world testing. VB has limitations to what I can test.

As long as I have Elementary and the stable base I've been experimenting with Wine, PlayOnLinux, Winetricks, Lutris and SteamPlay. Easy-peasy with SteamPlay using Proton, but I don't know what I am doing with wine. I have the development version and Lutris, but don't know what I am doing or how to use PlayOnLinux or Winetricks properly. I did manage to get the Windows Steam version installed and even GTA Vice City, but my XBox Controller was spinning round and round, but it did the same thing with the SteamPlay version so I'm guessing that's not the fault of Wine.

There are two main Windows programs that I really want to work on Linux; MusicBee (because I just am not taking to the options in Linux. Yes I know there are many, but I've tried most of them and I still want MusicBee). Problem is no Linux version and I've not had any success trying Wine, so far. The other is Launchbox. That's my front end for Retroarch. Again, Windows only. I tried to install Emulation Station but couldn't build it. I tried the retropie version for Debian, also to no avail as it messed up certain other packages that I had to use the recovery environment to fix. I did manage to get the Windows Steam version installed and even GTA Vice City, but my XBox Controller was spinning round and round.

TL;DR I'm ready for the switch but there are still a couple Windows programs I want to use. I can get by without them and can do most everything I want on a Linux distro. I have been heavily impressed by some of the software and the polish of linux distros since my last foray. A lot of the software I was already familiar with and using in Windows like Libre Office, qbittorrent, calibre, VLC, Kodi, Retroarch etc... so the transition shouldn't be too difficult.

Any recommendations welcome.
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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I've had mixed experiences with Wine. When it works, it's great, but when it doesn't, it's a real PITA. Each Windows program pretty much has to be handled differently depending on its needs and ability to work in an emulated environment. For stubborn programs, it might be better to run them within a VirtualBox guest running Windows.

I've been running Linux off and on since Ubuntu 7.04, having tried Ubuntu, OpenSuse, and Mint. My current favorite is Mint 19.1 running Cinnamon (configured to look and behave like Windows 10).
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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This is what the WineHQ database has to say about MusicBee 3.0. It was last given a bronze rating, meaning that it works, but will have issues with installation or execution. If you've got the time, patience, and a good sledge hammer, you should be able to get it to work.

WineHQ - MusicBee 3.0
 
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Kara Spengler

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For further fun now play with haiku. Not unix based but will be ..... um .... fun. Do it in a virtual machine or just as a live DVD though.
 
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Jolene Benoir

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I've had mixed experiences with Wine. When it works, it's great, but when it doesn't, it's a real PITA. Each Windows program pretty much has to be handled differently depending on its needs and ability to work in an emulated environment. For stubborn programs, it might be better to run them within a VirtualBox guest running Windows.

I've been running Linux off and on since Ubuntu 7.04, having tried Ubuntu, OpenSuse, and Mint. My current favorite is Mint 19.1 running Cinnamon (configured to look and behave like Windows 10).
This is what the WineHQ database has to say about MusicBee 3.0. It was last given a bronze rating, meaning that it works, but will have issues with installation or execution. If you've got the time, patience, and a good sledge hammer, you should be able to get it to work.

WineHQ - MusicBee 3.0
Thank you. Yes, it appears to be somewhat tricky. Wine seems to create a 64bit environment when many programs want 32 bit. I believe I can create something called a wine bottle with a program and all it needs in one little folder but wine evades me currently. Thank you for the info about MusicBee.

I reinstalled Windows 10 (because it was sluggish as all get out not having been cleanly installed for quite some time) on the target device and am still now trying to decide which distro with which to try a dual-boot. I tried out LinuxMint Cinnamon on usb only and it seemed okay but with some cpu spikes. I'm not sure but the live cd might perhaps only be running in software mode which might explain that. I'll have to give it a run as dual-boot. I'm also playing with Pop OS, which is ubuntu-based, but running the 5.0 kernel and has updated software in their repository. It doesn't use the Ubuntu package manager but a modified Elementary one.

Still playing about to see what will work best. Thanks for the ideas and recommends.
 

Katheryne Helendale

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Thank you. Yes, it appears to be somewhat tricky. Wine seems to create a 64bit environment when many programs want 32 bit. I believe I can create something called a wine bottle with a program and all it needs in one little folder but wine evades me currently. Thank you for the info about MusicBee.
Yeah, creating a 32-bit wineprefix on a 64-bit system is a bit convoluted. I don't remember how I got mine to work - I've got both wine and something called q4wine both installed, and somehow it works - but here's how to create a 32-bit wineprefix for wine to use:
How do I create a 32-bit WINE prefix?
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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I really would like to use a KDE version of Arch. I have no illusions that I know what I'm doing with Arch, so Manjaro or Antergos would be my choice. When I fiddled with Manjaro in VB I was impressed with the Arch User Repository, but know that could be dangerous if I'm not careful. I have been unable to get a Manjaro KDE or Antergos Live CD to even boot so that I can dual-boot for real world testing. VB has limitations to what I can test.
The thing with Arch Linux is that you need to know on what a partition on your HDD is, and how to partition your HDD for it. Arch Linux itself is extraordinary well documented on its Wiki.

The easiest way to install it is just one partition for the whole Linux with ext4 as file system - and that's it (if not using UEFI).

If you got only one HDD in it, and don't want dual boot, then it's quite easy. Of course, you've got to install a boot manager as well, the standard today is GRUB. There again you need to know if you've got an old style BIOS, or the modern UEFI crap.

Anyway, if you've managed to get this ready, the rest is quite relaxed, it's no Linux from Scratch which needs definitely more time and work to get up and running.. Of course since it is a rolling release distribution, you'll update a lot during a month, but this is what Arch Linux is all about.

You can also install VB under Linux, and run Windows in it in seamless mode, so using Musicbee that way along other KDE applications - but I guess that's not the point of installing Linux then.
 
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CronoCloud Creeggan

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Seems you've been trying Debian-based distros, I'd add a RedHat based distro or two into the mix. either Fedora or CentOS. I really can't help much with Ubuntu issues since I've only ran RedHat based distros so I know the RedHat way of doing things.

In regards to software I recommend this order:

1. Linux native. Yeah, you may be used to Windows tools and applications, but there are a ton of choices. For example I just manage music files in my file manager and play them with minimalistic XMMS

2. Linux Steam with proton, preferring software with native Linux versions, then everything else under proton

3. Wine, is a clusterfuck, when it works, it works, but you are almost always better off with native software or Linux Steam's proton, it will be easier to get things running under the Linux version of Steam than Wine.

As for controllers, Sony's work better under Linux than Microsofts. Stick with the DualShock 3 and 4 over USB, Bluetooth also works but requires more fiddling. I had to add some lines to a udev config file for full DS4 support of certain features under Steam's Big Picture Mode under Linux, but that's an easy fix. I don't have the info handy at the moment (on the tablet) but will reply with that later.
 

Jolene Benoir

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The thing with Arch Linux is that you need to know on what a partition on your HDD is, and how to partition your HDD for it. Arch Linux itself is extraordinary well documented on its Wiki.

The easiest way to install it is just one partition for the whole Linux with ext4 as file system - and that's it (if not using UEFI).

If you got only one HDD in it, and don't want dual boot, then it's quite easy. Of course, you've got to install a boot manager as well, the standard today is GRUB. There again you need to know if you've got an old style BIOS, or the modern UEFI crap.

Anyway, if you've managed to get this ready, the rest is quite relaxed, it's no Linux from Scratch which needs definitely more time and work to get up and running.. Of course since it is a rolling release distribution, you'll update a lot during a month, but this is what Arch Linux is all about.

You can also install VB under Linux, and run Windows in it in seamless mode, so using Musicbee that way along other KDE applications - but I guess that's not the point of installing Linux then.
The problem I was having was related to having to use DD format on the USB. The bios wasn't recognizing it when I changed the boot order to be the USB. I finally just permanently changed it in the bios for the USB to be first and it's picking it up now. I installed Manjaro Gnome dual boot with Windows. I cannot just let it have the whole drive because I have a separate partition containing data files like music, pictuires, etc... I partitioned off some space using gparted for swap and /, no home since I am just testiing for now.

The target device does not run Gnome very well at all, but I am still trying things out. Manjaro KDE comes with the Octopi package manager which is a bit trickier to enable the AUR, but I just installed Pamac, a notifier and had no trouble with it in VB, so that is what I'll probably try next as dual boot.

Thanks for the info.
 

Jolene Benoir

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Seems you've been trying Debian-based distros, I'd add a RedHat based distro or two into the mix. either Fedora or CentOS. I really can't help much with Ubuntu issues since I've only ran RedHat based distros so I know the RedHat way of doing things.

In regards to software I recommend this order:

1. Linux native. Yeah, you may be used to Windows tools and applications, but there are a ton of choices. For example I just manage music files in my file manager and play them with minimalistic XMMS

2. Linux Steam with proton, preferring software with native Linux versions, then everything else under proton

3. Wine, is a clusterfuck, when it works, it works, but you are almost always better off with native software or Linux Steam's proton, it will be easier to get things running under the Linux version of Steam than Wine.

As for controllers, Sony's work better under Linux than Microsofts. Stick with the DualShock 3 and 4 over USB, Bluetooth also works but requires more fiddling. I had to add some lines to a udev config file for full DS4 support of certain features under Steam's Big Picture Mode under Linux, but that's an easy fix. I don't have the info handy at the moment (on the tablet) but will reply with that later.
Thank you. You're right, I should definitely give other non-debian flavors a go. After reading your post, I did put Fedora Workstation on VB to give it a whirl. It's a little different getting used to dnf rather than apt but that's no big deal. I did like that it has a much more current kernel and that you can enable the rpm fusion repositories fairly easily.

Same as what I said above to Bartholomen, the device doesn't seem to like Gnome DE, so I'll need to find one that is a bit easier on it. I'm not a fan of the Gnome DE anyway, leaning toward KDE or possibly Mate.

Yep, learning that it's best to go native, if at all possible. It appears that my controller works fine for most things, though it is not picking up my usb hub at all on any of the distros. The only one that works is a separate wireless one with it's own usb plug. I'll have to check out XMMS.

Thanks for the information! I'll give Fedora a whirl as dual boot to get a real world look at its performance. Do you recommend a certain flavor? I know some are community maintained rather than official?
 

Katheryne Helendale

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There are some lightweight DMs that are worth trying, though they're more Gnome-like than KDE-like. There's XFCE and LXDE, either of them should work well on older and lower-powered machines. Ubuntu and Mint have pre-rolled sub-distros available that use these DMs. You may need to roll your own with non-Debian distros.
 
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Clara D.

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There are some lightweight DMs that are worth trying, though they're more Gnome-like than KDE-like. There's XFCE and LXDE, either of them should work well on older and lower-powered machines. Ubuntu and Mint have pre-rolled sub-distros available that use these DMs. You may need to roll your own with non-Debian distros.
(If it's still the same way it used to be) Slackware lets you pick your desktop during the installation, and XFCE is one of the options.
 

Jolene Benoir

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There are some lightweight DMs that are worth trying, though they're more Gnome-like than KDE-like. There's XFCE and LXDE, either of them should work well on older and lower-powered machines. Ubuntu and Mint have pre-rolled sub-distros available that use these DMs. You may need to roll your own with non-Debian distros.
Thanks, yes I'm leaning a bit toward either KDE or Mate.Interestingly enough, I consider KDE far easier on the target device than Gnome, which I think is rather ugly. But, that is only personal opinion. I know you can use dash to dock or dash to panel to do different things or even using other docks like plank, but it just doesn't work for me.

I tried out Ubuntu Mate and it has a great little thing called Mate Tweaks. It lets you change your desktop on the fly. If you want it to look mac-like, one push of the button, Windows-like, another, Elementary-like another and so on. I think there's like 6 or so different ones. This Mate tweaks exists in Linux Mint, but does not have the same options. It only allows Fedora and Gnome 2 or something like that. AFAIK only the Ubuntu Mate has it.

One thing that I do like for the Gnome desktop is the Online Accounts. Yes, I know that is counter intuitive when moving from Windows, but I think it makes setting up your calendar and email with Evolution and the gnome calendar just so easy in comparison to say, the KDE mail suite which just doesn't work that well. I did fiddle about a bit with Ubuntu Mate to get that functionality, by adding in gnome-control-center and gnome-online-accounts only but that just did not work. When I went ahead and installed the ubuntu desktop it broke other things. Interestingly enough, if I first install Ubuntu, get it all set up, then install Ubuntu Mate, it all works together and flawlessly. So, that may be an option.

Ideally it will be something light like Mate, XFCE, LXDE or so on for the netbook. All I care about there is being able to open a browser, watch videos that are on the drive, use Kodi (It can do Netflix and Amazon these days since they introduced drm ability) , play music and perhaps use emulation for some really old games. If some of my GOG games or Steam games that actually run on it will work, even better. I am a fan of old games and some of those do have a native linux version. Indie games also play really well on it for the most part, like Stardew Valley, FTL and so on.

I've been simultaneously testing out some other distros with modern gaming in mind for my desktop which is much more powerful. That is where I want Lutris in combination with Steamplay to be able to function properly. That is where I want a shiny, new kernel that can take advantage of the hardware and the latest versions of packages.
 
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Jolene Benoir

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(If it's still the same way it used to be) Slackware lets you pick your desktop during the installation, and XFCE is one of the options.
Antergos has that option. I've not tested it out as dual boot yet, but ran it in VB. It kept crapping out during the install with errors, though, until I changed the server options. I think it was just having trouble with getting the downloads and that is how it is driven during the install once you pick the desktop. Once I worked out that kink, it's a pretty impressive Arch without building Arch from scratch distro.
 

Clara D.

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FWIW, one option for mail + Calendar - Thunderbird now comes with an add-on (Lightning) that integrates with Google Calendar.

I like using T-Bird because you can just copy-paste the entire profile and have it work in whatever OS/Desktop without having set everything back up.
 

Katheryne Helendale

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FWIW, one option for mail + Calendar - Thunderbird now comes with an add-on (Lightning) that integrates with Google Calendar.

I like using T-Bird because you can just copy-paste the entire profile and have it work in whatever OS/Desktop without having set everything back up.
That's a big plus for Thunderbird, especially if you're still using POP3 to access your email. It's also a really nice IMAP client as well.
 

Clara D.

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That's a big plus for Thunderbird, especially if you're still using POP3 to access your email. It's also a really nice IMAP client as well.
I use iMap. The main thing I dont want to re-create is my epic list of filters that I've accumulated over the years.
 
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I've been a Linux user (mostly OpenSUSE, but at times Kubuntu, as well) since 2012, and with only a few exceptions, I've used the KDE surface. To run certain Windows programs (including the default SL Viewer), I'm using PlayOnLinux. It's based on WINE, but as far as I can tell you can run more apps than on default WINE alone.
 
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Jolene Benoir

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FWIW, one option for mail + Calendar - Thunderbird now comes with an add-on (Lightning) that integrates with Google Calendar.

I like using T-Bird because you can just copy-paste the entire profile and have it work in whatever OS/Desktop without having set everything back up.
That's a big plus for Thunderbird, especially if you're still using POP3 to access your email. It's also a really nice IMAP client as well.
Thank you. I gave that a go. Took me a beat to realize that I also needed a secondary plugin to access the google calendar, but found it.

Thunderbird does appear to use quite a bit less in resources than Evolution does, as well.

I use imap, for emails regardless of the client.