Switching to GNU/Linux: Mentally

Stallman was right in the wake of Microsoft’s announcement of its much-maligned Recall feature and widespread public backlash to the terms and conditions for Adobe Creative Cloud products, it’s clear that trust in big tech and the software it produces is rapidly eroding. Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise that Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) is seeing an uptick in interest from the public at large. So as ever more average users consider “switching to Linux,” it strikes me that while there exist tomes on the technical aspects, there seems to be much less written on the shift in thinking that is part and parcel of every experienced and well-adjusted FLOSS user. So if you’re making the switch or know someone who is, here’s some advice to make the most of the transition.

Welcome

First of all: welcome to GNU/Linux! You’ve chosen the operating system that powers bullet trains, the world’s fastest supercomputers, U.S.A. air traffic control, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, and Google, Amazon, and Microsoft’s cloud services, used by NASA, the People’s Liberation Army, the Turkish government, whitehouse.gov, the U.S.A. Department of Defense, France’s national police force, ministry of agriculture, and parliament, Iceland’s public schools, the Dutch Police Internet Research and Investigation Network, Burlington Coat Factory, Peugeot, DreamWorks Animation, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the London Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, and Stephen Fry.

As you’ve no doubt inferred by now, GNU/Linux users span from your everyday cat-video viewer to large institutions and organizations where operating system reliability and performance means the difference between life and death. No matter where you are on this spectrum, with a little humility, open-mindedness, and perseverance, I promise that you can find your self every bit as happily at-home with GNU/Linux as you were with whatever OS you’ve been using up to this point. This may mean giving up a long-trusted piece of software for something new and different, but for many new users the most hard-won battle is a change in mentality.

You’re not a power-user anymore

I’ve heard it said that the most “computer literate” people often find it especially arduous to adjust to GNU/Linux. I’ve been there; it’s a frightening thing to go from the person family, friends, and neighbors call to help with problems with any device that has so much as an LED on it to feeling like that clueless relative with a dozen toolbars installed on their outdated version of Internet Explorer. The reality is that while you’ve gotten very good at navigating the operating system that you’ve been using for the past twenty years, very little of that knowledge is useful in GNU/Linux. This is something you’re going to have to accept early on: no matter what distro you choose, it’s going to be different to Windows or MacOS in very fundamental ways.

This means that, no matter your mastery of Windows keyboard shortcuts, or how convoluted your AutoHotkey config may be, it’s going to take you some time to grasp the basics. Beyond that, the bar to become a GNU/Linux power-user is much, much higher than it is on proprietary operating systems. In case you’re feeling intimidated, know that this comes with some serious advantages. GNU/Linux systems come with a practically limitless potential for mastery, efficiency, and customization. In time, you’ll be able to customize your GUI to your exact specifications, automate system maintenance, and knock out common tasks with a speed you wouldn’t have thought possible on your old OS.

Embrace the new

Switching to GNU/Linux is, in some ways, much more convenient than switching from, say, MacOS to Windows. Chiefly, most distros can be configured to run a wide range of software built for MacOS, Windows, or Android with minimal fuss. That said, I strongly encourage new users to explore FLOSS alternatives built on and for GNU/Linux. FLOSS projects often get a bad rap among users of proprietary operating systems because while a piece of software may run on these systems, the experience is rarely as good as it is on the system is was designed for: usually, GNU/Linux. FLOSS mainstays such as LibreOffice, Krita, Inkscape, Scribus, Kdenlive, and Ardour are at their best on GNU/Linux in terms of appearance, performance, and features. There are professionals of every stripe who do their work with an exclusively FLOSS toolset, from graphic design to video editing, audio production, data analytics, and more. If they can do it, so can you! Don’t let the one piece of proprietary software that just won’t work put you off of your new operating system when there’s a whole new ecosystem of incredible software to explore.

New users of FLOSS projects often complain that the user interface or workflow of the tool they’re trying is “unintuitive.” Occasionally, these complaints hit on an area that genuinely could use some improvement, but more often, new users are simply expressing frustration that the workflow of a FLOSS project is different from what they are used to. These applications are not mere clones of their proprietary counterparts; they are projects in their own right, with unique goals, ideals, features, and workflows. Getting through a work project a little more slowly at first is not necessarily a flaw in the tool, it likely just means that you need a bit more practice. In time, you’ll come to learn and appreciate killer features that go above and beyond the capabilities of software produced by even the largest tech companies.

As a GNU/Linux user, you’re part of a community

When you switch to GNU/Linux, you’re not a customer any more. FLOSS projects are largely build by communities of volunteers who work on what they find interesting or important for their own reasons. There’s no support line to call, no one to complain to if something breaks, and no one is losing anything by you choosing not to use their software. If you need help, or if you want to help make a FLOSS project better, you’re going to have to engage with the wider community. Every project has a forum, a Matrix or IRC channel, or some other means of connecting users and developers. If you have a problem you can’t solve on your own, these are the places to go to get help. Sign up and make a good faith effort to learn the rules and etiquette of the community, and chances are someone will be more than willing to help you find a solution out of sheer civic-mindedness.

There is likewise a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to be gained by returning that kindness: by being an active participator in the communities you join, you’ll help others overcome the stumbling blocks you once faced and foster connections with others who share your interests. Beyond the community alone, there is something wonderful about using software that you’ve helped shape; contributing well written bug reports, monetary donations, writing documentation, or testing new releases makes a direct positive impact on the tools you rely on each day. It’s one thing to use FLOSS projects for reasons of ethics, privacy, or mere utility, but seeing a page of documentation you’ve written go live for anyone in the world to learn from, seeing a bug you reported vanish after an update, a theme you created get added to a game, or experiencing your feature request given form in a release really draws you in. You’re no longer at the mercy of some large tech company who only cares about profit; you’re part of a community that cares about people, ideas, and making its software better, more efficient, more usable, and more useful for everyone.

The FLOSS mindset

To distill what I’ve said above: Things are going to be different, and you may feel disempowered and frustrated for a while until you catch up again. The solution to this, beyond simple patience, is to embrace the fact that by using FLOSS projects, you become a part of the process of making them. Join the community with respect and humility, allow yourself to receive help and kindness from others, and you’ll begin to once again remember how it feels to earn your skills. In time, you’ll be the one offering help, you’ll dance circles around any Windows power-user, and you’ll be using tools that you’ve helped make better. Again I say: welcome. With these small shifts in your thinking, you’re going to be in for a good time.

  • Autonomous User@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    Everyone who needs this will never read it, if they even see it. This is not how we spread software freedom effectively.

    • sugar_in_your_tea@sh.itjust.works
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      1 month ago

      Yup. You point to a specific use case where Linux shines, and build from there.

      When I joined, it was unironically because of desktop effects like the desktop cube and wobbly windows, neither of which I use anymore, but it got my foot in the door.

      Find something Linux does better than whatever system they’re currently using, and point that out. Highlighting the transition issues is going to do the exact opposite.

      • Autonomous User@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        Still, way too advanced and open-ended. Be direct.

        “Reddit rapes us because they control it, not us. This is like that but we control it, not them, libre software. They can get fucked!”

        Most people don’t give a shit beyond that, that’s all they need to join. But, start with a chat app first.

        • sugar_in_your_tea@sh.itjust.works
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          1 month ago

          Yup, that can work too, but they need to care about the spying or whatever more than the convenience that product provides. That works for some people, but probably not most.

          What seems to work on most is unique features they can’t get elsewhere. Most people don’t buy a Steam Deck because they hate Windows, they buy it because it’s better than the competition. FOSS alternatives are better in a number of ways, so highlight those. For example:

          • Linux - customization, SSH access, efficient even on old hardware
          • Lemmy - multiple web/mobile clients, far fewer spam bots, self-hostable
          • Blender - free, lots of tutorials, scriptable
  • Aisteru@lemmy.aisteru.ch
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    1 month ago

    I am seriously considering moving to a Linux distro once Windows 10 support is over. I already use WSL extensively and am tinkering with Debian servers, so I am starting to know my way around.

    However, the biggest fear I have is regarding games and drivers: will I be able to play games still, even in VR? will I encounter that horrific problem of “Sorry, your GPU doesn’t yet have a driver for this Linux distrib’”? How should I research this topic?

    • A_Random_Idiot@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      I dont have VR, but I’ve been on linux for many years and I play my games without issue. Even day 1 AAA releases.

      Caveat is that games with kernal level DRM/Anticheat (like a lot of Asian MMOs, and some games from shitty western devs) dont work and probably will never work (without the devs changing DRM/Anticheat systems at least). I’d check Protondb.com for any games you have concerns about.

      Personally, none of the games I play (Single or MMO) use such DRM/Anticheat, so I have not had a single technical issue running anything since Cyberpunk 2077 (Which was like 4 years ago), and full disclosure, the only technical issues I had as a result of running on linux was background sounds not working, which was fixed relatively quickly.

      I would strongly recommend Nobara if you are gonna make the switch. Its a game focused distro, and the reason I suggest it is that it comes with everything you need to game on linux preinstalled, update tools to update them easily. It also has an excellent community on its discord (and I am NOT going to start the rant about how discord isnt and shouldnt be a tech support platform…I swear)

  • Cobrachicken@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    tl, did not read all. sry, tired.

    “The reality is that while you’ve gotten very good at navigating the operating system that you’ve been using for the past twenty years, very little of that knowledge is useful in GNU/Linux.”

    One could add “Or on the next version/release of Windows”, cos they’re breaking that “knowledge” with each new (forced) change on the UI. Yes, I want to right-click on a file and choose “rename” in a context menu, not choose one of a ton of icons, I want excel to open a new instance with a new file, and so on. It kills productivity for me to be forced on these changes.

      • Cobrachicken@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        Thank you for that information. It’s a company machine, but if I ever get annoyed enough I’ll try it out. I just f*s my brain that they’re bold enough to change the UI for worse.

        • There is also tiny11 minimal iso cuts out thr crap a tool from cristitis to cut out more crap a regedit key on setup to avoid needing an online account and a program to spoof activation of windows. I moved to linux a couple years ago after having linux as a duel boot for aboht a year. Learnt a lot just fucking around with servers making my own apps etc. I recon the learning curve is far better now that u can just copy paste command from chatgpt into ur terminal

  • Demdaru@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    I’d honestly go Win 7 if it didn’t lose sooo much support for stuff. I miss it…

    But as the Win 10 death is coming, I am thinking of either Mint or…Nobara was it?

    Nevertheless, didn’t read this because I lost focus at the grand opening paragraph.

      • AmosBurton_ThatGuy@lemmy.ca
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        1 month ago

        I just installed bazzite on my 2nd SSD last night, haven’t used it much yet but I’m looking forward to customising it to my liking and getting a feel for the OS. First time using Linux since 2014 when I dabbled in Ubuntu and mint for a while.

        Any tips for a computer literate but relative newbie to bazzite(Linux in general really)? My pc is pretty much exclusively a gaming pc so thats my only real concern. About to download some games from my steam library to see how things go.

        • Codilingus@sh.itjust.works
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          1 month ago

          Bazzite out the box is just absolutely bonkers how good it is. Basically just stick to flatpaks from the DE’s app store, and layering anything else with rpm-ostree.

          If the game isn’t on Steam, then Lutris which also comes with Bazzite, is your best bet. It’ll have installers for other DRM/launchers that work. I’ve gotten Ubisoft Connect and Battle.net to work and install games, but no luck getting Epic to work.

          Also the app that can manager wine runners/steam’s proton are great. I’d have it download the latest proton-ge for steam, and set that to be the default version for every game’s Proton version. I don’t remember its name on gnome, but on KDE Plasma it’s ‘proton-qt’

          Fun fact, proton-ge which stands for Glorious Egg Roll, is from the same guy who makes Nobara.

          • AmosBurton_ThatGuy@lemmy.ca
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            1 month ago

            I agree, I’m quite happy with Bazzite so far!

            For now, I’m going to stick to Steam games on Linux since I still have a 2TB Windows drive for my main games. My plan is to use Bazzite to get a feel for Linux and eventually move completely over from Windows once I’m more comfortable with the OS and know how to get everything I want up and running. I’m honestly having fun with being new to an OS with more options, I haven’t had to google such seemingly basic tasks for a computer since I was a kid.

            I’m using the KDE version of Bazzite and I’m really liking it. It reminds me of being a kid and exploring Windows 98 for the first time, everything is new and interesting, and searching through the menus to see all the different options brings back a certain nostalgia.

            I’d like to ask a few questions if anyone is willing to help me out :)

            My mouse is a Logitech G502 X+ and I don’t know what software to use to configure my mouse in Bazzite, what’s the Linux replacement for Logitech GHub? My mouse works perfectly but I don’t know what to use to customize the DPI for example.

            What’s the best practice for installing apps or programs outside of the built in “app store”? For example, I downloaded the Plex media server app as a .RPM file but I’m not quite sure how to install it. I already installed the Plex app through Bazzite OS’ default app store, but in Windows I needed the Plex media server app to be able to serve up videos to other people as far as I know. Makes me feel dumb, but I’m used to .EXE’s where it just installs itself. What do I do with a .RPM file? Or any other Linux programs downloaded from a website, like (I think?) tar.bz etc? I know how to access the files and extract them, but I’m not sure where to put the programs in general.

            Thanks for your useful information btw! It’s much appreciated!

      • Demdaru@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        Thanks for recommendation. Will try it out on virtualbox today/tomorrow!

        Edit: Aaaand it seems my GPU is unsupported, back to Nobara it is.

  • magic_smoke
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    18 days ago

    Be careful saying shit like Stallman was right. Dude did some important shit, spearheaded the formation of the free software movement.

    Then again he’s also a pedo , or at the very least a pedo sympathizer.

    Edit: He’s never been accused of physically doing anything, calling him an actual pedophile feels innapropriate.

    • Richard@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      This is so stupid. He’s not a pedo, the things he said were taken out of context (they were bad, but not that bad), and he has long apologised for his comments. People like you that are trying to smear his reputation without any regard for facts, cautiousness and ambivalence are so irrational that it almost appears as if you are getting paid for it.

      • CarbonatedPastaSauce@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        Thank you for posting this, it motivated me to go find the original emails and read the evidence for myself. I see nothing wrong with what he wrote, other than speculating on something he probably shouldn’t have speculated on. I think his request for precision in language in that scenario, regarding accusations, is well founded.

        He certainly was not advocating pedophilia or absolving Epstein and crew of anything.

        • magic_smoke
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          1 month ago

          Yeah I probably wouldn’t have said anything if it was just the emails…

          “I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren’t voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.”

          Admittedly calling him a pedophile was a mistake. There’s no proof, and no ones ever come out against him.

          That being said he’s made comments in the past sympathising with pedophiles, and only rescinded it after it publicly became an issue.

            • magic_smoke
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              1 month ago

              That logic only works out if you think “consensual” sex between minors and adults (eww) is a thing.

              If you fuck kids, or want to, congrats. You’re a pedophile.

              If you defend the position of such pedophiles, by “attacking the definition” you are, by definition, sympathising with pedophiles.

              • sugar_in_your_tea@sh.itjust.works
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                1 month ago

                That’s not true.

                His argument is that the definition of “child” (and thus pedophilia) can vary by jurisdiction, so what’s legal in one area is pedophilia in another. People also have different levels of maturity at different ages, with some being old enough to consent before 18, and others not being able to consent even at 25. So saying someone is a pedophile because of law X in jurisdiction Y isn’t necessarily true.

                I say this as a parent who would violently defend my kids against real pedos. I just do not agree with labeling someone as a pedo based on an apparent violation of my local laws, I would need a lot more context (e.g. did the individual know or should have known the victim was underage or being coerced?).

                I’m not defending RMS here in the same way he wasn’t defending pedophiles, I’m merely explaining where the statements likely could have come from. I think it’s highly likely RMS is autistic and doesn’t and didn’t fully comprehend the social norms people expected, he was likely just being pedantic.

    • spez_@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      Hello, this is RMS Lawyers.

      We have heard that your comment is defamation which is illegal under the Act.

      We request that you delete this comment. Failure to comply may result in further actions taken against you.

      Thanks, RMS Lawyers.