Linux Lessons (So Far)

My Linux journey has not been all sunshine and rainbows, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. A few thoughts.

By Ernie Smith

Back in January, I informed the world that I had made the move to full-time Linux, and I think that thus far the experience has been quite good.

I’ve come to enjoy the laptop I’m using it on, an HP Envy, though there are elements of the experience that they don’t tell you about in the description on Amazon. (For anyone looking to buy an HP Envy 16: The top case is an absolute dent magnet, which stinks.)

But is it a perfect experience? Perhaps not. For today’s issue, I wanted to share a few observations I’ve made in the past couple of months of making Linux my way of digital life, good and bad.

1. Sometimes, the best app for the job is specifically not promoted for the job.

As I’m sure you saw in my previous piece on Linux, I took a pretty harsh swipe at GIMP, which I later felt compelled to contextualize, so folks would understand where I was coming from. And no, I’m not using GIMP.

However, I have found a pretty decent Linux-native replacement in Krita. Now, to be clear, Krita actively does not promote itself as a photo editing tool. It is for digital painting and illustration, as its website loves to emphasize—a decision that the foundation seems to have made in an effort to differentiate it from GIMP.


Krita may not want people to look at it like it’s Photoshop, but it does the job well.

Yet, I have found it to ultimately be a near-complete replacement for Photoshop for my needs, which largely are based around filters and frame-based animation. The interface can be rejiggered to be a close approximation of Photoshop with a few panel moves, and while the interface differs from traditional photo editors in some important ways, it is less compromised as a photo-editing tool than the Krita Foundation would have you believe.

To be clear, the animation element was the show-stopper for me for using any similar tool. Many of the bigger players competing with Photoshop, like Affinity or Pixelmator, have specifically passed up on frame-based animated GIF editing, apparently deciding that this was not a common use case. But Krita treats it like video. You can import a GIF like a video, set the speed of the frames, and even filter it.

Krita would do the Linux design community a lot of favors if it promoted itself as a Photoshop replacement once again. It is clearly at the point where it would be a great choice.


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2. You may need to install a kernel newer than you’re comfortable with to get what you need.

I didn’t expect to see myself loading up the Linux-Next kernel, the literal bleeding edge of Linuxdom, to support my computer, but the kernel had something I had been dying for: Native sound support, no additional patches necessary, at a proper volume.

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I have found myself here more than once, assessing new patches.

See, for weeks, I was forced to patch the machine to add proper sound support because drivers for my speakers had not been added, and the drivers were very quiet, making the sound barely usable. However, the proper patches were recently added to the Linux-Next kernel, so, after testing it on an alternate install, I took the plunge after it raised my speakers’ volume by roughly 50 percent.

It turns out the kernel you’re on is very important in terms of your overall experience—if it’s too old, your machine may not work so well. I installed a distro that was based on the Debian stable branch and found that I was getting a ton of graphical glitches on my machine. Turns out the reason for that was because it was on pretty old kernel. But moving to something more modern fixed nearly all the machine’s problems.

So for now, to get good sound and good video, I’m on the bleeding edge, hopefully moving back to the mainline in short order.

3. A bad distro install can potentially bork your UEFI. Ask me how I know.

I thought that installing experimental distros on an alternative drive was a good way to ensure I didn’t bust my main work drive. Man, was I wrong.

Sara kurfess 9 Eid2zc Veo unsplash

Always a long night when you have to pull one of these out of your bag because your computer won’t boot. (Sara Kurfeß/Unsplash)

A couple of weeks back, I found that my machine would not boot into the BIOS at all. I think what happened was the distro I was testing ran out of space in the EFI folder and effectively crashed the machine. But it took a bit to diagnose that.

It was effectively bricked, except at one point when, after replacing the offending m.2 drive, the machine randomly booted into my Windows partition out of nowhere. I eventually got it working again after installing a recovery USB, but yeah, no bueno.

4. Your favorite proprietary apps may decide not to play by Linux’s rules.

Earlier this week, I had a huge issue with Zoom before an interview. I had set up my machine to my exact specifications, but when I tried to log into Zoom, the window manager straight-up crashed, kicking me to the login screen, costing me my perfect interview setup. I eventually had to race to grab my Mac, which worked with no problem, of course.

It turns out that Zoom on Linux may not get the same level of support as, say, its Mac version. In a sea of dark-mode GTK or QT apps, it remains frustratingly blinding-white in hue and Wayland-unfriendly at a time when Wayland is about to become standard.

I could technically run Zoom in browser, but there’s just one problem—it limits the quality of my 4K webcam to 640x480. Bummer.

This is not the only proprietary app of its nature that has this problem, but it appears to be the poster child of poor Linux implementations, sadly.

5. People don’t talk about SUSE nearly enough.

I have mostly been sticking to the distro Nobara, a Fedora variant which is optimized for workstation and gaming use cases, but with an eye on other distros as possible alternatives.

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I found that I liked OpenSUSE a lot more than I was expecting to. If I switch, it may be where I go next.

And it turns out that, amid all my random Ventoy installs, one that had completely not been on my radar turned out to be just insanely solid. That insanely solid distro is OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, which is a rolling-release distro, intended to be updated and installed forever, with no major upgrades along the way, because the upgrades happen in real time. This is not unheard-of in the Linux space—notably, Arch Linux does this exact thing to the point where it’s the operating system’s whole identity—but SUSE is different because it actually takes the time to vet the packages before you install them, meaning that you face slightly less risk of borking your computer the next time you do a bleeding-edge update.

Plus, it makes installing multiple desktop environments or adding tweaks quite easy, without needing access to the command line.

To be clear, Nobara is quite good, but it is more of a project OS led by one person, whereas OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is backed by a whole company, meaning you get to latch on SUSE’s hard work and software tooling. Honestly, I feel like the Linux community needs to do more to support this quite good operating system, which doesn’t get nearly the attention of Debian, Ubuntu, or Fedora.

So, to close out this list, to team OpenSUSE: I see you. You’re doing good work. It is not going unnoticed.

A Kernel Of Links

Gawker alum Cord Jefferson not only won an Oscar, but he used his platform to make a good point: Small movies deserve a spot at the box office, too.

This great clip from David “Ironic Sans” Friedman, who has moved into building his YouTube presence in recent months, told me something about ’Til Death, a mid-2000s sitcom I went out of my way to ignore (in part because Fox chose to air it, rather than Arrested Development), that I didn’t know. It’s a genuinely fascinating story.

Katie Crutchfield, a.k.a. Waxahatchee, has a dog named Ernie—something I learned about in this Pitchfork profile. Great name, Katie.


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Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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