We all have heard, probably on an yearly basis, that a certain year would be the year of the Linux desktop. Like when Brian Madden used to say that would be the year of VDI. Same idea.

Considering all the stupid issues with Windows 10, where things change drastically from one build to another and the fact my laptop battery life was not the best, I decided to give Linux a try. After reading a bit about which distribution to choose, I ended up with Linux Mint (tried Elementary OS as well – certainly a decent contender).

At first I had it installed in a dual boot approach, alongside Windows 10. But the more I used it, the more I liked it and the day came when I got rid of the Windows 10 partition. So no fall back to Windows when things did not run under Linux.

For the record, the machine in question is a Dell XPS 13 9650 with 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.

After a couple months, this is what I have to say:

  • Battery life is indeed better somehow. I did replace the battery but under Linux it seems to last like 20-30% longer and I get with light to medium usage, anywhere between five and eight hours. Not too bad.
  • Applications, as expected, is a potential problem. As someone that basically does 90% of his work using Microsoft Office, trying to stay in Linux land is challenging. With that said, this is what I have done (and found) to reduce the impact of Office in my work life:
    • As of today, LibreOffice is actually pretty decent and with a high compatibility with Office in general. Word and Excel do work very well with the native formats. Of course if you have fancy things like documents embedded, VBA, etc, that will be a problem. I have been using it without major issues. Keep in mind you will need to download a bunch of fonts that are available on Windows for many things to look correct under Linux.
    • Several apps do have Linux counterparts (LibreOffice is a good example). This allow you to find a suitable replacement for a lot of stuff and in general these work very well.
    • For the apps with no Linux equivalent, I got CrossOver from CodeWeavers. It does work well for many Windows apps (but not for all – you can check compatibility on their site). That is how I got OneNote 2016, Visio 2013 and Project 2013 to work.
    • If all the above fails, you being in the EUC, certainly know about Virtual Machines. You can get VMware Workstation or VirtualBox and have a Windows 10 VM there and in that case, no more compatibility issues.

Now for the most common apps, this is what I am actually using:

  • Messaging. I got Franz. You can have Slack, WhatsApp, Office 365 mailboxes, Skype, Telegram, Messenger, etc all in one single app. Very handy.
  • Email. Hiri is the way to go. Connects to Office 365, Exchange, etc. All in one place.
  • Browser. Started using Brave and so far, so good. Fast and keeps most of the crap out of your browsing experience.

Of course being in the EUC, I do need access to Citrix/VMware/RDS/Parallels environments and I am happy to report clients are indeed available for all these under Linux. Are these fully featured as their Windows counterparts? Probably not but they do work well and allow me to connect to any customer out there without hassle (well before you ask, Remote Desktop Manager from Devolutions, does NOT work under CrossOver…).

For the actual desktop, I love how clean and customizable Linux Mint is. I got Plank and to have a quick way to launch files, apps, etc, I rely on ULauncher. These two give me a great desktop experience. Quick peek below…

Linux Mint – CR Dell XPS 13

The question now is, am I happy with Linux? I must say yes. The only thing that does not work properly so far (and I will fix it, trust me) is bluetooth. I mean certain devices like keyboards work 100%. But my headphones do have sound issues (stuttering) and some sort of erratic, jerky behaviour is seen with the Microsoft Mouse. Certainly a matter of tweaking something, according to the Linux Gurus out there.

If you are considering switching for whatever reason, give both these distributions a try (you can try directly off a USB drive with no installation required). Hope this helps someone out there…