Journey back to Linux

avianto
avianto
Sep 2 · 4 min read

Since a friend of mine gave me a burned CD with the word “Linux” scrawled with red marker on it and told me to “boot from it and install it” around 20 years ago, I have always been a Linux person. It took me on myriad computer-related adventures (sysadmin, hacking, install-fest etc), gave me a leadership experience (I was one of the founder of KLUB, Klub Linux Bandung and its first leader), elevated my status among Indonesian nerd-crowd, started my career in IT and many other things.

It was a thrilling journey the day I found, and could afford, a Mac. Mac OS 9 was not an exciting operating system for me, but Mac OS X is UNIX-based (BSD) with prettier user interface and less tinkering to make it “just works”. I switched and never thought of looking back.

Sure, I dealt with other OS like any other person. Windows is always be there for most jobs I have. Linux slowly seeped out of my life.


Years go by, I somehow acquire a laptop PC. Windows 7 was installed and with 256MB SSD and 8GB RAM, it was OK-ish. I grew frustrated with its degraded performance with each additional softwares and updates. A quick visit to Distrowatch and to my excitement, Linux has come far since the last time I use it.

I picked elementary OS as my first step back into Linux world and I was not dissapointed. It brought back the joy and sense of adventure I never felt for quite a long time — and I talk about operating system…

One of my thing is once I step into something, I will not stop until I dig deeper, a lot deeper. So I was not stopping there. I tried almost every distro I could download and having a fast internet connection was a bliss and a curse at the same time.

After the dust settled, I found Arch was the most exciting distro. It was not the easiest to install but the concept of rolling release intrigued me. Add its vast repository, including AUR, and it quickly became my favorite distro.

However, I found some issues related with hardware detection and compatibility. Also its installation and customization were slowly getting into my nerve. I like to tweak but I also impatient. I looked into other Arch-based distro; Antergos, ArchLabs, ArcoLinux. All were good but somehow I still miss something with them. Then ArchLabs went on hiatus (currently it alive again though), Antergos died and ArcoLinux, while amazing, add too many things in its initialized settings — it is a learning distro afterall.


Manjaro. This is a unique distro. It is Arch-based but not exactly Arch, the stable release has its own repository based on Arch repository but with slight delay to make it… stable. Its hardware detection is excellent and its custom scripts are helpful. It is dubbed, quite derogatorily by Arch-purist, as the Ubuntu of Debian. It aimed to be an entry-point to Linux world but not necessarily for beginner.

Manjaro is suitable for beginners similar to the way an Arduino is an excellent entry-point to embedded hardware development. (From Manjaro’s website)

The official Manjaro release has 4 major versions; 3 based on popular desktop environment — KDE, GNOME and XFCE and 1 is “build your own version” called Architect. The community release is where the fun happens, there are plenty of desktop environment to tinker with — ArcoLinux still the winner here with 10+ choices.

After some trials and errors with almost all the version — thanks to Virtual Machine technology, I decided on Manjaro Deepin. It checked all the right options for me and its interface is quite pleasing. The scaling just works — setting a 4K aka. HiDPI can be a real pain in the neck. I run it for some months until problems appearead. Painfully, the problem related to the tight integration between Deepin Desktop Environment and Deepin OS — a Debian- based distro. Then it got cut out from Manjaro’s main website.

I always have a fascination with tiling window manager (WM) but assumed small laptop display is not quite comfortable to work with it. However, keyboard-oriented workflow is excellent on small laptop because the location of touchpad is mostly ergonomically challenging.

Linux has great choices of tiling WM; i3 — the most common and easy to figure out settings, awesome, Qtile, xmonad and bspwm among others. I gave i3 a run and immediately realized I love keyboard-oriented workflow, especially on the small laptop. Yes, the display was still small (1600x900 resolution on 13.3" display is the maximum comfort for my eyes, I tried 1920x1080 and it strained my eyes) but it still manageable.

I worked around a bit with Manjaro i3 and while it is a great tiling WM, I still found something is missing, no idea what or why but it just did not click. I tried awesome and got lost… bspwm seemed like the next best logical step.

So, here I am. Running Manjaro with bspwm installed using Manjaro Architect. I guess I will be fine for at least some months now.

I might write more about my bspwm configuration and workflow since one of the most complain about bspwm is the lack of documentation.

Current desktop (September 2019)

avianto

Written by

avianto

Digital Media Extraordinaire and online flâneur. Working in user experience field for more than 10 years. Currently biting the Big Apple.

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