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Why I Switched To elementary OS

Back in 2008, my patience with Windows was running thin and I was ready to explore other worlds within computing. Ubuntu quickly became my OS of choice and since Ubuntu 8.04, it’s been a constant companion. Most recently, when I upgraded to 19.10 in October, I realized I’ve been on the Ubuntu train for over ten years.

Throughout these ten years, Ubuntu has been installed on a variety of computers, from the first generation of mini laptops to desktops, laptops and more. Anything I could find my hands to install it on, I’ve tried it on.

Of course, it hasn’t been without difficulty and to be honest, that was part of the thrill. Linux and Ubuntu was new, it was different, it gave me something to tinker with as well as something that was usable for what I needed.

Yet, as we head into 2020 and the buzz is about what’s going to be new in Ubuntu 20.04, I no longer have Ubuntu on my laptop.

It’s been replaced by elementary OS.

Why now? Why elementary OS?

Back in early December, I stumbled across an article about the most recent elementary OS release, 5.1. It proclaimed the refined experience that it brings, the curated content and a very polished user interface. A look at the screenshots was enough for me to give it a shot on an older laptop, incidentally the one I initially loaded Ubuntu onto for the first time.

That was about two months ago now.

Since then, I’ve also erased Ubuntu completely from my primary laptop and replaced it with elementary OS.

So, what am I saying? Is Ubuntu bad in some ways? Isn’t going to elementary taking a step back to Ubuntu 18.04?

I’ve always loved Ubuntu and the ability to tinker and tweak has always appealed to me. Until recently. Although Ubuntu continues to improve and become better, as my life has become more busy, the time to tinker and tweak has decreased and the need to do so has caused increased frustration. After all, it’s been over 10 years and I was still fighting with suspending my computer and making it behave properly when I unsuspend it.  The sound experience was touch and go with every release. Most recently, sound over HDMI didn’t work when it did before.It shouldn’t be rocket science. Right?

Although those may be small examples, they’re some of the things (among many) that have grated on my patience for years. In one version of Ubuntu, everything worked, and I was excited to use Ubuntu, the next one what worked suddenly didn’t. In some instances, new Ubuntu upgrades had devastating effects and took months to get back to normal (because of my limited time to tinker). In effect, I never knew whether Ubuntu would be usable after the next upgrade or not. It limited my desire to invest wholeheartedly into using it and incidentally, it was also a reason I’ve kept Windows around.

At first glance, the impression I got from elementary OS was that it “just worked” without having to add PPA’s, download bug fixes and patches all the time. Yes, it’s based on the LTS of Ubuntu, which means it doesn’t have the latest and the greatest, but at least it should be stable.

So far, my experience with Elementary OS has reflected this. Many of the things that irritated me with my Ubuntu installation works fine with Elementary. Here are a few examples:

  • Boot time to desktop from power on is 20 to 30 seconds max, including entering credentials. On Ubuntu, it was easily triple that or more.
  • Suspend and unsuspend is pretty much instant. Neither had been that way on Ubuntu for a while.
  • Wine applications just seem to work so much better. On Ubuntu, font rendering was never smooth and always pixelated, no matter what hacks I applied. On elementary OS, it just works. It’s beautiful. Getting Windows apps to run in general just seems easier. Even gaming is a dream.
  • When I plug in a HDMI cable to my TV, elementary OS instantly extends the desktop, allowing me to move a browser window into view to easily watch Amazon Prime or whatever it may be. The sound just works after checking a simple checkbox in the menu. On Ubuntu, I can’t remember the last time the sound on HDMI worked.

“Oh, those are easy fixes, my friend. No need to switch just for those.”

That’s kind of my point. Ubuntu is so far along at this point that these things shouldn’t be a struggle every single release

Yeah, I get it that partly I brought that on myself for always staying with the current release. Had I stayed with 18.04 these may never have been issues. I’ll give you that.

Still, the above things are…well, elementary. On elementary OS, they just work. So, I’ll be sticking with it for now. I’ve realized I rather have a stable system that may not be the bleeding edge than a bleeding edge system that always needs to be tweaked.

Beyond the fact that the OS just seems to work, the visual presentation is also much more pleasant. The curated Elementary OS apps that just fits into the whole visual approach provides a consistency I never quite felt in Ubuntu.

After two months of using elementary OS, it dawned on me the other day that for the first time in years, I’m actually happy using Linux. In the last couple of months, I’ve only booted into Windows a handful of times, mostly out of necessity (Battlefield V is not playable on Linux, for example).

Yes, there are a few quirks here and there. For example, printer drivers that seem to work inconsistently (but I rarely print on paper) and getting things like Dropbox icons to appear in the status bar took a bit of work (but so did it in Ubuntu). But when you compare the pros and cons, the pros come out way ahead. I don’t regret for a second making the switch. If I’m ever in a position to recommend a Linux flavor to someone else, I wouldn’t hesitate to point to Elementary OS.

Have you tried Elementary OS? What are your thoughts when comparing to Ubuntu?

mattias.ahlvin@gmail.com

I'm just one of those guys that like technology...as well as drawing, writing, reading, coding and a whole bunch of other things I rarely have time for.

2 thoughts on “Why I Switched To elementary OS”

  1. I’ve been stuck on Mint for my go-to distro for a while now, though I’m running a triple boot system with kali and slack if I need them. My favorite was Slackware with a Rat Poison desktop, but as you say, it’s a lot of tinkering. When I was using it steady, I had compiled every piece of the software on that system from scratch from the same code-base, so everything just worked together nicely and I didn’t have to mess with a distro putting their own “spin” on the code.
    Mint used to be faster to boot up, and I miss that, but since I rarely shut my laptop off these days, it’s not a huge concern.
    Haven’t tried elementary. Looks like a Mac type of window manager, and I don’t really jive with that. I’m happy with a subtle bar at the bottom or top of the screen (occasionally on the side). I wonder how you like the default programs (especially the file browser), but I assume they are the same ones that come packaged with other ‘buntu distros. I’ve never personally found a file manager that I truly loved, so that’s generally my hangup that I live with.

    1. I always wanted to take Mint for a spin but alas…yes, you’re right, elementary is very much inspired by Mac OS and at first, that was my initial hesitation. Historically, I haven’t been a fan of how the Mac desktop works but for whatever reason, once installed everything just clicked. So, I’m not going to complain. The file browser isn’t the stock Ubuntu/Gnome one, it’s “themed” to fit the elementary GUI look and feel. I like the tabbed terminal, for example, and there’s a note taking app that’s similar to Evernote that’s lovely, as well as a task/project management app that I like as well. None of it is perfect but it just clicks better with me than any of the Ubuntu stuff every did.

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