Pop!_OS for a week – Still Poppin!

A week ago, Microsoft pushed an update to my Windows machine rendering it unusable. Absolutely corrupted! Look down to the previous post or click HERE to read a bit more about that.

I had been playing around with the Pop!_OS Linux distribution for a while and deciding to make it my my main operating system (or die trying). Here are some thoughts and observations after being 'All in on Pop' for the past week.

Pop!_OS (20.10) as run on a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (5th generation).

I once heard someone explain the reason Microsoft does not make the Office suite for Linux is because there would be no reason to use Windows. This is probably more true than Microsoft would like to admit. The most challenging part of switching from Windows to Linux is the translation of office documents, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint slide shows to a format compatible with an available Linux application. This is especially daunting for those of us who live in the world of government where Word docs and Powerpoint are the common languages. Tell someone at a police department you are sending them a file in Open Document Format and they’ll be lost for three days.

The struggle is real. The task of converting all of my documents and presentations to be compatible with LibreOffice has almost pushed me back to Windows. Yes, Impress will open a .ppt file but the formatting is usually a mess. And both Impress and Writer can be wonky when opening and editing files initially composed in an Office app.

Zoom is an absolute must-have for me. I am instructing two college courses this semester and both are entirely online. Zoom provides a client for Linux. Meh. It works but is not nearly as functional as the offering for Windows. The best way I can describe it is “not as crisp”. The lines are fuzzy and moving between functions is clumsy. Especially when trying to share your screen. Using the web version of Zoom doesn’t work on Linux because it requires you to download and run an executable (.exe). There are some other clients available for Linux but they were even lower quality than the official Zoom application. I get by, but there is definitely an opportunity for a developer to release a much-needed product.

I carry a lot of data around with me on a 1TB Samsung T5 SSD. Well, it is encrypted and needs to run a .exe to open so it can’t be used on Linux. I found a tutorial online that show how to remove the encryption but you have to transfer the data off the drive first. Where am I supposed to transfer 250GB of data? Yes, another drive, but that is going to require me to buy a 500GB drive just to make another drive usable.

Some notes (in no particular order)

Software: The Pop!_Shop is well designed and offers a pleasant experience. It is limited in selection and diversity of offerings but provides what is needed to make Pop usable. Snap and Flatpak significantly broaden the horizon. Finding and installing software through these various mechanisms has been satisfying and one of the better experiences of this transition.

Desktop Environment: Gnome and the Pop shell are fine. No complaints at all. I have added several extensions including Dash To Dock, Caffeine, and the Open Weather. The Gnome dark theme is looks good.

Functionality: It just works. Well, most of it, or at least the stuff that really matters. All of the keyboard keys function as intended. Sound, video, mouse, and touchpad all work without any glitches.

Bluetooth: The Bluetooth connectivity is better than when running Windows. My Soundcore Liberty 2 earbuds and Sennheiser PXC550 headphones connected without any issues. Windows and the PXC550’s did not play well together but I’ve encountered no connection problems with Pop.

Scaling: Scaling is a mixed bag on the laptop screen, Fonts and margins vary depending on applications and websites. Even within the same application such as the Brave browser, it varies. Some websites will render in the set font while others will be too small or too large. I am continuously using “Control +/– “ to change the scaling. The funny thing is that this problem does not exist when using an external monitor.

Printer: The system found and connected to a Brother MFC model wireless printer without the need for any added drivers or configurations. This really impressed me. Windows required a driver installation.

Battery: For DAYS. I haven’t done any measured testing but Pop is absolutely more power-efficient. The battery icon is not calibrated correctly though. It will display as half but when you click the icon it will note ~70%.

Memory: Again, I haven’t done any detailed testing other than monitoring the Stacer application, but the 16GB of RAM seems to be more than efficient. Even when running multiple apps and a virtual machine in Virtualbox.

Tiling Windows and Stacking: I like this. I don’t leave it turned on all the time but the option to open and close it with two mouse clicks is a game-changer. And it works well. I predict this becomes a feature in other OS’s very soon.

Design: The entire Pop package is clean and crisp. It is well designed and aesthetically pleasing. It just looks good and makes you want to use the system. I found no need to change any of the fonts or icons – although that is possible for those that choose to experiment. The pre-installed wallpapers are fantastic.

Support: I cannot say enough good things about System76, the company that publishes and maintains the Pop!OS Linux distribution. After a system update, I found the window minimize button that had been enabled through Gnome Tweaks stopped working. I wrote a comment on the Pop!os support community forum to see if anyone else had experienced the bug. Not only were others experiencing the problem but someone had already written a fix and submitted a pull request to the Pop maintainers. Three days later I updated through apt and the problem was fixed.

This transition has not been completely flawless and I have pounded a few tabletops in anger. I told my wife that I will be able to work desktop support for System76 soon enough. But the challenge has been more enjoyable than frustrating and I break free from the tentacles of Windows more each day.

I plan to write a future piece documenting how I have the system set-up and the tweaks I have made to suit my work-flow.

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#PopOS #Linux