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One and a Half Years Into Linux

January 27, 2023 at 8:54 AM
Category: Software

It feels like it was much longer ago that I had stopped using Windows as my primary operating system, yet just a couple years back, I was still holding doubts about the viability of Linux to replace that role. Indeed, when one becomes highly dependent on specific software which requires Windows, it can be a lot harder to move away from it.

But ever since I finally did make that jump to Linux in July 2021, I've hardly looked back since. It didn't take long for me to realize just how much better my computing experience had gotten; for all the differences I had to adapt to, what I got was the ability to create far more efficient workflows for my regular tasks, adjust my system configuration to exactly how I want it without compromise, have most of my programs within a much more convenient reach, and receive the kinds of software updates I'd actually want.


Video Editing

For many users in this field, this is going to be the hardest hurdle to overcome. As I have moved away from video creation, it's far less of an issue for me, but I have still found myself in situations where I needed to use leftover proprietary software in Windows to take care of the job - most especially when I was finishing up my last two videos for the old era and adapting Hardcore Windows for Razorback.

Kdenlive on Linux

For less complex workloads, however, I've been using Kdenlive a lot more often. Currently, it's the most well supported FOSS video editor you can get in Linux. I actually tried program this way back in 2019, right around the time it implemented a new timeline editor, I think, as I had been giving FreeBSD a test drive in the height of the panic of Windows 7's then upcoming EOL date.

Kdenlive has a good range of features for anyone in need of a quality video editor that doesn't cost anything. You can manage many layers of video and audio with exact frame precision, you're offered a decent range of effects and compositions that could prove useful, and the user interface is laid out as it would be in any professional video editor. For anyone who really wants to create some pretty complex edits, this is the way to go for right now. It'll be a drastic step up from any watermarking, "freemium", or OS default editor!

Coming from Premiere Pro CS6 (the last good version, no subscription required), which was released in 2012, Kdenlive is also a lot more convenient for me since I can work directly with newer formats like MP4s in H.265 as well as MKV and WEBM containers, whereas if I wanted to use them in Premiere, I first had to reencode them to a digestible H.264 MP4 file using FFmpeg.

The main downside I've found to Kdenlive is that, unless I'm missing something, it's not possible to store multiple sequences in a single project. This is especially problematic if you plan to regularly reuse various assets, as it would be nice to have them all within reach. I've personally used Premiere's capability of holding multiple sequences to neatly organize my videos; one project file would contain Hardcore Windows NT or 98, another would store some of my lesser computer videos, while some other major one-video projects would get their own files since they'd be working with many, many clips, such as Arowana. Also, the Transform effect not being some default thing for every video clip is cumbersome when I'm wanting to adjust clips to fit within a certain aspect ratio, or just do something with them, really.

Kdenlive is readily available in mainstream repositories of major Linux distributions, so it's easy to install and update on the fly.

Olive Video Editor af76bf0 in Linux

When 2020 came, I ended up never bothering to migrate away from Windows 7 in that year. However, another video editor was brought to my attention as I became faced with infuriating struggles with getting my Adobe software reactivated after it managed to break itself at a really bad time. (Fuck you Adobe, I'm a paying customer!) I tried Olive, and immediately fell in love with it.

While I had been using it on Windows initially, it quickly became the driving force for the production of Bigeye, and I've used it for some smaller productions as well. While it was not loaded with all the features I'd ask for, and I sometimes had to work around various shortcomings and encoding glitches like the audio pitch being higher than it should be (this was in the 0.1 days), it adapted a lot of the fluidity of Premiere's interface, which is part of what made adapting to it largely seamless.

Watch video: Builiding a Dual Pentium III Server Running Windows NT 4.0

The current version, 0.2, is still in alpha, and so it's not fully fleshed out. I haven't used this version as rigorously, but while it still seems to be missing some things from 0.1, it's also recently added in some other critical features like the ability to encode sequences in the background - something I especially made use of when I was getting my Windows NT Server videos from 2021 adapted into into a 4:3 format for this site. That should be the default option, really.

0.2 is considerably harder to grapple with given it makes use of nodes, a sort of thing I never really liked. It's hard to tell if I really don't know how I'm supposed to use them or they're just not fully implemented, as trying things with nodes often seems to not work. There's a number of other interface bugs I'm still encountering as well, like dragging a clip with in/out points set not seeming to abide by those points or forcefully moving the clip to the leftmost available point of the sequence.

Even so, Olive looks like it could become a fantastic video editor in the future. Whenever it can exit its prerelease stage some years down the line, I know for a fact that it will be the Premiere killer! But what about After Effects, will that still stand? The ideal route would be to unify the complex multi-layer 2D composition functionality After Effects boasts with a general-purpose video editor like Kdenlive or Olive. Using two programs for such a job is cumbersome; merging them together would easily allow FOSS to fully eclipse Adobe's offerings.

I still keep a secondary workstation dual booting Windows 7 and Debian handy for whenever I truly need to run my old software for anything, but otherwise, it's better to stick to these free programs. For any videos that don't require any real editing, I tend to just encode them entirely in FFmpeg.


Creating a web page banner in GIMP

When it comes to general-purpose image editing, Photoshop has tended to be what everyone leaned toward for the longest time. However, there's a free alternative out there that surely everyone has to have at least heard of by now, none other than GIMP. It might be easy to see why a lot of people wouldn't want to use this program, given it has a ton of quirks and hurdles that a Photoshop user would have lots of trouble overcoming... like individual layer boundary sizes needing to be increased to properly contain all of some filter you'd apply, such as a blur.

But GIMP just so happens to be really good at making some cool-looking graphics on its own! Now, I hardly make anything in Photoshop anymore, as it's much better to invest my effort in a format I know I won't have to worry about losing access to due to any activation-related issues. It's simply a much better option for the long run!

Bugfix with a tennis racket and a menacing grin of imminent victory

For a long time, I had trouble with figuring out how to get my drawing tablet working with Linux, but I decided to it a spin once again, and it works! Currently I've just been using xsetwacom to handle configuring the tablet and mapping it to one screen, but I imagine there's more convenient ways to do it. I'm still in a few snags like getting the touch wheel to serve as a dedicated zoom ring (I have to cheat by having GIMP use the tablet's default scroll wheel emulation to make it work), but I got three buttons assigned with frequently used key inputs, and so I'm able to use this tablet a lot more comfortably here.

The differences between GIMP and Photoshop can either be beneficial or detrimental to the former. I've found its pen tool to be far superior to that of Photoshop's, since it allows for much greater flexibility with adjusting points when it comes to tracing over quick underlying drawings I make.

Whenever I need to create new image files through simple operations like conversion, resizing, and what not, ImageMagick is a lifesaver. It's a command line program that can do all of these things quickly and is easily implemented into any shell script - more on that soon!

Multimedia Playback

This one should be really easy. For general video and audio files, you can just load up VLC or mpv (the latter being highly keyboard-driven and has a bit of a learning curve). For niche turbo nerd audio files like the popular tracker music formats such as MOD, XM, S3M, and IT, as well as, I don't know, video game music, DeaDBeeF is a good clone of foobar2000 that I've started using more often due to foobar2000 exhibiting a plentiful of inexplicable crashes under WINE.

But Games???

Unreal Tournament running in Linux

I don't play very many games, so I can't give you advice if you're always going after the latest titles with beefy graphical fidelity, but for what I have played, I've either used Steam's Proton compatibility tool or source ports if the original game didn't already support Linux. You'd be surprised at how far you can get with it; even when relying on Proton, I've been able to run one really heavyweight game without any issues whatsoever. (That is, aside from dangling under 60 FPS... has it come time to step up from my RX 6400? Triple 4K on the way???)

Recent advancements in Unreal version 227 allow me to run the game in my Linux installation as well as operate my own server for that game. Unreal Tournament fares just as well; on short notice, I was able to get in a populated deathmatch without any resistance from such things like execution errors. The classic Quake trilogy is even better, as you can compile some modern source port and get that going provided you have all the required development libraries installed.

More developers are starting to natively support Linux, mostly small ones. If you're looking for even more libraries of games to go through, many popular emulators will run natively in Linux. Hell, a couple of them were vital to developing my own DOS game, so you really can't go wrong there.

Just make sure that when you move to Linux, don't use an Nvidia card - or rather, don't use one in general, because Nvidia is an asshole of a company, and no man knows that better than Linus Torvalds himself. Stick to AMD or Intel, you'll have a much better time with hardware 3D acceleration.

Superior Development

Linux has always been a better platform for developing software. Whereas in Windows, I had to either manually load the programs I needed into at least one PATH directory or install some sort of IDE, getting a compiler for C or the like is practically trivial. Just install the GCC package, and you can run it in any terminal! The standardization of Makefile scripts also makes rebuilding programs straightforward, as one only has to type make to get all the objects built. At least, that's how I've been doing it with my rather simplistic software.

Linux also offers far superior shell scripting capabilities, and you get a variety of different shells to choose from, with Bash being the ideal choice for everyone. I've wrote about this previously, but in more recent times, I've written a number of Bash scripts that help me publish images, videos, articles, and what not... all without the need for some external web interface! It's also easy to integrate programs for SSH and SFTP connectivity into Bash scripts, whereas I never managed to work out a solution for that when I was still using Windows full time.

Which Distro???

Now, if you're still undecided on which distro you want to land on, ignore the memes and just try one you think you'd like, and run with what suits you best. I'm still using Arch Linux as my daily driver, and have plenty of Debian installations elsewhere. While I can easily prove Debian to be extremely reliable (I've gotten over a year of uptime with it here), it does tend to stagnate on package versions.

For example, Debian 11, the current stable release as of writing this, still has up to PHP 7.4, and PHP 7.x is already completely dead. If you are to upgrade to the latest version, 8.2, and get yourself some new useful features to lean down your code as well as ensure you're receiving security updates, you'll have to turn to another repository.

Thunar file manager with Chicago95

If you look past the annoying fanbase, Arch, on the other hand, is pretty much always on top of the latest version of every package all the time. This can either work in favor of or against you, but it's generally stable, and most updates won't end up throwing you off unless one comes around that implements some major changes. I know that recently, XFCE got an update that made many major improvements like a built-in file search for Thunar. But I also had to adapt to some newly introduced quirks like locking the screen causing my monitors to get disconnected briefly. It also took quite a while for hard disk spindown to be supported on my machine via some service, but eventually it was.

Arch also has the distinct advantage of having what is one of the largest package repositories of any distro, perhaps due to its highly asynchronous nature of software updates. If there's some really specific software out there that you may not have found on Debian or the like, chances are it could be available in Arch's main repository or through an AUR, and usually it'll be well up to date. You can get the latest versions of things on something like Debian as well, including the Linux kernel itself, it just takes a bit of extra work.

One thing I always say is to not worry too much about what you pick. Distro elitism is stupid and only serves to prevent new users from entering the field. Someone who's compulsive about only using 100% free software and drivers or avoiding systemd at all costs isn't going to reflect the needs of the average user who just wants to have something that works. They're gonna do office work, play games, create stuff, browse the internet, and they want to do it without friction.

As I was holding out on Windows 7, I've seen some users are still holding out on Windows 10 rather than upgrading to 11, with good reason. Some may call it a "Windows XP syndrome" where one sees the only way to continue performing their tasks reliably is to hold out on a, and I quote, "good" version of Windows to the bitter end. When October 2025 hits, where will those users go, if they don't stay? Hopefully by that point, Linux software will become even greater, prompting more users to switch, and in turn, more software developers to turn their attention to this platform.

I need to remind myself to send some money to Olive...


Commando - March 29, 2023 at 05:33 AM

Currently a Windows 7 user because I like pain. Will be hopping over to Linux shortly and for once I can say I will enjoy the challenge of learning something new. Like when I attempted XP on the Itanium platform.

UnlistedSlacker - February 01, 2023 at 03:50 PM

Running Win 7 x64 ESU on Xeon E5 2696v4 plus 3090ti.
Pos updates till oct 2024.
0patch promise provide asm micro-patches minimum till 2025.
So Win 7 easily outlive win 10 shite.

fspax - January 31, 2023 at 08:15 AM

I think Windows 10 will receive security updates for at least several years after EOL, so I see no reason to move to something else for now. Windows is still the most robust and software-rich platform on the market.

flatrute - January 28, 2023 at 10:34 AM

I would like to move on to FreeBSD for its full package or at least Arch for its practicality but until Mozilla could fix their Firefox to move from ~/.mozilla to XDG Base Directory I might as well just stick to Windows Server 2019 (that I downgraded from vNext since re-enabling sound service after every updates is a pain in the butt) and create a hobby OS for myself :bugfix_discontent:

Xnmcv - January 28, 2023 at 09:58 AM

I meant "distros", not "distress". Are there any linux distrOs with distrESs signals?!

Xnmcv - January 28, 2023 at 09:47 AM

I was distro-hopping on my Intel 6700k pc for the early 2020s until I settled with installing Xubuntu 21.10 around the same time my RX 6500 XT got inserted into it. Two of those distress happen to be Debian and Arch.

Tech101 - January 27, 2023 at 08:18 PM

I've tried using Linux many times before, but have always found that my workload doesn't get along with Linux. I find that the software i rely on will either not work, requiring a separate Windows drive, or be extremely unstable. I hope one day that the software and games i use will one day become functional as i look forward to the day i can leave Windows behind.

zdrmonster - January 27, 2023 at 11:09 AM

John: I found that using the Furnace multisystem tracker works well on my Linux Mint Debian Edition installation, not sure if that would solve your problems or not though. You might also get away with plugging your audio interface into a Linux machine and see if it works, since a MIDI keyboard that normally doesn't work on Windows works just fine for me on Linux.

john - January 27, 2023 at 10:20 AM

I would move to linux if I could, but my requirement in composing music really sets me back. Since I use an audio interface with proprietary drivers and FL studio, I would have to ditch using that AND my physical synthesizers.

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