Two Weeks With elementary OS

About two weeks ago, after almost a year on OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, I installed elementary os Juno on my ThinkPad T430.

I installed Tumbleweed last year ahead of attending and giving a talk at the OpenSUSE Summit at ScALE 17x. I am a fan of OpenSUSE and I really enjoy having a rolling release distro, but I had been challenged. I have always been something of a ‘distrohopper’ and I have used lots of different OS’s in my 10+ years full-time on Linux. At some point during that time, I had come to the belief that distro hopping was, well, childish, not to put too fine a point on it. I had convinced myself that some combination of “the grass is always greener” syndrome and commitment issues was a detriment to my use of Linux and I just needed to put down some roots. As I have always had something of an anti-establishment streak, I couldn’t settle on Ubuntu or Fedora and Arch and it’s derivatives have posed challenges to me in the past. So, OpenSUSE it was. I installed my beloved XFCE desktop and was very happy.

However, I was listening to a talk from some Linux conference or another and a gentleman, whose name escapes me, said that distro hopping was preferred for Linux evangelists and those of us who are in a position to recommend distros to civilians (my word choice, not his). His point was, how can you answer the question, “But, which distro should I choose?”, if you haven’t tried LOTS of distros. He went on to say that trying different distros will increase the breadth of your knowledge of Linux, in general. It makes you more flexible. It enables you to slide into many different scenarios and be successful.

I was floored. I was, to be honest, a little insulted. This was because I had convinced myself that hopping was a behaviour to be avoided. However, I continued to ruminate on his words. I re-examined my opinion. I began to agree. I decided to take up his challenge to live in different distros, in different environments, for my own benefit and education. I decided to abandon OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. But, where to go?

I mentioned previously that I had been using XFCE on Tumbleweed. Truth is, I always used XFCE. I was in a rut, to be fair. I am, by nature, a minimalist when it comes to technology. I also like to be in charge of everything. I don’t like desktop icons, I don’t like huge header bars on my windows, I don’t like relying on a mouse when a keyboard chord will do. Gnome Shell and KDE Plasma are big and resource intensive. Other distros, like elementary were locked down and not customizable. How could I ever ditch XFCE?

After listening to Daniel Fore (founder of elementary) on various podcasts over the years and following along the development of elementary os, I decided elementary would be as close to the exact opposite of everything I had been doing in Linux for the last 5 years. So, I committed. I installed elementary and I promised I would do everything the “elementary way”. I would use the AppCenter, not my usual command line tools (apt, zypper, yast, etc). Also, my preference for apps would be those written and curated specifically for elementary.

And, I have loved it! I am writing this article in Quilter, a markdown editor. I am using Mail, Terminal, Ciano, Taxi, and several other elementary-first apps. When I have needed an app outside of the curated list, I have tried to find it through the AppCenter first, then turning to Flathub and the Snap Store. My experience has been pretty great and I am very happy with the resulting setup. In my next post, I will go into more details on the apps I have installed and how I have attempted to customize elementary to my preferred workflow, when possible; and how I have attempted to customize my workflow to the nuances of elementary.

Thanks for reading this article and check back for follow up articles as well.