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Why didn't I just switch to Linux earlier?

·670 words·4 mins
Chris Herborth
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Chris Herborth
My job? Computer Sisyphus. I work on cryptography. I like videogames and books.
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So, I’ve been using Linux (specifically Kubuntu 22.10) for about two months now. When Backblaze sent me an email wondering why it hadn’t seen my Windows system in something like five weeks, I even took the plunge and nuked my Windows partition.

An aside:

Backblaze’s support folks are fantastic. I’m using B2 with restic for cloud backups and asked if they could refund me any of my online backup license, since it ran ’til March. I’ll (eventually) be spending that money on B2 storage, but it was nice to get some back from my now-unused Windows license.

I’m happier using Linux. If some part of the system is annoying me, I can usually just… change it. Replace it with something I like better, or tweak it (KDE is insanely tweakable as a desktop environment). My laptop seems faster, and everything works smoother. I’ve got a sane development environment that isn’t painful to use. Nobody is slurping up telemetry data and selling that information to sketchy data brokers.

Here’s what my desktop currently looks like:

A reduced screen shot with a nice background image, toolbar on the left edge, and widgets on the right edge.
Chris’ desktop, December 2022

That desktop background is from Digital Blasphemy, his art is awesome. I use an app called Variety to set a random background from my collection every 15 minutes.

It’s not all “OMG this is completely perfect!” of course. There are a couple of things that aren’t smooth:

  • Waking from sleep seems fraught with peril, maybe one time in ten or less. I’ve had the screen freeze, or just stop accepting mouse/keyboard input. Presumably there’s a process I could restart, but I generally just switch to a text console and do a reboot. Or power cycle if things are truly pooched. This isn’t ideal, but booting takes significantly less time that it does with Windows, and the time from login to useful desktop is similarly lowered.
  • My wifi goes stupid sometimes, and slows down from tens of megabytes per second to tens of kilobytes per second. Cycling the wifi connection on/off fixes it. I blame Intel’s crap software, but who knows. This is another danger of waking from sleep.
  • The desktop widgets aren’t as nice as the Rainmeter widgets I was using in Windows. I miss Gadgets a little, no lie.

In general though, everything is working better for me. YMMV of course, I’ve got friends who love doing development on Windows.

This post was originally here.

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2022-12-10
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The wifi thing is really irritating. My laptop has an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 card of some flavour (also irritating: Intel has MAX_INT SKUs of every product) that generally works great.

It seems to have wake-from-sleep issues with the current firmware/software from Intel.

Under Windows 11, wifi would randomly stop resolving anything via DNS. The only work-around for this issue was turning the entire laptop off and back on again, with a ~30 second wait. This was part of the “death by 1000 cuts” that lead me to trying Linux again.

In Linux, wifi speed will drop from somewhere around 450 Mbps to around 450 Kbps. This generally happens a minute or so after waking from sleep. Luckily, cycling my wifi connection fixes the issue, and only takes a few seconds.

The version of iwlwifi currently shipping with Kubuntu 22.10 loads Intel firmware version 72.daa05125.0; it actually shipped with version 70, but I grabbed the newer one from Intel’s website. There are three newer releases of the firmware… hopefully one of these will address the issue, eventually.

I also looked into upgrading to the newer Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210, but it didn’t sound helpful unless you’ve already upgraded your wifi to support 6E. It might be basically the same part running the same software, but again, Intel has a billion SKUs of everything and no easy way to compare parts.

I suppose another solution would be to never put my laptop to sleep, but that’s stupid and gives me flashbacks to people carrying half-open Windows laptops to/from meetings back in the day.