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Learning Linux (I use arch btw) – Proquest #011

Not my usual type of blogpost, but this topic is not out of character for me. I’ve lately fallen into downward spiral of playing around with different linux distros and desktop environments (hereafter referred to as DEs). It started a few weeks ago with the news of the Windows 11 recall feature. I’ve not been keen on the direction Microsoft has been heading for a long while now, but, like many others, it’s hard to cut the cord tethering me to Windows. So I decided to dual-boot Arch alongside W10 on my laptop.

Yes, I said Arch.

No, this is isn’t my first foray into linux. I started dabbling with the OS over a decade ago with Ubuntu (that actually coincided with the release of Windows 8 and the tech community’s general distaste with the move to a smartphone-like UI). I ran my first Minecraft server from that Ubuntu install (the one I talked about in Proquest #009 My Memories In Minecraft). But once I moved away from high speed internet, my Ubuntu install lost its reason to exist. Gaming on linux back then wasn’t where it is today so I found myself with nothing to do on my linux install.

I would continue to play around with the OS every few years when I would be given a retired laptop from work or when I had a spare machine that I didn’t want to purchase a Windows license for. When the SteamDeck was announced I put Manjaro on an extra PC to play around with an Arch-based system. I wasn’t really aware of what Proton was or that it had integration with Steam. Instead I tried running some of my GOG games through Wine, which of course was met with mixed results. That wasn’t truly a real attempt at running linux and before long that machine was repurposed into a Windows PC for my son.

The SteamDeck, of course, barely feels like linux. I’ve switched over to desktop mode for recording game footage and installing GOG games through Heroic Launcher, but the entire experience of that system is more what you’d find on offer from a gaming console than anything else. And that is it’s strength. I wouldn’t want the Deck to behave in any other manner. I owned a GPD Win 3 before and at the time it felt like a fantastic little piece of hardware. But I missed being able to quickly suspend and continue games like I could do on the Nintendo Switch. Most PC games just aren’t programmed to handle loss of power in that way. The SteamDeck seemed to magically pull it off, however.

I loved having the hardware keyboard, but unfortunately Intel drivers prevented this device from reaching the performance and fidelity of the SteamDeck.

So you could technically say I’ve been gaming on linux since I got my Deck in mid-2022, however I wouldn’t say that it requires much knowledge of linux to use it at all. When I installed Arch on my laptop a few weeks back, I had no idea what I was doing. You don’t really know how much goes into making up a complete OS install until you have to piece it together manually. My first attempt resulted in me skipping the second half of the bootloader instructions causing GRUB to fail to recognize a usable kernel.

After a little studying and troubleshooting I got a working install going. The moment when my DE first launched and I was met with a graphical desktop background I felt like I had really accomplished something.

And then I learned about linux file permissions. I ran into a lot of issues of getting my drives to mount correctly and allow myself full access to them. I even gave up, uninstalled Arch and switched my laptop to Manjaro, a distro using Arch as its base. This experience was a lot more stable (until I encountered a DE-breaking nvidia bug) and while using it, I was able to look at the fstab file and how KDE’s built-in partition manager handles formatting and permissions. This encouraged me to try Arch again. This time I installed it on my main desktop, alongside Windows.

Ultimately, things went better this time, minus a few hiccups. I once again forgot to finish up the bootloader installation, had a lot of trouble getting the Nvidia drivers to work properly, and somehow updated the kernel without my boot partition being mounted.

However, I figured all of this out and I’m generally very pleased with the Arch install I’ve got going on with my desktop. KDE has some nice Windows XP themes available and with a little configuring, I got my desktop to look very nostalgic. My first personal desktop PC was a gift from my dad for my thirteenth birthday and it was running XP. Something about the appearance of that OS really brings back those memories of having a computer that was fully mine.

Setting up Arch from scratch and building my way to this point reinforces that feeling. This install is completely mine, warts and all. I’m sure the next issue I encounter will have me swearing off Arch again.

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