Had Enough of Windows Bloatware - Considering Linux

Finally had enough of Windoze bloatware and am thinking of installing Linux on my laptop and having a dual boot system, with Linux bootable from a USB drive.

In order to identify the ‘best’ Linux distro, I’ve had a look at a few Utube videos and found that Ubuntu and Zorin come out equal top, closely following by Manjaro and Elementary OS. To my surprise Mint hardly made anyone’s list??

Connected to my laptop are:

  • HP Laserjet Pro MFP M281FDW
  • Two iiyama monitors, one connected via HDMI to an internal NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 card, the other via HDMI through a Raycue USB / HDMI adaptor using a Fresco logic driver;
  • Bluetooth speaker

I’m a little concerned re the availability of suitable drivers for the above.

Has anyone got any recommendations, views or warnings re choosing a Linux distro?

The great thing about Ubuntu is that you can try it without installing it, by running it from disk.
I have an old Lenovo ThinkPad that I bought for a silly price with Win 10 installed. I installed Ubuntu as a dual boot and it works very well.
I occasionally boot to Windows, mainly to keep it updated, but by the time it has loaded I have often forgotten what I intended to do!
The old laptop was built to last and I expect it to give good service for many years with a lightweight OS.
Windows is a total pain, continually updating with facilities that I have no use for. Seems to me to be past its “best before” date. XP was almost good.

I also now use Ubuntu.
There is a new version available - 20.04 and whilst stable(ish) some users report problems with drivers which the community haven’t yet got round to establishing. I will probably not consider an upgrade to 20.04 until at least the first point release due in July but as 18.04 LTS is supported for 5 years from 2018 (hence 18.04 = April 2018) by Canonical, I’ll more than likely wait 12 months until the support issues subside before considering an upgrade (may buy a Raspberry Pi v4 to install 20.04 on to give it try leaving my current system running as is on the basis that "not broke, don’t fix it lol)).
That said, I am using v18.04.4 LTS and it works very well with my HP Color LaserJet MFP M281fdw (the same as yours - great minds etc) and with s/w downloaded from the Ubuntu Software Center (free from any cost) I can print double sided and scan documents from the ADF with ease. I don’t have a dual monitor setup so can’t comment on that not a bluetooth speaker (my monitor has speakers adequate for my needs).
Check out Ask Ubuntu if you have any questions - there may already be answers on the site to your questions. The way the site works is not too dissimilar to SF (as it came from the same stable) so you should feel at home in there. I’ve yet to find any application that I used in Windoze unavailable in the Linux format in Ubuntu. There is a whole suite of LibreOffice (MS Office compatible) (Write, Calc, Draw, Base, Impress) and a host of other very useful utilities.
Ubuntu is backed by Canonical and is a world wide company supporting FOSS with a very helpful free community.
One final thing; I made a “clean break” from windoze rather than try running windows in a dual boot arrangement with Ubuntu. I copied all my important windozey bits (data) onto a NAS which I have mounted in Ubuntu and can still access when required. My wife also now uses Ubuntu and she has access to her files on the NAS too so it works well as a discrete network between the two of us. Many support issues seem to emanate from people trying to run the two operating system side by side.

Many thanks Graham - very interesting & useful post.

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I’ve added a bit more info.

Which NAS do you use? Installing a NAS is on my long to do list.

I’ll try not to repeat too much of Graham’s answer

The “problems” are going to be the graphics cards but it should be possible to get both working - well, the built in adapter, anyway.

The open source GTX drivers are limited as Nvidia has published little information on their cards (though there were rumours that was about to change). However Nvidia do supply closed source drivers which have considerably better performance - it should be possible to install these in any modern Linux distribution but Ubuntu ships with them bundled. There was also an FL2000 driver in older versions of Ubuntu - not sure what the current status of that is (but some googling suggests it might not be great).

If you have two monitors it might be do-able with a 4k video wall controller (to combine the two into a 3840x1080 display) but these can be fairly pricey (and might not work with HDMI 1.4)

A possible alternative would be this DisplayLink adapter - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0725K1MHH which seems to have current Ubuntu drivers https://www.displaylink.com/downloads/ubuntu (not a personal recommendation, came across this via Google, YMMV et cetera).

What laptop do you have?

Oh, PS, I wouldn’t bother with Linux on a USB drive. If you are going to do it, stick it on the hard drive.

Its an old one - WD MyBookLive 1TB I also have another - a 1 TB WD Elements which I back up the MBL to (belt and braces). The MBL is attached to the Netgear switch which in turn is attached to the 4G router and the Elements is attached by USB to my PC.

Maybe best on an SSD - I have 128Gb which runs very quickly with plenty of spare space and then a 500Gb HDD for normal data storage.

Also don’t forget that Ubuntu (Linux) has the ability on one monitor to dynamically switch to different workspaces - I use 4 fixed workspaces so can easily be running 4 different “sessions” on my PC - i.e. Firefox in WS1, Thunderbird mail in WS2, 3 and 4 as spare for anything else such as, say LibreOffice Calc etc…
There are some questions about Nvidia on askubuntu.com/questions you can look at.

I was using “hard drive” in a fairly generic sense - I’d recommend switching to an SSD even for older hardware - they can give a huge improvement in performance over spinning rust.

Pretty standard in all unix window managers I have used back to FVWM which I started using on Sun and SGI machines in about 1993 - I hear even Windows 10 has finally caught up with this feature :slight_smile:

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My first foray into the magical world of multi screen was waaaaay back with Digital Research’s Multi-User DOS :wink:

Can’t see how a dual boot system can cause problems. Only one system can run at any one time. Each system runs in its own partition (different logical drives). The system that is not running is seen as nothing more than data on another drive and does not occupy any RAM…
There is an option to run Ubuntu “inside” Windows and I can see how that might cause problems, but that’s something different.

I’ve a Lenova Ideapad L340 Gaming with Intel core i7, 8GB RAM, ITB hard drive + 256 GB SSD.
Also use 2 WD TTB & 2TB Passport USB drives.

Looks quite a nice machine, do you game on it?

So, I did a bit more Googling and, errr…, yes. I’d probably start with an Ubuntu live distribution and see what happens.

The Fresco FL2000 driver does seem to have had work done recently (2 months ago) but the notes suggest that it might not build on kernels newer than 4.0 (which is ancient history as it was released 5 years ago) - probably a non-starter.

The cheapest option is likely to be a supported USB to HDMI adapter (see previous post). There is a dock which supports dual monitors but it is probably using USB to HDMI internally (and no guarantee that whatever is in the dock is supported in Linux).

After that a monitor with USB C input might be next least expensive, a video wall controller would also certainly do the trick but you’ll need to read the spec carefully to make sure 3840x1080 input to two 1920x1080 monitors is supported, and at what refresh rate (and if you game, they introduce extra video lag), plus they seem to start north of £250

Unfortunately dual monitors on a laptop is a minority sport - which often means windows only solutions.

Bluetooth audio shouldn’t be a problem though - well supported in Linux.

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Using Wine… but there are alternatives like PlayonLinux. Most of the issues reported seem to be associated with gaming (which is not my bag).

Is that not the other way around ? Wine (despite its acronym) is used on Linux OSes to emulate a WindowsOS environment by providing a minimum of windows system dynamic libraries and configuration files. Getting Ubuntu to run on Windows, for example via the Windows store, makes use of a virtual machine environment and the Unix subsystem libraries that Microsoft now provide with the OS itself.

Absent all of that, one can fairly easily set up a virtual machine running a complete Windows OS in a Linux machine using either KVM or one of the GUI frontends such as VirtualBox (Oracle).

EDIT : I’m not a computer gamer, so I can’t speak for how well running Windows games in a VM might work (or not, as the case may be). Prior to using VirtualBox, I spent many an hour trying to get my kids’ Windows only games to run in Wine with PlayOnLinux, with limited success, unfortunately.

I’m a great believer in horses for courses TBH.
Jack of all trades - master of none. IMHO if you want gaming - get a gaming machine and leave serious computing to a machine which does that best.
I’d never countenance using a PC which runs my accounts, for example, for gaming - online or otherwise.
Maybe I’m a bit too much “old school” :wink: For old school read dinosaur :wink: but it works for me.

The printer should work mostly fine with most distros, especially if they are based on Ubuntu repositories.

As @ptf has mentioned, not sure about the USB2HDMI switch for 2nd monitor output, might be worth trawling the Linux forums to see if anyone has encountered problems with a similar setup, as dual monitor output from a laptop (via USB no less) is probably not the most common of setups for the majority of Linux users.

Bluetooth audio seems to work pretty well in my limited experience, I have a Sony speaker that I can connect to the PC at home over Bt and it works, that’s good enough for me.

One issue you might find annoying, if you are a gamer, and you use a Bt wireless headset with built-in microphone. It appears that a combination of PulseAudio (the audio server daemon) and various Bt stacks provided by different Linux OSes do not always play well together, especially when it comes to automatic profile switching between A2DP and HSP/HFP. As I understand it (and I’m a total newb in this area) A2DP is the remote audio communication profile that allows a Bt headphone to receive audio data over Bt, whereas the HFP/HSP profiles are used for microphone pickup and transmission as used in telephony. I guess the only way to find out whether your particular headset works, if it is a wireless headset, would be to try and search through the forums beforehand.

As far as distros are concerned, my personal take:

  • Ubuntu has definitely become a staple - although I use it on several different machines, it comes with a number of pet hates - I upgraded to LTS 20.04 from 18.04 recently on 3 different machines, 2 of which were Dell laptops with an Ubuntu OEM setup. Those upgrades actually went fairly smoothly. The third upgrade on an older compact box is still giving me problems, but that is due to the Linux kernel no longer correctly supporting the BIOS of the motherboard. I had similar issues prior to upgrading, they’ve just got worse with the current iteration of Ubuntu OS.

  • I use ElementaryOS 5 on another older laptop, I love it for the simplicity of its UI, and its snappiness, but that comes at a cost in the choice of supported/integrated software. Although Elementary bases its repositories on Ubuntu, some software packages regularly found in Ubuntu are not present or are deemed “unsupported” (whatever that means exactly, as there is no paid support for Elementary as far as I can tell) and the developers for ElementaryOS have created their own app store and promote development of apps using the GTK/Vala environment. Upgrading from one version to another in ElementaryOS is still a PITA (unless suddenly, with the release of 5.1, they’ve made it easy).

  • I gave Manjaro a spin a few years ago, but it just didn’t appeal to me, probably didn’t give it long enough, I guess. I love the idea of rolling distros, but was always concerned about overall stability.

  • I haven’t tested Zorin in an age, it was still very young as a project when I last tried it, so that was several years ago !

  • For me Mint remains a solid Linux OS. Based on the Ubuntu repositories, and although now refusing to follow the snap package system provided by Ubuntu, it is one of those Linux distros that lets you get things done without hue or cry (mostly - I’ve had issues in the past too). Whilst I love the crispness of the Cinnamon desktop, I find it has become quite resource hungry (as is Ubuntu, to be fair) and I want my computer to boot up within seconds and be fully functional. Perhaps most of my hardware is now too old for that hope to be a reality.

Overall, probably what I regret the most about current Linux distribution development has been the trend to forget being economical with hardware resources, and instead go for the bloat or feature creep that we have seen in the commercial OS development. This is what attracted me to the Raspberry Pi. What the developers of that product have managed to do with those Arm processors is pretty amazing, and kind of puts the other mainstream chip manufacturers to shame, IMO.

I know what you mean but flavours of Linux still run on platforms with very little hardware, eg OpenWrt will run on devices down to 32M of RAM and 4M of flash (though, to be fair they are currently saying that is insufficient resources and will not be supported in the future) and there are several distributions which concentrate on low powered processors.

While support for older systems (and lower powered ones which are still used as embedded processors - I think there is still an active 68k port, although it does require a 32bit CPU and MMU so at least a 68020) is important I think that it would be a mistake to ignore the considerable power of modern 64-bit processors, running off an SSD I am constantly amazed how fast my “new” machines boot. That’s an i5-8600T in the file/media server that tends to also get used as my daily driver, or the i7-8700k based box that I use for Windows & “heavy lifting” tasks such as video editing or transcoding.

But even “embedded” CPUs pack a punch - the router/firewall has a dual-core 1GHz AMD CPU with 4Gb RAM, that would have been a serious piece of desktop kit not that long ago and it runs Centos just fine in a headless config - it will even run X, albeit via VNC

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No. My previous laptop had a catastrophic hardware failure, I was fast approaching a deadline to have ready a large complicated report, so just went for the most future-proof laptop that Amazon France could deliver ASAP.

In spite of Lenovo naming it as a ‘gaming’ machine, I think that many gamers would reject as the graphics are probably not high end enough.