I recently talked about why migrate to Linux. There are many distros out there, and choosing the right one can be difficult. Here are some advice that will help you get started if you choose to go that route.

First, don’t be intimidated by all the distros. Linux as a whole is a set of components plugged together. Linux distros are essentially configuration presets. You can make any distro look like any other distro by changing its components and configuration.

That being said, there are two major branches of Linux distros: Ubuntu-based and Arch-based. The difference is that Ubuntu has a static update cycle, meaning less frequent and more stable updates, whereas Arch has a rolling update cycle, meaning continual daily updates and less stability.

Power-users often preach Arch distros like a religion. What you need to know is that Arch-based systems can break down 4 times per year and require manual intervention to fix. You often can find the solutions with a quick search online and type the commands in the shell. If you’re not comfortable with that, then perhaps Ubuntu-based is best for you. One power-user had installed Garuda (Arch-based) on his wife’s laptop and recommended me NOT to do that.

Here’s a review of Windows 11 from the perspective of a Linux user.

The most popular Ubuntu-based distros are Ubuntu, Pop! OS and Linux Mint, whereas the most popular Arch-based distro is Manjaro. After doing plenty of research, there are newer fast-running contestants in the horizon that have my personal vote: Garuda Linux and Zorin OS. Neither of these will require you to use the shell to get up-and-running.

Zorin OS — Ubuntu-based selection

The visual style of Zorin OS is very similar to Windows, it has easy WINE integration to run Windows programs, and it’s very simple to use. However, in practice, running Windows programs by double-clicking them often won’t work as they’ll require more configuration. Zorin uses SNAP package manager by default (more frequent updates than apt-get), and you can use a graphical application manager to install most applications. For some applications that won’t work well in SNAP, you can use apt-get to install them.

One big difference between Linux and Windows is that under Linux, all software are installed through package managers. Compare that to Windows where you have to go to the website of each app, download the installer, run it and go through the wizard. On Linux, all that is done with a single command.

There isn’t much to say about Zorin OS. It looks great, Its usage is very simple, and it supports all Ubuntu apps. There’s no point in paying for the Pro version unless you want to support the developers as you can install the extra software yourself for free.

However, Zorin OS run on a bit outdated components, and I’ve had several issues. Steam wouldn’t display properly when high-dpi is set to 125%; it would display smaller than normal! Also, the laptop turbo button wouldn’t work, and enabling it would require running some custom script of experimental implementation from the internet, which can cause long-term stability issues.

I did install it on my wife’s laptop for word processing and internet stuff. She didn’t see much difference from Windows other than things being in slightly different places. One thing I didn’t like as a power-user is that software names are changed to things like Software, Disk Partitions, Pictures, etc. This is great for newbies, but it’s hard to know the real names of the applications running by default.

If you have an older computer running Windows XP or Windows 7, which are no longer supported, you can install Zorin OS and keep using it. It has lighter requirements than Garuda, and nobody will tell you that your computer is too old and needs to be changed.

Video review of Zorin OS

Zorin OS official website

Garuda KDE Dr460nized — Arch-based selection

If you are more of a power-user, then Garuda may be a very good choice. Unless battery life is very important to you. Linux isn’t very good when it comes to battery life, and that’s particularly true for Garuda that is performance-oriented. You may also want to avoid that for your grand-mother’s laptop to improve your quality of life.

Being Arch-based, you’ll get bleeding-edge features. To offset the instability of Arch, it installs by default on BTRFS file system. It automatically tracks changes and creates snapshots of your system. If something goes wrong, reboot your computer, and from the boot menu, you can boot from an earlier automatic snapshot. Once you’re in, search online for solutions to the problem you just had. Fixing update issues can take 5 minutes to 2 hours at most. If you’re not comfortable doing that, then Zorin OS may be a better fit.

That being said, some Arch users claim say that they never had any such issues in 5 years. Here’s how Arch-based systems usually break. You can avoid breakage by following a few simple rules.

1. Avoid installing packages from the AUR. If it’s absolutely necessary, then make sure it’s actively maintained, and never use the AUR for core system components.

2. Install updates regularly on a weekly basis. If you wait 6+ months, you’re asking for trouble or manual interventions.

3. If you see Garuda assistant notifications about potential update issues, make sure to click on it and read what you need to do.

4. Do not install bleeding-edge kernel unless it fixes some specific issues that you’re having on your hardware.

On the flip-side, I’ve had LESS issues with Garuda than with Zorin OS. Turbo mode works by default, and Steam displays correctly with dpi scaling. Also, don’t worry about memory usage. Garuda considers that unused memory is pure waste. It will try to use as much as possible.

Using the Garuda Assistant, you can install all the software you need with a few clicks. Compared to that, on Windows, you need to search and find various websites to download utilities and software left and right; after uninstall all the crap you don’t want. Some consider Garuda’s approach bloatware, but I would have to install all those software manually anyway, and you select exactly what you want to install. You also don’t need an anti-virus on Linux — it’s not recommended because an anti-virus requires root privileges and could be hacked, and thus is more of a potential threat than what it solves.

Garuda also comes with a privacy-oriented fork of FireFox called FIreDragon. Garuda has lots of tweaks and optimizations built-in as-if a hacker power-user had spent weeks configuring and fine-tuning your personal computer. Or course, you can override their choices and install the apps of your choice, but it’s good to have someone showing you the best options when you don’t know what’s available.

You can read the rest of the features of both Zorin OS and Garuda on their websites and in review videos. The focus of this article is to provide the results of my investigation, not to repeat what’s already written on their websites.

Video review of Garuda Linux

Garuda official website

Cross-Platform Development

Here are some notes for those interested in cross-platform programming.

The combination of .NET + Avalonia + JetBrains Rider (free license for Open Source; install from their Toolbox App not from package manager) works great on Linux. Programming with Avalonia is similar to Microsoft WPF but better designed.

Avalonia uses ReactiveUI MVVM platform by default, with Splat for dependency injection by default. They say that most Dependency Injection frameworks are designed for web applications and that their initialization time and memory usage is too high for mobile apps, and Splat claims radical performance improvement. Avalonia will soon support Android, iOS and WebAssembly on top of Windows, Linux and MacOS. Avalonia v1.0 will be coming out soon with a stable API.

On my side, I’m porting generic components from WPF to Avalonia. MvvmDialogs is absolutely necessary to manage windows and popups and had no replacement yet. I have just ported it to Avalonia on my fork, which will be pulled back to the main code branch once the testing, documentation and fine-tuning is done.

I have also ported my Media Player control from WPF to also support Avalonia, audio-only for now. It’s now using BASS for cross-platform support, and for pitch-shifting, it seems to provide better quality than the previous implementation. Video support is missing from Avalonia, and I plan to port MPV video player support to Avalonia using the same visual interface, but that’s not for now.

On my side, the 432hz Player is nearly ready with Windows/Linux/MacOS support. Then the Powerliminals Player will come shoftly after. It’s the generic shared components that take a lot of time to port. Once that’s done, the applications themselves are pretty simple to port.

Moving forward!

Etienne Charland, Emergence Guardian
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