Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro focusing on cloud computing, Kubernetes, Linux, containers, and networking

The Linux Migration: December 2018 Progress Report

In December 2016, I kicked off a migration from macOS to Linux as my primary laptop OS. Throughout 2017, I chronicled my progress and challenges along the way; links to all those posts are found here. Although I stopped the migration in August 2017, I restarted it in April 2018 when I left VMware to join Heptio. In this post, I’d like to recap where things stand as of December 2018, after 8 months of full-time use of Linux as my primary laptop OS.

I’ll structure this post roughly as a blend of the formats I used in my April 2017 and July 2017 progress reports.

Hardware

Readers may recall that I was using a Dell Latitude E7370 (see my E7370 hardware review) up until August 2017, when I put the Linux migration on hold indefinitely due to productivity concerns. Upon moving to Heptio, I switched to a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (see here for my review of the X1 Carbon—the “TL;DR” is that I love it). In my home office, the X1 Carbon connects to a USB-C expansion hub that provides connectivity to a 34” 21:9 ultrawide curved monitor, external HD webcam, and a USB headset for Zoom meetings. I also recently converted my Mac Pro to Linux as well (see this post for details); that’s a workstation with dual quad-core Xeon CPUs, 24GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and a 700GB PCIe SSD from Micron, also connected to a 34” 21:9 ultrawide curved monitor.

Linux Distribution

Early (very early) in the migration I thought I would end up using Ubuntu 16.04, but I switched to Fedora and haven’t looked back. I started with Fedora 25 on the E7370, switching to Fedora 27 on the X1 Carbon and later upgrading to Fedora 28. The Mac Pro started out with Fedora 27 (this post outlines the reasons why) and was upgraded to Fedora 28.

Applications

By and large, application usage remains mostly unchanged from earlier:

  • Markdown: I switched from Sublime Text to Visual Studio Code, but otherwise my Markdown workflows remain largely the same. I still use Markdown for the vast majority of my content creation.
  • Browsing: While I have Google Chrome installed, I use Firefox for the vast majority of my browsing (I don’t care for the changes Chrome made with regard to signing you into the browser when you sign into Google). I make regular use of the Firefox Multi-Account Containers add-on to streamline some browser-based workflows while also protecting my privacy.
  • Chat/Instant messaging: I continue to use the Slack Linux client and Pidgin. For IRC—though I rarely use it these days—I have HexChat, as before.
  • Cloud storage/sync: GNOME offers built-in integration for Google Drive, and I’m still using Dropbox for non-confidential information. I’ll probably have to start using ODrive again for access to OneDrive.
  • Basic office productivity: I’m still using LibreOffice, though it’s a newer version.
  • Graphics: No changes here, except some occasional use of LibreOffice Draw.
  • Mind mapping: I’m still using XMind, and still evaluating whether a Pro license is needed or not. I haven’t had a strong need for the extra features yet.
  • E-mail: I continue to use Thunderbird, and I resolved the nagging performance concerns that I noted during the July 2017 progress report (these appear to have been caused by some TCP timeouts related to the NAT configuration on my ASA 5505). I’ve settled on IMAP/SMTP for all e-mail access. Having recently re-joined VMware via the Heptio acquisition, I’m currently using TbSync with the Active Sync add-on for calendar and contacts access (it also provides access to the Global Address List). The TbSync CalDAV/CardDAV provider enables access to the existing CalDAV- and CardDAV-based sync service I’m using on my mobile devices, providing a smoother user experience.
  • Task management: Aside from switching from Sublime Text to Visual Studio Code, this solution remains the same (plain text-based files on Dropbox, changes reconciled via a graphical diff program).
  • Calendaring/time management: I gave up on GNOME Calendar and settled for leveraging Lightning inside Thunderbird. Via the TbSync add-on, I have access to corporate and personal calendars. Access to Google Calendar (which is what we were using at Heptio) was and is problematic; I managed to get read-only access from Thunderbird, but read/write access was only through the web interface.
  • Password management: I switched back to 1Password, leveraging the 1Password X add-on for Firefox for access from my Linux systems.
  • Corporate connectivity: This wasn’t needed at Heptio, but now that I’m back at VMware I’m back to using the Linux client for VMware Horizon and vpnc (with integration into GNOME) for VPN connectivity.
  • Social media: I’m just using the Twitter web site; with the API changes, there aren’t really any other options on Linux.

So what’s working well with this configuration?

  • Calendar access via TbSync seems to work really well; I’m really pleased that the CalDAV/CardDAV provider for TbSync works as seamlessly as it does.
  • As I mentioned above, the performance issues I was seeing with e-mail seem to have been resolved. I’m not seeing the same lockups and delays that I was seeing in 2017.
  • Switching to the Materia theme for GNOME/GTK has relieved the eyestrain issues I reported in my July 2017 update.

What’s not working well?

  • Now that I’m back at VMware via the Heptio acquisition, I’m moving back into a Microsoft-heavy environment. I anticipate I’ll run into compatibility issues between LibreOffice and Office 365, as I did before, though there is a chance that the newer version of LibreOffice will work better. It’s still too early to tell yet.

Where I Still Use macOS

With the migration of my Mac Pro to Fedora 28, that leaves my 2017 MacBook Pro as the only remaining macOS-based system. I will still use it for podcast recording, viewing archived e-mail, and viewing documents in formats that I couldn’t/didn’t translate to a Linux equivalent (OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and MindNode, primarily). I’ll also use it to transcode media into industry-standard formats (MP3 and MP4/H.264) that my Linux systems can use. Aside from that, it sees very little regular use.

Summary

Through a combination of technology-related improvements in various applications plus personal growth on my part, I’ve been able to make Linux my full-time primary laptop OS since April 2018. Hopefully, moving back to VMware and its Microsoft-centric environment won’t present the same kind of insurmountable hurdles I saw last time. Time will tell whether my hopes are valid, but I do want to do a better job of keeping readers informed about how things are going overall. As always, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I encourage you to contact me on Twitter.

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