Experiences of a 50+ year old first-time Linux user

I had dabbled in Linux a few years back and followed the route of so many others, starting my journey into Linux with Mint OS. I did not document my journey, but I am going to, in general and broad terms, describe my overall experiences and impressions for those who, like I did, decide to plunge into Linux. I am a media guy by trade, mostly on the management and operations side of things. I am not a tech expert and I did find terminal command line work a tiny bit intimidating early on. That said, I’ve spent YEARS working in both Apple’s iOS and Windows’ various incarnations. I have used Android phones for the last several years, breaking with Apple iPhones due to frustrating tech support issues and hardware issues that Apple would not address on fairly new phones. So that’s my introduction to this piece.

I had a lot of aging computers lying around and decided to get some use out of them as travel computers, clunkers, beaters, gifts to folks like my brother who refuses to buy his own, but who is addicted to an Apple iPad. In researching how to convert those gen 3 and gen 4 i3 and i5 processors to a machine that would work, I dove into Linux. Mint was my starting point.

Remember, I am a USER, not a programmer, a hacker, etc. I found Mint perfectly acceptable, even good, but there was a lot I could see happening “under the hood.” Long command strings of text would appear at startup. Working inside Mint was not always fun for me. I like to work INSIDE of a GUI, not outside of one. Spoiled by Apple in the early days, I guess. I think a lot of Mint, but I found that its aging theme and layouts were a little too Windows XP for me. I stuck with it for a few months before folding the computer up and going back to my Gen 9 i7 running Windows 10.

After a bit, I decided to give it another go with a more basic but newer model running a Celeron processor. I dropped Zorin on it, opting for the “paid” version for $40 so I could mimic a Mac OS interface. This, I found, was a major upgrade for me from Mint. The layout, the way the GUI worked, the software repository… This is where I began to REALLY believe I could chuck Mac OS and Windows completely. But…

While I think a LOT of Zorin, I do not find it perfect. Sometimes it can be slow to load certain things. After periods of inactivity (sleep), it sometimes is glitchy and requires a reboot. So I decided this was due to hardware limitations and I did an install on a gen 8 i7 laptop. I must say, the experience was improved somewhat, but was still not perfect. That said, I was satisfied that it was something I liked well enough to call my primary OS.

Due to some strange events, a few “new” older laptops found their way into my study. One was a gen 8 i3 Dell with 8GB of RAM. It seemed like a good place to start something new.

On it, I dropped Ubuntu. I was instantly not a fan. I think Ubuntu is GREAT and it is the platform of SO many distros out there. Yet I found it was not as friendly for working (for me) the way Zorin was. I played with it for a few days and decided to go bare bones and I dropped Elementary OS on it. That proved regressive. Elementary is much better for those who like to work in the command line, who like to be frugal with system resources, who want total control of all of their computer’s processes. I do not. I want ease of use and reliability.

Setting aside Elementary OS, I gave Pop! OS a try. By contrast to my previous two experiments, Pop! OS was a stunning success. I LOVED it immediately. As I dove deeper and deeper into it, there were some quirks that caused some frustration, one being the dock. I read a lot about GNOME Shell Extensions (https://extensions.gnome.org/) and worked with that to customize my dock the way I liked it. I think I ended up with Cosmic dock. The process there was not intuitive and it took a lot of fiddling to get it the way I wanted it, but it worked in the end and I was totally satisfied with that experiment.

I would also note that I HATE Google’s spyware, including Chrome. But I am too committed to it to back out. My life is in there. I have found it frustrating to install it into a few distros, but I was able to work through those issues with some trial and error. If memory serves, getting it into Zorin was the most frustrating, followed by Pop! Yet I am typing in it now on my Zorin laptop.

So what’s the point of all of this? To say that, as a new Linux user with less than a year under my belt of real use, I find Pop! OS and Zorin OS to be among the easiest to use and to get running out of the box. I also tip my hat to Mint. It’s a good distro with an incredible support network.

If you’re new to the world of Linux and you just want to run a distro that works and that you don’t have to spend countless hours learning, my recommendation based on my experiences with the named distros (Zorin, Pop, Elementary, Mint, Ubuntu), my preference would be:

  1. Zorin - best for basic computer users using decent hardware
  2. Pop! OS - an interesting and customizable system that has great support and allows productive work.
  3. Mint OS (Cinnamon) - a rock solid platform with a dated design and theme, but that will be familiar to most users.
  4. Ubuntu - Best for power users, customizers, programmers and fiddlers.
  5. Elementary OS - bare bones. Great for older hardware.

Some distros I plan to play with:
Nitrux
Raspberry Pi
Manjaro

Will report back once I do that!

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Fishyaker, I have to say that it’s a refreshing change to hear from a USER rather than the usual and very knowledgeable folks in this forum. While they are, with very few exceptions, really nice folks who are more patient than punitive, I sometimes feel very dumb in their company.

I’ve been using computers since the early 60’s, very much like you describe, and have become fairly adept at USING them, not making them work. The command line still makes me nervous–as long as someone tells me what to type, I’m fine; Copy and Shift/Paste are my friends.

I usually end up going back to Mint after playing with other distros–with three hard drives and Grub Customizer, I can juggle three at a time. Have you loaded Boxes? It’s a pretty simple virtual machine that’s normally available in a Ubuntu repository. Also take a look at Ventoy–it lets you fill a USB stick with live ISOs so you can try various distros and even install them if you like.

I’m currently typing within Firefox (it IS possible to divorce Google/Chrome)on a distro called Voyager, a very interesting respin in the Ubuntu world. I’ve sampled Rolling Rhino, another Ubuntu twist, and I’m about to install the beta of Fedora 36 and play in the rpm world for a bit.

My wife is finding Zorin pretty easy on her laptop, but neither of us was particularly thrilled with Pop!OS because it wants to dominate the computer and not play nicely with other distros. It was a real pleasure to hear your story.

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@fishyaker
Over the years I have tried and installed distros from Gentoo to Ubuntu. If you really want to
experience Linux, via the command line, then try an install of either LFS or Gentoo, all other
distros are very much the same, with there own little quirks. I have finally settled down to using
PCLinuxOS for my daily driver, although one can always, usually learn something from any
Linux install.

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I keep a number of thumb drives equipped with distros… Ventoy is a friend of mine!

A 50+ user here too. It’s my profession though, so I’ll probably have different preferences.

It’s nice to have lots of distros available to install. Everyone likes something just a bit different. Sometimes it seems like too much choice.

The first distro I tried was Mandrake. I used Ubuntu quite a bit several years ago and had to get used to the Unity interface. Then I think I used Mint (Cinnamon) for a bit. Elementary matured about that time and I used it for a few years. I don’t care for the flatpak use in the latest release, but it’s still a good one.

Now I’m back to Ubuntu. I think they are probably the Microsoft of the Linux world. It’s easy to bash Microsoft, but it worked on almost everything. Ubuntu is like that. If you had to bet on a distro that would work on some random hardware, I think I’d bet on Ubuntu.

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Hi,
Please add openSuse to your list of distros to be tried… _:slight_smile:

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Hey, man, I got you beat! I started with Linux at 66 (actually, I dabbled a bit 20 years ago when I took a course on operating systems at the Community College. Therein lies a tale!) after a career in multicultural arts education. From 2004 to now, I have been making all my income teaching English, first in Thailand and now online to Russians (therein lies a better tale!).
As for distros, I tried about 10, and quickly settled on Mint and Ubuntu Maté (they really ought to add that accent).

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So it not Australian slang . Can you explain the derivation?

Maté

It’s a southern, South American beverage… Mostly in Argentina I believe… But maybe also southern Brazil… gaucho culture I think?

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So Spanish.
Maybe we could have an Aussie DTE named after a beer.

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Not aware of any Aussie DTE, and not being a beer drinker, not sure how much I could help (I prefer cider, or red wine). Tell a lie, sometimes when I’m at a gig (I love live music, mostly metal), it’s often easier, and cheaper, to buy “bush chooks” by the can (tinny). This is a WA beer called “Emu Export”, but we just call them “bush chooks” (Aussie nickname for the emu). I guess its roughly equivalent to Melbourne’s “Victoria Bitter” - and note to all the non-Aussies, Australians NEVER EVER EVER drink that Foster’s Lager swill - it’s a disgrace, I’d rather drink bong water, or hot dog water :smiley:

The closest thing I’ve found to an Aussie distro, is / was, Puppy Linux, was developed / built by Barry Kauler, here in Perth West Oz… Barry was a lecturer at Edith Cowan Uni when I was there, he was from the School of Engineering at ECU… Also the author of a pretty good book on x86 assembly language…

Anyway - Barry was probably a good 10+ years older than me (and I’m 60), he’s “retired” from managing Puppy Linux, and left it in the hands of other maintainers :smiley:

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Your post made me happy! I am a camper and the only thing Foster’s is good for is making a camping cooking pot of the can. Love you Ozzie’s but I do not like Puppy OS. I didn’t do a heavyweight test but I played with it for 10 minutes and decided it offered nothing I hadn’t found. No disrespect to you or Oz or anyone intended. Thanks for your post and g’day mate!

None taken… I don’t use Puppy Linux myself, nor have I ever even test driven it for more than a couple of hours… I’ve never had a use for it… Always had a powerful enough system to drive a full blown desktop (either Unity or Gnome)…

Back in the day, I had a fabulous Aussie brew called Tooth Sheaf Stout. It was later renamed Sheaf Stout, but it has been a long time since I have even seen it on a shelf.

I do occasional drink stout, usually either Coopers, or Guinness… sometimes from “longnecks” (700 ml bottles)… I have some stout in my fridge right now, “Boatrockers” (from Melbourn), it’s not as nice as Coopers or Guinness though…

I can remember Tooth’s Brewery. They either folded or were absorbed by someone else.
I spent a slice of my youth in Western Queensland. The only beer you could get there was XXXX. That might be a good DTE name… probably copyrighted.

XXXX Gold is a mid-strength - i.e. 3.5%

If I’m drinking midstrength beer, that’s my poison of choice…

Right now - on my 2nd glass of cheap shonky red (Merlot, still out of a bottle, not a goon bag)…

I haven’t touched any alcohol in over 20 years now. After I retired from millwright work, on the road,
did not have any buddies to drink with, so I just gave it up, not all for me, but also my home life. It
does seem as if ya’ll had some very colorful drink names to chose from!!!

What does a millwright do? Sounds mechanical.
I dont drink any more either, unless you count caffeine.
Pubs are part of the culture in rural Aust.

Interesting discussion. We did a coach tour of England, Wales, and Scotland about seven years ago and made a practice of having our nightly pints drawn from the local ales and stouts–I particularly remember a Black Thistle stout in Inverness. Home in Oregon, I prefer Terminator or Obsidian Stout. Local small batch beer is always the best.

Not so with distros. The ones that piss me off the most are the ones that take over Grub and elbow out any other distros trying to coexist on my machine. Pop!OS is pretty rude, and I’m finding that Fedora is just as invasive. PCLinuxOS and most of the Ubuntu family are much more polite. I think I’ll replace Fedora with Kubuntu, to add a KDE experience to the mix.

And check out Kona Brewing from Hawaii–they make some killer stuff.

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