A short walk down the memory lane
I got introduced to Linux based distribution( Ubuntu) more than a decade ago. Back then I used to order the Ubuntu CDs and waited weeks for them to arrive. The thrill of trying out something other than Windows was quite something. Compound that with old hardware, the joy of being able to run an OS that was fast was immense joy. Quickly after went into the world of Arch + XMonad. It was great.
It was a lot of fun to tweak stuff and get things working on my pretty old desktop for when I couldn’t quite afford the latest tech. But as I moved to US, and affordability increased I some how still stuck to using Arch. But the state of desktops hasn’t improved as much as I hoped over the course of time. And I continued to run my ever reliable XMonad.
One of the main reasons for continually using ArchlinuxArchlinux is just my flavor of Linux distro I am used to but I actually mean linux distro in general. was XMonad. When I learned about it, it was fun. The idea of auto tiling felt elite. In theory having the window manager take care of window management made sense. And tweaking the xmonad config was fun but over time I have realized that the tiling was more of a hinderance than a performance gain. I know I would be upsetting a lot of people who swear by TWMTiling Window Manager of their choice. Well more power to them. After running XMonad exclusively for ~10years that I have been using Archlinux it has come time to sever ties.
Why I no longer like XMonad or concept of TWMs
TWM are great if your usage of GUI apps are limited. It just dawned on me that in the years that I used XMonad, I have spent majority of the time trying to tweak XMonad and my system. Every time I set out to do something I encountered a new scenario or workflow that my XMonad config wasn’t configured to handle elegantly. Thereby taking me into a journey of spending time on reddit, #xmonad on irc, google etc. Essentially getting distracted away from my actual task into tweaking my xmonad/system.
Also turns out that I am a stacker, as much as I have tried to bury that for the past ~10 years of using XMonad. If there was one thing that felt XMonad lacked it was that it didn’t have a sane floating layout, which is anti-TWM pattern.
Trying out Desktop Environments
They say old habits don’t wade easily. Well that is true, I got into XMonad for the very same reason I moved to Linux. To get a fast, snappy experience and TWM were great when you are counting your memory. As I got more and more powerful laptops I still stuck with XMonad. But since I discovered that I no longer found joy in tweaking my XMonad I have tried almost all the DE out there(Gnome, Cinamon, LXDE, KDE, LXQT, XFCE). None other than Gnome provided a good out of the box experience to me. But Gnome still has/had problems of its own.
Hell of X or Wayland. Desktop Environments are moving to Wayland but Wayland IMO is nowhere near ready for prime time at least not for users who have Nvidia graphics card. So if I need to connect to external monitor I need to switch to X and if I want a nice experience have to switch back to Wayland. This is as tiring I as I am making it sound. Not to mention after a while it gets annoying.
Without rambling for paragraphs on… I will just leave it at- desktop on Linux still has a long way to go. And just when you think it has reached a level of stability it reboots- Yes I am looking at you Gnome.
Choosing out of the box experience
Tweaking was fun during the early days of my undergrad. When it was interesting and I had time but right now it is no longer fun. I just want to open my laptop do my stuff and get out. I don’t want to spend hours tweaking stuff and poring various blog posts just to get a 10minutes more of battery life. This is where I feel Apple has just nailed. The eco-system is so geared to provide great user experience. Having said that I am currently in the process of evaluating which Macbook to buy. Macbook Air or the maxed out Macbook pro. I have used Macbook in the past I know how good the ecosystem is. And regret having chosen to get back to using Arch+XMonad with purchase of Thinkpad X1Extreme. Partially I still blame Apple because that was the time that they thrusted touch bar onto the users who wanted to buy a Mac. And like many I just couldn’t stand the touch bar and butterfly keyboard.
As a programmer/software developer or even a normal user I want to just open my laptop do work that I wanted to and move on. But with Archlinux1 + XMonad there is always a distraction act going on in the background. Anytime I open a new app, I go into this loop of tweaking my XMonad config or some other program config. I have started to appreciate Apple eco system where everything just works seamlessly. Apple devices sync-up well. Handover between devices is an experience you can keep hoping for outside Apple eco-system. Something that you will not know you are missing until you experience it. And the counter argument for choosing Apple which is high premium is completely justified for what they offer IMO.
I have been a some what loyalist to running Linux on my laptops but poor battery performance and requiring constant effort from the user to have a usable system is in my opinion something one shouldn’t have to do.
Back to windows for time being
For the first time in a very long time I am back to using Windows 11 full time on the Thinkpad and not having a dial boot option.
Windows 11 is ok and because I still want the power of Linux command line I have settled for using WSL. To my surprise it is actually pretty decent. Totally can live with it until I make the move to Mac.
Archlinux is just my flavor of Linux distro I am used to but I actually mean linux distro in general.↩︎