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Ric Ford

With the end of Microsoft's support for Windows 7, Ubuntu has begun posting a helpful series of Linux migration guides.
Ubuntu said:
How to upgrade from Windows 7 to Ubuntu – Hardware and software considerations
This series will cover the following topics:
  • Preparation for the migration – In the first installment here, we will cover the options available to Windows 7 users, the necessary checklist of steps before the actual migration, and the data backup ahead of the change.
  • Installation of Ubuntu – In essence, Ubuntu is an operating system, just like Windows. This guide will go through the different scenarios by which the Windows 7 users will be able to install Ubuntu on their machine. The operating system installation is not a trivial process, especially for users without prior knowledge in this domain, and we want to make this part of the journey as seamless as possible.
  • Post-install configuration – Once Ubuntu is installed, the user will need to familiarize themselves with the new operating system, the layout of the desktop, the applications, and other settings that form part of the day-to-day desktop usage. For many people, the question of whether they will be able to continue using their apps is a critical one, and we will pay special care to this aspect of the overall experience.

Ric Ford

The next Linux kernel update looks like a big one with a lot of features:
Phoronix said:
Linux 5.6 Is Looking Like It Will Be Spectacular With A Long List Of Features

Among the work that's slated to land with Linux 5.6 includes:

- WireGuard finally going into the mainline kernel for this secure VPN tunnel.​
- Initial USB4 support thanks to Intel's open-source developers. ...​
- Btrfs Async Discard support for better TRIM/discard performance on SSDs with Btrfs. ...​
- Open-source NVIDIA RTX 2000 "Turing" graphics support with hardware acceleration albeit dependent on firmware binary blobs that have yet to be published. ...​
- Continued Intel graphics work on Tiger Lake and Elkhart Lake among other improvements. ...​
- Supporting more Logitech drivers with the input driver code maintained by the community. ...​
- More AVX/AVX2/AVX-512 optimizations within the kernel's crypto code. ...​
BleepingComputer said:
Linux Kernel 5.6 Source Tree Includes WireGuard VPN
The lean-coded, fast, modern, and secure WireGuard VPN protocol has made it into the Linux kernel as Linus Torvalds merged it into his source tree for version 5.6.

#security #VPN #WireGuard

Ric Ford

I was never able to get Linux working on a 2018 MacBook Pro, but it apparently works very nicely on Dell's XPS 13, which is getting Intel's latest processors to go with excellent screen options, long battery life, etc.
Ars Technica said:
Dell’s 2019 XPS 13 DE: As close as we currently get to Linux-computing nirvana
... after spending a few weeks with the latest XPS 13 (the fourth refresh I've tested), it's hard to shake the feeling that this is the closest any company has come to Linux-computing nirvana. The XPS 13 Developer Edition makes an excellent choice for anyone who prefers Linux but wants hardware support from the manufacturer. All these years into its Linux odyssey, Dell continues to stand behind the operating system on these machines in a way that, in my experience, few other computer makers do.

... a Dell with Ubuntu is a totally acceptable choice as well.
If you choose to run a Linux distribution that puts out frequent releases (like Ubuntu or Fedora, which issue releases every 6 months), be prepared to install these updates as they are released because support for older releases is dropped just as frequently.

If this is not to your liking, a distribution that has an "LTS" (long-term support) release may be more to your liking. These releases are typically created every 2-3 years and are usually supported for at least five years.

According to Ubuntu's release schedule, the current LTS release is 18.04 (released in April 2018) and will be supported until 2022, with extended support until 2028. The next Ubuntu release will be 20.04 (to be released this coming April).

Fedora doesn't have an LTS release, but Fedora's R&D work is used by Red Hat for their Red Hat Enterprise and CentOS products, both of which have extremely long-term release and support schedules. The current version of these is 8, released in September 2019 and will be fully supported until May 2024, with maintenance updates until May 2029.

Also popular for those who require long-term stability is Debian, whose current release (10) was released in July 2019. Debian provides security updates until a year after the next release, with "LTS" support for about two years beyond that, to ensure at least five years of support after the next release. There is also a third-party organization providing extended LTS support for those who require support beyond five years.

For myself, I am more concerned with a computer that "just works" than one on the bleeding edge of technology, so I prefer to install an LTS distribution. I usually install either the latest Debian or Ubuntu LTS release on my systems.

Ric Ford

Here are two websites that might be helpful for finding/trying Linux "distros":
Jason Evangelho said:
Try These 2 Things Before Choosing Your Desktop Linux OS
... When you browse to, you’re greeted with a simple landing page that gets straight to the point, using language that everybody can understand.

What’s an operating system? What is open source? What is Linux? Why should you try it? He takes the technical jargon out of the arguments and delivers an explainer that takes less than 60 seconds to read. Then the site invites you to answer a handful of easy questions, and recommends several Linux distribution that meets your needs based on those responses.

... DistroTest now serves up a staggering 269 operating systems, and there’s nothing to install locally; no guesswork required. You simply search for the distribution you’d like to test out, and choose a version (if in doubt, go for the newest one, which should appear at the top of the results).

Distrotest loads up the operating system on a virtual machine from their servers, and pops up a new window where you can try it “live” or install it to virtual, temporary hard drive.

I'm a fan of the Cinnamon desktop and Mint, because it is based on the Long Term Support release of Ubuntu.

In terms of "easy" and "friendly to newbies", Mint's about as close as it comes. Whether coming from Mac or Windows 7, the UI and UX will be familiar enough to get out of a user's way.

In the past couple of years, Linux developers have added support for a lot of hardware. There are still points of pain, but some internet research should predict whether the computer you're thinking of buying or converting will work.

It's important to be aware that there's often a lag between release of even mainstream hardware and Linux support. I first ran into that with a set of "Linux-friendly" Intel NUCs that wouldn't run Ubuntu when I bought them. They needed kernel updates, which were not long delayed, but as a newbie, I just didn't know that. The latest AMD hardware may present similar issues. It might run on an Arch-based rolling distro, but if it does, you're out on the bleeding edge and may find it not so "easy" or "friendly."

Which distribution do you recommend for a general Linux that is easy to use?
If the goal is to try out different desktop environments, then the easiest thing to do is to install Ubuntu (which uses Gnome 3 by default), then you can add other desktop environments (KDE, LXQt, Budgie, Gnome2/Mate, Xfce) via a simple terminal command and choose desktop environments on login to try them out.

You could even install the Cinamon desktop environment (Mint) by adding a PPA – not quite the same as installing Linux Mint, but most of the way there. I think this is the quickest way to try different desktop environments.

One alternative to straight Ubuntu is to install Pop OS from System 76, which is basically Ubuntu with a number of usability enhancements added (like support for discrete graphics on laptops, firmware management, and better power management). But underneath, it's basically Ubuntu, so you can use it to try different desktop environments as well.

If the goal is to try out different desktop environments, then the easiest thing to do is to install Ubuntu (which uses Gnome 3 by default), then you can add other desktop environments (KDE, LXQt, Budgie, Gnome2/Mate, Xfce) via a simple terminal command and choose desktop environments on login to try them out.
What Tom writes is true, but in my experience trying it, I found the bits and pieces aren't sandboxed and create conflicts when logging across from one desktop environment into another.

To give Linux its best chance:
  • Let the distro's installer have the whole disk and auto-partition
  • SSD, if possible; 4GB RAM or more
  • Use the distro as it comes "from the developer"
  • Only change settings in the developer's UI controls
  • Only add extensions provided by the developer
  • Don't judge a distro by its performance in a VM (e.g. VirtualBox)
  • Don't compare Linux on a computer spared from recycle to your new MacBook Pro; yes, Linux will run well on old hardware, but it won't run its best on old hardware.
There are lots of YouTube "reviews" that walk through how desktop environments look. They don't go very deep but do give an idea. Booting from a LiveUSB is better. Narrow your options with free cloud test "machines" on DistroTest.

Ric Ford

A gaming website covers much more than games in this article about switching from Windows to Linux:
PC Gamer said:
It's surprisingly easy to switch a gaming PC to Linux today
Talking to PC gamers about Linux is always entertaining, because everyone who knows even a little bit about Linux has a different impression. For some it's that other operating system they've vaguely heard of, and they have about as much interest in it as I have in cars (read: not much). For others it's a critical part of their work or infrastructure, or it's the thing their techy friend somehow always manages to bring up in unrelated conversations (ugh, you know how to do everything on the command line, we get it).

Last year I decided to become one of the latter and go all-in on desktop Linux. It opened my eyes to how much Linux has changed over the years, and how outdated the idea of Linux as an OS exclusively for tech nerds really is. Not only was the switch relatively painless, but I'm not missing out on much, either—not even gaming.

Here's what it's like switching from Windows to Linux today, from hardware to software to gaming.

Ric Ford

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Long-Term Support) is a major upgrade to the mainstream Linux distribution, bringing ZFS support, a user interface/shell upgrade (GNOME 3.36), integrity checking for "live" USB/CD boot media, app upgrades (Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice), hardware certification (like "preloaded factory images"), support (not quite complete) for fingerprint readers, "fractional scaling" for displays, and more.
Ubuntu Blog said:
Detailed Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release notes and upgrade instructions are posted here:
Ubuntu Wiki said:
... Maintenance updates will be provided for 5 years until April 2025 for Ubuntu Desktop, Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu Cloud, and Ubuntu Core.

I was never able to get Linux working on a 2018 MacBook Pro, but it apparently works very nicely on Dell's XPS 13, which is getting Intel's latest processors to go with excellent screen options, long battery life, etc.
When the schools abruptly went to online learning, we all of a sudden needed a laptop for our 5th grader. So I pulled out a Dell XPS 13 DE from about 4 years ago. Following the school's recommendation, I set it up with Windows 10 Home. We learned that Windows Home will no longer allow you to set up a machine with only a local login (it demands that it be connected to a Microsoft account), though after set up, you can go in and sever the Microsoft account connection and create a local log-in account. (Why make us go through these extra steps?) But after just a few weeks, we started encountering all sorts of problems.

I realized that since I was the one providing tech support, I didn't need to follow the school's "recommended" configuration. So we wiped the XPS 13 clean and installed Elementary OS on it – have been always wanting to try that distro. The installation was quick and painless. After about 2 weeks so far, nary a complaint. (And it is one of the more visually consistent and pleasing Linux distros.)

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Long-Term Support) is a major upgrade to the mainstream Linux distribution...
And a lot of the Ubuntu based distros are starting to trickle out their 20.04 versions. For the last year or so, I've been quite happy with the Pop OS from System76. The 20.04 [release] improves their "hybrid graphics engine" (for laptops with discrete graphics), and the enhancements to the Pop Shell are quite interesting. I've been trying the new tiling windows feature since the final beta and discovered I quite like how it works. (The Pop Shell is a GNOME extension, so it should work on other GNOME-based systems as well.)

Info from System76:
One of many reviews:

Ric Ford

Finding Linux equivalents to class Mac utilities and procedures is "challenging." For what it's worth, a few raw notes on trying to duplicate basic boot, cloning and encryption operations in Linux (Ubuntu, here):
  • Clonezilla - an ugly old-school, command-line utility you run from a "live USB" or "Live CD" is capable of cloning drives or partitions, including cloning to a disk image (.iso file).
  • partitionmanager from KDE (apt install partitionmanager) can do things that GNOME Disks (default "disk utility" in Ubuntu) doesn't do.
  • GNOME Disks can create encrypted partitions (LUKS). It's very difficult to resize these after they're created.
  • You can use the command line to encrypt the user home directory and also the swap space - using multi-step procedures.
  • I have not yet found a way to clone an unencrypted boot drive to an encrypted boot drive. (But you can create an encrypted system partition during installation from a "live USB".)
  • I have not found any equivalent to the Mac's Option-boot for selecting among startup partitions on a single drive at boot time. (Perhaps arcane GRUB editing is required?)

Ric Ford

I was looking for some other information about Pop OS and saw this support page about switching from macOS to Ubuntu:
System76 Support said:
Switching to Ubuntu From Apple
If you are just coming to Ubuntu from Apple, it can be a little confusing where everything is. Some software will have the same names, while some tasks need different software. Generally, all operating systems accomplish the same functions: running programs, managing files, installing software, watching funny cat videos, sending email, and low-level functions, such as networking, keyboard input, and displaying images.

Ubuntu, included software, and Ubuntu’s default desktop environment, GNOME Shell, will handle most needs. Additional software can be installed, and the desktop environment can be changed to make the experience quite different. We will go through some of the most common operating system tasks, and show where they are located in GNOME Shell.

Ric Ford

Here's an update on Microsoft putting Linux inside Windows:
BleepingComputer said:
What's new in Windows Subsystem for Linux 2.0, coming soon
... Microsoft says that WSL 2 uses virtualization technology to run the Linux kernel within a lightweight utility virtual machine, but it won't be a traditional VM experience with limited resources and reduced integration.

WSL 2 does not have traditional virtual machine limitations such as reduced performance and limited resources. The new virtualization technology also promises better Windows and Linux integration, fast boot times, and it won't require VM configuration or management from your end.

Here's an update on Microsoft putting Linux inside Windows:
Note that Microsoft has supported Linux in Windows for quote some time, but WSL version 1 doesn't create a full VM. The result is that WSL1 isn't as compatible with a generic Linux installation, but it also doesn't prevent third-party hypervisors (e.g. VMWare and VirtualBox) from running at the same time.

Microsoft has a comparison page:

Ric Ford

Here's a review of the new Ubuntu release (20.04):
PC Mag Australia said:
Ubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa)
Ubuntu Linux 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa) is a free, customizable, coherent OS that’s easy to install. If you are looking to try a Linux-based OS, we recommended you start with this excellent distro.

  • Free
  • Elegant, cohesive interface that's easy to navigate
  • Flexible and lightweight install options
  • Smooth performance in testing
  • Extensive customizability
  • Major third-party apps remain unavailable
  • Does not come installed on many devices
  • Can be frustrating to troubleshoot issues

I meant to mention this before, but there's an important connection between the Linux GNOME desktop and the original Macintosh team:
Given the connection between the GNOME File Manger (Nautilus) and Apple, it's too bad that the column view hasn't migrated over. That is the one feature of the Apple Finder that I dearly miss in the Linux environment. (The file manager in the Pantheon DE for Elementary OS has column view, but I think that is the only example.)

Ric Ford

If you have Ubuntu install a Linux update and it breaks something, this procedure can be really helpful (after you use the Shift-boot trick to boot into an earlier kernel):
Karl's Code said:
Reverting to a Previous Kernel
Remove the dodgy kernel
This will remove the broken kernel and drivers, and lets the package manager know that you don’t want it again if you do an update. You should remove the specific broken kernel and it’s headers, don’t remove the super package linux-generic this is the package that Ubuntu uses to upgrade the kernel and headers when they become available. If you remove it you wont get kernel updates automatically and will have to specifically run apt-get to get them.
# use the kernel numbers from previous step to confirm that the broken kernel has been installed
# eg if the currently broken kernel was linux-image-4.4.0-64-generic it should show up in the following command.
dpkg -l | grep linux-image

# remove the broken kernel
sudo apt-get purge linux-image-4.4.0-64-generic

# remove its headers too
sudo apt-get purge linux-headers-4.4.0-64-generic

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