Linux Adventure pt 1: First Look

Coder Radio listeners will know that I started using an Ubuntu workstation a few weeks ago for over about half of my general development work. While it’s true that I can’t do any native iOS or MacOS development on my workstation the majority of my current work tends to fall into one of the following technologies: native Android (Java), Ruby on Rails development (Ruby), Ionic development (JavaScript). Due to the death of my Macbook last week, I’ve spent about a week 100% on Linux at work and it’s really given me some perspective into how much things have changed on desktop Linux since I last used it seriously sometime around 2009.

The machine I’m running is Ubuntu 15.10 on a slim Dell tower with no graphics card and 8GB of Ram – it should be noted that it started with 4GB but I found that I had a spare stick lying around, so I went ahead and pushed it to eight. Overall, the performance has been phenomenal and there have been no obvious speed or animation issues in the Unity desktop.

However, the general UX has been a little more problematic. Many applications have small visual bugs in Unity under the default theme and rounded corners in particular proved problematic, leaving a dark triangle near the edges of the application’s window. I ended up solving this problem by using the GTK Arc-Dark theme. There was also an issue where the cursor kept getting stuck on the loading icon that I had to solve using the GTK Tweak tool.

In terms of actually getting work done, things are going fairly well. Installing my Android and Rails development tool-chains was a breeze with the exception of Postgres, but Postgres tends to be terrible on MacOS as well, so I don’t hold that against Ubuntu. Once I really got down to coding, my JetBrains tools were just like their MacOS versions and Git was well Git.

On the whole, I like the workflow that I’m developing on Ubuntu and am going to stick with it for a while. Another striking aspect of the changeover was how much of my workflow is Chrome dependent rather than being operating system dependent – ie I find myself using a wide variety of web (and particularly Chrome) based software. I expect that my usage of it will evolve as time goes on and as I find more sophisticated Ubuntu applications that fit and expand my workflow.

If you’d like to follow my continued Linux usage and get other development / tech insights, please follow on Twitter.

  • FryDay

    Postgres has always been a pain to install on any OS, lol.

    • For Postgres on Linux, I’ve switched to the official Docker image and I don’t see any reason to look back. 🙂

  • Trace Pearson

    If you can stick it out until mid April it will be interesting to see how much 16.04 addresses your issues.

  • Alecks Gates

    It’s worth pointing out that while you had a few minor issues, you were certainly able to work around them due to the open nature of the software. Imagine if you didn’t have the capability to make those changes at all in a closed system!

    • Great point!

  • Calenulma

    What about the other specs on the machine besides the RAM and integrated graphics?

  • dtoebe

    I understand your issues… I have similar issues going from Linux to OSX, or Windows… It just comes down to finding the right tools and getting comfortable… Its like moving into a new house