Migrating to Linux (Again)

I’m no stranger to Linux. I’ve run numerous distributions since about 1995, even venturing into BSD territory, running FreeBSD and some other Berkeley variants. I’ve also used Linux quite a bit in my professional life for servers. However, I’ve never made the jump to using it as my primary desktop operating system at home; it’s always been a novelty to play with and never a desktop workhorse that I would use to actually get things done.

Linux Mint is a Linux distribution that has become more popular recently. It’s based on the venerable Ubuntu distribution and appears to be taking some market share from Ubuntu. Ubuntu in my opinion went off the tracks with its migration to the Unity desktop.  For the first time recently I hit a brick wall trying to install the latest Ubuntu within a virtual machine.  While Ubuntu was quite polished and arguably had the best usability in the Linux world, I still felt that I was often fighting the operating system to make it work.

ScreenshotLinux Mint seems to have taken care of those issues. Last night I made the plunge and partitioned off some space on my hard disk and installed it so I could dual boot between Windows and Linux. The installation went extremely well and within two hours I was able to browse the web, play videos and hear sound, send email, work on Kicad schematics, compile Arduino code, open Excel and Word docs, do my banking with the same program I used on Windows, and I had amateur radio logging and digital programs installed. The only speed bump was getting my wireless working. I was able to fix that in five minutes after Googling and finding one command line to run. On previous distributions, items like this would take hours to resolve and there would be several of them to deal with. For the first time I feel I have something equivalent to what I had on Windows, and it doesn’t look goofy and didn’t require days of tweaking with arcane command line syntax to make it acceptable. The browser actually renders things like they look on Windows. You install a program and it actually appears in the menu. Quite simply, Linux Mint isn’t a compromise like previous desktop installations.

I’ve often complained about the state of amateur radio open source software. I stand by my previous statements as I think we still don’t have a suite of amateur radio open source software that compares with offerings in Windows, mainly in the areas of logging and contest programs. However, CQRLog has evolved quite a bit and I’ve decided to take a more minimalist approach and see if I can make it work. I still think Ham Radio Deluxe is the gold standard, but lately I’ve become annoyed with its bloat and the commercialization and marketing of it.

I’m still keeping my Windows partition, mainly to run one particular contest program and store my documents (which I access from Linux), but I may eventually run Virtual Box on Linux and have a small Windows installation virtualized to run the contest program rather than booting back into Linux.

Will this be the time I finally run my shack on Linux?  I hope.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com.

10 Responses to “Migrating to Linux (Again)”

  • Matt W1MST:

    I use Ubuntu on a couple of older machines and have never really been satisfied. I think it might be time to take another look at Mint.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    I have Ubuntu on my Laptop after I was so tired of waiting for Vista to do it’s thing and start the laptop. I have been happy with Ubuntu but the laptop is only used for email, blog commenting and surfing the net. I have Wine installed for some Windows program. I have not had any trouble with Wine but it does have it’s limits. At home I have an Imac with Snow Leopard along side Parallel 8 with XP loaded. It allows me to run without any troubles my Windows rig software on the mac. Also when I want to make Bill Gates smile I do have a Windows machine with XP installed.

  • Alex, g7kse:

    Linux has come a long way and is a great operating system. its a shame some of the software hasn’t been brought into line with the look and feel. I run Xastir on my Raspberry Pi and it may be technically as good as its windows alternatives but really it looks like something made in the late 1990’s.

    Just to make it clear, I’m not clever enough to write any programme so I really have no idea what it takes to make software work let alone work well and look nice….thats for the clever people.

  • Alan KE4NU:

    I’ve been tinkering with Linux for several years now. I do agree that open source ham radio programs lag behind windoz based systems. There are a couple of exceptions being the Flidigi suite of apps and cqrlog. Just discovered Zorin 6.2 lite for older machines yesterday. Its based on ubuntu and installed and runs on a old box just fine. It runs the same apps as unbuntu too. To find it goto distrowatch.com. 73 Alan

  • Gary ke2yk:

    Retired UNIX systems engineer. Thanks for the write up on the LINUX remix. Glad to hear that you are working with LINUX on your desktop. After working with LINUX professionally for years (Redhat,BSD,SUSE,UBUNTU), and on the UNIX side (AIX,SOLARIS) I have tried a few distros at home on the desktop and have found that UBUNTU, running the GNOME desktop has worked best for me. Since you mention LINUX Mint again I will take a look another look at it. I have been running Oracle Virtual Box under Ubuntu as my experimental platform. If you guys like LINUX and Ham Radio maybe you want to check LINUX In The Ham Shack over at http://lhspodcast.info. Also check out my article about running Andy’s Ham Radio Remix under Oracle Virtual Box at http://bit.ly/XPloTX
    73, Gary ke2yk

  • It’s day two and I’m having a ball. I “stole” more disk partition space from Windows today and expanded the Linux partition. Gparted (the GUI utility for disk partition manipulation) sure is better than the tools I dealt with years ago 🙂 . Next I’m going to tackle rig control with CQRLog and see if I can get Virtualbox going. Who knows, maybe in a week or two I’ll totally remove the native Windows partition and run just iTunes and the contest program in a little Windows virtual machine.

  • Roger K9LJB:

    I’m not a linux guru at all, but I’ve played with it since Red Hat 5.2. I’ve installed most of the Ubuntu releases since around Ubuntu 4 and I still run 10.4LTS on a machine at work in VirtualBox, but here at home my current main desktop runs Win7-64 with Mint 13 and Win-XP in VMs. I’m really liking Mint for ease of installation and use. I installed Mint on an older laptop for a friend and they seem to like it fine for normal web browsing and email.

  • Baby John, vu2kjb:

    Thank you very much for subscribing me to Amateur Radio.com’s Amateur Radio News Letter.

  • Bill KC5DPJ:

    I am running a dual boot Toshiba Satellite A205. I am running Ubuntu and Linux Mint 17. I have used Wine and installed Ham Radio Deluxe on the Mint portion. I cannot use it as it ask for com port number. I don’t know how to get my usb port to show up as a com port. Any good solutions? I am not a programmer. Thanks.

  • Ed AD7GR:

    I see it’s been a few years since the last comment here but here’s mine:
    I had one BoD too many and many issues following Microsoft updates so I installed Linux Mint Cinnamon 18.3 on my HP Pavilion p6-2133W desktop. Win-7 is no more. It’s been a bit of a learning curve but I am very glad I made the move. This is my machine for all my computer work: email, browsing, office, ham radio, etc. even though there is a very poor ham radio software selection available. Linux Mint is the way to go.

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