I've toyed on an off with Linux as as my desktop OS since the early 2000's (yikes getting old) but never managed to make it stick. It is always Photoshop, SolidWorks or maybe a game that brings me back to Windows.
Why I Switched from Windows
Debian is customisable.
I enjoy hacking around with my OS, modifying my desktop and learning how things work. I've done it since I was a boy playing with Workbench on my Amiga A600.
I have tried many distros but always end up with Debian. Even though I use the non-free packages I love their ethos, and of course the stability. I run it on nearly all my servers and it makes me feel geeky to be able to use the same OS on my servers as my desktop.
Photoshop & Office
There was a time I could not live without the desktop Outlook client, but now use just Gmail. Although desktop Excel is still nice sometimes - I use a lot of spreadsheets and csv files - I can easily ditch Office and go all in on Google Workspace. Photoshop I had an adventure with trying to get working nicely in a VM.
I don't like libreoffice, the GUI makes me sad.
Lift and shift to cloud
I realised I do pretty much everything in the browser anyway and the odd terminal. When 90% can be done in the browser the OS really shouldn't matter :-)
And if I'm ditching Photoshop and Office and using Google Workspace, which comes with 4TB of storage, I can put all my files there and just need a little mindset adjustment to work on any office documents "from the cloud" rather than the local copy.
My workstation runs Windows 11 fine, but I did have to swap browsers to Brave recently as Chrome could no longer cope with 100+ tabs (I need them all, honest). My windows install was a couple of years old and a bit laggy with all the cruft that accumulates.
A minimal Debian install should be faster.
Click click click
I have a old but decent Dell Xeon workstation with additional drives and dual GTX 1050 Ti cards. I never check if everything is supported, that's part of the fun :-) But as it's older hardware it was all fine. I didn't bother trying to connect using wireless.
I downloaded a minimal netinst iso and installed Debian stable with KDE. I spent a while messing around with bios settings for secure boot and TPM. When I got it nearly all working on X11 I
dist-upgrade to unstable and swapped over to Wayland and Nvidia drivers.
It would be nice to have an image with Sid and the non-free firmware on, but I think going from Stable to testing to unstable is the recommended install path.
Now I have a modern desktop OS with fancy features.
The only real hardware change I had to make was splitting the software RAID-0 I had across four drives in Windows to separate drives in Linux. I have /, /home, /var and /win (for the Windows VM) each on their own drive now.
My Triple Monitor 2023 Setup
The performance is very, very good and I can notice the snappiness over Windows 11. Even in the unstable branch of Debian everything feels rock solid. I remember more bugs when I last tried unstable. I think I caught KDE just as they added decent multi-monitor support in Wayland.
Brave is running the exact same amount of tabs and pages feel to be loading faster. Dragging windows between screens, snapping to edges and setting opacity using the middle mouse button all work flawlessly with no tearing.
Debian Sid & KDE
- Debian Sid
- NVidia drivers
Left to right in order of the icon on the taskbar, spanning all monitors. I weirdly work with the left screen as my main monitor instead of the middle monitor because of the setup in my garden office.
Lots of Chrome/Brave "apps"
Screen 1 - Brave
Brave with a lot of tabs including Canva and Photopea as shortcuts.
- Visual Studio Code (lol Microsoft on Debian)
- VMWare Workstation (not really needed but nice to have)
Screen 2 - Chat & Terminals
Screen 3 - Analytics
- Analytics dashboards
Setup & things I love
Scrolling was not great, if I quickly mouse wheel down a page then there was a small lag where you see just white background, then the page draws.
Turns out I just needed to enable Smooth Scrolling in Chrome / Brave.
A big deal to me, font's used to be a bit of a pain. Basically they looked a bit crap in Linux 10 years ago. I think those days are long gone, and KDE & Brave look crisp and beautiful.
I Love Widgets
There are so many little tweaks I can make to the desktop that I don't ever want to go back now. I really like the panels and widgets in KDE - having a unique taskbar for each screen fits my workflow. Each screen has it's own panel with just it's own application links.
Built in calculator widget.
Controls that actually work with Soundcloud (all I use now for music) are a joy.
Spectacle for screenshots
KDE apps really are very good. The screenshot app Spectacle just works, and has loads of nice features including simple annotation.
Dolphin is a lovely file browser, with tabs and split windows.
Google Drive is a must have for me so I paid for InSync to have a decent two-way sync client. It's a shame that Open Source has given so much to Google but they can't be arsed to give a free GDrive client back to Linux. I gave up Onedrive and dumped everything in Google Drive as I didn't want to buy another licence and I have 4TB with Google.
I have GIMP installed and am getting used to it (the Photoshop shortcut pack helps) but I still occasionally need Photoshop and InDesign. This lead me down a rabbit hole of GPU pass-through fun with identical, dual NVIDIA cards - and then testing virtualbox, qemu, libvirt & virt-manager.
I split out the second GPU, assigned it the stub driver on boot (it was fun to put a script in the ramboot drive to beat Nvidia) and assigned it as the passthrough GPU in virt-manager. Yay, it boots and works... sort of. I still couldn't get OpenGL working.
And I don't want a whole monitor dedicated to the VM, I want Photoshop as a window in my workflow.
I wasted hours trying to get Open GL and hardware acceleration working with Qemu / virt-manager / libvert / virtualbox but nothing worked for me. Virtualbox was the easiest to setup and OpenGL was working, but Photoshop was buggy with black boxes and artifacts all over the place.
I suspected that the curse of Nvidia on Linux was in full force and that I wasn't going to get it working. I gave in and downloaded the trial of VMware Workstation and it just... worked.
Will I Stick with Debian or Crawl Back to Windows?
Only time will tell, normally the Adobe suite drags me back to Windows. I usually manage a couple of months in Linux before switching back to Windows but this time feels different. KDE is rock solid, everything I need is working and I do love geeking out modifying my desktop.
I'm also using Photopea a lot now, it's very good for quick everyday tasks and mimics Photoshop so you don't have to learn anything new.
Interesting that ditching Windows cost me £100+ for Insync and VMware.
Next I need to get Stellaris working , but my OCD doesn't want i386 packages cluttering up my nice clean install at the moment :-)
One Week Update
It's been a bit longer than a week and I've had a few wobbly moments when working and something in Linux isn't isn't as "nice" as in Windows, but I've found a new tool or changed my workflow. It's always Photoshop calling me back.
Photopea is surprisingly good, I really must remember to pay to support the dev. GIMP I am sorry but is not for me. There is no ML assisted subject selection which I use all the time. The "foreground selection" tool is not intuitive or quick or... good.
I had a bit of a crisis of confidence when I thought I would be running Photoshop with no hardware acceleration, but performance in VMware is very good. However I'm not really using the VM now and just using Photopea when I need to.
I also switched to a dark theme, don't know what I was thinking using light.
One Month Update
I upped the default font size from Noto 10pt to 11pt and it made a massive difference. I didn't realise I was concentrating more because the text was a bit small for my old eyes in the KDE bits.
- Dark mode
- 11pt font size
- Love KDE and KDE apps
- Cloud based, could work from a Chromebook & terminal
- Editing documents through Google Docs
- No Photoshop, just Photopea
- Removed Vmware Workstation
- Still using Visual Studio Code lol
- Workspace finally locked in, with KDE starting windows automatically in the position I want them.
I binned off the VM and Photoshop. Fuck you Adobe for not releasing a Linux client in all these years. I am getting by with Photopea as GIMP does not have "Subject Select" which is basically all I use Photoshop for.
I've had some Photoshop pangs, but I remind myself how little I use it. And Photopea is pretty awesome.
I've not installed any games yet, I still have a nice clean install with only the packages I need. Well after some
apt purge anyway :-)