The Year of the Linux Desktop - in Retrospect

For a very long time, and at the beginning of every year, Linux enthusiasts have claimed that this was finally the year where the Linux desktop became convenient for everyday use.

I’m happy to report that for me, 2023 finally was that year. Here’s my looking back on 16 months of using Linux as my daily driver.

Crushing Windows

First off, let’s start with the great stuff where my new Pop!_OS Linux setup absolutely dominates the old Windows setup.


It’s basically impossible to overstate this: Modern Linux is insanely fast. It never hangs. It never loses keystrokes. After I have now gotten used to the responsiveness of Pop!_OS (based on Ubuntu, based on Debian) for a year, I’m now regularly too fast for Windows 10 in the sense that I press the Windows key, start typing, and then Windows will lose some of the keystrokes because it wasn’t yet ready for user input. Every time it happens, it’s infuriating.

Launcher & Search

After using the launcher in Pop! OS for a while, I have gotten used to quickly starting apps by just typing the first few letters of the app name. On Linux, this works reliably. I honestly have no idea how Windows 10 can screw up the start menu search this badly. It regularly doesn’t find apps by name. But then browsing the start menu with the mouse it’ll happily show me apps with exactly the same name.

And while the learning curve was a bit steeper than I would have liked I am now extremely happy with the integrated search in Nautilus – which is the explorer replacement == file browser that I use daily. In any folder I can just press Ctrl+F, type a few letters, and confirm with return to search for a file or folder by name and open it. And it’s instant! Checking with the slow motion mode of my phone, it looks like for most folders Nautilus will show the results on screen before I finish lifting my finger up from the key. Boy was I surprised when I had to use the Windows search again and it took ages just to list the filenames of 100-ish JPGs.

Raid & Backups

A few people I know had issues with Samsung SSDs dying in the past year(s). For the Windows users, that usually meant catastrophic data loss. One of my Samsung SSDs died, too. But it was in a Raid, so no data loss. Also, backups with rsync are easy, do de-duplication, and work pretty much anywhere in Linux-land. On Windows, it was a never-ending fight to get the Shadow Copy service to not cancel / quit / whatever halfway through a running backup.


On Linux, it’s really easy to run both modern AI models and Jupyter – which is basically Google Colab – locally. There’s also plenty of pre-packaged Docker images for downloading, organizing, and streaming all of your media files.

Remote Desktop & JetBrains

For a looooong time, I’ve been told by everyone that Window’s RDP was superior. Turns out, it’s not anymore. I have a tiny service running on my Linux machine which will forward the local SSH port to a remote gateway server. With that, I can SSH into my home machine from literally anywhere in the world and it’ll be authenticated with an SSH key and encrypted. And running TightVNC tunneled through SSH is responsive enough to comfortably get work done even when I’m a 12-hour flight away. My feeling says that Pop! OS over VNC through SSH is roughly as responsive as a Windows 10 Surface Book. (Probably due to Linux using hardware NVENC and the Surface Book having no GPU.)

Plus all of the JetBrains IDEs that I use have a dedicated remote working mode where the GUI runs locally but all data is stored and all programs are executed on a remote machine that you SSH into. And it works fantastic! The GUI is super responsive! And I don’t need to worry about my laptop getting stolen, or about setting it up in the first place, because it’s basically just a disposable thin client.

CPU Usage & Midnight beeping

Windows PCs have this annoying habit of rebooting in the middle of the night so that they can force their updates onto you. And unless you mute the built-in speakers every evening it’ll also play some happy welcome sounds for you … in the middle of the night. Or you put a laptop into your backpack and when you arrive it’s both super hot and the battery is empty. Or you leave your Windows machine idle for a while and when you come back it’s at 100% CPU and everything is overheating.

In short, Windows is typically ignoring what you – the user – want, and instead it does whatever it wants. And if there once was a configuration setting that allowed you to regain control, it has long since been deleted or deactivated.

I’m happy to report that Linux will actually follow your instructions :)

The Good


I’m honestly impressed by the great job that Valve has been doing. All the stuff I regularly play just works out of the box either by Valve convincing developers to ship a native Linux version or with Proton. A truly weird side effect is that some Assassins Creed games appear to run 10% faster !!! on Linux, which I guess is due to Proton mapping from DirectX to Vulcan.

Microsoft Office

I purchased a Crossover for Linux license and then installed Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 into it. It works great overall, even though scrolling performance with large Excel files is noticeably slower than on Windows. This version is also “new enough” that it could handle any file that I have received from others so far.

High-DPI, Video, Webcam, Audio, Microphone

All of this works as expected. It’s neither better nor worse than Windows. I have pretty standard components and Pop! OS included drivers for all of them out of the box.

Content Generation


For drawings, Krita is great. And for vector art, Inkscape is OK. Both are native Linux apps.


Blender, Houdini, Maya, v-Ray, Redshift, and DaVinci Resolve run natively on Linux. zBrush works well with Wine.


After Altium price-shocked* me away from their software , I’ve been very happy with KiCad which runs natively on Linux.

[*] a perpetual Indie license has mandatory enterprise support and costs $12000 ???


FreeCAD is okay. OpenSCAD is great, but steep learning curve. But there is room for improvement here because both Fusion and Solidworks are flaky in Wine.


The BitWig DAW works natively on Linux, and Nuendo works in Wine.

The Bad


Currently, only old iTunes versions work in Wine. That’s a bit annoying because those won’t allow me to purchase newer movies. And I haven’t found any Linux alternative that syncs as nicely to my Android phone as iTunes and the DoubleTwist player do.


Sometimes I want to color-correct or retouch some images, and then I dearly miss Photoshop. While I hate their business model of keeping my files hostage with their cloud and the absence of perpetual licenses, I haven’t found a good replacement yet. The GIMP user interface just irritates and confuses me every time. Plus Photoshop has like 10x the features of GIMP, e.g. all the AI masking tools are missing.

The Ugly


Ahh, CUPS, my old enemy. I’ve hated you in university for unexpected layout breakage and wasting my expensive printing credits. And I still hate you for unexpected layout breakage, wrong colors, missing ICC profiles, missing borderless printing options, missing paper type selections, and wasting my printer’s ink and that expensive fine art paper.

There’s just no nice way to say this: I keep a small Windows 10 VM around just for the printer drivers.

But that’s only for fine art prints. For regular documents, the Linux version of Fire2024-07-03-why-your-ai-email-offends-me.mdfox can display and print pretty much everything just fine.


It’s not really an issue for me because I have a separate TV, but I have never managed to play a movie in HDR on my HDR-capable screen on Linux.