The Year of the Linux Desktop

10 minute read Published: 2024-06-10

This is the year of the Linux Desktop. I know, I know, you've heard this before. But this time it's different. This time it's real. This time it's happening. But this is not just about Linux. This is my blog, and this post is going to be about me! And a bit about Linux on desktop over the past 20 years.

Why Linux?

It was the year 2004, and I had a live CD of Knoppix. I didn't know much about operating systems at the time, but I was fascinated by the idea of running an OS from a CD. I booted it up and was amazed by what I saw. Gnome looked so different from Windows XP. Firefox felt so much better than Internet Explorer. And the best part? It was all free! I was hooked. Or so I thought.

I kept playing around with the live image, but never got to anything for real. I tried out all the programs that came with the live CD and got bored. I needed to install this on our family computer. That was the only way to become a true hacker. Besides, it seemed like it was built to be installed along with Windows. Onwards to victory!

The Installation

The curses-based installer felt right at home for me. I grew up with computers, and our first family PC was running DOS back in 1993. I was 4 years old at the time and gaming on Dangerous Dave like a pro. I was ready for this. After all, I had managed to install Windows 98 on my own. This was going to be a walk in the park.

Spoiler alert! The installation process went smoothly. I was able to create a separate partition for Linux and install it alongside Windows. It rebooted a few times back into Linux, and I was greeted with a login screen. I was in! I remember fine-tuning and tweaking the visuals for a few hours before I called it a day. I was a Linux user now, and that's all that mattered.

What Did You Do to the Family Computer?

Yup. Everyone saw it coming but me. It would boot into Linux by default, and my family wasn't happy about it. The Windows boot option no longer worked. My father couldn't access his work files and got mad at me. I wasn't able to prove my point about Linux being better than Windows, so I watched as my father reinstalled Windows on the computer. No more Linux. How sad.

Try and Tell Me Linux is Good, and I Will Rebut Your Argument!

I did what any frustrated and angry teenager would do. I went online and started arguing with people. There was an internet community called, and its forums were full of people who actually knew what they were talking about. I was a kid who wanted to express his anger at messing up so badly that I got banned from ever installing Linux again.

But I didn't talk about any of that! I talked about my experience, how Windows is better, and how Linux is a waste of time. Windows worked and did what it promised, unlike Linux, which had failed me.

I ended up getting ridiculed and then banned for good measure. I ran out of arguments pretty quickly and had to resort to trolling and name-calling. I was a kid; what did you expect? Giving up was not an option. I had picked up PHP, MySQL, and HTML, making a website for myself and building things for the sake of building. I was going to make Linux work for me, no matter what.

The Return

One day I was browsing classifieds and saw an ad for a used computer. A 1 GHz Pentium 3 with beefy 768 MB of RAM and a whopping 60 GB hard drive. And it cost about $100 at the time. I had to have it! I called the seller, arranged the meeting, and bought the computer. At last, I had a toy computer to play with. I was going to install Linux on it and daily drive it!

I went through a few distros before finally settling on Ubuntu. First, it was SUSE, because a friendly guy from an online community burned a CD and agreed to meet up with me in a public place to give it to me. I think I paid $25 for XChat just to learn that only kids used GUI. How can you be using IRC and not be using irssi or BitchX? The latter was bad even back then, but I guess the edgy name gave it a (faux) pass.

Then came Slackware. I was told that if I wanted to learn Linux, I had to use Slackware. I also learned that software runs fastest when compiled from source on your own machine. I was so ready for this.

I learned the concepts of CLI, bash, pipes, directory structure, what /usr/local is for, how and why to pass flags to the compiler and linker, and how to load kernel modules because of Slackware. It's not the worst activity when you're a kid and have nothing better to do. I was happy and learning, and I was using Linux.

The Year of the Linux Desktop

Free Ubuntu CDs were a thing back then. I think many people ended up at least trying Linux thanks to Canonical sponsoring the CDs. I was one of the people to buy into the vision of having a company-backed Linux distribution that's free as in free speech, not free beer. And it felt pretty close to it. I was able to install it on my laptop and got better battery life than on Windows because I was able to downclock my CPU to 600 MHz, unlike Windows, which only allowed the CPU frequency down to 1 GHz.

Finally, Linux was my daily driver. I was using it for everything. I was browsing and building the web with Firefox and Kate, I was socializing on IRC with irssi, I was listening to music with XMMS, watching movies with mplayer, and playing Counter Strike 1.6 with Wine. I was even able to sideload Cheating Death, a popular anti-cheat software for CS 1.6, and play on servers that required it. I was in heaven.

The slight downside of being such a hackerman was that I had to use cheats to be able to play on servers that required Cheating Death, as the original DLL detected it was being sideloaded and refused to work. But hey, cheating is a gift one gives to oneself.

And then it all crashed.

The Crash

I don't know what happened. The GUI wasn't there. I was dropped to a terminal. I tried to start X, but it failed. I tried to reinstall the drivers and X, but none of that worked. What had happened? I still don't recall anything that could have caused it. I was devastated and had to reinstall Ubuntu. I was mad at Linux again. All this work I had put into it, all the tweaking and making sure it looked exactly how I wanted, was gone. Poof! It took the hard drive dying for me to realize that I had to back up my data. Thanks, Linux! What a valuable lesson.

I digress, where was I? The year of the Linux desktop. I remember reading about it back in 2005 and many times after. It's been nearly 20 years I've kept hearing about it, but I never looked back at Linux after switching to Mac OS. Working as a programmer made me realize I needed a POSIX-compliant system, which Mac OS was. I was able to use the same tools I had used on Linux, but with better hardware and a better user experience. It also became an industry standard not long after brogramming culture brought MacBooks to the forefront of the tech industry. I was able to use my Mac at work and at home, and it didn't crash all of a sudden. I was happy.

The Year of the Linux Desktop

Wait, again? Yeah. The current year is both the year of the Linux Desktop and not. I have resorted back to using Ubuntu Linux as my daily driver for my PC. I don't run any proprietary drivers and blobs, and I installed just the bare minimum of software that I need. I haven't even installed Visual Studio Code because I'm using vim. This time it's by choice, and not because X configuration broke. Less is more, and less is better.

I managed to break it again. Yes. It feels like stepping on a rake and getting hit in the face, with different intentions as to why I should be doing this. I was trying to install Davinci Resolve, a video editing software, and it doesn't support Ubuntu 24.04 as of now. I tried getting it to work by following instructions online, but none worked. I rebooted and... déjà vu, I have seen this login text prompt before! I was dropped to a terminal. I tried to start X, but it failed.

None of that matters though. I was able to fix it within 20 minutes. Twenty years of experience, along with stepping on many rakes, has taught me the skills needed to fix my system. I was able to get back to my desktop and continue working. I was able to write this blog post in vim, and I'm able to publish it using git. I was able to do all of it without needing a GUI. Being an edgy contrarian has its perks. Trying to be different from mainstream Windows users has taught me a lot about Linux.

Finally, the Year of the Linux Desktop

The year of the Linux Desktop is the year you pick it up and start using it. It's the year you learn when to blame Linux and when to blame software developers for writing bad code. It's also the year you're ready to learn the fundamentals: how to use a terminal, what's a TTY, help how do I get back to GUI I pressed something and now I'm in a terminal, and vim. It's the year you realize Linux gives you absolute control to break your own PC.


I've been using Linux on and off for 20 years now. Be ready to learn and be ready to let go and sometimes give up. It's not about the year of the Linux Desktop. It's about the journey you take to get there. Sometimes it feels nice to be using a computer for a singular purpose, and sometimes it feels nice to be able to do everything on it. Your mileage will vary and that's the point.