Switching to Linux and 100% Open Source (or at least Free) Alternatives

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Switching to Linux and 100% Open Source (or at least Free) Alternatives

There are numerous reasons you may have for wanting to try Linux and move to open source (or at least free) software.

It's inexpensive.

It helps to support the open source movement.

It validates the hard work of the international developer community.

All of this promotes Linux as a premier choice for developing nations, and lifts more of the world into using open standards for productive tools.

It makes you look cool when talking to your tech friends.

But here is my personal Linux/FOSS journey:

(click here to skip to the Linux application cheat sheet)

It's early 2004- I'm actually still enjoying the use of hotmail (an invite to the trendy Gmail would hit me a few months later) and had just begun building my first AMD Athlon64 based desktop workstation.

I'm amped.

"64-bit computing is going to open up all kinds of possibilities: better and faster media production is right around the corner!!"

I finish installing the very final touch: the power/reset cables, and an "AMD Athlon64" sticker on the front of the case, close it up, then power it on to check BIOS settings.

Everything looks familiar, no special 'secret 64-bit sauce' menu hidden anywhere.

I just need to install a 64-bit capable operating system.

Easy!

Everyone was paying attention to the state of silicon development and manufacturing, right?

Everyone saw Apple release it's G5 line of 64-bit capable PowerPC systems, and was eager to compete... right?

Not so much.

Microsoft wouldn't release XP 64 edition till almost a year and a half later, in 2005.

I scour forums, and talk to a couple of family members who work in visual effects/animation.

"Red Hat Linux has support for 64-bit systems."

Hmmm, Red Hat costs money- good money for a starving college student with a wife and child to support.

Enter Fedora Core, the community version of RHEL that saved my new workstation from sitting in a heap after being built brand new.

But all was not well in Linux land.

What was the best alternative to Avid Media Composer/Final Cut Pro?

What could I use to sequence royalty-free music tracks for my media?

Even in a pre-YouTube/Vimeo/Twitch world, aspiring filmmakers and media producers had to think about how to quickly get their creations out of production and into the world.

Re-Enter Windows XP, plain-Jane 32-bit.

Gag.

For a full year, I had to suffer the indignity of having a 64-bit racehorse, but putting it on a 32-bit mule diet.

But for Windows, it was already becoming too late: like a sheepdog that has tasted lamb's blood, I had known freedom... and was merely biding my time till I could effectively move entirely back to Linux.

I continued using some of the open source programs that I learned about when first trying Linux. Some had been compiled for Windows by the project maintainers, so that was easy.

Every year or so, I'd check in to see which alternatives to the "industry standard*" applications had come of age. (*that phrase basically means nothing by the way- just look at AVID or even Final Cut Pro in the consumer space- all but DEAD compared to tools like Adobe Premier Pro or even iMovie) 

Some tools were powerful, but not very intuitive to use.

Others were useful and well-liked within the FOSS community, but didn't have good cross-compatibility with more popular file formats.

OpenOffice worked like a charm as a Microsoft Office replacement- it even had some unique features like native PDF export and document encryption!

It worked so well, that I returned to Fedora as the OS I used for my school laptop (it helped that the old hardware ran faster on Linux and I could extend the battery life throughout my day on campus).

After all, the media labs were well funded, and already had all of the expensive media creation tools paid for by my alma mater.

I deferred the decision to figure out which open source tools to use.

Then the Cloud happened.

Google Docs was in early beta, and as an early Gmail user I was hooked.

Maybe some things could be made to run fast enough over a broadband connection that I wouldn't need to worry about the whole native media production issue?

Sure, for some things, but in 12 years of trying, I haven't found this to be true for video or 3D animation.

Skip to present day, where Ubuntu Linux currently has millions of installations, and you are actually interested in reading this post:

*boop*

Here's my cheat sheet for moving completely to Ubuntu as your daily driver, while still gaming, producing video/audio/animated content, getting work done, and chatting with friends:

NOTE TAKING

Do you use OneNote or Evernote? You'll need an alternative. So before you jump ship from Windows or MacOS:

From OneNote, import your notebooks to Evernote premium, then export enex file (Evernote's backup file type), and import that enex file into the free-but-closed-source Simplenote. It can then sync up with the version you install on Linux!

If you prefer hardcore security, then manually copy/paste your notes into Turtlnote or StandardNotes and host on your own private server. This will also sync up when you install one of these applications on Linux.

MINDMAPPING

Xmind is already one of the best applications on Windows and MacOS- it runs perfectly well on Linux!

OFFICE

Instead of Microsoft Office or iWork, use either OpenOffice or LibreOffice (LibreOffice is typically pre-installed on Ubuntu).

On your smart phone, Use Polaris Office or MobiSolutions OfficeSuite if you absolutely must, then use cloud sync to access- personally find editing long documents on my phone to be really annoying.

Of course, you can just continue to use Google Docs/MS Office online/ZOHO Docs in a browser, the way you do now- there are 0 advantages to being on Windows/MacOS vs Linux when using a web application- and there are great mobile apps for them.

MEDIA CONSUMPTION

Spotify runs perfectly fine as a native application on Linux. Closed source, but it works.

VLC media player is open course, and runs great on Linux.

Music/Podcast collection organization: iTunes is not available for Linux, but Clementine music player syncs to your favorite Podcasts on soundcloud and iTunes, plays internet radio stations, and organizes local/cloud mp3 collections for listening/streaming.

Netflix runs great in Brave browser after setting up the required plugins. (I recommend Brave over both FireFox and Chrome- read more about it in our post about privacy browser usability)

HULU does too.

So do YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, and every other modern browser-based free-to-stream video hosting site.

DisneyPlus? Not so much, as it is intensely DRM restricted at the OS level :/

MEDIA CREATION

Like Photoshop? Try GIMP.

For RAW image processing, use RawTherapee.

Illustrator/Vector Graphics? InkScape.

Adobe Audition audio processing for podcasts? Audacity

Adobe Premier/Final Cut Pro for Video Editing as a Gamer/Enthusiast/Self Publisher? Try KDEnlive (the best choice for 95% of all media producers, since they literally never hand project files off to another editor, and KDEnlive supports every codec imaginable)

Adobe Premier/Final Cut Pro for Professional Video Editing? Try either DaVinci Resolve or LightWorks - both closed source, but professional grade (DaVinci Resolve is known to be fairly difficult to get running on Ubuntu- but you may decide that it's worth the effort)

Adobe After Effects: Use either Natron (an open source Nuke clone) or Fusion (closed source, built into DaVinci Resolve as of versions 15+ and just as much of a struggle to install as Resolve when using Ubuntu). 

3D-animation/VFX-animation use Blender.

Screen Recording: OBS studio is free and open source, and runs equally well on Linux, with one caveat: no VST effect support for your live audio sidechain. (plan for that by processing audio correctly before ingest with a hardware EQ).

FreeCAD for CAD/3D printing.

Music creation using loop-based software like FL studio: LMMS, a top-5 ranked DAW/sequencer.

MESSAGING

Slack, Discord, Telegram, Signal, Zoom, and several custom chat (IIRC and other) clients have been fully supported on Ubuntu basically from day one- you miss absolutely nothing in terms of chat/social connection by being on Linux.

GAMING

Nothing out-Steams Steam.

Steam is so well supported on Ubuntu, it doesn't even make sense to install the custom SteamOS anymore.

Just create a gaming build that you might want to also use for other purposes (or create a VFX workstation that you are OK gaming on, hehe) install the latest LTS version of Ubuntu, then and add the Steam client!

WEB APPS TO FILL IN GAPS

Want a native version of your mining dashboard, PIXLR editor, Gmail, Netflix, or Google Docs?

Use the Nativefier utility to wrap the web page into a desktop application, complete with system notifications.

Yes, even on Linux.

(expect a follow up post about this tool very soon)

Final Thoughts

Almost all of the applications listed has been tested by me, personally, in delivering paid work or lounging in personal time (or working on personal projects as the case may be).

They work in a production environment, and I trust my freelance paycheck to them.

I think you should as well.

But don't take my word for it.

Make the switch.


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