Spent a few months on Windows — here’s what I miss on Linux/Pop!_OS.

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Like several friends (Nicholas, Chris, Jan-Lukas, Kev), I have been going through a process of figuring out my device/development/sort-of-entertainment setup. It’s interesting in the sense that we did not embark on this together as a conscious decision. It has been worthwhile reading blog posts on this from them (and more folks elsewhere)!

Just a couple of days ago, I reinstalled Pop!_OS with the idea & belief that I will make this work, and it will be my main OS.

But first…

History time!

I have been a Linux user from 2015 to 2017 — this was my distro hopping phase. You name it — Manjaro XFCE, Lubuntu, Kubuntu, Linux Mate, Budgie, Ubuntu, and a couple more. For the most part, I was using some XFCE based distro since my memory was limited to just 4 GB, only upgraded to 8 GB for a short while before I gave the laptop away. I also had a lot of time and interest in tweaking. XFCE was perfect for this.

Briefly, I used Windows as an exception in early 2018 when I got a new laptop. At this point, WSL was not usable, and I got a little bit tired of carrying out my freelance work with cmder. Everything that I needed did work — except for symlinks. Vagrant and cmder carried the bulk of my needs on their shoulders, as Docker was not at all a part of my workflow at the time, or my clients’.

So then, I moved to Pop!_OS since it supported my Nvidia hardware out of the box and System76 advertised it as built for developers to be productive out of the box. I was delighted. And starting to feel settled.

For extended periods between 2018 and 2021, I have been happy with a dual boot of Windows and Pop!_OS, with the latter being my primary (when I say primary, think 99% of the time).

Excelling.

Pop!_OS does excel at a few things:

  • Freedom. πŸ™‚
  • Brilliant font rendering on my MDPI display (fares worse on LoDPI).
  • Just works with my Nvidia hardware.
  • Stable as heck.
  • Their custom additions are nice, even though I don’t use them much (such as tiling).
  • I booted Fedora to test GNOME in there and was surprised to see no dark mode. Maybe Pop!_OS have built this out on their own from Ubuntu’s beta? Either way, amazing.
  • Window and workspace management is superior.

Falling short.

With that out of the way… here are some things I immediately felt the lack of on Linux/Pop!_OS/GNOME after returning to it post my Windows+WSL2 experiment.

An official desktop client for WhatsApp.

Now and then — not too often — I need to make a video call or two. On Windows and Mac, this is possible with WhatsApp for Desktop.

The web version of WhatsApp doesn’t support this, so none of the unofficial desktop clients can do anything about it on Linux. Booting into another OS for one video call is a crazy idea.

A cropped screenshot from WhatsApp for Desktop on Windows 10, showing voice and video call options for a chat. A pink arrow points towards the icons for these options.
A cropped screenshot from WhatsApp for Desktop on Windows 10, showing voice and video call options for a chat.

Apple users in India don’t tend to have Signal or Google Duo (my other preferences). This was the case with the person I had scheduled a call with yesterday.

First-class clipboard and emoji helpers.

I am surprised Windows leads here — not only are both of these available natively (!), the clipboard manager is also capable of understanding images and shows a preview in the clipboard dropdown.

Windows clipboard manager showing a picture copied to clipboard with a preview. Four items are visible in this, as is a scrollbar. The remaining three are text-based items.
Windows clipboard manager showing a picture copied to clipboard with a preview.

Pop!_OS/GNOME doesn’t. I use and have to use GNOME extensions. The clipboard manager I use doesn’t understand the concept of photos in clipboard. It also doesn’t do an automatic paste — very clumsy to use.

Emojis are also nicer to use on Windows. And has been around a while. I came across a design for it on GNOME, but no idea if and when that will see daylight. It was last edited in 2017. I am guessing they did release it, but it does not work outside GTK apps.

A calculator that’s feature-packed, functional and pretty.

I can literally get currency conversions with live exchange rates. Or even convert between different units of distance, volume, and so on.

Windows Calculator, showing a conversion of USD 60 to INR 4,407.60.

Live rates are visible in the bottom, with the last update date as well as a button to toggle a fresh update.
I can convert either from USD to INR, or INR to USD. No need to open a browser and a search engine.

Granular volume control.

Windows goes from 0-100 at a step of 2.

Windows volume UI, currently showing 54 as the set volume.

Pop!_OS has something like ~10 volume configuration in total? It’s easy to hit a spot of β€œtoo loud, too quiet” and resort to changing volume both at the system level and at the application/website level.

Dell’s proprietary battery management utility.

My laptop is over 3 years old and has only a 16% wear level. That’s fantastic and has only been possible because I keep it plugged in and between 50-60% as much as possible.

The dashboard screen of “Dell’s Command Power Manager.”

Dell’s battery management utility makes this easy on Windows. With any Linux OS, I would either need to go to the BIOS or into Windows — both inconvenient for a small change.

Fade transition between brightness changes.

I have a laptop I paid a ton of hard-earned money for. It feels nice to have cool, stupid stuff like this.

Streaming Amazon Prime in HD.

Amazon locks out Linux devices from being able to stream in HD. I don’t see a future where they will allow this. Sadly, “content” does tend to get split between many, many streaming providers.

Just yesterday, my room-mate wanted to watch something on my laptop together — and I literally felt anxious. If it were something that was on available on Prime, I would have had to ask her to bring her laptop and watch whatever on it. And put mine to sleep. And re-arrange the space a little.

Not ideal.

Also, quite ironic by Amazon.

Quickly resizing images.

This is not a core feature, but quite handy, and now I use it all the time.

Image Resizer, made available through PowerToys.

It’s as easy as right-clicking an image file, and selecting “Resize image.”

Some imagemagick trickery could probably achieve this for me on Linux…but it can’t beat the friendliness of Image Resizer.

Dedicated devices?

I am considering buying a mini PC just to run Linux on it and dedicate it as my work computer. That makes sense to do because I already have a monitor, a wired keyboard, and a wireless mouse. However, it doesn’t sit so well either with me for a few reasons:

  • Two devices.
  • It’s expensive.
  • Less portability.
  • Already too many savings goals to bother with one more…

Wrap-up.

Of course, on a scale of how much something annoys me, these range from a simple, mild inconveniences to β€œI should go back to Windows.”

For now, within a couple of days, I am back on Windows. It does a lot of things wrong, too — but it seems to be working for me right now.

Let’s see where this journey takes me in the coming years.

Discuss on Fosstodon, Twitter, or write me an email. Photo by Yash Menghani on Unsplash.