What's wrong with Ubuntu on my laptop


I’ve been a many-years user of Macs, and so I was a little deflated when my job sent me a Windows machine, a Lenovo T490S. So I immediately installed Ubuntu as a dual-boot, hoping that I could live forever in Linux-land and closely approximately my Mac experience. Here was the result:

Pro’s of Linux-land:

  • Boot-up is fast. Once I enter my login credentials, the desktop is up and ready to go in a second. This is a big contrast from the slow, churning startup of both Mac and Windows.
  • There’s no bloat. There’s nothing I didn’t ask for here.
  • For a modeler/data scientist, there’s no better environment than being able to fire up the terminal and be ready to compute. Conda helped a lot on Mac to get the OS environment (with its Python 2) separated from my work environment, and WSL gave me Linux within Windows. But nothing beats Linux for this.

Con’s of Linux-land:

  • A few things didn’t work on my laptop. It’s amazing how these small things can become such a part of your routine that they seem almost essential.
    • Swipe gestures to go forward/back in my web browser. Apparently there’s a Chrome extension that kind of does this, but not well enough to be seamless.
    • Windows and ChromeOS use the same keystroke (Ctrl+Tab) to move between browser tabs and terminal tabs. Weirdly, in Ubuntu, the terminal tabs need Ctrl+PageUp, which I find tremendously unnatural. For reasons I had to dig to find and then didn’t understand, you can’t remap the terminal to accept Ctrl+Tab instead.
  • There’s no Word or Excel on Linux. I know, there are ways around it, but it’s going to be that much of a pain, I’d rather just fire up Windows instead. (Google Drive has gotten really close, so that I know edit even my .docx resume in Drive. But it’s not sufficiently seamless to collaborate.)
  • There’s no Google Drive backup program. OK, although this is true, I’ve found that you can mount your files locally using gnome-online-accounts (link).

I recognize that these are such small things (aside from Office software!) that I might be able to hunt around among other distros to get a better experience.

August 2021 update: I recently tried elementary OS, which impressed me both by its beauty and niceness, but also by the fact that:

  • My most needed swipe gesture, two fingers to go back on a webpage, worked right out of the box on my Lenovo ThinkPad X1.
  • The keyboard shortcuts were very customizable, and Ctrl+Tab did the sensible thing of changing tabs in the terminal.

So Linux can’t easily get arond the Word/Excel problems, but I think that’s what we’re down to nowadays.