I'm a Linux
September 24, 2023
I hold the rare distinction of being a designer who prefers working in Linux for my day to day work. Over the past three years I’ve rolled a custom Arch-based system that I use for my design, code and (a recent surprise!) gaming passions. Often this confuses or astounds folks at first mention. After all, don’t designers love Apple products? Am I really a designer? How do I live without the Adobe suite? What does Vim have to do with design and why won’t you shut up about it?
First. Let’s get this out of the way. Apple makes great products. Their hardware is the best in the business, and their OS is the most well designed baseline for most people. The care and uniformity of their design vision is something to be be applauded. Their unofficial motto of “it just works” is pretty remarkable, and is the reason nearly everyone else I work with jumped into the Apple ecosystem. If you need a computer to get your work done, you should probably just buy a Mac. There is not much you need to do to get them working well. It’s plug-and-play.
Me? I like to push the boundaries and consider design not just my profession, but my primary hobby. I customize everything. The desk I sit at and the keyboard I type on I built on my own. My PC (not a laptop!) was built with specific components made for speed. The camera, microphone and lights at my desk were picked with purpose. My OS and Vim customization goes farther, providing a canvas where anything can be changed and rearranged. Don’t like how windows move around? Change it. Don’t like the colors. Change it. Don’t like the startup screen? Change it. I’ve had this “do it my way” affliction since childhood, and being creative does not feel rewarding unless it requires me to think different.
People of a certain age will see what I did there. The “Think different” mantra used to be the rallying cry for Apple. They made huge ad campaigns focused on that ideal when they were losing the war against Microsoft. Boring Microsoft. The computer everyone else was using for work. You’re a PC, but I’m a Mac. Creatives were someplace else, someplace cooler. If you wanted to do actual design-work, Apple was the only place to be. Using Apple products were a statement not just of fashion, but rebellion against the status quo.
Fast forward and Apple is now the status quo. Now dominant, their playbook rarely deviates. The MacBook Pro I’d pick up in a store today is not very different than the one I had in 2012. Same silver aluminum, same minimalism. The OS is cleaner and the icons and animations have changed, but it’s pretty close to what we’ve had for awhile now. It’s safe, it works, and there’s not much to complain about. It evolves and gets better every year. It’s not like we have options anyway? Windows is still a hot mess, but hey, even they have WSL.
Well, for tinkerers and rebels like me there’s always Linux. Unlike OSX it’s not easy. It doesn’t hold your hand. There are so many different flavors it’s near impossible to run basic searches to find the help you need. Depending upon your distro, your Desktop might require constant attention. You’ll dread updates and run them on weekends in case something breaks.
Easily modifiable, pretty soon you’ll realize you’ve constructed a unique Linux mousetrap that only you know how to get out of. Better learn how backups work. How do hard drives mount? Next thing you know you have opinions on where config files are stored. Then the Aha! hits. You secretly learned how your OS works, not just how to use it, but how it actually works. Well, that was the point dummy. That’s why I use Linux, because it’s constantly teaching me. Once past that base knowledge, you figure out how to shape it. What invisible efficiency can I invent today?
Some people don’t have time for it. I don’t blame them. Not many people want to actually learn how their OS works. What is
systemd anyway? They don’t want to learn how to code to change the color of their programs. They want to learn how to design. These folks want to use their computer to get things done.
I want to go beyond and know they work. I always have. I want to change their innards and see what they are capable of. I want people to see how I work and think… I’ve never seen anyone who works that way. My Desktop is then a fingerprint, and made custom only for me to do the things I want it to do. Linux gives me that platform.
There are a lot of other positive reasons to use Linux and you’ve likely heard them before. Once installed, it doesn’t make you sit through a barrage of dark patterns meant to track you. It’s open. It’s free. These days, thanks to GNOME, it’s even well-designed by default. Mostly though, it’s ever changing. The Linux of a decade ago didn’t look this good. It certainly didn’t run games well. It can do all these things now because a small army of weirdos thought, huh, maybe there’s a different way to do this.
I bought my first Mac in 2004 because it seemed different and provided a better way to work. In 2023 it’s why I choose Linux. Yes, these days that makes me a crazy-one, a misfit, a rebel, a troublemaker. I’m a Linux.