User:Takuwan/Experience Report

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Parabola is a community-led project, and, as such, I would like to add my humble contribution. With this page, I hope future users will be able get a glimpse at what Parabola can do for them so they can make an informed choice. It is also the opportunity for me to start contributing to this Wiki with a ‘simple’ page to write.

1 Previous Experience With Computers and GNU/Linux

I spent most of my ‘computer life’ using proprietary operating systems (OS), namely Windows and macOS. During that time, I was just a consumer, using what these companies provided me–never thinking of the unjust power they had on me.

Then, I decided to try on GNU/Linux, first with the infamous Unbuntu. Later on, I switched to Debian, PureOS, and eventually Trisquel. I quite liked the project and the community. However, I had started to think about minimalist computing and KISS approach, and Trisquel felt too heavy (or ‘bloated’) for me. Besides, I wanted to learn more about how a GNU/Linux OS worked and the repositories of Trisquel were too outdated to my liking.

Parabola, being an Arch-based distribution, could be the one OS to both meet my needs for a lean and up to date desktop environment. And being FSF-endorsed as a fully free distribution, I decided to download the ISO and read the documentation to crack on the (daunting) installation process.

2 Installation Process

The installation went pretty smoothly, thanks to the awesome documentation of both Arch and Parabola wikis. Having a computer running Libreboot, I particularly relied on the specific steps described in Installing_Parabola_on_Libreboot_with_full_disk_encryption_(including_/boot).

It took me two or three days to set up everything as I wanted, although I quite trimmed down my installation since, having gone from a fully featured Desktop Environment to a bare-bone Command Line Interface-driven environment.

To those hesitating, Parabola is not that hard to install, thanks to the extensive documentation. It does not require you to be proficient in GNU/Linux administration–you’ll increase your skills while installing, tweaking your system and reading the documentation. From my point of view, the only real requirement is to be patient. Take your time to read the documentation, and to understand it before diving in the installation process.

3 Current Stack

As I said in the introduction, Parabola is my OS of choice and the one I run on a daily basis on my computer. So I put a lot of effort to tweak it and to optimise how it works so it can meet my needs. The main idea is to run only Command Line Interface (CLI) software, while I do run Graphical User Interface (GUI) programs when there is no other realistic choice (Web browser, image manipulation, etc.). Besides, having an old hardware means that I cannot really run the latest, bleeding edge, graphics, so I keep it down to minimal. Running most of my tools from the command line gives me more flexibility, more efficiency and, is more elegant in my view (one tool for one usage). In other words, I try to follow the KISS philosophy as much as possible.

Here is a little excerpt of what is running at the moment:

3.1 Custom Desktop Environment

I don’t use a fully fledged DE, just Wayland with the main following tools:

3.2 Internet utilities

3.3 Web utilities

3.4 Multimedia

  • imv: image viewer
  • cmus: music player
  • mpv: video player

3.5 Office tools

4 Summary

So far, I am quite pleased with Parabola and happy to have decided to use it. I have learned more about computers and GNU/Linux in the past six months than in my whole life of using computer.

In addition, Parabola gives me much more freedom to tweak and use the software the way I want than previous OSes I used. And, I can still run my old computer with the latest software after all these years. And amazingly fast for that matter.

Nevertheless, all is not perfect of course. The main issue is that some packages (the ones packaged for Parabola and not coming from Arch) are out of date or take time to be updated in the repositories. This is natural as it is a community project run by volunteers. I am not blaming anyone given the fact that this distribution works well.

Therefore, this could be the opportunity for me to learn about package build and help the maintainers. Next step in my GNU/Linux learning path.

5 Some Resources

Here are some links I would like to share about free software and minimalist computing: