User:Theova/Experience Report

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I migrated to Parabola a few months ago. Before the migration, I was not sure, if I should do it. Now I am happy to be here and to use Parabola as my daily life OS.

The following experience report serves two purposes: On the one hand, I would like to share my experience with interested people which do not have Parabola yet. On the other hand, I think sharing experiences of new users is an important feedback for the community.

1 My Experiences with GNU/Linux before Parabola

As a young engineer student I have been interested in alternative operating systems. As of the beginning, the philosophical and political aspect of free software (then I called it 'Open Source') was important to me. After a few years using Ubuntu, I migrated to Arch Linux. I liked the concept of being (theoretically) able to read/change every component of my system.

Arch made me familiar with the installation process, tools beyond the scenes and debuging. Shortly, a do-it-yourself distro was just the right thing for me.

This fall semester I followed a lecture called "Digital Sustainability". Among other topics, free software and free licences were discussed. At the same time, I needed to replace my laptop and came across Purism. I decided to buy a Librem to support the idea of free software financially. Through Purism I got in touch with FSF endorsed distribution and directly installed Parabola GNU/Linux-Libre on it.

2 The Migration Process

2.1 Installation

As the installation of Parabola is quite the same as the one of Arch, it was not difficult for me. The good Beginners' Guide helped a lot.

I decided to encrypt my computer with LVM on LUKS. This was new to me and a bit challenging. In cases of doubt, the Parabola Wiki was supplemented by the ArchWiki.

As the software I use on Parabola is pretty much the same as the one on Arch, I could easily transfer my dotfiles and use the old configurations.

2.2 Missing Packages

As I try to use console applications where ever possible, I have not missed many packages. It is a good feeling that most of the software I'm using is free!

The few things I missed and how I worked around them:

  • Browsers: On Arch I used Firefox and Qutebrowser with (nonfree) qt5-webengine. Parabola qutebrowser is shipped with webkit only. Some pages are not loaded correctly and/or require newer versions of the browser engine. Therefore, I use icecat and iceweasel as well. With that combination I can use all webpages.
  • LaTeX: I experienced the typical error related to fonts. It was solved according to TeXLive#My_fonts_don't_work_on_TeXLive-libre.
  • Nextcloud: I need the nextcloud-client to sync files shared with others. Unfortunately, Nextcloud depended on qt5-webengine and was not installable. I was able to build nextcloud-client without qt5-webengine. The patched version is now in the official repositories.

I think it is important to see the missing packages not only negatively: Without Parabola I wouldn't even have thought that these packages may be nonfree or contain nonfree parts. So I gained freedom through Parabola.

3 Daily Life with Parabola

As already mentioned, I use Parabola as my daily operating system. It's my only installed OS.

For me, Parabola is "stable enough". Although it is not free of bugs, I can always do with it what I need to. The bugs I encountered so far are the mentioned missing packages and missmatching versions when I am upgrading. Reading the news and the reported bugs helps to avoid bugs due to upgrading.

Parabola feels for me just like other GNU/Linux distributions (and especially like Arch). I'm having all the stuff I need and don't feel too many restrictions.

3.1 "Desktop Environment" and Applications

For those who wonder which applications I'm using, here is a short list of the most important ones:

3.1.1 "Desktop Environment"/Core

  • i3-gaps: Window manager
  • termite: Keyboard centric terminal emulator.
  • ttf-hack: Font "A workhorse for code. No frills. No gimmicks."
  • neovim: Keyboard centric editor, extremely extensible.
  • zsh with Oh My ZSH: Shell

3.1.2 Web

3.1.3 Office

3.1.4 Utilities

  • ranger: File manager (vim-like)
  • pass: Password management, commandline interface
  • borg: Incremental backup, commandline interface

3.2 Getting Help

My primary source of information is:

I didn't needed too much help other than that yet. In cases I did, the following sources were helpful:

My experience is that you are not alone. Although the community is quite small, people are helpful and very competent. Severe bugs are usually fixed fast.

4 Getting involved

After years with GNU/Linux, I feel enough competent, sensible to free software and benefiting from it that I want to give something back. Furthermore Parabola is a community project. It's made out of users and I want to be part it.

Therefore I decided to begin writing articles for the wiki. For me it is a good thing to start as there are simple articles to be written as well (e.g. this one). It lets me follow the discussions and bring my experiences into the project.

What made me uncertain a few times, was that despite my efforts I didn't know all the stuff the experienced users did. I then asked for help and earned sometimes harsh reactions. I think, one of the reasons for this is that the community discusses at eye level. Even tough I like that, it may be quite tough for a newbie! As my experiences with software and other users increased, it has become less and I can better handle it. Don't be discouraged.

5 Summary

After a few months, Parabola is my absolutely favourite GNU/Linux distribution. The issues I faced and the missing non-free packages are tolerable and don't cast a cloud over the user experience.

A big thank you to all hackers, support staff, the Parabola community, and the whole free software movement in general. It's just amazing!

6 Feedback / Discussions

If you have any questions, feedback or discussions, feel free to write contributions in Talk:Theova/Experience Report.

I would be glad to read your story! How did you discover Parabola? What do you like about it? Maybe you want to share your experiences with us and write a experience report as well!

7 Helpful Links