While the year of the Linux desktop is unlikely to come any time soon, more and more people are flocking to Linux, and it has never been a better time to do so. With all the FOSS creative software, Linux for content creators or digital nomads is a match made in Heaven.
Why Linux is the ideal OS for Digital Nomads or Content Creators
- It’s free
- Linux is probably more in line with Your Values
- It has tons of free software for creatives
- It isn’t tracking you
- Design the perfect workflow
- Understand your server better
- So much more to Learn
Linux is Free! (as in Beer)
You might think that the copy of Windows that came with your laptop was free because you didn’t need to buy it at an extra cost. But this isn’t the case. You did pay for it, and the price was hidden in the cost of the laptop. Microsoft sells Windows to manufacturers at a discounted price, and they install it on your laptop. They then pass on the cost to you (with a margin, of course!)
It doesn’t have to be this way! You can buy laptops without Windows pre-installed. For example, you can buy laptops from <a href=”https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/overview/cp/linuxsystems”>Dell with Linux installed on them instead of Windows.</a> Selecting Linux rather than Windows reduces the price by $77! This is the price you are paying for Windows when you buy a laptop with it pre-installed. So install a free copy of a Linux distribution instead and save some money!
If you would like to know where to find a Linux distribution suitable for digital nomads that you can install, take a look at distrowatch, where Linux distributions are ranked by download. Or down below for my recommendations
Linux is Free (as in Freedom)
As someone who has shunned the 9-5 corporate life in favor of freedom and independence, I have no desire to invite a huge corporation onto my hardware! Whether it’s Windows or Mac, the first thing they want is to keep you locked into their ecosystem, followed closely by collecting as much information about you as possible.
I don’t want to be locked in; I want to be free. Free to hop from one Linux distro to another, free to customize every part of my operating system if I want to, free to know that everything I do on my laptop isn’t being monitored.
Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, puts it this way, “If the users don’t control the program, the program controls the users. With proprietary software, there is always some entity, the “owner” of the program, that controls the program and through it exercises power over its users. A non-free program is a yoke, an instrument of unjust power.”
If you, too, want to be rid of big corporations and free to use all the voluntarily shared open source software available online – make a move over to a Linux distribution.
Free Software for the Digital Nomad
Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Individuals is currently $52.99 per month! (Oct 2021) Per month! But for every piece of software Adobe offers, there is a free and open source Linux alternative, sometimes many alternatives. Let me show you some options.
There is a Linux alternative for everything! Not only are they free, but you can even be part of the development of the software (if you want.) If you have programming skills, obviously, you can contribute code to the project (usually on Github or other git platforms), but even if you can’t code, you can contribute by suggesting features or opening tickets when there are issues. Most Free and Open Source projects are run by volunteers who are happy for any help they can get. So become a real part of the community and help develop the software you use.
It isn’t tracking you.
While nothing is stopping a Linux distribution from tracking you, the open source nature of most distributions makes it not only unlikely but instantly detectable. Any of the popular Linux distributions are going to be very good in terms of protecting your privacy (watch out for Red Star Linux, the official distro of North Korea), but if you want to be 100% sure that you only have entirely free and open source software with no code designed to mistreat the user, take a look at the Free Software Foundation’s page on gnu.org.
Design the perfect workflow
Workflow is essential if you need to produce content or be creative consistently. No one wants to be moving windows around or resizing things whenever they need to copy and paste from one window to another.
When doing research, I like to have a text file open for making notes and my browser open for the actual research. However, I don’t want to change between 2 full-screen windows every time I want to make a note. So I keep vim (my text editor) open in a narrow window to the left of my browser. I can set this up with only a few key presses in a second, which means I can be ready to go instantly and continue to work efficiently until I’m done.
On the other hand, when I’m editing photos in Darktable, I like to have the whole screen available with no distractions. Again, regardless of what I’m doing, I can change workspaces, open Darktable, and be ready to edit in two key presses (I can do this with hotkeys setup in DWM.) Less wasted time ultimately leads to less procrastination and more production.
Scripting in Linux is so natural using something like bash that you won’t even realize you are writing code.
But why do I need to write my own scripts?
Did you ever have a bunch of files with random filenames, and you had to go through and change each one? This can be quickly automated with a quick script. Likewise, did you ever need to change the resolution of many pictures, and you had to go through and export them one by one? This, too, can be automated with a quick script.
You can make scripts to automate tasks to save yourself time, especially if they are tasks you often do. But scripts can also add functionality that you just don’t otherwise have. For example, I created my own encrypted password manager with a script. I created my own GTD app with a script. I even built a music player because I wanted to select albums to play from only the album cover as I used to when I would look through my CDs to decide which to play. If you are interested, they are all freely available on my github.
Understand your Server
If you’re regularly producing content, you probably have a website where you publish. In all likelihood, this server runs on Linux because 96.3% of the world’s top 1 million servers are running Linux.
For content creators, running Linux on your laptop will give you a much better understanding of how your server works. Ultimately this will make you a better server admin, a better website owner, and a more informed content creator/publisher.
Understanding basic Linux terminal commands might save you hundreds of dollars when you have simple problems with your web server. Problems that might only require a command such as this to solve.
If you’re interested in computing, coding, or the internet, Linux has so much to teach you. Things that are usually hidden when using Windows or Mac become learning opportunities when you switch to Linux. For example, do you know what file system your current hard drive uses? Maybe not. But most Linux users will be pretty familiar with the basics of file systems, e.g., FAT32, NTFS, ext4, btrfs, etc. In addition, many Linux users will know how to install something from a source or write a basic script to automate some tasks.
Still Not Convinced?
I get it. You have probably used your current operating system and the software on it for most of your life. Jumping ship to Linux and having to find and learn new software while learning a new operating system is a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.
There is a middle ground between your current OS and switching completely to Linux.
Dual Booting is installing Linux alongside your current operating system. This allows you to log in to either Windows or Linux when you turn on your computer.
Dual Booting is perfect for those who are unsure or for those that want to move over to Linux but are still reliant on some software they need Windows/Mac OS to run.
You can try out Linux without disturbing your files and see if you think it’s for you. You can learn the new software you need while still having a safety net for when you need it.
Which Distro should I choose?
There are hundreds of distributions to choose from when it comes to Linux, which is great if you’re looking for something specific but not so great if you’re just coming to the platform and have no idea how to decide.
Let me give you some recommendations.
Ubuntu Studio – Ubuntu is a heavyweight of the Linux distro game, produced by Canonical it is based on Debian and is renowned for being both stable and user-friendly. It has a huge community as it is one of the most widely used distributions, so support is always easy to find online. Ubuntu Studio is an officially supported variant of Ubuntu designed with creatives in mind. It comes with all the software you might need, from photo and video editing, to sound mixing and eBook production.
Linux Mint – Based on Ubuntu Linux Mint shares all the advantages Ubuntu has. The main difference is the desktop choice which some say is more appealing to someone who has just left Windows.
Lubuntu – Also based on Ubuntu, Lubuntu is a lightweight version of Ubuntu, taking up fewer resources. This means if you have an old laptop struggling to run Windows, you can install Lubuntu and get a few more years of use.
Manjaro – Manjaro is based on Arch, not Ubuntu, meaning there are some differences under the hood. The main one is that this is a rolling distribution, which means you will never need to upgrade to a newer version (e.g., Windows 8 to Windows 10.) Instead, you can just keep it updated all the time. Manjaro also has access to the Arch User Repository, a huge library of software only available to Arch-based users.
KDE Neon – My final recommendation is KDE NEON. It’s another excellent distribution and shows off the flashier side of the Linux desktop. If you’d like something with all the bells and whistles, this might be the distribution for you.
In this article, I refer to operating systems that use the Linux Kernel as “Linux” rather than “Linux + gnu” or anything else for readability reasons.