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Switching to Linux?

Topic title apart (I'm not at that point yet), I would like to ask CTE's Linux users what distro they are currently using for actual work.

This would be my fourth or fifth attempt with Linux, but this time I'm (more) determined than before. I tried many live CDs and I narrowed down the candidate list to Bodhi (Ubuntu-based) and Elive (Debian-based), both being version-based as opposed to running-realease.

My main concern is "how much" your linux breaks upon receiving substantial upgrades and how easy it is to repair the installation in order to reduce down times to a minimum.

Many thanks in advance to whom will answer citing their experience and, of course, giving me useful suggestions.


Best Answer

@mario The things I absolutely love about this Linux is no lags after the laptop is woken up from sleep, connects to the mobile router on its own (Windows in the same situation would often fail to connect), and when brought home, it connect itself to the home router on its own, though I did not configure it, the Wifi access point has a slightly different name at home but the password is the same - so is Ubuntu able to make inferences? :-)

Also, Autokey and pyautogui work like a charm. 

Wow, Enlightenment distros? Interresting.

Back in the day, when I was something like the Michael Beijer of GNU/Linux distributions and Desktop Environments (testing and switching all the time), I've used Elive and Bohdi for a few moons.

My computer specs were very modest at the time, is this the main reason you wish to use these distros?

As a translator, I have used Antergos (a rolling release distribution which is essentially built on top of Arch Linux), which allowed me to stay on the bleeding edge for extended periods of time with no "version upgrade" and "reinstallations".

Because I wanted to cut down some of the maintainance, to fix an issue with one of my core applications which only officially supports Ubuntu, and to continue using the Gnome shell Desktop Environment, I've settled for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (the first LTS to switch from Unity to Gnome shell).

Debian-based distributions that are based on the Stable branch are known to be very sturdy and reliable. New stable versions are released every 2-3 years, and they are extensively tested, so the upgrade should work fine.

With Ubuntu-based distributions, you can use the LTS (Long Term Support) releases which are scheduled every two years and have an extended support of  years.

The current Ubuntu 18.04 LTS has support until April 2023…

Debian stable and Ubuntu LTS are used for servers as well, you can tell they are designed not to break easily, and updates are not likely to break anything, unless you mess up your configuration.

I've seen some Ubuntu installation statistics, and the percentage of users that prefer to upgrade rather that reinstall is lower that I expected.

However, both Ubuntu and Debian offer version upgrades with relatively low risk. Of course, you can (and should) make a full backup and restore your data very easily if needed (I use Back In Time, but there are several apps for that).

If you add many additional repositories, these may require some fixing when upgrading, but the core system should have no issue whatsoever.

Because Ubuntu-based or Debian-based flavors tend to add a few repositories and features of their own, the breaking risk might be higher, but that depends on the distribution and your set up.

I don't think you need to worry about this too much.

Bohdi is using Ubuntu LTS releases as a base, and Elive has seen very few full versions changes. The stable version is 3.0.3, and is based on Debian 7, which is dated, the current stable is Debian 9…

I suggest you first try Bohdi Linux…

Linux Mint (Ubuntu-based, also has a Debian-based offering) is also a solid choice, it uses an easy interface, and for more modest specs, you can settle fort the MATE or XFCE edition.


Thank you Jean. Before starting this post I installed ArchLabs in a dual boot environment with Windows 10. I like it, but I keep reading that since it's a rolling release it breaks sooner or later, and since it's based on Archy making the necessary fixes can be a pain in the neck. If I'm really going to switch to Linux for work I want the most stable distro available, although the choice is difficult since opinions vary immensely  on the Internet.

Currently I'm testing Bodhi and Elive as virtual machines, both VBox and VMware, and I must say that I have a special feeling for Elive, if nothing else because I somewhat sympathize with it's solo developper down there in Mexico. Another reason is precisly what you said: very few versions in a long time, which on top of the fact the it's being developped over Debian should give a certain peace of mind. But the main problem with both is that convincing them to let me input Japanese is a continuous struggle, while I read that Ubuntu makes this much easier.

We might hate Windows as much as we like, and it's understandable, but it just works and usually it doesn't brake after large upgrades. Then, just add the language you want and it automatically adds what is necessary to start typing in that very language immediately. The same for network sharing: why no Linux distro is setting everthing out of the box?

In any case, I'll try harder this time and I'm looking forward to seeing whether I can have CTE working under the new master.

Thank you for your help



Hi Jean,

I have finally settled with MX Linux, which is now installed on an "old" single-boot DELL Precision. I'm sure this PC would work well with much heavier distroes too, but by chosing a light-weight DE such as XFCE I thought its working life would extend further.

I'm planning to install CTE too, just to test-play around for a while before installing the full version.

But, before that I would be glad if you could share your opinion on Libre Office: To what extent it's a viable alternative to Word? How many times did you need to check your translations on Word before delivery, if you ever needed that?

Thank you.

Hello Mario,

LibreOffice is an excellent Office suite in its own right. It can open and save MS Office documents, but compatibility is not always perfect, which can be critical when it comes to delivering final documents and meeting client expectations. You may need to consider other options as well.

When the final layout/presentation is important, I often need to revert to or at least run a check in MS Word.

Depending on the nature of your projects, this can happen more or less often.

For example, the past two months, I haven't used MS Office at all.

Other alternatives, like WPS Office and SoftMaker Office can also be handy, as they tend to offer superior compatibility with MS Office formats.

Thank you Jean. I had a look at both WPS Office and SoftMaker Office, and also searched the Internet for opinions. While WPS seems a good possible alternative to Libreoffice, someone said that it consumes too much PC resources and besides it keeps services alive even when the program is closed. Of SoftMaker Office I don't really like the business model, so for the time being I'll keep playing with Libreoffice and maybe Wine.

You don't have to buy SoftMaker Office.

In the above link, I share a tip: The 30-day trial can be reset by removing the SoftMaker folder in the home folder.

As for WPS, I have it installed an no services seem to be running when I don't have it open (at least, they don't show up in HTOP utility). Definitely give it a try as well. Because it is being developed in China, it may be particularly well suited for Asian languages.

Many thanks for the tip. I will certainly have a close look at it soon. LibreOffice works very well with Japanese, but I may need something else in parallel just for ensuring more compatibility with Word and Excel. At the end, two office suits should be more than enough.

Just wanted to report I have upgraded Ubuntu (Gnome) from 18.04 to 18.10, then 19.04, and the upgrade went smoothly. The system is noticeably more snappy.

Canonical (the company backing Ubuntu's development) has recently release user statistics, according to which only 20% of users upgrade, rather than make a clean install.

I'm thinking about switching to Linux on my laptop (Lenovo ideapad 100). Actually it has already seen Linux once, but only because the OEM Windows would not let me install Windows without bloatware from the USB stick, so I wiped the disk by installing Ubuntu on it from another stick, and then tried the Windows stick again. But even the clean installed W10 appears to be too much for this low end laptop, it is virtually impossible to work with Studio 2019, and even Cafetran is slow in responding after the system wakes up from hibernation. On the other hand I was quite impressed by Ubuntu during the brief time I had it on the laptop which I use only for field trips, and do the bulk of my work on my desktop which has powerful specs and can handle Windows and all the bloated software with ease.
This would not be my first encounter with Linux, about 12 years ago I bought a laptop without an OS, so I put Linux on it and did my translations in Swordfish. Now I work in Cafetran more and more, because it offers excellent compatibility with Studio files.

I'm a little late to this topic (haven't been hanging around the CT forums much lately), but I'm another Linux user.

Although it's perhaps not so much use to you now Mario, it's perhaps of use to others in future, so I'll give my perspective.

I'm also an Ubuntu user, and my experience has not been as positive as Jean's. Things rarely break with updates, but when they do, break, boy do they break!

An example – a couple of months ago the latest updates to both Ubunutu 14.04 and Ubunutu 16.04 (I was putting off updating – see below) broke VirtualBox – an essential application for my workflow.

After spending at least a day googling the various error messages and trying to fix it, I eventually determined that it was a known kernel bug that wasn't going to be fixed in the older versions.

So I spent another day doing a new install of Ubuntu 18.04 on two computers, reinstalling all my software – and then googling the resulting new set of bugs. (In particular, for reasons too boring to go into, I spent a lot of time trying to work out how to stop CTRL+ALT+Fkeys from launching a TTY  – a trivial task in 14.04 and 16.04, impossible in 18.04.)

This kind of thing is a fairly regular occurence – things go wrong. If you're super tech-savvy, you can perhaps fix them quite quickly, if you're only quite tech-savvy (as I am) you can spend a lot of time on this stuff.

And as for upgrading, the reason I (and per Jean many others) prefer to reinstall rather than upgrade is down to bitter experience. The one time I tried to update (from 14.04 to 16.04), everything broke and ended up having to do a reinstall anyway.

Regarding Office, I don't personally trust LibreOffice with anything but the most basic formatting. I prefer to rely on an ancient Office version (with compatability pack) running in an ancient Windows version in a VM. It's not perfect, but, espcially for Excel, it's still less likely to mess up your customer's carefully applied formatting (where applicable). For PowerPoint files, LibreOffice messes up the formatting completely.

TBH after perhaps 5 years of Ubuntu and with a heavy heart, I'm thinking of switching back to Windows and MS Office. Whilst I'm not a fan, once I've got it set up, I'd save a lot of troubleshooting time and never have to worry about file formats again – though of course I'd waste a lot of time waiting for Windows to shut down.

@amos I am sorry to hear about your experience. So far my approach is to only run Cafetran on my newly installed ubuntu, and then not to be an update junkie as regards the OS, following  the policy of if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

So my plan is to translate only sdlxliff and occasionally mqxliff files on my portable Linux setup, and not work directly on MS Office files in it. I only use my Linx laptop for an hour or so per day, and the rest of  the work is done in the powerful Windows PC, where Windows is unable to cause any significant lags. But I was really fed up with the unbearable slowdown of Windows in the laptop.

amos: Things rarely break with updates, but when they do, break, boy do they break!

I've heard this many times since joining Linux, and I suffered a blow myself just three days ago when suddenly MX Linux "upgraded" and couldn't reboot anymore. But to be honest it was my fault, since I had mistakenly enabled a risky repository. Fortunately, I had a previous-day OS snapshot at hand as a back-up means, which allowed me to reinstall it in the span of 10 minutes exactly as it was before the upgrade. This is one of the little gems that are making MX Linux users particularly happy and safer.

Frankly, I am waiting with some trepidation the 19 version that should arrive at the end of this summer. MX Linux developers have been assuring us that they will do their utmost so that our upgrade experience goes smoothly, but for beginners like me reinstalling everything from scratch might be a better and perhaps faster option.

Working with Linux has been a real pleasure so far, it's just so smarter than Windows in some respects. But it also has its drawbacks and, again, at every major upgrade you don't know what you will end up with. I also find that GUI in Linux is less refined than Windows' (CTE too) , many Linux programs are not at par with Windows' either, plus some other less important quirks.

This is why I believe I cannot imagine my work as translator completely without Windows, and Office is one reason when it comes to complex layouts. Just keeping one Windows machine at hand to do the final check is enough and so reassuring. Of course, when I'll semi-retire I will be very careful not to accept jobs requiring Windows at all. Enough with them!



@mario The things I absolutely love about this Linux is no lags after the laptop is woken up from sleep, connects to the mobile router on its own (Windows in the same situation would often fail to connect), and when brought home, it connect itself to the home router on its own, though I did not configure it, the Wifi access point has a slightly different name at home but the password is the same - so is Ubuntu able to make inferences? :-)

Also, Autokey and pyautogui work like a charm. 

Thanks for sharing your experiences Mario and Piotr. It seems that all us Linux users are still relying on Windows for the final check one way or another, which is a shame.

I've been relying on this old Windows XP VM, which of course won't run modern Office versions. I did occasionally use a Windows 8 VM too to run Trados Studio, but it was a bit slow/took up too much RAM on my machines, so I kind of gave up. I'm sure it would be really slow if I tried to run MS Office.

You've pretty much persuaded me that I need to splash out on either a) a spare machine, b) making my machines dual bootable with Windows or c) better hardware that's fast enough to run a Windows 10 VM at a decent pace.
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