Linux

Introduction

If you have never used Linux before and have a powerful computer. i.e. a computer with a 6th Generation Intel i5 Processor or later and a SSD and have an interest in Linux then I would advise you first to check it out using a Virtual Machine before installing on your physical hardware (unless you have a spare machine to hand or have created Windows Installation Media in advance in case you want to revert). I like to use VMware to make the Virtual Machines.

Distributions

There are a multitude of Linux Distributions and Linux enthusiasts always argue over which distribution is the best. Although all the Linux distributions have the same underlying Linux kernel they have different Desktop Environments (User Interfaces) some are better suited to touchscreen such as GNOME3 and others are more suited to Desktop such as DeepIn or Cinnamon. In addition to the Desktop Environment some Linux distributions utilise different software package managers.

Ubuntu 20.04

This is the Linux distribution with most support from hardware vendors for example Dell. The Ubuntu distribution will also bundle in a multitude of open source and proprietary drivers making it easy to install and get full performance from a device.

It utilises the GNOME 3 Desktop Environment which is touch friendly. It has a side panel.

All open applications can be viewed by selecting the activities from the top.

And all available applications installed can be viewed by clicking Show Applications:

The GNOME 3 Desktop environment has a working out of the box touchscreen keyboard.

Dell in particular test a large proportion of their hardware with Linux Ubuntu. My XPS 13 9365 2 in 1 Device worked very well with Ubuntu using a UEFI Boot with Secure Boot. Autorotation and touch controls worked as expected.

XPS 13 9365 – Ubuntu 20.04 Laptop Mode
XPS 13 9365 – Ubuntu 20.04 Tablet Mode
XPS 13 9365 – Ubuntu 20.04 Tent Mode

Ubuntu has a software store which uses the snapd installer. It is also possible to install software using a debian package (deb) which usually open up in the software store. It is possible to install additional software via the command line using the advanced package tool (apt) or flatpak.

The only out of the box issue was with FireFox. FireFox didn't work right with touch and a setting had to be updated via the terminal for proper touchscreen support. Full installation instructions are below:

Mint 20

This Linux distribution is based on Linux Ubuntu 20.04 but uses the Cinnamon Desktop Environment which may be a bit more familiar for those that are using only keyboard and mouse and coming to Linux from Windows.

There has been a small conflict with Canonical (the developers of Ubuntu) and the developers of Mint. Mint have disabled snapd meaning alot of applications which were installed from the Mint store (based on the Ubuntu store in previous versions) will no longer work. The main application in question is Chromium however it is possible to install this with a couple of workarounds (usung the command line to enable snapd).

The Cinnamon Desktop environment used in Linux Mint isn't as touchscreen friendly as the GNOME 3 Desktop Environment used in Ubuntu.

The Touchscreen Keyboard button can be added to the taskbar and by default displays on the top of the screen. If it is set to display on the bottom of the screen, it unfortunately covers the Taskbar and it is a bit temperamental when set to automatically open when an application expects touch input. I recommend setting it to only open when the user explicitly opens the Touchscreen Keyboard.

Although the Linux Mint Distribution uses the same hardware drivers as Linux Ubuntu 20.04 there seems to be less hardware support for touchscreen autorotation. In the case of my XPS 13 9365, the screen autorotates but the touch input does not autorotate alongside the screen. This may be a system specific issue or more widespread.

Fedora 32

The Fedora distribution is another Linux Distribution which uses the GNOME 3 desktop environment, similar to Ubuntu and therefore is also touch friendly.

Compared to Ubuntu, Fedora is usually bleeding edge and will exhibit more of the latest developments in the Linux kernel and in GNOME3 Desktop Environment. The biggest difficulty with Fedora particularly for newer users is that it has a puritan approach to being open-source. As a consequence only open-source drivers are installed by default. This means non-open source codecs are not preinstalled and as a result it takes some time to install these to get video playback to work correctly on browsers. Some (NVIDIA) drivers will not be included which in some cases may lead to impaired performance but most Intel hardware works right out of the box.

The Fedora installation by itself will pass a UEFI Boot with Secure Boot. Most of the multimedia codecs and third party propriety drivers are handled by rpmfusion however these do not pass Secure Boot and Secure Boot must be Disabled for full functionality.

At a first glance Fedora looks like Ubuntu.

However you'll notice some subtle differences where Fedora is more minimalistic. Fedora by default does not have a minimise or maximise button.

For Touch input, the inbuilt FireFox browser scrolls properly with Touchscreen unlike in Ubuntu. The touchscreen keyboard is also slightly more advanced and has emoji support.

Fedora has its own software store which is similar to the snap store seen in Ubuntu. Fedora generally uses its own danified, yellowdog updater modifier (dnf, yum) package managers opposed to the apt package manager more commonly used in Ubuntu. Debian packages also work with Fedora.

DeepIn 20

Another popular distribution is the DeepIn Linux 20. DeepIn Linux is a Linux distribution made by the Wuhan Deepin Technology Company in China. This company appear to be partnering with Huawei in a move to replace Windows as an Operating System on their hardware (similar to Google and Chromebook but this OS is much more functional and has the full capabilities of a Linux distribution).

However touchscreen support is still severely lacking, the screen did not autorotate and when the screen was manually rotated, the touch interface didn't rotate with the screen.

Its update servers and App store servers are based in China making it slow for non-Chinese regions and give several out of the box update issues which need to be resolved.

Manjaro 20.1

Manjaro is a Linux Distribution that has a traditional style Desktop.

  • No GPT Support
  • No Secure Boot Support
Manjaro Lacks support for GPT and Secure Boot

It is not optimised for Touchscreen:

  • No Touchscreen Keyboard
  • No DPI Scaling Setting in Display
Limited Touch Settings

Zorin OS 15.2

Awaiting Version 16 (based on Ubuntu 20.04).

Elementary OS 5.1.3

Elementary OS has a dock to the central bottom of the screen. Any application will display on the dock. To the left hand side of each Window there is a close button and a maximise button to the right hand side. There is no minimise, to minimise you need to select the icon on the dock.

This OS works with touchscreen but lacks an onscreen keyboard by default. The Epiphany browser has basic touch support however pages are slower to load than on Chromium and you need to wait for the page to load entirely before you can begin scrolling. Chromium can be installed seperately. The user interface of this OS wasn't my cup of tea.

ReactOS

This is an alpha release. It is made with intent of being 100 % compatible with Windows XP era software. As it is an alpha release, it is really buggy. Right now it just feels like a really buggy version of Windows XP.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.