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 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 Versions and Linux enthusiasts always argue over which distribution is the best.

Ubuntu 20.04

This is the Linux distribution with most support from hardware vendors and usually the distribution recommended to those who have never used Linux before as most things work right out the box without much customisation. Dell in particular test a large proportion of their hardware with Linux Ubuntu. I installed it on my Latitude 7350 and it had complete driver support for it. The touchscreen worked and the auto-rotation worked.

Ubuntu has a side panel opposed to a taskbar.

To the top left hand side, the Activities button can be used to display any opened windows simultaneously.

To the bottom left hand side, the Show Applications button can be used to view all installed Applications.

Ubuntu has an onscreen touchscreen keyboard within its Universal Access settings:

Note that the inbuilt browser Firefox is terrible with Touch as it highlights text opposed to scrolling once again ruining the out of the box experience. It can however be replaced with Chromium.

Mint 20

This Linux distribution is based on Linux Ubuntu 20.04 but has a more familiar desktop layout particularly for those who are used to Windows. The user interface is designed for keyboard and mouse users.

Regarding the touch interface, the FireFox browser is terrible as it highlights text opposed to scrolling giving it a bad out of the box experience. 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 will no longer work. The main application in question is Chromium however it is possible to install this with a couple of workarounds.

The user interface of Linux Mint is superior for keyboard and mouse use but inferior for touchscreen use when compared with 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 eb a system specific issue or more widespread.

Fedora 32

The Fedora distribution is another Linux Distribution with substantial support from hardware vendors. In my opinion it is the best distribution however the end user needs to take some time to customise it just right:

Fedora also has a puritan approach to being open-source which 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.

At first glance there are a lot of similarities between Fedora and Ubuntu:

However you'll notice some subtle differences such as Fedora not by default having the minimise and maximise buttons.

For Touch input, the inbuilt FireFox browser scrolls properly with Touchscreen unlike in Ubuntu.

DeepIn 20 (Beta)

Another popular distribution is the DeepIn Linux 20. Version 20 is still only a beta. 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).

DeepIn Linux 20 Beta is freely available to download from their website and I demonstrate downloading the ISO, making a Bootable USB and performing a Clean Installation on a Dell OptiPlex 7040 and then taking it for a test drive. I then move to a Latitude 7350 to test its touchscreen capabilities. Although this is a Linux distribution it should be very familiar for Windows users due to having a very similar user interface to Windows 7/8.1 and 10. This distribution requires moderately strong hardware (I wouldn't run it on a non-UEFI model or a model without a SSD).

This is the most touch friendly Linux distributions:

However the onscreen keyboard is still severely lacking and in the case of my Latitude 7350, the screen did not autorotate and when the screen was manually rotated, the touch interface didn't rotate with the screen.

It is still in a beta phase and its App store servers are based in China making it slow for non-Chinese regions. In my case the icons didn't display right but the downloads to the Apps themselves go to the Apps official repository and I could install Libre Office for instance without any hitches.

Manjaro 20.0

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

  • No GPT Support
  • No Secure Boot Support
  • Open VMware Tools does not launch properly (it needs to manually stopped and started after booting)
Manjaro Lacks support for GPT and Secure Boot

It is not optimised for Touchscreen:

  • No Touchscreen Keyboard
  • No DPI Scaling Setting in Display
  • FireFox Browser has poor interface for Touch (Install Chromium)
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.

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