Author Topic: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough  (Read 2783 times)

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Offline BerniTopic starter

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Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« on: September 25, 2023, 06:25:07 am »
My trusty ol 4th Gen i7 is getting a bit dated so i am eying an upgrade.

I am still running on Windows 7 because i like it, but even that is getting dated. Trying to put it on a 2023 machine would likely be driver hell and support is disappearing fast. So i do need an OS upgrade.

I been using Windows 10 at work for most of its lifecycle. It was crap at the start, it is an okay OS now (Using it on my laptop). But we have Win 11 on the horizon, so Win 10 is likely not long for this world. But i once again hate where the new version of windows is going. Maybe it is time to finally step out of the Microsoft bubble.

So of course the obvious alternative is Linux. I been messing around with embeded linux before, I have a NAS running linux (Unraid), i run Ubuntu on VMs on it. I know enough about Linux to be dangerous. However it always felt more fiddly to get things working on it, unlike Windows where things 'just work'

What is a good path for a windows power user to move to Linux for a desktop OS? I am not after fully embracing open source, a lot of times commercial software just works better. I just want to decouple myself from Windows as the main OS.

I will certainly keep Windows around as a VM, and i still want to have DirectX 12, Cuda etc.. I do ocasonaly play games too and i want them to simply work out of the box. So i also want to try doing GPU passtrough for a Nvidia GPU. I know this is not technically supported for consumer RTX cards, but i see people doing it. I am fine with some decent amount of Linux dicking around to get it working, but how reliable is it once set up? Does everything 'just work' once it is set up?
 

Offline beanflying

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2023, 06:37:32 am »
Linux Mint for me was a nice 'safe' first Linux Distro to move too. I did some looking first and the process as both a dual boot on one system and sole boot on another was easy to do. Seems to have decent GPU support but for my installs not really something I looked into that much. Overall Ubuntu based stuff is suiting my brain on the SBC's I am playing with so Mint fits in fairly well without making my Windoze head explode between them.

For software reasons most of my boxes are still on Windoze10 and dabbling with 11 on one for testing but they will all move late this year at this stage.
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Offline Nominal Animal

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2023, 09:44:20 am »
Apologies for the long post that follows.

Be prepared for the frustration, Berni.  Linux is a very powerful tool (that I personally much prefer over Windows), but it is a poor substitute for Windows.

Like a poet learning a new language with completely different linguistic rules, you will end up having to un-learn some things you currently take for granted, and already being used to Windows, and making it what you want, Linux being different will frustrate and annoy you.  It is easier for a newbie to learn Linux, than it is for a Windows power user to switch to Linux, because of this 'having to unlearn some things' step.

This has nothing to do with Linux and Windows per se, it is just a fact of life when changing tools.  If you have already done such a transition in computing or some other context, you will find consecutive ones easier.  For example, those who have used Mac and Windows, tend to find it easier to add/switch to Linux too, compared to those who have relied on a single OS.

Because I don't need top of the line graphics cards, I've used open source Intel and AMD drivers for the last decade and a half, and don't have any guidance regarding Nvidia drivers.  I would suggest that you add extra storage, so that you can dual boot to Windows, if/when required.  The VM approach is obviously better (especially due to snapshot ability and near-instant bootup and shutdown), but knowing the dual boot option is available may limit the amount of frustration, and let you concentrate on finding what works for you best.

As to Linux Mint that beanflying suggested, I agree.  I think it is a very good desktop Linux distribution, and also recommend it for anyone wanting to use Linux on the desktop.  (If you don't mind being 2-4 years behind the peak development in some sense, then plain Debian is another option.)

None of the general-use desktops I know of have an optimized user experience, similar to how Microsoft and Apple spend effort in polishing the user experience, so the initial roughness will be there regardless, and you will have to do some customization to get everything out of the OS as a tool.

If at all possible for desktop use, prepare to experiment a bit with different desktops (Cinnamon, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, perhaps even Gnome 3).  You can install all of them at once in Linux Mint / Ubuntu / Debian derivatives, and pick one at login time, but the application preferences and settings do not transfer seamlessly; so, I suggest using a "temporary" desktop user to test them, or even reinstalling the OS after you do pick which one you really want.  It does not really affect the application selection –– other than KDE having many of its own applications ––, but it does affect the look and feel of the desktop and theme and themeing availability.  In particular, Gnome developers believe the less the user is let tweak things, the better.  Some like it, some hate it.

Now, there are a few installation-related things you should be aware of, that you cannot change later on without reinstalling the OS.
The main thing is whether you'll use disk encryption or not.  I recommend it for laptops, but for a machine that is powered 24/7 and lives in a closet, it may not add much value.  If you want disk snapshotting for the host OS, you might wish to use LVM2 and ext4 filesystems; that combo is much widely used (and thus less likely to have bugs bite you) than say ZFS.  With LVM2, you want to leave some of the physical volume storage unused, so that you can use that for snapshots.  I myself am old-fashioned, and still partition my drives (/, /boot, /home, /tmp) but really, you only need to consider whether you want /home (containing human users' home directories) separate from /, so you can easily reinstall the OS while keeping user home directories intact.
If you work with large files and have two identical PCIe SSD, I do suggest you consider using them in a striped (RAID-0) or mirrored (RAID-1) configuration; testing them like one tests desktop environments before choosing one would be best.

In any case, I cannot stress how important it is for you to think of it as switching to a different operating system, a semi-different "paradigm" into computing and computer programs, rather than just as "replacing Windows with Linux".  The difference is in how you'll perceive the changes, and how annoying and frustrating you'll be when things that were obvious and efficient in Windows, work completely differently in Linux.  I've seen that before with several colleagues having to do that switch (since you cannot really do computational materials physics on Windows only), and tried to help, but it was painful.  Linux is different to Windows, so there is no denying the need of "un-learning" some hard-won knowledge before replacing it with a different approach; and since often the reason for the differences is simply "history" and "it makes this other stuff easier", the effort needed can seem a waste, and thus very, very aggravating.

The exception is when the OS user is simply looking for new tools, and new ways of doing things, and don't mind that their hard-won knowledge is not often directly applicable, and are aware that sometimes that hard-won automatic knowledge one does not even realize they have, will steer them wrong.  They, too, will be frustrated sometimes, but for different reasons; and that frustration often leads to the development of a better tool (see e.g. git and its creation history).
 

Offline metebalci

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2023, 10:48:15 am »
My trusty ol 4th Gen i7 is getting a bit dated so i am eying an upgrade.

I am still running on Windows 7 because i like it, but even that is getting dated. Trying to put it on a 2023 machine would likely be driver hell and support is disappearing fast. So i do need an OS upgrade.

I been using Windows 10 at work for most of its lifecycle. It was crap at the start, it is an okay OS now (Using it on my laptop). But we have Win 11 on the horizon, so Win 10 is likely not long for this world. But i once again hate where the new version of windows is going. Maybe it is time to finally step out of the Microsoft bubble.

So of course the obvious alternative is Linux. I been messing around with embeded linux before, I have a NAS running linux (Unraid), i run Ubuntu on VMs on it. I know enough about Linux to be dangerous. However it always felt more fiddly to get things working on it, unlike Windows where things 'just work'

What is a good path for a windows power user to move to Linux for a desktop OS? I am not after fully embracing open source, a lot of times commercial software just works better. I just want to decouple myself from Windows as the main OS.

I will certainly keep Windows around as a VM, and i still want to have DirectX 12, Cuda etc.. I do ocasonaly play games too and i want them to simply work out of the box. So i also want to try doing GPU passtrough for a Nvidia GPU. I know this is not technically supported for consumer RTX cards, but i see people doing it. I am fine with some decent amount of Linux dicking around to get it working, but how reliable is it once set up? Does everything 'just work' once it is set up?

If you have a reasonable powerful computer, I recommend to do the reverse. Have Windows 11 on bare metal and use both WSL and Linux on a VM (vmware etc.).

I am happily using Linux since 1997, and I find this setup (bare metal Windows, Linux as WSL and VM) the best for a mixed use desktop. There might be only a few cases (and particularly if the desktop is used for a particular purpose that works well on Linux) I would prefer having a bare metal Linux on desktop. However, keep in mind that you need a reasonable powerful computer to use what I said effectively (I have 16 CPU cores and 64GB RAM).
 
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Offline BerniTopic starter

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2023, 04:03:19 pm »
Thanks for the suggestions.

Linux Mint does look pretty Windows-ish on the surface by default.

I have been using Linux for a number of years now, so i know things tend to need some dicking around to get working. Very rarely did i have things just work out of the box. However i never tried using Linux as a PC desktop, most of what i did in Linux ran purely in console windows, so most of my interaction with Linux was the painful setting up parts. But i have no idea what portion of actually using Linux is this when daily driving it as the main desktop OS. I am fine with putting in the setup work up front as long as things are mostly frictionless afterwards. Using Linux as a desktop OS just never even crossed my mind before, as i was more than happy with Windows 7 doing that job.

There are certain things in Linux that i already prefer over the way Windows does it. For example the way the filesystem works is clearly superior in Linux. The concept of devices being just files is also nice. Having choice in the filesystem format is nice (some of them can do pretty cool things). Seeing some log output when drivers break is nice (as opposed to Windows's, 'This driver failed to start, error 5564' god knows what that is). So i do welcome some of the paradigm changes.

This will be running on a powerful desktop PC, and i don't care about hard drive encryption (if my HDD ends up in someones hands then my house probably got broken into and i have bigger problems). I did consider dong both dual boot and VM booting windows by using passtrough on its boot drive. I never liked dual booting very much because the switch between them takes too long and requires closing down all apps (but is a good fallback when things break). Bringing a VM out of suspend is super quick, and you get to still use the host OS.

I would have been fine with using Windows 10 in is current state, but here comes Win 11 and it is the same sort of work in progress OS that keeps changing under me as i use it. I don't care about new features, I just want a reliable OS that still works the same way after 5 years. I have no idea if camping it out on Win10 for the next 10 years is viable.

I get the feeling that i will have to install Linux in a VM for now and force myself to use it as a desktop OS for a week or so, then see how much of my sanity it cost me when doing typical desktop things. I see some basic computer users get along with Linux just fine since all they really need is a working web browser and perhaps a way to write and print word documents.
 

Offline beanflying

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2023, 01:09:55 am »
Apart from CAD work I ran Ubuntu Linux on an ARM SBC (RK3588 so not a junk end Raspberry or clone) for a week or so just to see how it was.

Chromium = Chrome (tried FF but it sucks on ARM 'so far') :-// really couldn't find a fault. Libre Office is what I have used for ages so same deal. Inkscape which I use quite a lot is bang on for either. The only thing I missed was Windoze having Irfanview and I still haven't found its equal in Linux.

Other than that a handful of other software that just worked. The couple of very minor issues I had were ARM ones as it is still not mainline compatible.

For fun and giggles I have the hardware to drop my old Quadro600 on the SBC (NVME to PCIe adapter) and Nvidia makes ARM specific Linux drivers for a bunch of their GPU's so even semi obscure GPU support for Linux has come a long way. Would I buy a new release GPU and expect it to work flawlessly NO but it is much improved over even a few years ago.

The reasons not to switch is it takes a little more command line work over Windoze and the lack of 'some' Software compatibility. Would I swap my nearly 80 year old Mothers Laptop to it to improve the performance - HELL NO I need my remaining sanity  :-DD
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Online xrunner

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2023, 01:15:09 am »
Thanks for the suggestions.

Linux Mint does look pretty Windows-ish on the surface by default.

That's what I'm using at the moment here in the Man Cave, and on another PC running Einstein@home project 24/7/365. Haven't had a lick of trouble with either setup in years. It's the Real Deal.  :)
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Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2023, 02:19:48 am »
I've made the switch a couple months ago, for good.
I had been using Windows for a long time for desktop use. I had also been using Linux for a long time for various applications (from embedded to server to desktop on laptops), so I knew exactly what to expect, but getting rid of Windows altogether is different - at this point your main OS is going to be Linux, not Windows.

Every background is different so it's hard to give general advice. But if you really want to switch (rather than run Linux in parallel on a separate machine for a while, while having a full Windows machine still working), I would suggest some preparation beforehand. List: which distribution you're going to install, installation and configuration steps (especially if it's not a point-and-click distro installer), which desktop environment you want to use, etc; all the applications you routinely use on Windows, and which have equivalents you're ok with on Linux, which run fine using Wine, and which don't and would require a VM. Also figure out hardware compatibility; to make sure, boot on a live CD of the distro you've selected, and check the output of dmesg, lspci, lsusb, etc. Make sure you won't run into any particular issue with your hardware. I recommend an AMD GPU if you can.

Also define how you want to setup your partitions, and the filesystems. Personally, I have settled on all ext4, the main SSD is NVMe, and I have a separate SATA SSD with the swap partition and a partition for caches and temporary backups.

Also, I have kept Windows on its own SSD as is and bought a separate SSD for Linux. It allows to have both completely separate, never have any booting issues, partitioning issues, etc. UEFI makes this pretty easy. So that's what I would recommend. As a DE, to each their own, but I consider KDE the most complete, customizable and also closest to Windows (if that matters).

I have booted to Windows only once in the last 3 months. Of course in the first few weeks, you're going to customize things, read wikis, etc, it's not as "easy" as the Windows or macOS experience for sure.
But overall I'm pretty happy. I actually find the system much more usable than Windows. KDE is pretty good, its file explorer (dolphin) has way more features than the Windows one. I do not miss Windows and don't feel I have lost anything.

Now the preparation step is key. As it happens, most of the apps and tools I really need are cross-platform, with just a few exceptions that I can either run with Wine or in a VM (but I even rarely have to start a VM). That may not be your case.
 

Offline thermistor-guy

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2023, 06:45:20 am »
... Also, I have kept Windows on its own SSD as is and bought a separate SSD for Linux....

On my main PC, I have separate drives like this.

The Linux drive has the current and previous Mint LTS. So, if I need to, I can boot my previous setup.
 

Offline soldar

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2023, 12:01:49 pm »
I have been using Linux Mint for quite some years now and I am very happy with it on the whole. I do miss some things from Windows like the Device Manager and mint still has some bugs that bother me but, on the whole, I am happy and would not go back to Windows. I absolutely refuse the concept of the software as a service and the "telemetry" spying, etc. No way.

Linux Mint requires much less in resources and will run efficiently in machines that would choke on Windows 10. When Covid arrived I installed Mint on a bunch of old laptops so the kids could attend remote classes. Those laptops were older dual cores that would choke on Windows.

Mint has some bugs that bother me and I do not understand why they are not fixed.  One is the desktop icons not behaving, moving, etc. It seems so basic.

I am running Linux Mint and then Win XP SP3 Pro as a virtual machine with VMWare.
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Offline themadhippy

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2023, 12:21:47 pm »
Quote
Also, I have kept Windows on its own SSD as is and bought a separate SSD for Linux.
A separate drive for your home folder is my  top tip,it makes clean o/s installations much simpler ,and if things do go tits up theres less chance of losing something important.
 

Offline BerniTopic starter

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2023, 06:17:05 pm »
I did quickly install the latest release of Linux Mint inside a VM, and it looks nice.

Had a quick 30 minute play around in it. Does feel pretty windowsy in terms of dealing with windows, the 'start menu' and all. The 'app store' has a lot of the applications i already use and they do install with a single click and just work out of the box. Will try using wine to see how well that works for my needs (i never used it before). I don't care about costuming the desktop environment all that much, as long as it looks decent and functions well with a good amount of creature comforts.

Thanks for sharing your Mint experiences, it does sound like it is the distro to try doing the transition with. I mainly used Ubuntu due to its noob friendliness, was not a fan of its default desktop environment but didn't care because i was always doing stuff in the console. I feel like Linux has made some big steps towards being usable for the average joe in the last 10 years.

Thanks for the tips on Linux good practices too. In Windows i resorted back to just keeping it all on the C drive, but i have Veeam doing regular incremental backups to my NAS, so if i nuke something important i can always restore the whole system, or just individual files.

I do have a pair of 1TB M.2 SSDs laying around, tho i will likely get another one just to avoid having two identical SSD models, or same model but different size. It sounds too easy to mistake them during a critical drive based operations and nuke the wrong filesystem by accident. I do know AMD graphics cards are nice for Linux. Hoping on building a machine with integrated AMD graphics and an extra Nvidia card for VM passtrough. I tend to build fairly beefy machines because i expect them to run for the next 10+ years and still be decently fast. So i stuff in as much performance as i can for a sane price, right up to where the price to performance curve starts to break down. Some used market 'dumpster diving' is also involved sometimes.

How well does Linux play with other machines in a predominantly Windows household? I already use SMB for my NAS (and use fstab mounts in Linux), but how well does linux play for accessing fileshares on native Windows machines? Does network printing just simply work? Is there nicely seamless remote desktop to it from Windows or Android (with easy file transer, clipboard sync, no issues with non US keyboard layouts etc..)
 

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2023, 07:12:50 pm »
How well does Linux play with other machines in a predominantly Windows household? I already use SMB for my NAS (and use fstab mounts in Linux), but how well does linux play for accessing fileshares on native Windows machines? Does network printing just simply work? Is there nicely seamless remote desktop to it from Windows or Android (with easy file transer, clipboard sync, no issues with non US keyboard layouts etc..)

My Linux Mint sees my Windows PCs and some directories fine, but I don't have any permissions set up because I am not needing that. However, it sees my public folder on my NAS just fine and I can access all the files on it. I didn't set that up at all in Mint it just works.  :-+
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Offline soldar

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2023, 08:03:31 am »
My Linux Mint sees my Windows PCs and some directories fine, but I don't have any permissions set up because I am not needing that. However, it sees my public folder on my NAS just fine and I can access all the files on it. I didn't set that up at all in Mint it just works.  :-+
My experience exactly.

For security I like to keep all machines not shared except one shared folder on each machine and if I want to transfer a file I will "push" that file from the computer it originates from onto the receiving computer. No problem pulling or pushing files between Windows and Linux Mint computers.
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Offline BerniTopic starter

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2023, 09:20:52 am »
Yep having some common shared folder is exactly how i like to do it. Tho for the Windows VM i will likely pass trough an entire M.2 SSD as its disk (so that i can also dual boot directly into it).

I have parts for a Ryzen 7000 based machine on the way. The high end AM5 chipsets have a lot of separate controllers for ports, spread across 2 chipset chips with stuff separated in IOMMU groupings so this makes them a good choice for virtualization (at least according to the internet)

Will definitely be trying Linux Mint on it and see how far i get. For this reason i am avoiding cannibalizing parts from the existing PC just yet, so that i have a good ol Windows fallback and can take my time in setting up Linux and virtualization, no rushing, no fearing about nuking something important etc..
 

Offline Infraviolet

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Re: Moving to linux for a windows user and GPU passtrough
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2023, 10:42:53 pm »
I can recommend Mint too, it is the only OS on all my computers. Aside from all the other goos things about Mint in and of itself, you find that most Ubuntu troubleshooting and tinkering advice you find online is applicable to it.

As for choice of desktops, I've tended to work with MATE. It can be made to look and act very much like XP or Win 7's interface, and saves your computer's resources for the running of programs as vs Cinnamon which devotes a bit more resources to looking fancy.

As someone fleeing the Windows ecosystem, I would strongly also agree with suggestions to try Wine where you need to get any Windows exe software working, no guarantee it will work for everything, but for some programs it will. This will save you needing to learn whole new software packages for the things you do on your computer (image editing, document processing, CAD, PCB design...), running familiar software to do whatever you already do is afterall the real point of a PC. There's always the option of Windows in a VM if Wine fails, but much as some Linux purists may despise it, Wine is really useful. Things under Wine integrate normally with your Linux system, as if they were natively Linux, rather than needing the sharing methods required for a VM and the extra processing overheads* involved with one.

*honestly not bad even on pretty low spec hardware thesedays, I've found things in a VM almost as fast as natively run

For a new Mint setup there's also this guide which has some helpful tips, not all of them necessary for all setups:
https://easylinuxtipsproject.blogspot.com/p/2.html
 
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