A lot of you reading this probably already know about Pop!_OS, and maybe have already made up your mind about whether or not to use it. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that, but I would encourage both new and experienced Linux users to give the latest version of Pop a test drive; this being Pop!_OS 22.04 LTS (nvidia).
Now as a disclaimer, I was using Ubuntu and Linux Mint for a lot of my OSINT work and like a lot of you, I use Kali Linux for a few hours each day for training, HackTheBox and the like. But this post isn’t about specialty systems or even diving too deeply into one; this is a quick high-level overview about a candidate for a stable daily driver designed for users with privacy concerns. I’ll also describe a bit of my use-case as a frame of reference, and list some of the specific things that I like about this distribution.
History: For Context
Around 2009-2010 and after about a year of trying, a buddy of mine had finally convinced me to give Linux a try. Just going off of memory here, I think that it was probably Debian 5.0 (Lenny), but I could be wrong. Coming from a predominantly windows background, this opened my eyes to a completely different world, but I still wouldn’t work with computers outside of report writing and documentation until a couple of years later. On top of that, I was transitioning from the DOD to the contracting world, and you pretty much used what they gave you.
If you flash forward to 2018, I’m running Ubuntu or Mint as my daily driver, but through Virtual box, or sometimes through a live-boot USB because with my luck, these distributions would run into a driver issue 15 minutes before a conference call or meeting – and I needed the Windows stability net just as a redundancy.
Around this time, I heard about Pop and figured that I would give it a trial on the machine that I just upgraded from. Well, after about a month, my wife asked why I wasn’t using my new laptop, which I ended up returning.
How I Use Pop!_OS
By day, I work in a corporate due diligence and compliance role, in which I utilize a number of in closed, premium and open source data sets, systems, tools and services to perform investigations. As you would expect, this often involves a wide range of tasks from communications, collecting data and it’s organization, various forms of threat, vulnerability and financial analysis, documentation and presentations which may be viewed by Windows 10/11 users.
By night, on the same computer, I’m running OSINT investigations, attempting HackTheBox on Kali Linux via VirtualBox, writing bash and python scripts, messing around with my network and the like. This generally requires a lot of computing power (multi-tasking), virtualization, image editing, code editors (and not just nano – lol)) and the like.
What I like
Undoubtedly, my next systems will be by System76. They’re a little bit pricey, but I’ve such a great experience with Pop booting from a Dell Insperion that I’m excited to see what it can do while running from hardware that it designed for. Also, I work from my computer and most of my hobbies are on the same computer, so it’s more of an investment than an expenditure.
- Battery Saver that Actually Works – I listed this one first because its a sore-spot for Linux users everywhere, and I’ll excluding the Arch guys from this because I assume that they don’t have any of our same problems. Regardless, the battery saver mode adds roughly 50% to my older battery, and I can’t believe it.
- Windows-Like Stability – In 12 years, this is the very first Linux distribution that I didn’t have to fight. That’s not to say that I do not run into issues, but I get the feeling that Pop handles a lot in the background then tries to get out of your way so that you can work. This peace of mind is absolutely huge when it comes to a work computer.
- Based on Ubuntu – A lot of my experience to this point was coming from Ubuntu or Ubuntu-based distributions, so switching to Pop was easy. The analogy I used recently is that it’s like bringing all of your furniture, equipment and tools to a newer, cleaner, nicer and bigger house – but at the same cost as your last.
- Telemetry – Unlike Windows, MacOS, Ubuntu and others, Pop claims that they do not collect of store any information about the user’s installation or use. I will be analyzing this eventually and will link my process to this bullet point.
- Fully Encrypted Disk – There are probably ways to do this for any distribution, but Pop encrypts your installation by default and enable full-disk encryption out of the box.
- Great for First Time Users – Between the UX and the points on stability, my wife (a Windows 11 user for work) was able to transition immediately and without any issues at all. In this point, I’ll include confidence issues, because a transition like this can be intimidating.
At this point and based on my experience, it’s tough to imagine myself switching to a different distribution in the near future because Pop!_OS has really created all of the stability of a MacOS or Windows operating systems, merged with the privacy and freedoms that only Linux can provide.
I see a lot of people talking about a 30 – 100 day Linux challenge on twitter. I would almost be willing to bet that the chances of staying with Linux are much higher with Pop that even Ubuntu or Mint.
If you want to give Pop!_OS a shot, check out https://pop.system76.com/ for more information, downloads and more.