Setting up Pop!_OS and installing some apps

As most people should know I am working on a practice based PhD (my research for now) that revolves around open practice and making, testing the Free Open Source Software project I have been building for supporting specific co-creation activities in design education/practice, At the start of this year the faculty suggested I could get a laptop as part of my PhD, although I am in faculty, and so I have a machine for work (MacBook Pro 2019) but I do also pay half my fees so I jumped at the chance at the potential for some other hardware. This wasnt quiet the case and I had to use some of my internal “kick back” funds to pay but after a long delay, however the machine arrived today. There was lots of reasons for the delay checking funding, covid etc but the big piece and the only reason I needed any additional hardware was the was also getting sign of to be able to install a Linux Distribution on University supplied hardware, I had to sign off that I would not want support and agreement for my webscience and design PhD supervisors that it was a legit request. University process is painful sometimes !

Due to numerous aspects of my research work - open, ethical, inclusive and delightful. I had gotten to the point where needed to properly consider, understand and undertake development on the open platform of Linux and also I wanted to use Pop!_ OS which was a Linux distribution that looked to have been working on UX /UI for a while, Aral Balkan and Doug Belshaw had mentioned it a number of time. I had thus previously run Pop! on a VMware but I didn’t really use it as it was a VM and I was already on my main machine running macOS. I had attempted a simular approach with a USB-C SSD drive hooked to my mac but that didnt work. I knew I needed seperate hardware that I could use as a main machine to really test out.

I had not asked for any specific hardware just something that would run the Pop! system. So today a Dell Latitude Intel i5 8th Gen 1.60GHz , 8GB ram, 500gb SSD, intel, Radeon 540X Series graphic 14" laptop arrived at my house (we now have home delivery due to covid-19), I was in meetings most of the day so my wife took the parcel in. I messaged the IT team to check if I needed to do anything special to install another OS, this unfortunatly meant they had to come back and turn of the BIOS password, I couldnt even log into the system with the Universiry field machine set up anyway.

Ok with the BIOS disabled I used to put the live OS onto a USB stick, this was hurdle one as my mac had not been set to allow this app to have the right level permissions to mount and unmount disks, I ended up running the App via sudo from terminal which forced the issue, I suspect I could have just edited security settings in Preferences but the error was not very clear it was a permission issue. The writer process has quit unexpectedly.

Once permissions where updated the USB stick was ready. I plugged this in to the Dell and duck duck go searched USB boot Dell to find out how to chooise a boot device, which advised pressing f12, the Pop! website had I read on said laptops would use f1 or f7, which was not the case. f12 worked but I checked this twice as to make sure I was seeing the USB device as it appeared twice in the list. So I selected the USB stick and it restarted followed by small white text on the background which said “You need to load the kernel first” and nothing happened. I searched this error and it seemed I needed to turn of secure boot, I had seen this was on previously. I was happy to edit the bios settings and so disabled secure boot, which did also sent me on a bit of a deadend reboot once when it tried to restarted into the pre installed windows, this was not allowed and I entered something called BitRecovery. Which was a little concerned as it was asking for codes and I was worried I would lock myself out but I managed to navigate a reboot and get back into the f12 boot and tried again.

This time I was presented with the test or install Pop message and a reboot count down. The screen the went blank and stayed blank, I waited and waited as I assumed it maybe slow from the USB stick but nothing happened. A further search suggested it maybe to do with UEFI bios mode and that I should switch to legacy boot mode, this option was not present but I noticed on the offical pop install screenshots it said UEFI so I concluded it must be something else. I was concerned my GPU was prehaps not supported, and there was a lot of talk about rufus mode (no idea). I then found a post that had another line that advised when you see the visual test and install Pop prompt you should press the letter e and the following line should say gfxpayload=text. When I entered the special e location I saw gfxplayload=keep, I edited this and hit Ctrl-X. This time after counting down the reboot displayed line after lines of thinking happening and then the install screen appeared … progress!

Pop then installed no problem, I didnt encypt the drive, the setup was simple to follow and I was worried about the keyboard as I am very use to @ being on the number 2, and was plesantly suprised I could pick UK machintosh keyboard layout and test it out, as my muscle memory is going to struggle anought with CTRL over CMD, I might see if I can remap some other options, Super (the “windows” key) + / for search for example is testing my cmd + space to open alfred however I set up my user no problem and a little later on I was promoted for some dell/ system updates including firmware update to 1.7.5 which I think suggested I can enable Secure Boot again (not sure why I need it yet mind).

Firefox was preinstalled and so I logged into my Firefox account which was great. I then opened the Pop!_ Shop to install VSCode and others, I searched and installed VSCode but it wasnt the official one so that was confusing, but easily rectified. I then went to get Obsidian and both files I downloaded a snap and an appimage didnt just install either like an exe or like macOS (drag and drop from an disk image), It offered to search the store but turned up no results, I then looked online to install GitKraken which also offered a number of installs again this was confusing too but it also said Snap Store, so I decided that this store might be the best approach, I was then able to use terminal to install snap and the then desktop snap store,at first I didnt think the snap desktop store had installed but a restart, as advised in one guide fixed this, and enabled me to install Gitkraken and an Apple Music client (a browser wrapper, althought it also asked to installa DRM app and yet didnt work for play back, but neither did logging in via firefox)

The obsidian snap app was not on the store and when I tried to use terminal to install I was presented with a warning error: cannot find signatures with metadata for snap, so another search later and I added the line –dangerous and it installed. I also installed Syncthing from the Pop Shop. This added a folder called Sync, I went to check out the webpage which also suggests installing a GTK, GUI for Syncthing, the Pop Shop had this but again like the unofficial VS Code it is labeled as flathub flatpak, I searched the store again and found the Debian build? It seems to be working. I have to connect my two devices now my mac and Pop! I want to do this so I can use Obsidian to write on both machines. I will do some testing again conflicting files as well as I know Obsidian are looking to launch there own sync service but that is not out yet and another monthly subscription. I installed Filezilla, last on my to do although, Apple Music was a diversion, and needs fixing / deleting and Iam a little concerned about the extra thing it installed, I did download Discord as I think I will want to connect that but only to my own discord.

I keep rolling my mouse to the left to get the activities dock to appear, on macOS my dock is visible on the left, and I need to work out how to “hide” windows. Of to read up on the shortcuts, so far seems very nice and the machine itself seem nice to use and the screen although not retina is bright and clear. Spellcheck in firefox doesnt seem to be working in the web posting text area.

Most of the above wasnt painful but it wasnt seemless and installing apps was a little triicky if not in the Pop Shop and installing the Snap Shop involved terminal. If I was buying a machine I would look at the Pinebooks, I have not read up if they work with Pop, I should expect so.

n.b Apple Music started worked CONTENT_EQUIVALENT error was an Apple issue, will work out if the extra DRM thing for Apple Music is bad or not at some point.

Dr. Adam Procter @adamprocter