Goodbye Apple & Mac OS X, Hello Linux - Part 1

This is the first post in this never-ending series.

I've been a dedicated Mac user for a little over 2 years now. I got my 12" powerbook in the fall of 2004 by a good friend's sound advice, and never looked back. This little computer has been with me through thick and thin, almost never crashing, and doing things my previous computers just couldn't keep up with. So why switch? And why to Linux?

Powerbook vs. Dell Ubuntu

Well, the obvious answers - "politics", "philosophy", "31337-ness" - are too easy. Maybe it's a combination of all of those things. Maybe that's called "integrity", because it's hard to pontificate about the virtues of open-source software when you're sitting on your brushed aluminum (or cheap plastic) throne behind an Apple computer (or a windows one). It's not even so much a question of "what's best" - I mean, Bill Gates does way more "good" in the world than Steve Jobs does. By that rational, I should be on Windows too, right? And my computer of choice was based on which laptops run Linux the smoothest -unfortunately, that meant getting a Dell. And Michael Dell's not exactly a saint either. Can't win 'em all I suppose. A lot of the projects I've been working on happen to be with people who choose to use (and contribute to) open-source projects and software. In the past couple of months alone, I've seen firsthand the tremendous effect that free(er), open(er) software licensing can have in countries where cost or politics make it difficult to aquire commercial software.

There are not many Macbook Pros in Cuba.

There are, however, a good number of solid old laptops and desktops running some incredibly nicely customized flavors of Linux. Truth be told, I don't really care what operating system I'm using - when it comes down it, I want it to "just work"(tm). Windows falls short in this respect - maybe it's just bad luck, but I always end up having to re-install after a few months, and managing 50 gb of porn fonts using Windows explorer is no mean feat. I do keep a Windows machine handy though, because I'm a gamer, and as a gaming platform, nothing comes close to a good PC.

Macs, see, "just work". No drivers to fuss with, installing apps is a breeze, devices work the way they should - or rather, the way Apple engineers think they should. And therein lies the problem for me.

Old Mac Desktop

I'm a control freak - I need to know that I can mess with anything, even if I never end up doing so. Maybe the way Macs work out of the box is perfect for 90% of the population. That's fabulous, but I don't want to have to hunt around - "Windows-style" - for a boatload of little applications here and there that "kinda, sorta, but not really" do what I'm looking for. Of course, to be fair, there are those rare gems of software that you never knew you needed until you discover them, like Quicksilver and Growl. But most of the time, when setting up a new Mac (or reinstalling mine), I spend nearly as much time installing plugins, tools and add-ons as I do on windows.And there's always a "that's neat, but it's not *exactly* what I wanted" feel to most of what you can customize in OS X.

On Linux, I probably end up taking even more time setting it all up, but in the end, everything is exactly the way I want it. Multiple desktops work they way I think they should. Window behavior feels intuitive to the way I work. And finding the apps and tools to put it all together doesn't require me to head to our robot overlords Google and search for hours. All the apps I need are right there for the finding, built into whatever package management system my distro of choice is using.

The best part of all this? My data is stored in easily exportable / importable / sortable / searchable / massageable formats that I understand. I can swtich back and forth between different mail clients, address books, browsers, etc., without pouding my head against a wall trying to decipher some esoteric storage system.

So I'm at the point where I've migrated most of my mail, contacts, porn fonts and documents from my Powerbook over to my Linux machine. I'm running almost all my work stuff completely off my Linux laptop now, going back to my Powerbook only for video editing.

New Linux Desktop

So, in the next few posts in this series, I'll go through a completely subjective analysis of my migration from Mac OS X to Linux, initial impressions, pros and cons, Prose and Kahns, things I miss from OS X, and things I don't.

In the end, of course, this is a very personal choice - I don't have a problem with Windows or Mac OS X; I think they're both marvels of technology they are. It's OK that you use them; it's a big world. We can all live peacefully.

But if you're going to preach about the virtues of open source technology, and even pretend to be at all knowledgeable about the subject, the least you do is make the effort to try and use it yourself. It's not that hard, as I'll try and show you. There will always be room for commercial software (although maybe not in the sheer scale of Microsoft, Google et al, but that's another story...) and open source to coexist. Indeed, there's a pressing need for them to do so. But my patience for people sitting behind their OS X or Windows computers extolling the great qualities of free software is at an all time low. I was one of these people a few days ago.


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been there
Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
been there's picture

i dont want to sound bad but i think you are on good course. I also had a similar phase but in the end i still chose OSX. I've tried Ubuntu and countless of other linux but it's a real pain to install anything with all the dependencies when u're on a dialup or dont even have internet access.Windows and OSX installers are pretty much one file and i think that is why it just works. as for the free open source softwares, i think all platforms are benefiting. and also the reason why you chose linux is pretty much understandble. have a nice ride with linux. oh, i saw ur pic in flickr and followed it here ;)

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
stevenmansour's picture

That's alright. If OS X is better for you, then stick with it. It's not better for me however.

Don't call it a "phase", though - I've been using Linux on and off for about 8 years, waiting until it was finally stable and functional enough to replace commercial OSes for my own computing needs. And now, it is.

I got a Mac because it was "cool" like everyone else, but in the end it didn't prove to be any more usable than other operating systems.

I don't know what problems you had, but I had an amazingly easy install, with almost all my hardware detected off the bat. But yeah, I have a high-speed connection at home. And by the way, installing updates and software on Mac OS X is just as painful as on Linux or Windows when you're on dialup.

As for open source, well there's a big difference between running a couple of open source apps here and there on your proprietary operating system, and running an open-source operating system. :)

Sunday, September 9th, 2007
Haris ('s picture

Nice Article, I've never used Mac OS X but am making the switch from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux. I've just blogged about it:

Like you I've been using Linux for a while before deciding to switch, I'm doing it because I'm certain that it can do everything I want it to.

Hope it's all gone well for you


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