I’ve Switched from Linux and Settled on OS X

Two of the more popular articles I’ve ever posted to this site are Linux and Web Development Intro and Linux and Web Development Part 2. In each piece, I documented my transition from using Windows my entire life to working with Linux (Ubuntu particularly). I first began working with Linux at home, I came to really enjoy the operating system as well as the power it gave you to alter and customize just about anything you wanted. After spending enough time with the operating system, I wanted to really see if it was ready for me to use as a primary environment at work as well. Luckily, the office in which I work doesn’t have any sort of restriction in place as far as operating systems are concerned. I was successful in my transition to Linux for work as well, and that was using Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake). I documented my findings, my successes, and my failures in those two articles. Overall, I was quite pleased with Linux after getting used to the changes. Settling on an operating system is a very personal choice, and I was happy to finally have given myself the opportunity to choose between more than Windows XP and Windows XP.

So why did I switch to OS X?

There was a long time where I had no interest in anything Apple was doing. I’m not sure how to provide much detail, but I was put off by Macs since working with them in high school. There are a number of Macs in my office, but a lack of interest prevented me from doing much of anything with them.

It’s no secret that Apple stole the hearts of so many people in the design and development communities. Each may have their own reasons, and many take the time to let others know why they enjoy Apple so very much. Their reason didn’t appear to be because they’re (all) blatantly against Microsoft, the reason seemed different. When the Internet repeatedly became, dare I say, plagued with articles written about just about anything going on in Cupertino; my interest was piqued. To put things simply, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

It was about the software

A major driving force for my interest in OS X was the software. Time after time I would read an article referencing this gift of an application; TextMate. I watched a few screencasts and my jaw dropped; snippets would change the way I work completely! I tried my hardest to find a Linux equivalent, and ended up finding something that would suffice by using SciTE with TextMate style snippets. I was instantly hooked to tab-triggers. Not only do they save you many keystrokes, they can help you avoid frustration from forgetting a quote or semicolon somewhere. I came across E Text Editor at some point, and was again drawn to TextMate. The application was far superior to what I had pieced together using SciTE; I really wanted to learn more about it. Reading a few articles had me convinced that it truly was a fantastic editor for my personal use.

Another factor contributing to my eventual Apple endeavor was Adobe. While I had no major problems using a virtual machine to get Windows XP up and running, it was quite a resource hog paired up with Photoshop. Booting the VM and then running Photoshop would bring the machine from a steady sprint down to a moderate jog. Slicing and cutting comps approached annoying in the increased time it took to get things done. While running Windows inside a VM really wasn’t a huge deal, I’ve got a bit of OCD when it comes to productivity.

Additionally, I began to question what I would do five years down the road when it came to working in Photoshop. It’s flat out essential for me at work. I tried to picture Adobe taking the time to announce their effort to port the most popular applications from the Creative Suite to Linux, but we all know that isn’t happening any decade soon. I refused to explore the possibility of running Windows Vista, so would I continue to use Windows XP until the day I retire? Neither option sounded very compelling.

It was about the hardware

It’s true that there have been quite a few articles published which act as a horror-filled documentation of an individual experience with Apple, but they’re computers. Bad things happen from time to time, take a look at some of the review threads on Newegg, you’ll find opinions from one end of the spectrum to the other for nearly every product available. Overall, I heard many good things about the hardware itself. I checked things out in more detail and I was impressed with what I found. The build quality of Apple hardware is impressive, and that’s a huge selling point for me. I’ve had my fair share of “discount” hardware and been sorely disappointed.

One thing I was also looking forward to was the “it just works” factor. With Linux, things will definitely work, it’s just that sometimes they require a bit of elbow grease to get the gears turning. If you’re into that sort of thing (which I can truly say I am), then Linux is really that much more fitting for you. I had a lot of fun working with Linux, but when it came down to it, I wanted to get work done faster. Plugging in an external monitor and having OS X automatically enable the display and find the native resolution was a welcome change to editing xorg.conf. There are many more details about the hardware itself that was a selling point, but the overall quality of Apple products was another attractive feature to look forward to.

At the end of the day

Finally, I went ahead and picked up a MacBook running a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, popped in 2 gigs of RAM, and went on my way. The first couple days were all discovery, but nothing out of the ordinary. I had spent nearly two years in a Linux-only environment, so I was partially used to working with an entirely new operating system.

I made the switch to Mac about six months before the time of this writing, and I can say that overall I’m glad I did. I now see why so many designers and developers simply love OS X. With a bit of tinkering, you could make a Linux installation look quite good, but OS X is quite stunning out of the box. The great thing is, applications follow suit. Many applications written for OS X pride themselves on their design.

After six months, I can say that I’ll probably be sticking with Apple for the foreseeable future. The software is great, the hardware is great, and the aesthetics are a nice bonus. I wanted to make sure I had at least some experience before writing that I had made the switch, whether it be good, bad, or great. I really enjoyed my time working with Linux, and had there been a native version of Photoshop to accompany it, I may have never made the switch to be honest. I still use my Ubuntu machine quite a bit. It’s an in-house development server, a file server, as well as the machine on which I capture and touch up photos (using LightZone which used to be a free download for Linux). Linux is by far the operating system I would suggest to someone looking to change things up a bit. You’ve got all the benefits of a UNIX-based machine (as you do with OS X) without the cost. If you’re not strapped to working on tight deadlines, Linux with a virtual machine to run that application or two you simply can’t live without is a completely great solution.

I hope this article didn’t come off as my waving a brand new Apple flag, I simply wanted to offer my experience of switching from Linux to OS X as opposed to the usual Windows to OS X move. If you’ve been back and forth asking yourself whether or not a Mac is for you, the best way to find out is to try. I know it’s an expensive trial, but simply working for a few minutes on a friends machine really doesn’t help you see whether or not OS X is for you. If you’re simply itching to rid yourself of Windows, give Linux a shot with a virtual machine. You really can’t go wrong with a free operating system filled with free software.

I hope to offer some more detailed accounts of what I like about OS X, but I thought I’d test the waters with a bit of an introductory article to see if it’s anything readers have an interest in. Would you rather me not single out software/hardware in what I write? I know that articles written about Apple in general can come off a bit fanboy-ish, and that’s what I’d like to avoid, as I’m not trying to tout OS X or Apple in any way. If readers might be interested in finding out more about the tools I use and my process with them, I’d be more than happy to put some pieces together over the next few months.