I’ve Switched from Linux and Settled on OS X

Posted: November 26, 2007 Comments(13)

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.

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Comments

  1. I switched from Windows XP to an iMac at home a couple of months ago and am really pleased with it. I’ve just got to convince work to let me do the same! I’ve never tried Linux seriously yet though, and that is something that bugs me. My plan is that, when I replace my Windows laptop that I still have, I’ll get another Windows laptop, but set Ubuntu on it from the start, giving me all three OSes at my disposal.

    In answer to your question, I would like to hear about your experiences with hardware, and particularly software for OS X. I’m always on the lookout for new/better ways of working.

  2. @Phil: That’s a good plan, my Linux machine at home has an old XP install on it for testing purposes as well. It’s good to hear that you’re interested in hearing more about the details of my switch and what I think about it. I’m always interested in reading such things, but I know many people feel they’re having a product pushed on them, so I wanted to ask. Thanks for the feedback!

    @jkyle: I’ve got to admit, with 2GB RAM, Create Suite runs pretty well. I wouldn’t want to work with 1GB RAM, and I’ve got my fair share of beachballs (think hourglass mouse icon in Windows) when working in Photoshop. I hear about people with higher performance machines having the same issues, however. To answer your question; I plan on upgrading to a MacBook Pro when it’s time for a new notebook. I’d really like to have dedicated video memory, whereas MacBooks share memory.

  3. I actually wrote a similar article on my blog last week (see link, I won’t spam). My perspective was more about encouraging people to at least make the choice rather than ambivalently using whatever came with your computer. That’s something I was doing until just over a year ago.

    For me, I find that OSX and Linux are a great combination. OSX is great for high end software (gimp can’t compare to Photoshop, and my work sites are currently built on DW templates). However, for more advanced development tasks I find it doesn’t cut it. The main reason is because of the file manager – I hate not having an address/path bar and the ability to type + tab to whatever directory I want. That, and many other things (multiple desktops — still on 10.4 here, customizable toolbars etc.) make Linux my choice for file management and development tasks. I really like being able to change stuff and I find that Mac is even more limiting than Windows that way.

    Of course, for me Freedom is an important factor. I’d prefer not to use something as heavily proprietary as Mac is – they’re just as bad as MS in that respect. If/when my work sites move out of DW templates I will be using the Mac a lot less than I do now.

  4. Sad.

    You don’t have to edit xorg.conf anymore with Ubuntu Gutsy. And it looks a bit slicker out of the box. The high quality programs you find on OS X is a valid point; I can see someone falling for these programs. I’d like to code up something sexy myself to enhance productivity. It’s getting there, but the problem is still that there is a big leakage of programmers who like sexy UIs and good workflow that doesn’t involve command line to Mac OS X.

    Hardware. Many in people in my computer society only buy Macs. But they run Linux on them. 🙂

    Problem is that when people (like you) switch from Linux because OS X has more cool stuff, we lose the same people that have a bit of vision, have ideas and want to do things a better way. Mac OS X has cooler front-ends and intelligent designs, so all the programmers who like that go and develop for Mac OS X instead of Linux – and oops, things just continue as they always did.

    But anyway, I’ve got an Mac with OS X myself. I only ever use it for video editing (which is what I do when I need money) – because I see that I couldn’t use OS X for real work. I always get frustrated when using it. Then again, my little brother loves Apple and has MacBook Pro and thinks otherwise (though he doesn’t really have any Linux experience).

  5. @Megan: I think you and I can agree on the fact that having the ability to make the choice is really what matters in the end. I too find that using a combination of a Linux machine and OS X machine is the best combination for myself.

    @Jim Schimpf: Thanks for the tip! I’m going to check it out as well.

    @Odin/Velmont: You’re absolutely right, Linux (especially Ubuntu in my opinion) is really making leaps and bounds in overall success, both with adoption as well as functionality. I didn’t completely make the switch because OS X and its software is simply ‘cool stuff’ — there was more to it. I wanted to actually have some experience to back up my opinion about OS X, and without actually using it exclusively for at least some time, I couldn’t have that. I also had the issue with performance using resource hog Adobe software in a virtual machine. I will continue to use an up-to-date Linux machine well into the future simply because I love what it’s about and I really find value in having one around. Thanks very much for your thoughts!

  6. I switched from Linux to Mac OS couple of months ago. The main reason behind that was – productivity. Have you ever tried something so simple like installing a flash player for your browser under any Linux distribution? Or maybe fixing a minor glitch that you know under normal circumstances would not take more than 10 min? Or you just bought a new webcam and spent 2 days trying to figure out how to make it work? Or you couldn’t install a new application because of endless dependencies and you made things worse than they were before? Or simply you are tired of using Wine or VMWare just because there’s no version of Photoshop for Linux? Bottom line: you spend too much time fighting with problems and you are not productive. You waste time. And after all, all you really wanted was a flash player for your browser.

  7. @Dim Haralanov: I can definitely sympathize with your frustrations. I have to admit however, that was one of the things I enjoy about Linux. I know it seems counterproductive, but I’ve got an interest in observing how things work, and having to solve dependencies made things a bit more interesting in a way. I can agree, though, that having to worry about such things on your production machine can be a different story entirely. Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts.

  8. Very true. That would be the positive side. It gives you control over the operating system. But you have to struggle with it in order to gain that control. ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.’ –Friedrich Nietzsche. ( Maybe not quite appropriate quote but you know what I’m trying to imply 🙂 )

  9. I totally agree that the MacOSX platform is undoubtedly the best I’ve work with. I’ve had my trials with linux too, and not to mention Windows XP.
    I could remember in 2002 a friend of mine came to my house to look at my Home Network. I was so proud of it. I had 2000 server, and linux server running. So, he pulled out this silver and white rig. I was like what the hell is that? He was like, “Mac”. I am accustom to seeing childest looking hardware. But his was sleek and nice. What got me was he opened up a shell…Nice! And then the OS GUI and the ease of use was unparallel. The next day I went out and bought a Powerbook G4 12″. Still got it to this day. I introduce it to my wife…. Never got it back….

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