Why I’ve Switched from Ubuntu to Mac

It pains me to say it, but I’ve left Ubuntu as my primary OS and switched to Mac. I used Ubuntu as my primary operating system on my Dell laptop for over two years. I loved it. I felt very productive in the OS, especially relative to Windows. Many people have commented on how excited I must be (“Dude, you’re getting a Mac!”) but for me it kind of feels like it did when we moved out of the house our kids were born in–I know we moved for the right reasons, but the old place was special to me.

 

So why the switch? With Ubuntu there were a few annoyances. The major ones included:

 

  • Palm Treo synchronization. Worked in Gutsy once then started working fine after upgrading to Hardy Heron so this one wasn’t ultimately a factor.
  • OpenOffice.org incompatibilities with Microsoft Office. Atย Optarosย we’ve tuned most of our standard documents to work with both. Just to make sure I always sent a PDF version of documents and presentations along with the original.
  • Broken wireless with the upgrade to Hardy Heron. Worked great in Gutsy. Completely broke in Hardy. The problem is a bug in Network Manager related to the Intel wireless device in Dell laptops. I learned to live without wireless.
  • Unreliable display detection. This is correctable with edits to xorg.conf, but when my machine couldn’t detect the projector settings, it was usually 10 minutes before a pitch which is a bad time to be fooling with that file.
  • Inability to host a Webex. I worked around this one by dual booting, running a virtual machine image, or using an alternate machine. Co-workers running Gentoo don’t seem to have a problem with Webex so I’m not sure what was going on here.
  • Gnome instability. Every once-in-a-while, I’d hear my hard drive start swapping and then–boom–all of the “file menu” frames around all of my active windows, and all of my Java processes would simply go away. There was no way to recover without restarting X (ctrl+alt+backspace). Gnome is probably not an accurate description of where the problem was here.

Could I have fixed these issues? Given enough time, probably. But I’d rather spend my time elsewhere rather than fooling around with stuff that ought to “just work”.

 

I realized that what made my development so productive on Ubuntu was:

 

  • Being able to install software quickly and easily through apt-get
  • Working with the same command-line tools I enjoy working with on Linux and Unix servers
  • Building and running open source technology on its “target” platform
  • Having complete control over what is installed and running at any given time
  • Enjoying increased stability and performance (gnome issue aside) compared to Windows
  • Never having to worry about procuring a license
  • Finding helpful community and online resources for self-support

Ultimately it was my former colleague and friend, Tom Pierce, a fellow Linux lover and Mac user, who convinced me that with a Mac I could keep the productivity of Linux while gaining the benefit of a consumer-oriented machine–Mac users don’t have to settle for broken wireless or worry that an archaic projector will derail a client presentation. (To be fair, neither do Linux users with the time and inclination to work through the issues).

 

So I bit the bullet and switched. At least on my primary work machine. My wife and kids still run Ubuntu on their desktop, my son runs Debian on his laptop, and our DVR is a Windows Media Center PC that talks to an XBox 360. (My home IT environment is now every bit as heterogeneous as Optaros’). Tom says my MacBook Pro is essentially a gateway drug and that my house will be all-Apple in no time. I hope he’s wrong. I don’t want to be a fan boy. Variety is the spice of life. My Treo is looking a little long in the tooth, though. I’ll bet an iPhone would be a nice complement to this machine…