Tag: Ubuntu

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. At Optaros 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…

 

Everex should have gone with straight Ubuntu

I’ve been slowly tweaking the way my family uses their computer to make it easier to migrate everyone to Linux. First, I completely removed Internet Explorer and got everyone used to Firefox. Then, I moved my wife off of her thick email client and onto Gmail. Next, I replaced Office with OpenOffice. Each of those moves was relatively painless. Spreading them out over time helped.

The kids were even easier. When they were younger, they used a lot of PC-based CD-ROM games and educational software. Now ages 6 and 10, they are exclusively into web-based Flash games and virtual worlds. All browser, all the time, although they do seem to enjoy tweaking their wallpaper, changing themes, resetting their passwords, and, oddly, watching the CPU performance graphs. They can out control panel most adults.

Anyway, the spare computer finally became unbearably slow compared to the primary machine and my laptop. I decided I’d get a decent monitor (20″ Dell Ultrasharp 2009W) with a low-end workstation. I went with an Everex gPC2.

I’ve been running Ubuntu for two years, and the gPC’s gOS is based on Ubuntu so I figured it ought to be easy enough for me to support. But I had to do a bit more work than I thought I should based on that fact that this was aimed at the masses. I mean it used to be sold at Wal-Mart for crying out loud. I guess the ideal target end-user is a single user who connects to the net to do absolutely everything. At first blush, my family fits that description. But they also want to share files on the local network. And they want their own login. And they want a decent file manager. And they want to be able to “switch user” instead of logging out to let someone else log in. These are all done effortlessly on Windows and fairly painlessly on straight Ubuntu. On gOS, these seemingly rudimentary feats require additional installs. For those already familiar with Linux, these are fairly simple. But for families without a command-line lover in the house, it would get very frustrating, very fast.

I pushed through it because I’m the only one that has to deal with installation and config. If my family is happy, and if they can get their “work” done without coming to the “help desk”, I’m happy. And at first, my family was excited about the new box. It started up fast, the UI was pretty (my son loved the Mac-ish iBar), and the browser and OO.o worked like they’d expect. After a few days, though, the bleeding edge nature of some of the gOS components started to turn into annoyances:

  • Segment fault messages on every logout meant an extra close the error dialog.
  • Fairly often, Firefox complained that it was already running. (This usually happened when someone had just logged out and a new user was logging in and starting up Firefox.)
  • There was no easy way to mount and navigate Windows shares in the file manager. (I did see a workaround involving Thunar and Fuse but Fuse seemed to be acting a bit fishy–I wasn’t seeing consistent good behavior there).
  • Reported system freeze-ups. (I never saw any of these first-hand).

After less than a week I finally had enough. What was the gOS buying me? Nothing. Instead, it was costing me time. Today I slapped in the Ubuntu install CD and never looked back.

I still think the $199 I paid for the Everex box was worth it. And judging from the partial success of the gOS experiment, the family is definitely not going to miss Windows. I wonder if there is a group of happy gPC2 users still using gOS out there or if Everex would have done better forgoing some of the eye candy and distributing with a straight Ubuntu install.