Should a longtime Linux user switch?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by jgrackmalloy, Aug 30, 2005.

  1. jgrackmalloy macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    #1
    I have used Linux exclusively for 3 years now, and for 2 years prior I switched into Windows only to play an occasional game.

    It is likely that I will soon buy a replacement laptop for my 3-year old P4 Dell laptop, and the new PB's that will supposedly be released in Sept '05 are the leading contenders for my money (they should have at least 3/4 of: the new freescales, 128mb video ram, 100GB HD and 1gb DDR2 sys ram).

    However, I have some reservations. With Linux, I am the master of my machine. Everything that it does I know about, and can change if I want. All the software I run is free (as in beer, and as in freedom), except for my VPN client (which is free as in beer only). I currently use Ubuntu Linux, which I find very usable and hassle-free, and when a major update arrives every 6 months I'll be able to update the parts I want, for free. I find that the overall functionality and usability of Linux has increased much more quickly than Windows over 5 years, and faster than OSX over the same time (although OSX still appears to be champion). Also, with Linux I am never at the mercy or whim of any company. I will always use whatever architecture I want. Companies don't care about me as an individual, only as a customer.

    Finally, given the way I use my computer, I'd spend most of my time in the Mac terminal, and with emacs, with occasional forays into texshop and iWork. These, or approximations thereof, are available in Linux.

    I am considering a change to Mac:

    • For the overall experience. I spend much of my day working and apparently Mac OSX is more 'fun' to use (at least superficially)
    • To be able to play sounds from more than one app simultaneously without crappy ESD.
    • For longer battery life (assuming the new PB's last >5 hours - my current Dell now lasts 35 minutes on battery, if that )
    • Xcode seems pretty cool, as does much of Apple's API. I'd like to code with powerfull tools like the Core{Data|Image|Audio} and Spotlight.
    • To avoid the mandatory system administration that typically goes along with Linux (although Ubuntu is pretty good at leaving me alone).
    • To learn and experience someting new.

    The 'form factor' and the 'look' of the powerbook is certainly no incentive for me to buy one. I am about to become a Ph.D. student, so I get to choose the computing environment I use all day long. I suppose I could always install Ubuntu on a PB, but then why buy a PB if not for OSX?

    So...I have told you why I like Linux, how I would likely use Mac OSX, and some reasons for a potential switch. I do not know enough about Mac to come up with any more 'pros' (that's up to you ;) ), and those I've spoken to have not yet convinced me....

    So, please convince me with anecdotes or logic to get a powerbook next month, and I will reward your favourite company with $3K.

    thanks in advance :)
     
  2. keyshawn macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2005
    Location:
    kalamazoo
    #2
    hey,

    I'm a fellow recent convert to apple too :D
    After using ubuntu, I just bought an ibook [for college] on saturday...
    So far, so good....But for me, it's too early to tell if I can recommend for others to make the jump [from linux to apple]; although that's probably not the answer you're looking for :p

    Things I've noticed so far:
    - The interface is much smoother ! The overall feel to it is more organized, much more easier to do sys admin/configuring in tiger than it is in gnome.
    - installing programs is much easier too [more than synaptic or apt-get]
    The difference though, is that there's no central packaged repository [like in ubuntu] so you have to hunt for some software, although I still had to do the occasional search on ubuntu too. So far, though, I haven't found out how to remove programs yet [nor have I tried to figure out].

    [actually typing this right now from firefox in gnome....hehe....*my ibook is sitting next to me, folding*]

    good luck and let us how it's going !
    keyshawn
     
  3. yellow Moderator emeritus

    yellow

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #3
    Don't switch for battery life.. MAYBE an iBook might get close to 5 hours, but a PowerBook certainly won't. I get 2.5 hours if I'm lucky and I run minimal apps/services.
     
  4. mduser63 macrumors 68040

    mduser63

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2004
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, UT
    #4
    It comes down to personal choice. If I were in your shoes, I would definitely switch. I'm also an Ubuntu user. OS X is IMO, a MUCH better OS. The UI is the best of any OS. You can use all the open source stuff you want as it's a BSD variant, but you've also got access to commercial apps like Office and Photoshop. As much as I like the idea of open-source, I have to have commercial apps for my work. There is no open-source replacement for Final Cut Pro or DVD Studio pro, and Photoshop beats The GIMP hands down. If you're looking for something like Synaptic, there is a package manger called Fink for OS X that makes it really easy to install open source packages. I don't do programming, but I've heard that OS X is really good to developers.
     
  5. Compile 'em all macrumors 601

    Compile 'em all

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    #5
    I was exactly in the same boat a couple of months of ago. I bought a
    powerbook basically because I needed a new machine. Given that GNU/Linux
    runs on it, there were no problems whatsoever. I thought, If I don't like OS X,
    I will install GNU/Linux, as simple as that. I have posted a couple of posts on
    my blog about my move from Debian to OS X.
    http://asemh.blogspot.com/2005/07/me-and-os-x-part-one.html
    http://asemh.blogspot.com/2005/07/me-and-os-x-part-two.html

    My personal opinion, if you have got the money then buy one. OS X is
    absolutely amazing, and the integration between the OS and H/W is stunning.
    You will be amazed how fast those laptops sleep/wake up. As well all the
    *NIX software is available on OSX including Xserver, BASH, GNU tool
    chain...etc. Heck, you even run KDE on top of OS X if you want.
    I hate to say it but you can in someway think of OS X as how GNU/Linux on
    the desktop should look like.
     
  6. kalisphoenix macrumors 65816

    kalisphoenix

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2005
    #6
    I'm an ex-Gentoo/FreeBSD user, so that should tell you the level of control I prefer ;-)

    You're not going to soothe your ethical concerns by using OS X, but there's a good amount of cognitive dissonance. A couple hours of playing with Aqua and it'll probably seem less of a concern than, you know, people dying in Iraq for your ease of transportation.

    There's a lot of excellent *Nix software available for OS X. Look at fink.sourceforge.net and darwinports.opendarwin.org. Fink has over 5000 packages, I believe, and Darwin Ports has about 2500. I think, don't anyone kill me if I'm wrong. Both are sorta up to date, but not really. The good thing is that the packages are all really stable and well-tested, which flatters my FreeBSD and Debian aesthetics while irritating the Gentoo Ricer in me.

    If you get bored with Aqua, you can boot to a command prompt by:
    * commenting one line in /etc/ttys (console "/System/Library/CoreServices/loginwindow.app/Contents/MacOS/loginwindow" vt100 on secure onoption="/usr/libexec/getty std.9600"),
    * uncommenting another in /etc/ttys (console "/usr/libexec/getty std.57600" vt100 on secure), and
    * mv'ing /etc/mach_init.d/WindowServer.plist somewhere out of that directory.

    You still get all of the services you know and love (AFP, WWW, SMB, Airport, et cetera) but without the Aqua overhead. Sadly, I haven't managed to get XFree86 working outside of Aqua, but it's probably because I don't want to compile from source and everyone assumes you want to run Aqua all the time. I've spoken to some people who run XFree and they say it runs exquisitely.

    Since you're getting a new machine, it'll probably have oodles of RAM so you can do what I do: install Apple's X11 and run it either in rooted or rootless mode. I use WindowMaker, personally, and the rooted mode, and switch back and forth. Even on machines with only 320MB RAM, it's actually not that bad, but then I only run a webbrowser, iTunes, Terminal, and iChat most of the time. On my previous 1GHz iBook with 768MB RAM, it flew right along. Apple's X11 is seamlessly integrated with Aqua and has both OpenGL and Quartz Extreme acceleration "out of the box."

    Basically, I don't see how you can lose with Apple. You have the "just works," the physical beauty of the machine, the ease and beauty of Aqua, and the FreeBSD undercarriage. I haven't seen any reason to complain about the Darwin kernel -- it's fast, light, and feature-rich. I thought it was an infant kernel before I used OS X, but it now seems to be very mature and solid.

    Hope that helps.
     
  7. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2003
    Location:
    Boston
    #7
    My 1.5ghz 12" Powerbook gets approx. 4 hours with airport on and the backlight most of the way up.
     
  8. sparky76 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2003
    #8
    I also use Ubuntu, as well as OS X and Windows. I would recommend the switch. As you have said, OS X is a much cleaner GUI than Win or Lin.
    While you do not want to be tied to one company, unless you are happy compiling from source, most Linux distros can be hard to find new software for (do you need RPM's etc) as you are downloading from (in your case) Ubuntu's servers. If software alleges to work with OS X it generally does so without problems and there is a vibrant freeware scene on OS X.
    Finally, even if you do not like OS X much, you can still dual-boot Ubuntu for PPC on the Powerbook, or even do away with OS X and just use Linux on it, still having a machine with good battery life and solid build.
    Good luck.
     
  9. risc macrumors 68030

    risc

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2004
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #9
    Firstly your specs for the new PowerBooks are nothing but rumours no one here can say you'll be getting a machine with: the new freescale cpu, 128mb video ram, 100GB HD and 1gb DDR2 sys ram. Also if you need 5 hours of battery time from a 15" or 17" PowerBook you are probably dreaming as well. I have the current 15" PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz and I get maybe 3 to 3 1/2 hours battery life.

    I came to Mac OS X after using Linux for nearly a decade as my primary OS. I'll go through your list and answer them as honestly as I can from an ex-Linux desktop users perspective.

    * With Linux, I am the master of my machine. Everything that it does I know about, and can change if I want. All the software I run is free (as in beer, and as in freedom)

    OS X imho is more about the best tool for the job. There are some great commercial apps, some great shareware, and some great open source ones. If you are using Linux for religious reasons OS X isn't for you. It's a BSD OS not a GNU one. If you are need an OS to get work done, and you need some of your open source apps check out Ports systems like
    Darwin Ports or Fink.

    * I find that the overall functionality and usability of Linux has increased much more quickly than Windows over 5 years, and faster than OSX over the same time

    This is an interesting statement, are you saying Linux was really bad 5 years ago, and it's been playing catch up? Oh well it isn't 5 years ago now, OS X is the best desktop UNIX-like OS available what else matters?

    * Also, with Linux I am never at the mercy or whim of any company. I will always use whatever architecture I want. Companies don't care about me as an individual, only as a customer.

    It's an interesting point, but have you actually tried Linux on non-x86 hardware? Depending on the OS you can get anything from broken to nearly working. Linux is only GREAT (IMO) on x86. Unless you have OLD non-x86 hardware.

    Of course companies only care about you as a customer. If you are thinking about switching to OS X for a touchy feely kind of friendship from Apple good luck. You use OS X because of what it is OS X.

    * Finally, given the way I use my computer, I'd spend most of my time in the Mac terminal, and with emacs, with occasional forays into texshop and iWork.

    See above for links to Darwin Ports and Fink if you need a console app you have on Linux, but don't have on OS X.

    * I am considering a change to Mac: <snip>

    All good reasons. Good luck with the 5 hour battery life on a PowerBook. You might get close to this on a 12" but you aren't going to get anywhere the specs you list above on the 12".

    * The 'form factor' and the 'look' of the powerbook is certainly no incentive for me to buy one.

    As it should be computers are tools or toys not fashion accessories.

    * I suppose I could always install Ubuntu on a PB, but then why buy a PB if not for OSX?

    OS X is the main reason imo for buying Apple hardware, it's the best desktop UNIX-like OS out there at the moment. I've tried YDL Linux on my Power Mac G5 and it was broken at best, no support for sound, 3D acceleration, 2D accelerated X11. Seemed nice enough if I didn't want to use X11. Things may be better with the PowerBooks hardware support wise.

    * I have told you why I like Linux, how I would likely use Mac OSX, and some reasons for a potential switch. I do not know enough about Mac to come up with any more 'pros', and those I've spoken to have not yet convinced me....

    I've got no interest in convincing you to switch from Linux to OS X at all. If you need a new notebook, with a UNIX-like OS, where 100% of the hardware is going to work, and you wont need to recompile your kernel to get something as simple as 3D support, or your modem working you've got all the reasons you need to make the switch to OS X. Like I said it's the best UNIX-like OS out there, with all the commercial, shareware, open source apps you could want.

    All it really comes down to is you, you might want to wait and see what you actually think of the PowerBook updates then make your own mind up. Currently I own a Power Mac Dual G5 1.8 GHz, and the PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz 15" both machines are fantastic my personal opinion is that the current PowerBook is great but I know a lot of people on here actually whine about them. This is something I don't understand, but the Apple market seems to be full of people always waiting for the next best thing, and never buying. ;)

    Oh well good luck in what ever you decide to do.
     
  10. pna macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    #10
    I'm also Ph.D student a linux user of 7+ years, and have/had been using gentoo for my analysis work (and everything else) since some really early releases until my brother got me a mac mini when they came out this year. I was expecting I'd use it for some things, and use the KVM to get to my linux desktop for others. Instead, I quickly found that there was nothing I was doing on the linux side of things that I couldn't either find the same (as in a port) or better way of doing on the mac. It's even a better x11 terminal than from one linux box to another, which I never expected, as all of the X emulation stuff on the PC side of things is far inferior.

    In short, I finally got rid of the KVM switch entirely, and I just access the linux box for analysis via ssh tunneling. I'm absolutely stunned at how much more productive it's made me, because I no longer end up spending a day to make some device driver work, or have a kernel upgrade break things, or even just having to follow all of that development stuff that's going on and figure out what I need and don't need. I love linux, and learned a TON by making it work for me and others for many years, but I'm amazed looking back on it at how much time I spent troubleshooting and making things try and play nicely together. Most of that time isn't really all that fun or informative, to be honest, it's just painful. Having a platform where everything is designed to work together instead of having to be reverse engineered turns out to be a big bonus, if it's done right. Who would have thought it?

    Really, though. You may not end up being as much of a convert as I ended up being, but I'd be surprised if you didn't have a pretty great experience. All of the unix stuff you love is there, with none of the hassle. Wait and see if there's an announcement at the end of Sept. about new powerbooks, and then take the plunge. I picked up a used 15" aluminum powerbook that still had applecare, and once the kinks got worked out (the reason the owner was selling it), it has been totally solid for me.

    Oh, and make sure you install 'desktop manager', to give you virtual desktops. Without that one program, I think I'd still be firing up the linux desktop from time to time just to have that feature. It's a great, and free, program.

    Good luck, I suspect you won't look back from this purchase. I too was worried about not having 'complete control' over my machine, but it hasn't been a problem.
     
  11. jgrackmalloy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    #11
    Thanks for your speedy and detailed responses! It's good to know that if I switch, I'll still be part of a great community.

    Recent posts on this site regarding 'warped' PBs, the 'slowness' of Safari and Mac Firefox, kernel panics, dead pixels and customer service complaints prompted the concern of my original post. However, all but the second of these problems (which appears to be contradicted to some degree here ) I imagine to be rare or covered by Apple Care....right?

    There's also the complaint that the best PBs are 'slow' compared to x86 machines, but according to some benchmarks, it does quite admirably, at least for scientific computations, which is precisely the kind of computation that I need my computer to compute.

    Some replies...

    Yeah, I'm hoping possible upgrades to the CPU and hard drive will go easier on the batteries, but I guess it's unlikely that a 15" PB will achieve the untethered lifespans of the iBooks, or 12" PB.

    Geez! My bike was made in Canada! I should call Iraq ASAP to set things straight :rolleyes:

    I wouldn't say Linux's interface was 'really bad' 5 years ago, but it has certainly improved a lot since I started. The new xorg-x11 server is going to be pretty featureful, and both kde and gnome have some interesting things in the pipeline, and as Disco Stu once noted, "if these trends continue.....ey!" :cool: . ... Anyway, if Enlightenment is any indication, these things may always be a few years away, whereas OSX is here right now ...

    Thanks to those who suggested Fink, Darwin Points and 'desktop manager'. I'll definetly investigate those. It's good to know that I can always default to my Linux behaviour in OSX if necessary, but that I don't need to do compilation gymnastics of kernel modules to get current vid cards to work.

    I'll keep Linuxing for the next month or so, and depending on the new PBs, I might join you guys more regularly as 'one of you'. If there are any among you who have done a lot of coding in OSX, I'd be interested to hear your experiences in that regard as well.
     
  12. MUCKYFINGERS macrumors 6502a

    MUCKYFINGERS

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2005
    Location:
    CA
    #12
    My 14" iBook 1.42 ghz stock gives me almost 4:30 hours of battery life on a full charge when it selecting the "better performance" option.
     

Share This Page