The Great Nerd Experiment (nerd referring to Linux users, not general nerdery).

Discussion in 'Apple, Industry and Internet Discussion' started by Renzatic, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. Renzatic, Apr 13, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2013

    macrumors G3


    So I was bored the other day. We’ve all been there. It was one of those days when there’s absolutely nothing to do. No work that needs to be done, no big projects that absolutely have to be finished now or else horrible things will happen, all your friends, family, significant others past and present are giant dorks who don’t want to do something as simple as going to the freaking mall cuz they’re all a bunch of “oooh, I just want to take a nap” lazy bastards. Yup. It was one of those days. One of those terrible days we all think we want when we’re busy as hell, but realize they’re about the worst thing ever when we happen to get one.

    It’s usually days like that when I end up doing something dangerous. Fortunately for my life, limb, and future well being, I’m out of gunpowder and magnesium strips (no homemade fireworks), so I had to find some other stupid way to occupy my time. I could watch movies, but…eh. I want to do something. At least something that looks productive at first glance. Something hands on that requires at least a little effort, even if it does end up being a complete waste of time in the grand scheme of things.

    …so I hit up the internet to look for porn. But there’s really only so many times you can do that in a single day before you start chafing, so I had to find something else to do. It was around then that I decided to try what I’m now dubbing…

    The Great Nerd Experiment

    Or in regular yakkity talk, me wiping my computer and installing Linux with the intentions of using it for a month.

    Yup. Linux and internet porn. I’m always the life of every party I go to!

    This entire post will be about my experiences over the last 5 days. A journal only three people here will find interesting.

    I’ve tried Linux before. Dabbled in it anyway. Usually on days like I’ve already mentioned and griped about above. But it’s always been a dabbling. I’ll goof around with it for a couple of hours, then usually wipe the partition and go back to normal when I find things too ugly and stupid dumb. It had been about 2 years since I last tried it out, and I’ve heard things have improved considerably for the FOSS zealot’s OS of choice during that time. I decided to go whole hog and immerse myself in the experience.

    And so it began. I picked Ubuntu Gnome cuz it looked to have the nicest UI of the bunch, slapped it on a thumb drive, and spent all of 20 minutes going through the install process. That’s one plus for it. It’s about the fastest, simplest installation I’ve been through. It would’ve taken even less time if I let it wipe and set up my whole harddrive itself. But since I’m a nerd on a great nerd experiment, I decided to do all that myself.

    My first experiences on booting up? At least as far as looks go, things have improved by leaps and bounds. Back in the day, Linux looked exactly like what it was. It looked like an OS made by a lot of geeks with a tremendous amount of programming talent, but no knack for design would make. Now? It has a very OSXish style to it without aping it directly. Everything is brightly colored, the text is bold, clear, and easy to see, and it all fits well together. The UI itself is like an interesting take on mission control, but doesn’t group windows by programs, and still has a useable set of virtual desktops. One thing’s for sure, it’s very clean, and easy to organize. Even without the usual minimize and maximize buttons on my windows. Gnome 3 is set up to keep all your windows open at once, and you sort through them by expose’ing them around or moving them to other desktops. Weird at first, but I started liking it pretty quickly. I’m already able to get around to everything a little quicker and easily than I could in Windows.

    Linux is just about good enough to have an excellent out of the box experience (provided you pick the right distro). I didn’t have to futz around with various themes to get it looking halfway decent. Other than getting a new icon set, I was ready to roll right after install.

    Software? Still lacking in a lot of ways (OH GOD NO PHOTOSHOP), but better than it ever has been before. I’m writing this in Scrivener, and listening to Spotify in the background. I don’t have to rely on alright, but not quite as good open source alternatives there at least. Games? I’ve got Steam installed, though I’ve only got 18 of my 80 something odd games available to me. At least they’re pretty fun ones, and looking at Kickstarter shows me even more is coming around the corner. Still not absolutely spectacular, but so much better than it was 2 years ago. Modo is also coming to Linux soon, which is a huge, HUGE plus for me.

    But no Photoshop. I’m about to try it out in WINE, but I’m not expecting miracles. This’ll probably be the one thing that pushes me back to Windows.

    And the most important part: stability and ease of use. Is it truly ready for your average grandma to use? This is a mixed bag. A yes and a no situation. One thing I’ve noticed over the last 5 days is that when Linux is working, it’s working well. Everything is smooth, runs clean, and pops up instantaneously. Hiccups and hitches are a rare thing. It’s quite nice.

    …but there are no little problems in Linux. Oh no. This isn’t a good thing, because when something goes wrong, it goes wrong HARD.

    As in, I have to spend an hour on my iPad looking up solutions to problems that require 30 lines worth of bash commands to do because installing Dropbox off the Ubuntu Software Center is buggy, it hangs when it tries to install after download, eats up 100% of your CPU cycles, won’t let you turn your computer off without a hard reset, won’t purge the problem itself, and will keep falling into the same trap each and every time you go to download a new program.

    Or my network settings randomly wanting to use my router internal DNS server as the internet gateway, ignoring anything else beyond it. I had to force it to use Google’s if I wanted to download files consistently.

    Plus my syslog file is currently almost a GB big (er…GiB, rather) because I had an issue with my network card, and it kept writing error logs to it over and over and over and over again, eating up 100% of my CPU cycles just writing more and more logs until I fixed it. I thought it was just my mouse lagging at first. I was wrong. At least the nice people over at the Ubuntu IRC channel were kind enough to help me out on this front. Yeah. IRC. I haven’t used that in almost 10 years now.

    Yup. No little problems in Linux. Just gignormous ones that’ll freak just about anyone out. Things are running buttery smooth right now, but how long will that last? Is everything finally stable? Will I have another catastrophic failure? I might be able to fix it, but that’s a little too much trouble for your average grandma to deal with.

    So anyway, this is my incredibly long post about Linux. I could go on, but it’s already a little overly long as it is. Just thought I’d share all my little moments with you all for educational purposes.
  2. macrumors demi-god


    Feb 26, 2011
    New England, USA
  3. thread starter macrumors G3


    When I post, I post with gusto, by god! :mad:

    Also, I've been writing this over two-three days.
  4. macrumors demi-god


    Feb 26, 2011
    New England, USA
    It's an interesting post...even for a technoboob like me. Stimulates me to do a little Googling, and a little reading.

    It is, for sure, no doubt about it, a POST!!:D
  5. Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Good luck, I switched over to linux for a period of time. I had it dual partly due to a safety net, partly because some software I need was only available on OSX (LightRoom/Aperture).

    It went well, I moved to Ubuntu, to Fedora and things were going decently, I even was running OSX as a VM for the software I mentioned.

    The only thing that stopped me from continuing is that whenever I upgraded it whacked my system, and I had to wipe it and start over. For some reason upgrading the OS wasn't as seamless as OSX. Still it was an interesting experience.

    Good luck with your experiment :)
  6. Renzatic, Apr 14, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013

    thread starter macrumors G3


    I've heard that upgrading can be an iffy affair. You think it'd be something the Linux community at large would have down pat by this point. Specially Canonical, considering their twice yearly upgrade cycle. They should have it down to a science after all these years.

    It seems it follows what I'm discovering to be the running theme with Linux. It either works perfectly without a single hitch, or it sets your computer on fire.

    In fact, I just got through fixing yet another CPU usage at 100% problem. When I woke my computer up from sleep this morning, I noticed it seemed to take a little longer than usual. Once I was on the desktop, I started noticing the usual ticks that come along with something not behaving like it should. Animations were choppy, it'd take extra long to open applications, the mouse would lag every few seconds, the cursor would suddenly stop while I was typing something, then immediately spray all my text out in one quick motion.

    Gaw. GAW! All I wanted to do was check my email, not deal with computer crap again. At least this time I had better idea of how to go about fixing it this go round.

    Turns out it something called "Tracker-Miner-F" going crazy on my computer. Yeah. That's about suspicious as hell. That sounds about as malwareish as you can get. About the only thing worse would be seeing "Credit-Card-Information-Grabber-D" pop up in the process list.

    But...nope. It wasn't anything that bad. It was just the system indexer for the desktop search tool using 110% of my CPU and 65% of my memory to catalog the hell out of itself. All I had to do to fix it was launch the indexer app, tell it to only index when the computer is asleep, then reboot.

    Yeah. Easy.

    There's a lot to like about Linux. There's also a ton to hate. I realize this is my Great Nerd Experiment and all, but know...I just wanna check my damn email. These random spazzes are starting to test my patience a bit.
  7. thread starter macrumors G3


    I guess since I've spent so much time griping about the bad, I could talk about some of the good things. Mainly one of the major reasons why I want to stick with it: the new UI.

    Like I said above, Linux had always been kinda ugly. You could spend hours tweaking it to look decent enough, but out of the box it looked about like something you'd see from the Windows 95 days. Crappy fonts, terrible colors, crowded UI.

    That's the way it used to be. Now? It's pretty damn nice. Gnome 3 by itself is simple to navigate and nice look right from the first boot. In usage, it's a bit like what I'd expect a keyboard/mouse oriented mix of OSX and iOS to be. By default, the desktop isn't used for anything except the staging area for the windows. There are no icons on it, and you can't save any files or folders to it. This wasn't that hard for me to deal with, since I used my old Windows desktop about the same way. The only things I ever had on it were one folder shortcut and my recycle bin.

    What is weird is that there's no dock on it, either. I guess the Gnome people are really trying to drive home the desktop for windows and open applications only paradigm. Opening new programs, or navigating through your computer is done from the little activities bar you access either by hitting the appropriately labled "activities" button at the top left of the screen, or going a little farther over to the corner to activate it oldschool Expose style.


    From there, you've got your dock on the left, your virtual desktops on the right, and a type to search function that works a bit like it does in Windows 8, as in you don't have to click the search bar to look for something, you just start typing and files/folders/applications start popping up. It works far better than it does in Win8 because all your results come up nice categorized rows all at once rather than being forced to drill down because it defaults to apps and you want to find a folder.

    Plus it uses metatags, so even if you look up something like "ph", it'll bring up anything associated with a ph word, even if the folder or app title doesn't have "ph" in the name, and narrows down the results the more you type Handy as all get out.


    At the bottom of the dock you've got a little grid icon that brings up your installed apps. Very Androidish. It's splays out everything alphabetically when first opened, but gives you the options to drill down to specific categories on the right. You want to go to the resource monitor but don't know exactly what it's called in Linux? Just go over to system tools the right. If you do, just type out "re" and it'll bring it up there.


    Even though it seems a little spartan and weird at first, I'm found it to be one of the most straightforward UIs I've used once I got used to the ebb and flow of things. It absolutely beats the crap out of Win 7 & 8, and comes close to matching OSX in pure simplicity and quickness. It's the major reason why I'm sticking around here in Linux, enduring the occasional issues.

    Also, I like how pictures and movies play in a black window, while UI and apps display in white ones. Dunno why, but I think that's cool.

  8. macrumors demi-god


    Apr 16, 2010
    My biggest issue is that pretty much everything that is cool about Linux, I already do in OSX. So it just becomes going back to habit. When I am doodling around with Linux, I do OpenSuse.
  9. macrumors G3


    Aug 24, 2009
    As nice as it is that people take the time to develop Linux distros and apps for them, I have no use for it. It lacks the games and apps I want to run on my PC.

    Ubuntu is probably my favourite distro. Followed closely by Fedora Core.
  10. macrumors 68040


    Dec 22, 2009
    I do love GNOME 3. It's like what Unity should have been. The way you have yours set up is nice, OP. What theme and icons are you using? When I tried it out a while ago it didn't look as slick as yours, I'm guessing you customised it a bit?
  11. Renzatic, Apr 15, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2013

    thread starter macrumors G3


    This is the one biggest problem with Linux. I could probably live without having access to every single AAA game out there, but damnit...I really miss Photoshop. Contrary to what all the people on the Wine and Ubuntu boards say, GIMP isn't anywhere NEAR as good as PS. It's alright if you're in a pinch, I guess. But really, there is no competition between the two.

    If I could at least get it running on Wine, I might be able to deal. Either that, or install a VM to get it running. But having to install 12GB of Windows just so I can have that one program in Linux seems total overkill to me.

    edit: though with Valve using Linux as their platform of choice for Steambox, I'm thinking game availability might not be a problem much longer. Provided Steambox is a success, of course.

    I did, but not by much. All I did was install a new icon pack (Faience-Azur) and tweaked the fonts a little to look nicer. The rest is all default Adwaita.
  12. Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    Kite flying
    Um, yes. Not for the first time, I find myself in agreement with Shrink.

    But I do have a query about the thread title (each to his or her own; I used to work as an editor......); why not re-title the thread with something along the lines of: "The Great Nerd Linux Experiment"?

    And here, I must confess that I clicked on the thread expecting to find an enlightening discussion about nerds in general, rather than a detailed account of one nerd's experience with Linux, which is still a matter of quite considerable interest, if you are a nerd......which many who post here are, needless to say.
  13. thread starter macrumors G3


    Well, I did have a whole herd of nerds corralled in my basement once. I kept them around in case I got audited by the IRS, but they'd always end up breaking out and raiding my pantry for Cheetos. Had to sell them back to the farm after 4 months of that.

    ...which, now that I think about it, maybe I should've fed them occasionally. Oh well. Live and learn.

    Also, title has been changed.
  14. macrumors demi-god


    Feb 26, 2011
    New England, USA
    #14 mean a herd of nerds is a write-off!!??:eek::confused:
  15. Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    Kite flying
    My inner nerdish instincts (as an editor) are delighted - nay, preternaturally pleased - at this response and consequent thread title change. See how easy it is to make nerds truly happy?

    And yes. The moral of the other sad and tragic tale seems to be: Feed The Nerds. A diet of information appears to work wonders, or so I'm told.
  16. Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    Whakatane, New Zealand
    I tried Ubuntu a few weeks ago.

    1. Install went fine, although at one point it sat there for 5 minutes doing... something... with no indication that anything was happening.
    2. Once it was all installed and waiting at the desktop, I inserted a music CD and let the default player open.
    3. I selected to rip the tracks in the default format (Ogg) but this failed because although the Ogg encoder is *selected* by default, it's not actually *installed* by default.
    4. I got a popup asking whether to install the encoder. I selected Yes and it failed to download.
    5. I went into preferences and changed to the AAC encoder. This one worked!
    6. But it failed to play.
    7. At this point I gave up and went back to OS X.

    I learned my lesson! :eek:
  17. thread starter macrumors G3


    No, they were there to sort through my receipts and do all the paper work in case of a worst case IRS scenario. Think of it as me owning a herd of feral accountants, and you'd be halfway there.

    I've gone through most of those same issues, save for the fact I didn't learn my lesson, and I'm still here. :p

    For me, it hung for 5 minutes the moment I hit the "install Ubuntu" button.

    Failing to download? I mentioned that earlier up above. It's due to some strange DNS issue where Linux uses the internet DNS server on your router rather than the iSP assigned one when connecting to the internet. Why it'd still allow me access to the internet otherwise, and why it'd only fail on installs alone is completely beyond me, but it's easily fixed.

    ...provided you know what the problem is to begin with. I think I lucked out by finding the solution as quickly as I did.

    Though I haven't had any problems playing any of my various media files. I checked the download updates and install proprietary codecs boxes during install. Here at least, it hasn't given me any trouble.

    Now that I'm a little over a week in, things are finally starting to smooth out and offer up a consistently stable experience. But I would say that anyone interested in trying out Linux, even with one of the "easy" distros like Ubuntu or Mint, should expect a good bit of troubleshooting and bug squashing those first couple of days. While the out of the box experience has greatly, GREATLY improved since I last tried it, it's still not quite up there with the paid OSes just yet.
  18. macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    I like....

    Linux. Back in the day, even try to run Yellow Dog in a PPC Mac I had. Have leased a trusty Cube to a friend with a project where he runs Ubuntu. But really had not done too much efforts in Mac hardware to run Linux, mostly doing it in x86 or x64 (PC hardware). Like very much of all Linux distros the following: SuSe, Mint and Debian. Share the experience of the OP, when he says a Linux failure would be a headache.

    Good experiment and experience for the OP, anyways. And congrats for have a Mac rig running up Linux.

  19. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 29, 2007
    Northern VA
    That ultimately, of course, is the fault of the application designers not Linux. Adobe could port Photoshop and their other Suite applications to Linux. Microsoft could port Office over to Linux. The work involved might be significant due to the UI differences between Linux and their other supported OSs. But they could do it.

    They don't see large enough market in it to make it worth their time and effort.

    FWIW, I've been using Linux since '92 on desktops, laptops, and servers. When Apple finally switched over to the X86/Intel platform for their Macs, I made the cut from Linux on the [desk|lap]tops. I finally had an OS with a UNIX underneath, and all of the native desktop applications available to me (See: PShop, MS Office, etc). Heaven.

    That's not to say I don't still use Linux, because I do. I have several servers in my basement "computer room", including my router, running CentOS. It is 100% unlikely that I'll ever completely abandon it.

  20. thread starter macrumors G3


    ...4 months later.

    I've done it, people. I did what I never thought I'd do. I've switched to Linux as my primary OS over Windows. A couple things made me decide to do this.

    1. It finally has a good select of software.

    OSX and Linux developer support has skyrocked over the last year, to the point I can get most of everything I'd want for Linux.

    Games? I'd say a good 90% of the titles I'm looking forward to are coming out for it, and I can get the AAA games for my PS3.

    Modelling and drawing? I've got access to Modo, Blender, and 3DCoat for all that. The only thing I'm missing is...yup...Photoshop. Considering all the things I like about Linux over Windows, I'm willing to take this one sacrifice (though I am gonna try getting it running in Wine later).

    2. It's now (just about) an easy to use, (nearly) elegant OS.

    What pushed me over the edge was me experimenting with Elementary OS. I saw a bunch of people raving about it, and decided to slap it on a thumb drive and test it out. To cut a long story short, it was almost as fast coming off the USB as it would be installed natively on the desktop. I spent a couple days playing around with it there before I thought, hell, I'm just gonna use it.

    Secondly, Elementary is the first Linux distro that doesn't require 10 days worth of tweaking to get it looking nice and performing decently. The interface is...well...


    ...there's no denying it, it's kinda obvious the developers were going for a slightly tweaked, subtlity rejiggered OSX. It doesn't act exactly the same, but there are more than a few not-quite-subtle cues to it. The only thing I've done to it was tweak the fonts and move the window title header over to the left Windows 7 style. The file browser is like Finder, but with tabs, and...holy crap...cut and paste. You can set hot corners just like OSX. It's got a virtual desktop setup similar to Gnome 3 which looks something like this...


    Hell, even Libreoffice looks good in it. Libreoffice never looks good on anything...


    Best of all, it's fast and thin. It eats up roughly half of what Windows did sitting on the desktop by itself, never hangs, and everything opens in a split second. It's easily the smoothest and simplest Linux distro to come to terms with.

    The downsides? Besides lack of PS, it's still a pain in the ass to install programs if you're not grabbing something off the Software Center or a handy PPA. I guess I'm a nerd now. Kinda feel bad for making fun of all those other Linux nerds back in the day now. :p
  21. macrumors 601


    Jul 3, 2011
    That transition is in the works for me also. Apple is forcing me into HW I don't want so I'm moving away. I've sold both Mac Pro's my 30" will be next and my MBP will be the last to go. I expect to be fully transitioned by the end of 2013.
  22. thread starter macrumors G3


    Despite the fact that I sorely miss Photoshop, I gotta admit it's pretty nice here in Linux Land. The one thing I've learned from both the iPad and my last experience is that repositories are the best way to deal with installing apps. As long as it has a PPA, everything is about as straightforward as you can get. No worrying about getting separate updates for all your various programs and OS underpinnings. It all funnels down to you through one easy to access source.

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