How practical is Linux as an alternative to Mac OS?

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by ackmondual, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. ackmondual macrumors 6502a


    Dec 23, 2014
    U.S.A., Earth
    I often hear Mac OS users switching to Windows is simply NOT an option. Fair enough. Would Linux work then? I'm curious because it's always nice to have alternatives than being locked into a "virtual monopoly". Also aware that those not pleased with this year's MBP can and are using MBP from last year and beyond, but that won't last forever.

    FYI: I don't have plans to do this. I am interested in experiences that people have had with this, other considerations as part of general tech talk.
  2. MacUser2525, Dec 12, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016

    MacUser2525 macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2007
    Not many that have used OSX for any amount of time would be happy with it I would think. Aside from the scary command line that they would have to use to get by most of the problems. They would not like the inconsistent user interfaces of the programs or the overall look and feel. Now I used it exclusively for my OS from 1999 until early 2008 when I made the switch to OSX Leopard at the time and I have to tell you that there is no comparison other than the underlying stability of a *nix based system. Although lately since I have moved to 10.11 from Mavericks I notice the quality is slipping it is the first Apple OS that I have had to go out of my way to find scripts to run that will kill off run away process to keep the OS going. It was that that lead me to do a few test installs of some distos and my opinion has not changed from that experience it is fine for someone who wants to surf the web take what they are given from the OS but do anything advanced and look out for days of wasted time trying to get it going properly if at all, for a server only thing I will and do use that sh&t just works like it should.

    Edit: And as I wrote that another run away combo UserEventAgent & mds_stores pops up Christ.
  3. boast, Dec 12, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016

    boast macrumors 65816


    Nov 12, 2007
    It all depends on the software you need to work with. Before macOS I ran only Linux at home for 5+ years and we use RHEL at work. I kind of think of it as the no-fun OS. If you are not looking to do anything "fun" with it (Video Games, streaming DRM content, audio/video/graphic work, using the latest peripherals, etc...) it can be a stable and reliable system (if you don't update it, due to lack of quality control).

    I think the biggest issue with Linux is just how spread thin it's development is. There is no unified goal for one desktop environment, one sound server, one display server, etc... Groups just create their own project/fork and there is not enough manpower to ever end up with a stable and feature-rich system.
  4. KALLT macrumors 601

    Sep 23, 2008
    I always thought that Linux had a flimsiness to it. You can be very lucky and encounter no issues at all before and after installation, or many things can go wrong. Sometimes you will find that the software you want is not working as you expected, with weird quirks that are difficult to track down. Just some oddities I had in recent times:
    • On one laptop, logging out of the desktop (to switch users) will freeze the Gnome display manager. It has to be restarted completely.
    • On another, some programs will just not launch for whatever reason (turned out that the new Wayland window system is enabled by default in newer versions of Gnome 3, causing all sorts of weird issues with programs that do not yet support this. Took me hours to find out).
    • Another computer has a dedicated Nvidia GPU in addition to Intel Graphics, using them both like on MacBook Pros requires some special drivers that are such a pain to set up and troubleshoot.
    • Another computer has a semi-old AMD Radeon GPU that is no longer supported by AMD Catalyst drivers in newer versions of, e.g., Ubuntu. This causes some programs to refuse to load without modifying some of the dependencies to use the open-source drivers.

    I think that macOS is still a lot more predictable and reliable. You can almost be assured, unless you are using a Hackintosh, that everything is supposed to work, aside from some, usually minor, bugs.
  5. MacUser2525 macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2007
    Even then it is rock solid aside from my mac hardware phase mid 2010 or so until the trash can announcement and I saw no future with mac hardware I have run nothing but a hack, still have a mini my brother uses. And like the Energizer bunny it just keeps going and going.
  6. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    The role of an operating system is to run programs, so you have to ask yourself, does Linux have the apps you need and want?

    For many people, its not. I'd also say the lifecycle of many open source applications are such that it scares people away. Many promising apps seem to fall into disarray because people grow tired of updating it and it sits for long periods of time.

    Updating Linux can be a trial as well, and the need to manually edit conf files to make something work usually keep many people away.

    I've used a couple of linux distros in the past, and I found that I spent more time tweaking the system to get something to work, then actually doing my work.

    OS X and Windows has the benefit of it just works, and the selection of available apps is incredibly superior. Desktop Linux is a niche at best, many people do enjoy it, but its not for the mainstream consumer imo.
  7. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    We use Linux for all our internet facing servers and I use a Linux VM for (linux) development, but I wouldn't want to use it as my daily driver simply due to the lack of apps I use on a daily basis (mainly Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite: Having used GIMP and OpenOffice / LibreOffice they are not a substitute for me)

    I also like the tight integration between iOS and macOS and wouldn't want to give that up
  8. iRaynor SK macrumors 6502

    iRaynor SK

    Nov 15, 2014
    Banská Bystrica, Slovak Republic
    macOS is simplicity and versatility from Windows and UNIX, stability and security from Linux world.

    I have used macOS, Windows and some Linux distros. I work with computers since 1999 (yea, in 1999 I was little boy) and I know something about it, and macOS is the best choice for me. Optimalization (Metal, Grand Central Dispatch, Quartz Extreme etc), Pro apps availability (Adobe software, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, MS Office...), nice design (very consistent with most other apps), easy to learn how to use it (you need commandline very rare if you are not heavy-pro user, and if yes, it's simple and Google can helps you well, because there is not 9437 versions of macOS like in Linux world - Ubuntu and it's clones, Fedora, Mandriva, Debian, Gentoo, Arch Linux...). And some AAA games are available too on Mac (I play DotA 2 and CS: GO, both on Steam).
  9. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    I've used RHEL and Fedora for years and have had little issues with stability or reliability from updates. I'm not sure of other distributions.

    That's actually the goal: to let the users choose for themselves in what they want. I agree there are way too many forks that end up as vaporware. I think these groups are formed thinking it's an easy and quick job to assemble a distribution. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    As maflynn said, you need to choose what's right for you. There's nothing worse than forcing something down another's throat.
  10. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    I use Linux and OS X every day, linux on the Mac Pro for software development, and OS X on the laptop for "office" stuff. I could easily use Linux for both, but as others have noted, the OS X desktop environment is generally cleaner, more predictable, easier to update, and has the apps I need. If I had to use Linux as a desktop every day, I could do it with no problems, but it's not the best tool for every job. (Similarly, from a server programming point of view, OS X has some seriously annoying peculiarities -- no process-shared pthread mutex to take just one simple example.)
  11. MacUser2525 macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2007
    Oh you can do it do not know about the no problems idea, the oh new update what have they broken this time in the never ending chase for/of the new shinny..
  12. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    Again, with long-term support distributions, I have not experienced this.
  13. mkeeley macrumors 6502

    Sep 18, 2007
    A lot depends what apps you need. Say you need the Adobe suite then I've seen CS6 works under wine but not sure about CC, it's not in their official working list. If everything you need does work or there's an alternative then I'd chose linux over Win10 any day. If not everything does then it's an easy decision.

    As for Win/OSX just working as someone said, well yeah until it just doesn't. Had Win10 suddenly loose contact with my NAS in explorer, nothing had changed that I was aware of, tried getting it back, failed. Then a couple of days later it was back.
  14. lowendlinux Contributor


    Sep 24, 2014
    North Country (way upstate NY)
    I used Macs exclusively up until the PowerPC to Intel switch since then all my computers run Linux. I say this all the time; If you don't have a driving desire to switch you'll never make the change stick. I like Linux, I love the community, heck I even like all the drama I stay for the community.
  15. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    Bingo! That applies to all platforms.

    When Win8 was released, I heard people state they hated the new interface and would switch to OS X. These are folks who never used OS X before and little did they know OS X was far from being like the Win7 interface. These people wanted to make a change.

    In fact, I know of one current user who runs OS X, but has it heavily customized so it works like Windows. I'm not sure why that person switched.
  16. Mikael H macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2014
    For me, Windows at home is not an option.
    My work computer is an MBPr. My gaming desktop is a regular PC running whatever flavour of Linux I prefer. Right now it's running Fedora 25, but that may change, for curiosity reasons or just because I want to shake things up a bit.
    But that's the thing, really: For servers? Given a choice they'll definitely run console-only Linux or BSD versions.
    For a desktop where I don't particularly care about user friendliness? Sure, Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE are all viable alternatives, and if I really feel I have time to spare, I might pay a return visit to Slackware or Arch.

    It is possible to set up a user friendly and rock solid Linux desktop provided you go with very standard hardware and have no particular application needs beyond what's offered by LibreOffice and Thunderbird or Evolution. But as soon as you get yourself some fancy graphics cards, interesting game controllers or similar, you're in for a bumpy ride in Linux.
    Some examples:
    - Right now I've spent two full days at home trying to get my TrackIR head tracking device to work with the Linuxtrack software, and although I'm not that bad at computers I simply haven't been able to resolve the issues I've encountered.
    - Every time I get a new kernel in Fedora, the system will break upon first boot due to the nVidia drivers. It's enough to reboot it again to get things running, but that kind of behaviour is something other operating systems lost in the late nineties.
    - My CH Products Pro Pedals are not identified as a joystick device by default, because they lack buttons. To make them work in Linux, I needed to write custom udev rules that give my user read/write access to the device node that represents them.

    From a pure usability perspective, I'd much rather have a Mac for gaming too, only I really can't justify the kind of expense required to get one that would feel snappier than my old PC. And then I go around telling myself that it's more fun to tinker a bit. :)
  17. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    Well, to be fair, nVidia will require you to do the same for any card that doesn't have builtin support in the MacOS version you're running, and even then, the nVidia drivers are likely to run better. I admit that the Linux situation with nVidia cards is relatively dire, but that's entirely nVidia's fault for not releasing specs for their hardware. And, depending on whether the kernel driver interface changed, you may or may not have to update to a new nVidia driver on Linux.

    The entire situation is unsatisfactory, on both OS's. Whether Windows does better or not, I can't say, as I don't have any Windows machines.

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