MacOSX vs. Ubuntu

I’ve been toying around with Ubuntu linux, seeing if I could make the move over to that side of things full time. It’s gotten so much better over the last couple of years, that it’s finally a viable fulltime desktop environment. The Ubuntu distro has an almost perfect balance of ease-of-use and hardcore-geek-utility. apt-get is great (but hardly user friendly).

Brian’s been working on making the switch from MacOSX to Ubuntu (or UbuntuStudio), so I’ve been thinking about it again.

Most of the apps I live in are there (Firefox is a good enough browser – even if it isn’t Safari, Thunderbird is a good enough mail app – even if it isn’t It’s got all of the server stuff I use either pre-installed or a simple apt-get away.

The one really killer app that is keeping me on MacOSX is Aperture. Nothing comes close on the Linux side of things. Nothing.

There are also tons of niceties in general use in MacOSX. Too many to list. And I’d miss them if I switched to Ubuntu.

Of course, with Parallels, it doesn’t have to be an either-or kind of thing. I can run Ubuntu inside MacOSX on my MacBook Pro. But, if I’m already running MacOSX, Linux is a bit redundant…

14 thoughts on “MacOSX vs. Ubuntu”

  1. Thanks for the pointer to UbuntuStudio earlier today – looks cool.

    So I am taking baby steps — using Parallels to install Ubuntu, and I will try to use it a little bit every day. My main motivation is an increasing frustration with DRM, and a general desire to support open source culture in some small way.

    This tutorial walked me through the process, and I was able to install with no problems. Coming from me, that is a serious endorsement!

    Big frustration so far in Parallels — the two OSs have completely different file access… so I can’t listen to my music, etc… without recopying the files.

  2. What DRM would make you leave MacOSX? You don’t _HAVE_ to buy music from iTMS… And the OS is built on open source BSD unix, and much of the OS itself is open source… Stick it to The Man, stay with MacOSX, and send them lots of support requests 🙂

    You should be able to set up a folder as “shared” in Parallels, so it shows up within Ubuntu as a volume. Or, maybe that’s a Windows-only option, but I think it’s possible at the VM level, rather than as an OS-addon…

  3. D’arcy, you’ve already got parallels, so why does any system need to be your primary? Can’t you just switch back and forth as you like? … (oh, then i read about different file systems in Brian’s comment: that would be annoying!)

    i’m contemplating getting one of these macbooks, and switching from windows only, to win-mac-linux ..
    it’s funny that we get so attached to one kind of system;

    i know all the programs i need on win;
    .. and i’d need to start searching all over again to find a file manager as good as 2xExplorer on the mac;
    Also, i’m a big fan of slackware linux, but without dreamweaver, fireworks and yes ms word, i’d find it hard to function fully 🙂

    kind regards, michael
    (you know when you have so many autotext entries, and macros, and keyboard shortcuts in a program, that you just can’t leave? it’s like that with ms word for me ..

  4. I moved to Mac because I couldn’t get Ubuntu on my laptop to work with my wifi. I even bought a new adapter that was supposed to work with Ubuntu. No joy. Some of the community people were helpful, others just downright insulting and laughed at my n00bness. I now have the laptop duel-boot xp and ubuntu, a centos dev box, my desktop pc and macbook. I am so much happier with my mac 🙂

  5. Hi D’arcy,

    I made the switch from Windows to Ubuntu this summer and haven’t looked back since. The main reason for the switch was headaches with deploying Ruby on Rails apps from a Windows box to a Unix server. Having the same o/s for both development and deployment boxes greatly simplifies things. As for the applications available on on Ubuntu, they seem pretty good but that wasn’t really a factor in my switch. Most of the productivity tools I use now are web based (salesforce, 37signals suite, and Google apps). As long as the o/s has a good browser, which Ubuntu does, it really doesn’t affect my toolset.

  6. In trying Ubuntu as the “main” OS, I’ve already found it doesn’t like to do some of the little things, like properly control fans, etc…

    @michael: workflow lock-in 🙂 I think that’s what Google Docs and are trying to solve…

    @chris: yeah. some mac zealots are so annoying I want to punch them. but many linux zealots are as annoying. RTFM only gets newcomers so far…

    @jody: you could have likely switched from Windows to a Vic20 and seen an improvement. If I was using Windows, I’d jump to Ubuntu in a heartbeat. But, MacOSX isn’t Windows, and Ubuntu is sort of a parallel/reverse move.

    If I did the jump, it would be for ideological reasons, not usability. That’s not really the most effective way to plan technology use.

    I would (and have) use Ubuntu Server without hesitation. It works wonders, is fast and stable, and easy to maintain. I’d just miss the niceties of MacOSX on the desktop. What can I say? I’m a spoiled Mac-head…

  7. I can think of a few reasons why one might rail against MAC: they are so overpriced, and unlike the windows & linux OSs -you still can’t put a MAC OS X.x on a PC legally. That is pretty lame, and after their whole iPhone nonsense and the rest of their “cool geek chic” I am pretty much getting tired of their whole song and dance. And while they may run their OS on open source BSD unix, the OS is proprietary, despite pockets of openness. I guess I appreciate the design of the MAC and its relative ease, but I begin to get annoyed with their elitist approach to their products -“MAC geniuses”? Come on, enough already you philistines!

  8. @jim: I know you’re just macbaiting, but…. 🙂 That’s a myth. I’ve gone down that road. Yes, you can get an el-cheapo PC for less than a Mac. But, if you spec out a new Dell with similar features to a given Mac, the Dell almost always costs more (in some cases, twice as much!). I would never buy an el-cheapo PC, so for me, PCs are more expensive than Macs. Why would I want to buy a more expensive Dell?

  9. It’s also a myth, at least in the uk, that you can build a decent machine cheaper than you can buy. In fact you have to make sacrifices in capability or quality that makes the option unattractive against just buying a ready-made or bare-bones machine. And then we are back to what D’Arcy says above …

  10. I think the myth that Macs are overpriced is rivaled only by the myth that equivalent PCs are much more expensive. The Dell Media PC is not even close to a fair comparison. A fair comparison, to me, is something like the Latitude 800 series.

    I recently spec’ed out new macbooks and dell latitude series and the Dells were a bit cheaper. Significantly so if you count the docking station and external monitors I threw in for almost the same price as the Mac alone. Not having a docking solution with the Mac is a serious drawback for me. A friend at work mocks my “pedestrian” looking Dell– and they are not beautifully engineered– but they WORK and when I set into the dock and get my dual monitors, external raid and DVD, sound system, etc with one click, it’s all worthwhile :). Not to mention the constant niggling problems she experiences with her series of sexy Asus and other machines… after a long succession of laptops the Dells remain the workhorses. Even the macbooks have hardware problems more often. With five times as many PCs we have 1/3 the hardware problems, though I expect that will continue to get better.

    The other gotchas are apple peripherals. For instance, the Apple LCD displays are good, but undeniably overpriced given the competition nowadays. At one time, when they were the only game in town, I could understand going that way. But now?

    The only reason I remain interested in Mac is the coolness of the integrated Unix base and a few apps that only run on Mac, particularly tools for writing and organization. The Mac has it going on there.

  11. Wonderful post!

    What do you find better about Safari than Fx?

    I guess what you consider as being part of the OS is different than my own definition, or I don’t know what “much of” means. I like how Jim describes it as “the OS is proprietary, despite pockets of openness”. The Mac experience is almost exclusively proprietary.

    Myth about cost? Are you suggesting that your investigation in one category of computers and against one competitor is conclusive?

    Since the switch to Intel my friends have had more problems with hardware than I would expect, and the turn around time on servicing has been lousy. Though at the end of the day, for most of my family and friends I would still recommend a Mac.

  12. @Lloyd: I use Firefox about 95% of the time, for its compatibility with TinyMCE, and Greasemonkey. Safari has _much_ better text rendering, and feels much faster, so I use that when I have serious reading to do. Safari 3.0 Beta also has (by _far_) the best web page debugger I’ve ever seen (including the add-ons for Firefox).

    As for the proprietary “mac experience” – so what? that proprietariness is a large part of the reason the Mac experience works so well. The fit and finish is much higher than on any other OS I’ve used (open source or otherwise).

    My investigation into the cost of computers was hardly conclusive, was definitely unscientific, and had rather large margins of error. I was just trying to point out that a comparably spec’ed PC was about the same cost (and possibly more, in some cases) as a comparable Mac system. I’ve seen this in the purchases made in our department, as well as my poking around on the various online stores.

    I have had absolutely no problems with Apple hardware that I can remember, and I’ve been living in Mac-land since about 1990. Sure, hard drives have failed. Peripherals have died. But my Apple gear has been rock solid. And MacOSX has been unbelievably good to me. I know that others have had problems – Brian has had systems melt down – but I am speaking from my personal experience.

    In my dabbling with Ubuntu, I think I’d be doing much better than under Windows, but I’d be giving something up in moving from MacOSX. YMMV.

  13. howdy, I’ve followed this conversation with interest. Having purchased a Macbook recently, as well as running UbuntuLinux on home PCs, I have to say that while my Macbook is nice, I could have gotten by with UbuntuLinux EXCEPT for:

    1) Video conversions
    2) Working with video in presentations (powerpoint since Openoffice Impress stinks, as does NeoOffice)

    The only saving grace is that I can run Powerpoint (the only MS app I use on my Mac on a regular basis) on the Mac, and I have programs for everything else I need to do. I’ve compiled two lists…one of free tools, one of commercial apps (that mostly you don’t need on ubuntu):

    Free stuff –
    Commercial apps –

    Take care,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

  14. A discussion about the Flushing Blue Toilet Cleaner of Death! reminded me that I had drafted a response to this while on a flight.

    I am thankfully ignorant to the subtleties of the text rendering. I have seen the complaints, but have never felt affected by them. I do want to check out the new documentary Helvetica, to get a taste of that side of the experience. My colleague Matt Thomas is a typography geek.

    I will have to check out Safari’s web page debugger, I have now hard numerous times that it’s fantastic!

    “So what? That proprietariness is a large part of the reason the Mac experience works so well”?!

    I have to disagree that there is any intrinsic design properties of a proprietary product.

    The small “what” is you had played the “built on open source BSD unix card”.

    The big what is that yourself, myself and many others are working on products built in a community of free culture, trying to recreate some of the successes of the academic collaborative work environment.

    My discomfort is the only discomfort I can relieve.

    I am a freedom lover!

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