Why I switched from Linux to Mac OS

During the end of my studies, my good old dell ubuntu notebook died away. It had all reasons to have done that way before, but that’s another story - a good one, but let’s get back to this plot: I had to think about what I expected from the next notebook. I liked the size of the 14” Dell, and decided to take a look at 13,3” machines. Battery life was next. And I wanted to edit my photos on it. The operating systems’ must haves included a serious terminal - I had to do my diploma thesis with it. Of course it had to be Linux! But a mature distribution, I had no more time to fiddle around with the system software all day anymore.

To my surprise, the best value for money hardware in that category seemed the low end MacBook. 13,3” with an amazing 7h battery life, wow! But wait - what about the terminal? Wasn’t Mac OS the system that was all about GUIs and didn’t have a system console at all?

To my big surprise, I was totally wrong. There’s a full blown UNIX 03 certified FreeBSD under the hood of OS X 10.5, the terminal ready to go. OK, no linux, but FredBSD, but: WTF, that looked like The Right Thing for all my notebook needs.

I was sure this was just perfect for my photo editing - it’s a Mac, that’s what their popularity came from in the first place. They had color management when windows users could only dream of it.

OK, so there I had what I wanted: right size, long battery life, the right tool for image editing. Perhaps not quite suitable for my diploma thesis about open source VoIP in the telco branch, but anyways.

Totally wrong again. The funny thing is: it was totally suitable for my diploma work with open source software, but total crap for image editing: I was about to realize that fact looking at some scanned b&w prints a couple of days after buying the notebook. Apple used a cheapo-display that only does 230k different colors. That was the bad news.

The good news was: I could compile the asterisk softbox without any hazzle at all. Nice! Furthermore, I could happily run around, hacking in the sun (to be more precise: under an umbrella in the sun) on the company’s campus for hours.

I was quite surprised when I realized that I wasn’t the only one seeing the potential of Mac OS for “serious hacking” & that I was kind of a late bloomer in that area. I always removed the “Built for Windows” stickers from my laptops & was tickled as hell when a friend of mine gave me a “Built for Ubuntu” badge for my last machine. But I can’t totally agree with the the “If a programmer uses Windows, you can’t take him serious”-attitude . But it sure doesn’t help to earn my respect ;-).

Let’s consolidate the facts:

The things that I love

  • 7h battery life
  • pre-installed ruby
  • UNIX03 certified FreeBSD let’s you compile _any_ open source software
  • Macports helps you to do so if you’re lazy - I use it very often.
  • great value for money
  • clear look
  • great haptic
  • multi touch pad
  • power supply with a well designed “cable drum”

The things that I hate

  • cheap MacBook case chips & breaks if you don’t pay close attention
  • slot-in drive
  • nice miniDVI connector, but you have to pay 20€ for a VGA, HDMI or TV-Out adapter. Each!
  • Apple still sells memory for prices that are totally unreasonable. Apple users, wake up: you’re using an Intel chipset, don’t let them fool you about compatibility issues.

The bottom line is this: The MacBook is a cheap piece of filth when it comes to the display & the quality of the case. But on the other hand, Mac OS is just a great system software which fulfills almost all my hacking needs. It’s a gadget, since it’s a “shiny thing you want to have” when you see it. But it’s also a tool since it’s very functional.

Right now, I’m looking for a new notebook & again I can’t find any 13” model with better value for money than the low end macbooks. And they finally fixed the case with the new unibody concept. I feel like switching back to linux from time to time - I recently worked on my girlfriend’s ubuntu laptop & just loved hacking some ruby code in gedit. But since I can’t find a 13” notebook at the price of the alu-unibody-macbooks, I think it will be a macbook - again.

As you can see: this is not about being a apple fanboy or a religious attitude toward operating systems. I don’t use the iPhone, I have no iPod. I don’t pay a whole lot of money for a network storage solution with a fancy name when I can simply plug a harddisk to my cheapo router.

Mac OS X just really convinced me.