What Happens When a Die-Hard Linux User Switches to the Mac?

by Sam Dean - Jun. 22, 2011Comments (15)

As we wrote recently, there are huge shifts in usage patterns and development models for modern operating systems going on. Browser-centric platforms are appearing, and through virtualization and other strategies, many users are comfortable using multiple operating systems instead of staying religious about a single one. With these shifts in mind, it's always interesting to observe the findings of a user who has favored one operating system when that user switches to a new one. We've taken note of this phenomenon when one user recently switched from Windows to full-time Ubuntu immersion. Now, Computerworld has a notable report on a Linux user who decided to try immersion in the Mac OS.

I've often noted that many users of Linux also use Macs. There is something about Apple's freewheeling culture that appeals to those who favor open source. In Computerworld's recent report, Matt Hartley discusses his switch from his existing Linux computers to the Mac OS. He writes:

"Two days into my Mac experiment I found that while the command line options had me feeling right at home, the chrome metal interface was making me want to gag. Further into the experience, I was bothered to learn that my customization options for OS X were much more limited than I had anticipated. While it was possible to change some limited aspects of my OS X experience, in the end it still felt like the same old desktop. This default desktop setup is something that many Mac enthusiasts consider to be a feature, while as a Linux user I found it to be limiting."

This is not an uncommon experience for Linux users who suddenly switch to Mac OS. Apple develops its operating system with usability in mind first, and the cost of doing that is that customizability can fall short of what many Linux distros offer. On the other hand, many users switching from the Mac to Linux complain that usability goes out the window, and that Linux is inscrutable, geeky, and unfriendly.

Hartley adds this:

"When you buy a Mac, OS X provides you with Finder to manage different files throughout the system. Within minutes of using it, I disliked using Finder with a vengeance. Now with the Linux desktop, I would simply use another file manager or perhaps even another desktop environment altogether. But the fact is with OS X, you're limited to the experience provided by Apple unless you know what to look for."

This I actually disagree with. Hartley goes on to concede that there are other file managers for the Mac available, but I actually like Finder. It's very intuitive, and if you come from any computing model that is based on files, directories and directory trees, it's easy to understand. One of the advantages of the Mac platform--and Windows, too--is that application developers are rabid about it. A little bit of exploration can yield many free tools that appeal to almost anyone.

Hartley is just beginning to navigate the switch from Linux to the Mac, but my experience is that this switch is not too painful as time passes. I use a Mac and Linux systems, and like them for different reasons. The Mac is unparalleled at graphics and video applications. Meanwhile, Linux is hugely customizable, very fast to get in and out of, and can comfortably run alongside other operating systems. It's also much more secure than either Mac OS or Windows.

Hartley is continuing his Computerworld series on making his switch. It sounds worth tuning into.



Handrus Nogueira uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?



15 Comments
 

I use Win7 for Visual Studio/Sharepoint dev, Ubuntu x86 for experimentation stuff(dns & other networking) and Mac for all personal uses(browsing, movies,photos,etc).

Win 7 - best mix of usability and customization.

Mac - Best in usability for media and browsing

Ubuntu - Bad in usability and stability especially non-standard packages. mail clients (evolution/thunderbird), im clients jabber,twitter clients suck and cant come closer to anything available in Win 7 or Mac. Tried using zimbra for email and always throws some script error. But linux like freebsd, is good for networking stuff and I never worry about viruses or malware when in Linux or Mac.


0 Votes

I was a Mac User before a Linux user. I switched to Linux from a Mac/Windows world, in 1998


I have used Linux at home and work since 1999.

I tried to use Mac when I bought a PowerBook 12".

It was a nice OS, better than Windows, but horribly stifling and unintuitive compared to Linux.


Really, Mac OS X cannot compare to Linux as far as customization goes.

I have tried for a long time to make OSX work and look like Gnome 2.x.

I always ended up making the system un-usable.

I finally re-installed OSX and used my powerbook just for browsing, some music apps, and other simple things. It ran well, but seemed a bit sluggish. after a few months. I still yearned for a fast customizable machine.

One day, I said "Hmm, if I want Linux, why not just use it"... I then removed OSX and installed a Gentoo based Linux. My system was exponentially faster with Linux than with Mac OSX, plus I had all of my applications I loved.


Mac OSX is not for everyone. I tried to switch from Linux, but it just didnt work well for me. It slowed me down, big time.


No OS is the greatest fit for everyone.


Currently I am forced to use a Mac at work, because that is what they do here on the desktop. I run linux in virtualbox, and spend all of my time in there.


I'd like to go into why OSX sucks for me, but it wont matter.


mjm


1 Votes

I was a Mac User before a Linux user. I switched to Linux from a Mac/Windows world, in 1998


I have used Linux at home and work since 1999.

I tried to use Mac when I bought a PowerBook 12".

It was a nice OS, better than Windows, but horribly stifling and unintuitive compared to Linux.


Really, Mac OS X cannot compare to Linux as far as customization goes.

I have tried for a long time to make OSX work and look like Gnome 2.x.

I always ended up making the system un-usable.

I finally re-installed OSX and used my powerbook just for browsing, some music apps, and other simple things. It ran well, but seemed a bit sluggish. after a few months. I still yearned for a fast customizable machine.

One day, I said "Hmm, if I want Linux, why not just use it"... I then removed OSX and installed a Gentoo based Linux. My system was exponentially faster with Linux than with Mac OSX, plus I had all of my applications I loved.


Mac OSX is not for everyone. I tried to switch from Linux, but it just didnt work well for me. It slowed me down, big time.


No OS is the greatest fit for everyone.


Currently I am forced to use a Mac at work, because that is what they do here on the desktop. I run linux in virtualbox, and spend all of my time in there.


I'd like to go into why OSX sucks for me, but it wont matter.


mjm


1 Votes

Mac OS X Snow Leopard is way behind Linux in terms of basics. There's no package management built in (plus all package manage, there are no simple thing like truly maximizing a window, re-sizing a window from any corner/edge, different apps behave differently when you close the main window, menus are not standard across apps, each app can have a different way to install it, etc. Compared to Ubuntu 11.04, I find Mac OS X 10.6 painful to use. I know some of those are fixed in Lion, but it's just pathetic that this has been an ongoing pain for a commercial OS that claims to be best at usability. Where Mac OS X beats Linux at is the quality of third-party software and that's the only weak point of Linux. You can pretty much do everything in Linux, there's a piece of software for everything, but most isn't polished or isn't maintained as actively as it is on Mac OS X.


1 Votes

I would love to say that this is like saying, "What Happens When a Die-Hard Ubuntu User Switches to the RedHat?", but sadly, the one thing that Mac has is the UI that has been around since before Windows 1.0. That is its "only" positive, and its the Achilles heel if Linux, since 3rd. party companies are perfectly happy to build something for an "stable" UI, but not one for 3-4 different ones that may break at any moment (especially if you are using Ubuntu, and their recent, "Why did this stop working and why didn't the fix fix it?", issues).


Its really sad that if I bought their over priced UI I could run a lot of things, but not without it, even though the underlying OS is basically the same.... :p


1 Votes

Mac OS X is highly overrated. There are some really basic things that it is lacking that people seem to overlook. With Lion it is finally getting an application launcher. Most desktop environments have had a launcher for many years. When I say launcher, I mean an organized menu of applications where you can quickly find a list of what's there and launch what you want. The closest thing Mac OS X has (prior to the release of Lion) is the Finder viewing the Applications folder. Sure you can drag a handful of app icons onto the dock and you have a mini launcher.


Also, the Mac is only able to resize a window using the bottom-right corner. Everyone else has had the ability to easily resize a window with any of the four corners for years.


The vast majority of the "multi-touch" experience provided by the iPhone, iPod, and iPad (except for multiple fingers hitting an on-screen keyboard at once) could be easily simulated on a single touch (mouse pointer) environment by adding one or two more window decoration gadgets. Mac OS X doesn't innovate all that much. Most of their innovations are refinements of features we have had for a decade or more in various Linux desktop environments.


Why the Mac is rated so highly and given a slogan of "just works" is beyond me. Yes, I use Macs. In fact, I have one of them at home... along with one Windows box and two Linux boxes. The Mac is not new to me and I've been using them part-time since OS 8. What excel in is "pretty enough to lick the screen" style over substance... but with enough substance to be reasonable.


If Mac OS X had to compete with other OSes on hardware compatibility it would fail miserably since it currently only works on a small handful of video cards, sound cards, etc... in the relatively few hardware models Apple makes. If Linux were tasked with dropping support for 99% of the hardware out there and only had to concentrate on 1% of it like Apple does, is there is any doubt as to who the winner would be?


That's why Apple doesn't want their OS to run on anything but their own hardware. If it had to be even half as compatible as Linux or Windows they'd have to work much harder on compatibility issues... and only then would their OS have an actual chance to go double-digit desktop market-share. As it is now, Apple does quite well but when compared to the large sea of PC makers and their numbers, Apple is still single-digit and doesn't have much capability to go beyond that... and is greatly in need of their other business lines (iPod, music distribution, iPad, and iPhone) to remain profitable.


1 Votes

I use Windows, running in a Virtual Box Virtual machine, for Visual Studio C# ASP.NET development, and Linux Mint for everything else.


I've had OSX installed on the VM but I don't particularly like it, and in fact I have no real use for it, as Linux Mint provides me with everything I need, and Windows in the VM everything my clients insist I need. As a consequence the Mac install has not been used in a long time and I feel no need to actually buy a Mac.


Windows is somewhat customisable, but there is no way I can get anything like the desktop I have on Linux Mint (it's based on GNOME and uses Compiz), and quite frankly a lot of the time it simply gets in my way. But as I need it for only a single purpose I live with it.


1 Votes

What Happens When a Die-Hard Linux User Switches to the Mac?

Their IQ becomes a negative number! Actually that has to happen first, as no one with any brains at all would ever use a Macintrash!!


1 Votes

As a Windows user from 1.0 to XP and a Linux user from 1999 on, I jumped head-first into OS X about 9 months ago...and honestly, I don't see any reason to go back. I have to use a VM of XP for remote access into work (thanks Citrix for not updating your craptacular Java-based client!) and keep various VM Linuxs (Linuxii?) around to experiment with, but the fully-realized integration OS X has "just works" for me.


My BASH & Perl skills are handy when i want to dig into the backend. The software ecosystem for Macs has grown exponentially since I last used one in the late '90s. And I was able to replace all of my Linux-based stuff with native Mac tools pretty easily (yeah, I tried all the "MacPorts" and the rest, but it just got more and more depressing realizing how scatter-brained the overall Linux UX is).


I don't regret my 12+ years as a die-hard Linux users -- it taught me a lot of great skills and has helped tremendously with jobs as time went by -- but after beating my head against so many walls that seemed unnecessary (Ubuntu: "I'm sorry, I know I told you simple LAN file sharing was easy, but you haven't completely installed...something, so I can't let you proceed until you guess which of the 21k software packages you need to install to satisfy this request. Good luck!") and distracting to my goal of getting stuff done ("No, I don't care to create an icosahedron of desktops and spin them like a dreidel! Nor do I wish to tweak my 500th desktop manager until my eyeballs bleed!").


Maybe the best thing I learned from Linux was tolerance for other people's needs and tastes when it comes to computers, especially their choice of OS. I was a rabid fanboy, like all newbies, for years; then, as time goes by, you realize that we're not all trying to do the same thing the same way at the same time. Plus, diversity in any ecosystem is a healthy thing. The only thing I love more than my old ThinkPad X200 is my shiny new MacBookPro.


Solid hardware with a well-round OS. Hard to beat.


A "silo" or "walled garden"? To be sure, but in actually using it full-time I've found enough wiggle room for all of my personal needs. Plus -- bonus! -- no chance of running into RMS at an Apple store (though Apple fanboys -- "smuggles" as I like to call them -- are just as much of a pain).


0 Votes

What "Apple's freewheeling culture"? The Apple lockdown culture maybe


0 Votes

As a Windows user from 1.0 to XP and a Linux user from 1999 on, I jumped head-first into OS X about 9 months ago...and honestly, I don't see any reason to go back. I have to use a VM of XP for remote access into work (thanks Citrix for not updating your craptacular Java-based client!) and keep various VM Linuxs (Linuxii?) around to experiment with, but the fully-realized integration OS X has "just works" for me.


My BASH & Perl skills are handy when i want to dig into the backend. The software ecosystem for Macs has grown exponentially since I last used one in the late '90s. And I was able to replace all of my Linux-based stuff with native Mac tools pretty easily (yeah, I tried all the "MacPorts" and the rest, but it just got more and more depressing realizing how scatter-brained the overall Linux UX is).


I don't regret my 12+ years as a die-hard Linux users -- it taught me a lot of great skills and has helped tremendously with jobs as time went by -- but after beating my head against so many walls that seemed unnecessary (Ubuntu: "I'm sorry, I know I told you simple LAN file sharing was easy, but you haven't completely installed...something, so I can't let you proceed until you guess which of the 21k software packages you need to install to satisfy this request. Good luck!") and distracting to my goal of getting stuff done ("No, I don't care to create an icosahedron of desktops and spin them like a dreidel! Nor do I wish to tweak my 500th desktop manager until my eyeballs bleed!").


Maybe the best thing I learned from Linux was tolerance for other people's needs and tastes when it comes to computers, especially their choice of OS. I was a rabid fanboy, like all newbies, for years; then, as time goes by, you realize that we're not all trying to do the same thing the same way at the same time. Plus, diversity in any ecosystem is a healthy thing. The only thing I love more than my old ThinkPad X200 is my shiny new MacBookPro.


Solid hardware with a well-round OS. Hard to beat.


A "silo" or "walled garden"? To be sure, but in actually using it full-time I've found enough wiggle room for all of my personal needs. Plus -- bonus! -- no chance of running into RMS at an Apple store (though Apple fanboys -- "smuggles" as I like to call them -- are just as much of a pain).


0 Votes

For those self-obsessed out there, remember, Linux is not just about the OS. There is a political dimension and vision, that in my book far outweighs any discussion of personal taste. In essence, it's a battle of OSS and FSF against their closed proprietary counterparts. This is a point one should not lose sight of .


0 Votes

I was windows user and switched to Mac few months back. And have used different flavours of *nix over the years from sco unix, freebsd to opensolaris/opensuse/ubuntu.

To be frank linux is highly overrated in tech world.

the Linux os is so buggy and unstable you never know what will break at what time. The UI is so inconsistent within different screens of the OS and across applications.

The latest Ubuntu UI is ripoff of OS X + Win 7 and still doesnt impress even hardcore Linux fans. on the technical side it cant even handle a fork bomb and brings the entire OS down. Seriously, I cant believe the OS doesnt have any protection surge in process creations.


0 Votes

@Dan Cobbs oh yeah right, like Windows is not overrated and the OsX is just perfect :D are you joking or somethin?


Let me quote you - "the Linux os is so buggy and unstable you never know what will break at what time. "

If you are serious about this, then you need to reconsider your entire education on operating systems man, seriously.

I mean Linux is just overrated because 82% of the top 500 supercomputers in the world are using Linux as their OS, and they are using it just because it's too buggy I guess.


Ubuntu is not equivalent to Linux man, you need to understand that - your comparisons are childish and with no useful points whatsoever.


Even if you are talking just about the UI designs, again you're wrong - there are guidelines for designing the application in a certain desktop environment (KDE, GNOME etc) - it's just that some developers are not choosing to use them. But guess what, it's a free world and if they want their application to be different, so be it.


0 Votes

I use both for different reasons. My personal comp is OS X. OS X usability and productivity score pretty high. When I'm at work 92% of the workstations are Linux. If I'm using a server I prefer to work in Linux. My home server runs Linux and my personal laptop runs OS X. I can still do what I need in both systems because of it's similarities. There are plenty of apps to better both OS'. For instance install "bettertouchtool" for OS X and it opens up a whole new world. You've got windows snapping in 8 areas of the screen. It can be split up in halves and/or quarters, plus it adds a bucket load of new gestures. Two/three/four finger taps, swypes, circular motions...anything you want you can make a gesture and assign it.


If you approach any OS w/ an open mind and a little bit of research you will see what it really has to offer. No OS is perfect out the box.


0 Votes
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