Nicholas Helke

Losing My Religion and Switching to Linux

Up until now I have been a religious Mac user; but recently for a variety of reasons I have strayed from my faith. My new-found atheism helped me realise that there is no best or right platform and there may not even be a single platform that can satisfy all your needs alone; each platform has its stregnths and weaknesses.

I have been contemplating switching to Linux every since I started reading computer science, however I was never able to make the switch until now, as I was operating under the illusion that switching was binary. I hadn’t yet realised that I can mix and match and that this is sometimes the best thing to do.

I plan to switch from my MacBook Pro to a Lenovo X220 running Linux by the end of the summer. (For obvious reasons, I am not inclinded to make this change mid-semester.) I will keep my MacBook for Cocoa development and as my digital hub.

As a student of computer science I am torn between my necessity to have a reliable workstation and a desire to try the latest technologies. I have long been following the development of ZFS and now btrfs, unable to use the fantastic feeatures these filesystems offer, as I was running Mac OS X. By switching to Linux I will be able to take advantage of btrfs and in particular its snapshoting feature which will enable me to live dangerously close to the edge, yet always be but a reboot away from a safe copy of my system.

I will miss the perfect integration between software and hardware that only Apple could provide. I will not, however, miss the infuriating sense of insignificance and impotence felt on the rare occasions when things would go wrong, and Apple would take all the time in the world to fix them. If, indeed, they ever did get around to solving the problem.

On Linux I am likely going to spend countless hours getting things to work. I should not, however, experience major upgrades that render my precious configurations void, as happens all too often with commercial software. And if something goes wrong, I can debug the software myself.

I will not miss the faux-interfaces Apple has been using left, right and center of late. I will miss Apple’s legendary battery-life. In fact this was another factor that kept me from switching to Linux sooner. Fortunately it would appear that with correct configuration it is possible to get 7:00–7:30 of battery-life out of the 6-cell battery of the X220. I should, therefore, get around 10 hours out of the 9-cell battery, which is more than the 7–8 hours I currently get from my MacBook.

Just to round off my solution, I will continue to use Windows in a virtual machine occasionally and I must say that Windows 7 is the best Windows to date and really not that bad at all. Microsoft really out did themselves.

P.S. I am looking for a good blog post written several years ago about a longtime Mac user’s switching to Linux for future-proofing reasons. He wanted to keep his hardware for longer than commercial companies would support. I seem to remember he also mentioned the headache of converting proprietary file formats and in particular ClarisWorks. Free beer and your name here, if you write in with the right reference.