Mac or Ubuntu: thoughts
Today the subject of Macs cropped up at work. Again. When I started working
at my current job, I asked for a mac as I was used to one for some 5 years at
that time. And as I was very productive on it. But I got a Lenovo Thinkpad, as
that was the standard issue. A mac was not an option. “Thinkpad” sounds nice
and Linux-compatible, but I have the low-end consumer version without the real
Thinkpad firmware and some generic cheapo firmware instead that’s not terribly
compatible (at the moment, muting the sound stopped working, for instance).
And tonight I saw a blog post that praises using a virtual Ubuntu on a mac.
A former colleague used just such a setup and was happy with it:
- A virtual Ubuntu (virtualbox, vmware, etc) for development.
- Mac’s OSX for the rest.
Now that I thought about it a bit more, I’ll list my personal pros/cons of
such a setup (or rather, pro/cons of giving me a mac).
- You’d still have the
aptitude install xyz goodies and you’d still have a
development environment that’s the same as the nice and stable Ubuntu on our
- With a cheap ishowu license, I could make good screencasts. A bit of
editing in imovie later, I’d have a good, simple introductory video for a
website or a piece of software that I build. Great advertisement for the
work I do for the company. Great PR. I simply haven’t gotten a good setup
working yet on Ubuntu, even after trying for two evenings. So that’s quite
some lost PR that I’d otherwise have made for free.
- Iphoto beats digikam (the kde photo management app that I use) for practical
use. I hardly add tags to my photos as it is a chore. It is a far cry from
the elegant smart folder workflow I had in iphoto! (And, yes, I use quite a
lot of my photos in a business setting).
- Imovie. Yep, screencasts would be way easier. And I’ll be honest in saying
that it’d help me get my personal holiday video finished, too.
- Beamer, monitor, headphones. They just work. I mean, I have to go into a
settings menu to switch between my build-in speakers and headphone output.
After the last Ubuntu update, my mute button stopped working. My monitor at
work flickers as there’s something apparently wrong. Sometimes the computer
freezes when closing the lid. I almost cooked the computer a few weeks ago
when closing the lid (and putting it in my bag) somehow failed to put it
into sleep mode. That poor thing was scourging hot. I was really
scared that it would not start up anymore. The laptop survived, btw.
- The laptop is more solid. I managed to break the left part of my laptop
keyboard after 8 months of use: the a, s, z keys would only react when
pressing them real hard.
- The battery life on the three macs that I’ve had was consistently better
than my current Thinkpad. A python meeting: I really need to plug in the
power cord as the battery doesn’t last 2.something hours.
- I like Emacs org mode right now, but omnifocus kicked an enormous amount
of ass. That’s the best and most polished GTD app I ever saw. I was sad to
let it go after I no longer had a mac.
- Aptitude is way better than macports/fink. Installing extra linux-like
stuff on OSX is harder than the super-smooth optimized Ubuntu machinery.
That’s a real joy.
- Hey, gimp works pretty fine on Ubuntu! I don’t have the money for a
photoshop license, so I had to make do with gimp on the mac. The interface
is just not build for that. So running Ubuntu is good for my image editing
- Ubuntu is philosophically nicer. Apple isn’t the nicest kid on the block
regarding lock-in, DRM, app store policies, etc. It would actually feel a
bit dirty to switch back.
- Working in the same environment as on server is nice. You spot potential
problems earlier due to the similarity.
- In the end, you’d have to maintain two environments. I want Emacs in Ubuntu
and I want Emacs in OSX, so the settings have to work for both. And I have
to install it in both. Only having one environment has its advantages.
Conclusion. Such a long piece of text warrants a conclusion. I’m pretty
sure I’m more productive on a mac+Ubuntu setup. For raw Emacs+django+apache
work, nothing beats Ubuntu: but you can have that cake on your mac and eat it
too. For almost everything else, a mac just makes me more productive and
happy. I’d love to make screencasts of a couple of the recent great websites
we finished. That’d be great publicity. But I basically cannot productively
do that on my Thinkpad.
The best tools... They should pay themselves back pretty quickly.
Darn, I really feel a bit dirty for wanting a mac due to the aforementioned
philosophical reasons... :-)