Niels K.

About my switch to Linux

Yesterday I had to make the hard decision to switch from OS X to Linux. The reason is mainly of financial nature. One of the laptops in the household broke down and we just cannot afford a laptop by Apple right now. And I do not trust Apple-hardware enough that I would buy it used and therefore with no or nearly no warranty. I am using now Apple-computers for 10 years and had two iBook G4s, one iMac, two MacBook Airs and brought Apple-computers also to my extended family and have seen there in addition a MacBook Pro, a MacBook and two iMacs. The first iBook G4 needed to be repaired like five or six times until I got the second iBook G4 which needed some repair as well and died not long after the three-year warranty. My iMac died once after a firmware-update and the technician said to me that he wouldn’t have believed me the story if he wouldn’t have seen my dead computer with his own eyes. I broke it more or less when I installed an SSD. After that the fans went bonkers. My first MacBook Air was the most terrible Mac I’ve ever had because the HDD was just too slow. And it died at some point because of a RAM-error. The day I got really cautious about Apples strategy to integrate laptops more and more. Usually fixing a RAM-error depends only on the price of RAM. And since the computer was from 2008 and had only 2GB it would have been probably a 20€-fix. But I just could say to my wife: “It’s dead Jim”. The best computer I’ve ever owned though is the machine I am typing this blog post right now. A MacBook Air from 2011. And it is the only Mac I know in my extended family that didn’t have any problems so far[footnote]except one other iMac but I do not want to jinx it.[/footnote]. The MacBook Pro of my wife had always battery problems and Apples service-partners could never really fix it and between slacking and the reoccurence of the problem the warranty was gone without having a final fix. Since then it just won’t work on battery power. And this MacBook Pro is now steadily declining. So my wife gets now this MacBook Air and I will get the computer with Linux since I have less problems with fixing problems and working with it than if my wife would have to.

And those are just the stories of the Macs I owned[footnote]My first iBook had like three logic boards and two or three Super Drives[/footnote]. I’ve seen in my extended family broken cases, power supplies and dead logic boards. Except my iPhones and iPod Touches nearly everything had to be repaired at some point incl. some iPods that broke. I also know a lot of people who had trouble with their iPhones, especially with the home buttons. And yes, I know that there are people with totally different experiences but To be honest, those do not matter to me.

Until I got my current MacBook Air I always said that I would buy immediately a ThinkPad if OS X would officially run on them. I do not know why but I like the black edged design, the keyboard is great and they are really good servicable. I had to remove tons of screws to exchange hard disks with some of my Macs. Yes I know that there were some series were it was easy to change the HDD but current models are moving more and more into being nearly unserviceable. If the SSD in my MBA dies I need a special SSD and it is expensive. 250GB are around 240€. I gave up thinking about exchanging the 128GB-SSD for a 256GB one. It is just too expensive. For the one I just ordered I paid €110 and from my job where I use the 120GB-model I know that they are fast[footnote]Before you ask: Samsung Evo 840.[/footnote], at least fast enough for me.

But let’s go back to the serviceable Thinkpad. I could easily find a 300 page-service manual where they explain how to exchange pretty much everything. And I know that even the spare parts are not that expensive. If something breaks with a used Apple-laptop and I have no warranty, I am not afraid of not being able to fix it by myself even though there are the iFixit-guides. And the spare parts are usually not that cheap in my experience. When I am out of warranty with a Mac-laptop from the last couple of years, I have with most parts a big problem - hard to exchange, expensive parts etc. In addition even used prices are pretty high. But that X201 from 2010 or 2011[footnote]I am not sure.[/footnote] with a Core i5 with 2.53GHz was less than €300 from a dealer and I even have a couple of months of warranty by the dealer.

So now you know my financial reasoning for not buying a Mac. And on the software side most of the stuff I use has equivalents if it is not even the same on Linux. For all my writing I use vim and if it needs to be printed I use XeTeX. When I write correspondence any word processor works for me, so Open Office is fine. My music gets nowadays into Google Play Music where I have an All Access-subscription. Since I switched to Android and Quantus Tasks underdelivered I switched to a todo.txt-based setup. And it works pretty well and has the advantage that I can even use it at work where I have to use Windows. My browsers of choice are Firefox and Chrome and I watch movies with VLC or MPlayer. And the list goes on. I noticed already several months ago that I am in a state where I could switch to Linux because it pretty much didn’t matter anymore. But I always said to me that I actually like OS X and that there is no good enough reason to switch when I am using a MacBook Air. I do not have yet a solution for everything - mainly for doing Let’s Plays like I record them recently but I am confident that I will find a solution. Yes, it will be some work to get every gear running like I want it to but while I said in the past I am willing to pay more, so that it just works my preferences changed and I am more ready to pay in time. In addition I am in a mood in the recent months in which I want to be able to fiddle with my system. I was actually always in the mood and with Linux this works even better. In exchange I won’t have access to software from the OmniGroup or software like Screenflow. But I guess I will survive, there are worse things. And maybe the time comes back when I can afford a Mac without thinking too much about the costs, but right now this is not the time[footnote]And when I am honest this is also one of the reasons why I like retrogames so much. If I wanted to play on a current gen-console I would need a new TV and a new console. And just for being able to play games I would have to pay a high 3-digits or even 4-digits amount of money. And there are so many good games I already own or that I never played which I can get now for cheap that I do not see that much of a reason to get pay that much money.[/footnote].

Be prepared for some blog posts or even one or more podcast-episode about how the switch is working out. If you are an active Linux-user I am happy to get some software-recommendations or general hints via ADN, Twitter or e-mail[footnote]My GPG-key is here[/footnote]