For the last twenty years or so, I have almost exclusively used some form on Linux or Unix implementation. That’s changed. At first it was the excellent FreeBSD, until Linux caught my eye and more particularly Fedora. At no point during that time did I ever feel the need to move to a paid operating system, and loved toying and tinkering with the system installed. Manually entering graphic card details just to configure the windowing system? Fun. Rebuilding the kernel, cut to the wick? As often as possible. Trawling through logs and Internet forums to sort out the sound card which suddenly stopped working? Cost of doing business.
Linux is only free if your time has no value.Jamie Zawinski
Pain & Suffering
Another day, another update and the usual handful of niggling little problems easily resolved. This time though the graphics card unleashed newfound levels of grief, and for some reason I no longer saw a challenge and a chance to learn something new. There were things to be done that I simply couldn’t do, my time being wasted. Then there was another problem, and another… and another. Applications crashed. Updates failed. Perhaps time has caught up with old man Meehan now that he has reached the dizzying heights of the Hitchhiker’s age, but it all stopped being fun and became – in short – a pain in the arse. It was time to try something new so that I could direct my energies where I chose, but as Windows would definitely not get a look-in there was only one place to go…
Taking a Bite of the Apple
So with a few hundred quid in my pocket I headed out to buy a second-hand Mac mini, the classic switcher’s machine of choice. The exact opposite of what most people complaining about their operating system blog about. Yes, I’m an edgelord. It is still early days, but I am impressed so far. First of all, and let’s get this out of the way because it sounds fairly trivial, it is very pretty. Linux configured well doesn’t look too shabby, but there is a definite lack of finesse and consistency across applications. Any doubters might want to take a look at Eclipse and make some comparisons.
It Just Works… Mostly
The main thing though is the utility of the system. Quality software is readily available, and does exactly what is expected. No fuss, no muss. It just works. Yes, that comes at a price but what in life doesn’t? Hand over money for a product that offers the right features and will behave properly right out of the box, or hand over time to stuff yet another square peg through another round hole. For me right now, it’s a no-brainer.
That’s not to say it’s all peaches and cream in Apple land. There is a fair amount of nuisance and compromise to be found, especially the extra mental bandwidth needed to remember slight changes of shortcut keys or the fact that the mouse wheel scrolls like an aeroplane yoke. The core of the system is still *nix though, so quick downloads of tools like iTerm2 make the whole thing a lot more palatable.
Fedora hasn’t gone away, but that box is now a secondary system. Time will tell if it makes a comeback in my life, but for the moment I have a computer that does what I want without any hassle, and I’m even getting to learn a little something new.