Ubuntu/Chrome OS revisited

Diverting away from Glass a bit. I will update more soon.

I became a Mac OS fan when I started using my MBP since 2006. Windows never worked for me, as I am a developer. Microsoft, Just give me a terminal. Cygwin to me is just something used to alleviate the issue, but that does not solve the fundamental problem. Handling “/” and “\” was already complicated enough, not to mention about the actual development. Ubuntu at that time was good, but there were lot of issues with package dependencies and distro upgrade.  Some essential packages tended to break and put your machine into an almost unusable state. Mac, on the other hand, got ahead of the competition. It is simple, elegant, and most importantly, it is based on Unix and always works. The development community embraced the power of the macs, and there were many development tools that were only available in Mac OS X.

Couple things made me revisit Ubuntu this year. First, I would never consider getting the current new MBP model. I would not buy anything that can not be customized and upgradable. It seemed to me that this is the direction Apple is heading, and if this continues, I will stay away from it.

Second, I bought a 7200 rpm 1 TB drive and attempted to put it into the optical bay of my MacBook Pro 2011 early model. It was a complete failure. Story short, the MacBook Pro and the hard drive negotiated a 6 Gb/s link, but the MacBook Pro firmware actually does not support 6 Gb/s.  My beloved MPB, please stop pretending to support 6 Gb/s and just negotiate a 3 Gb/s link. I could have lived with that. The final result was that I had this extra hard drive, and did not know what to do with it. I finally decided to put it into a Dell machine, and for fun, tri-boot it with Windows 8, Ubuntu and Hackintosh.   Although installing Hackintosh was a long tedious process, but amazingly, everything worked like a charm at the end.  I liked the Ubuntu Unity desktop and its user-friendliness.  No more touching Xorg.conf to deal with drivers.

Third, I have been working on Android development.  Something not advertised about Android AOSP is that there could be strange issues with your build if you do not compile it in Ubuntu, which is the official platform.  I learned a hard lesson and spent quite some time debugging in the wrong direction without realizing this fact.  So I need a Ubuntu machine anyways.

Fourth, some development tools such as GitLab is available on Linux but not on Mac.

Today, my MPB fan started giving me a loud humming voice.  I am sensitive to these noises while I am concentrating, and it is nerve wrecking to me.  I decided to stop using it until it got serviced.  In the meantime, I need a machine.  I took out the first Chromebook, a CR-48, that was given by my friend at Google years ago and started using it again (sorry, my friend, your machine just was not powerful enough for my daily usage, and I only needed one machine).  I went ahead and switch it to development mode, then installed Ubuntu with Unity desktop in it using Crouton.  I then installed necessary tools like java, Intellij, Thunderbird.  It is great to be able to switch between the Chrome OS and Ubuntu.  I am using it to write this blog.  My complaint with this machine is that I kept hitting the mouse pad when I am typing.  Even though this is an old machine, and not very well designed, it works, and you can not hear a bit of noise even if you put your ears to it.


I am surprised that a low-end, old machine like a CR-48 can still runs smoothly, and the speed is still acceptable.  Such hardware would not be able to support running Mac OS X 10.8 or Windows 8, but it can run Chrome OS and Ubuntu 12.04 concurrently.  Google is trying to unleash all the power through the Internet, and they build dumb terminals like a Chromebook.  While this may still be a bit hard to achieve, given that a lot of productivity software can only be run natively, and certainly not for developers, I do believe that it will be the future of computing.  This is how we can afford having every children in the entire world to have computing in his/her hands.

I may eventually use Ubuntu and replace Mac OS X in the near future.


  1. Anthony, I’m also starting to plan out a departure from OS X. My iMac and white MB are still running fine, but I’m wondering what’s next…and it’s likely not OS X, due to hardware compatibility and system price concerns on my part. Ubuntu is on my short list, but we’re a bit further into the transition than I am. Keep us posted…

  2. @Floyd: I run Ubuntu on my secondary machine, the work one they gave me, and have for a few years. It’s a perfectly fine replacement, but sometimes you get sucked into a rathole of installing packages and tweaking drivers.

    Chrome OS an option for you? I need VPN, but otherwise, it’s functional for me.

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