OS X, Ubuntu and Other Fun Stuff… My Perspective

Instead of adding a comment to Jake’s post on his Ubuntu experience to-date, I thought I’d just blog my perspective.

Here’s my backstory with Apple, MSFT, Linux, and others:

  • Mid to late 80s: Timex Sinclair 1000… loved writing programs on cassette tapes!  How many of you Web 2.0 kiddies can say that?
  • Early to mid 90s: had an Apple LC II from high school up to the end of college (prior to that, mucked around with the Amiga (forgot the model), Atari 400/800, and Commodore 64/VIC-20)
  • Right after college: OS/2 (briefly) for work, Win95 at home
  • ’97 to early 2k: WinNT the WinXP
  • 2002 to 2006: tinkered with RedHat but used XP most of the time
  • 2006 to 2007: used XP and Ubuntu equally… tried Vista but hated it
  • 2007 to early 2008: Ubuntu 100% (on my Dell D620, same hardware as Jake’s)
  • Jan 2008 to May 2008: Ubuntu 100% on a MacBook Pro (3rd gen)
  • May 2008 to today: OS X Leopard 100%

As you can see, I’ve had my fair share with OS fun dating back to the Reagan era — before politics were important to me.

My experience is very different from Jake’s.  I’m a computer hobbyist.  I love tinkering with machines.  I can spend hours taking something apart just to learn how something was put together.  To me, Linux is a dream OS.  You can shape it to your liking.

Since I started working for a living, computers have become less a hobby and more of a productivity tool.  It’s actually more than a toy.  Most people use it to build stuff, write documents or presentations, surf the internets, etc. in the hope that it will propel us to do things better and faster.  Even though I still enjoy tinkering with computers, more than ever, I have to be productive.  And in keeping with Moore’s law, the next day I need to be better and faster.

Linux is a fun OS and Ubuntu just works.  However, as I’ve told Jake after I moved over to OS X I realized how much time I spent tweaking and configuring Ubuntu.  This isn’t unique to Ubuntu — it’s true for all Linux distros.  Ubuntu does just work out of the box and it’s got most of the software I need already installed and configured.  However, because of the Linux ethos it’s just too easy to get caught up in tweaking and configuring.  Luckily, I didn’t have the Compiz issues that Jake had.  Compiz just worked for me on the same hardware that Jake has.  Before I moved to OS X, my Ubuntu config was perfect.  I was super productive with it.  However, I absolutely hated one thing… suspend and hibernate support sucked *ss.

I had no real reason to move to OS X aside from my gripes with suspend and hibernate support.  Although, it did seem weird to be running Ubuntu on a MacBook Pro.  I suppose I was nudged to move to OS X after going to RailsConf.  I’m usually not one to succumb to peer pressure, but after seeing how productive many of the Rails devs I met at RailsConf were with their Macs, I thought that maybe I should just give it a try.

The path to making the switch from Linux to OS X was a breeze.  Anyone who’s spent a ton of time in Linux is very comfortable with the command line.  The cool thing with OS X is that most of the software I needed was already there and the things I needed to install were pretty easy to install using MacPorts.  Most of my command line tweaks (bash scripts, aliases, profiles) worked with minor edits.  VPN worked seamlessly without flaws.  And my graphics program, Xara, works great under VirtualBox.

The trick to succeeding with any OS transition is to make sure you’re using software that works on multiple OSes.  For example, my preferred text editor is old-school VIM.  It’s what I wrote my programs with in college and it’s what I still use today… and it works on any OS.  For everything else, make sure the OS you’re moving to can run a virtualization app like VMWare or VirtualBox.

In the end, OS X is by no means perfect.  I miss some parts of Ubuntu.  Compiz kicks OS X’ *ss when it comes to eye candy.  I also miss the terminal.  OS X’ terminal is usable, but lags behind (and iTerm is no better).  Ubuntu’s default command line config is also much better.  Apple didn’t make OS X for people who spend their day on the command line.  Lastly, I hate paying for software… even though I do.  I’ve gotten so used to using good, free software developed by like minded folks.  But even with these gripes, I’m sticking to OS X for now simply because it’s harder to tweak which in the end makes me a hell of a lot more productive.  I liken it to not having network connectivity.  Without access to the internet, there’s no Twitter, no IM, no email, nothing to distract you from getting stuff done… which is why I love to disconnect from time to time during the work day.

AboutRich Manalang

a.k.a.: manalang


  1. We need to talk IRL about why my video drivers don't work. It doesn't make sense, unless you have NVIDIA or something else.

  2. I wanted to say that my first programming experience in late 80s was on Soviet home computer BK-0010 which also had a tape recorder and which you connected to standard TV set. And you needed to program either in assembler or in FOCAL language. So our beginnings were similar 🙂

  3. In Soviet Russia, computer programs you.
    The tape recorder and connection to a TV seem pretty cool, compared to what we had in the 80s.

    I wasn't the hardcore hobbist Rich was, but I did my share of messing about with the Apple's in the “computer lab”. Remember when a floppy disk really was floppy, and a whole game fit on it?

    Ah. Pong. I miss you.

  4. Do you still have that computer? That thing would probably sell for a pretty penny on eBay! I wish I still had my Timex Sinclair. I have fond memories hooking that up to a black and white TV and turning the volume down (no sound).

  5. Unfortunately not. This was not our home computer – I went to dad's work at University where I could get to this computer to do some programming couple times per week.

    Later my first Unix experience was on Russian clone of PDP-11 minicomputer where my older brother managed to install Russian clone of Unix and I could do my first C programming 🙂 (reading K&R C language book in all capital letters as on Russian printers small Latin letters were replaced with Russian letters)

    These olden days were fun – then programming was done just by geeks who really enjoyed it 🙂

  6. Right there with you in regards to programming on tape…remember the Radio Shack TRS-80? Wish I still had one, just for old time's sake.

    In fact, tape was a step up from the card batches I used in college! Gee, I'm an old bugger…

  7. All this nostalgia has me thinking about a throwback post for all the geeks out there. Maybe later today I'll put some thought behind that.

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