Rediscovering an old friend

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I’m a systems guy.  I fiddle with operating systems the way some people dive in to video games.  At work, I consider myself a Linux admin first, Mac troubleshooter second, and then Windows.  I was bitten by the Linux bug in 1998 with Red Hat Linux 4.2.  I discovered Debian a couple of years later, and I’ve been Debian-bound since.  However, in 2003 I discovered the joy that was laptop computing with Mac OS X.  Since then, I have owned an iBook, PowerBook, several MacBooks and MacBook Pros, and most recently, a 2010 11″ MacBook Air.  They are lovely computers, Mac OS is a lovely operating system.

However, with each release, Apple makes Mac OS less Unix-like.  First we lost the ability to run PowerPC apps.  Next it was the removal of Java in the default OS.  I’ve long wondered if X11 will be next.  Lately, Apple has been tying users and developers closer to an iOS-style app store that greatly restricts developers.  New apps submitted to the app store can only be written in certain programming languages and now must be sandboxed.  Apple is certainly entitled to make these decisions, and their commercial success clearly shows that this is a good path for Apple as a company, and perhaps for users in general.  As a systems guy, each one of these changes irkes me.  Now, in 2012, I worry about Apple redefining computing in a light that will preclude future generations from tinkering and breaking things as I did growing up.  Yes, things change.  Yes, there are advantages to their model.  However, there can be another way.

So, with all of this in mind, I’m planning a little experiment for the rest of the summer:  To see if I can be as productive using Linux (Ubuntu 12.04, to be… precise) as I have been using Mac OS X.  This will be a tall order.  Mac OS is a great OS and I’ve been using it pretty much daily for nearly a decade now.  Between the Adobe Creative Suite and Coda, I will be hard pressed to do what I do as efficiently as I am used to, but I think it’s worth a try.

I’ve already created one poster in Inkscape rather than InDesign, and the experience wasn’t all bad.  You can see what it looks like compared to a similar InDesign poster of my creation.

To replace Coda, the best workflow that I can come up with is Jedit with sessions and sshfs, though I’m also playing with gedit and a Sessions plugin.  Frankly, these are poor substitutes.  However, I’ve found lately that I am doing less web coding and more systems fiddling and WordPress editing, half of which I do in the WordPress editor just for convenience.  (Advanced Code Editor and WP-FileManager are your friends!)  If anyone has any suggestions for an IDE, web or Linux-based, closer to Coda I’d love to hear about it.  My requirements are remote live editing, drag and drop file management, and multiple sessions (one per customer site.)  I’ll happily pay (even dearly) for software if it makes me more productive.

Day to Day with Ubuntu

While I may miss some of the applications I use regularly in MacOS, I don’t miss the operating system as much as I thought I would.  Rather, I’m very pleased with the state of mobile Linux.  Having fought first with X11, then with APM and ACPI endlessly over the years, I’m relieved to report that full-time Linux laptop use has been surprisingly uneventful.  Power management and wireless networking are just great in Ubuntu.  The ThinkPad X200s paired with a fast solid state drive give me a hardware experience different but of similar quality to what I’ve grown used to with the MacBook Air.  I open the laptop, it has resumed.  Within seconds, it is on the wireless network, ready to go.  Using Linux again full-time is a joy.  And then there’s Ubuntu’s Unity interface.

After absolutely hating early versions of Canonical’s Unity environment, I am quite shocked to find that I quiet enjoy using and am terribly impressed by Unity as it exists in Ubuntu 12.04.  Canonical has realized a genuinely better Linux desktop that should scale nicely from phone to tablet, and TV to desktop.  This is quite a feat.  I’m deeply impressed by Canonical’s vision for a unified Linux interface.  Unity is an attractive, cohesive experience with a great design that, while taking inspiration from the best, is clearly not copying any other OS.  They have created this UI while also adding beautiful, original typefaces, icons, and now colour management.

Adding a printer and joining a wireless network is at least as elegant as it is on competing platforms.  Power management is easy to understand and configure, and operating features are generally easily discovered.  Canonical has integrated a good music store, and their Software Centre manages to bring you the features of Apple’s App Store without diluting or losing the power of Debian’s package management.

Sure, there are minor annoyances and things that I would change given the chance, but compared to state-of-the-art Linux desktop computing, the last 10 years are nothing short of amazing.

I plan to post regular updates on how things progress Linux-only.  If you’re interested, stay tuned.

GoSaBe Blog - Jul 26, 2012 | Hardware, Linux, Web Development

1 comment

  1. Scallo

    Welcome back! <3
    Your old friend never left. S_he is here and waiting for you to climb the highest mountains, dive into the deepest sea and spending whole days with you on the couch watching a movie.

    I rarely use OS X, but I have the same impression every once in a while I touch it: It is feeling less and less unix-like.
    Have fun!. And after your enthusiasm about Unity I feel tempted to try it again. Maybe it finally offers usability.

    Thank you for convincing me to try Unity again.

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