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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why I Made the Switch

I came across this blog post aptly titled "would you use windows, if it were gpl?" it got me thinking, why the heck don't i use Windows? It shouldn't be too difficult to figure that out, after all we've already asked, will you enlist?

above image really has nothing to do with the point i wanted to make. it was just a neat photo from: Earth Observatory - NASA

When I made the switch to Intel Macs, I had already moved away from Windows, though not entirely. But I was already predominantly a Linux user. The only reason why i kept my Laptop dual-booting to windows was for the off chance a projector wouldn't work for some presentation or some insane thing like that and at the time, to play Civ3.

Otherwise, it was pure Linux. Linux to watch my DVDs and play my music. Linux to run the occasional gimp, and Linux to run OpenOffice from word processing to presentations. But nobody other than myself could use the machine. you see, it was built using gentoo and how i built it, was never meant to be user friendly. for instance: evoking mplayer (a video player) meant, calling for it on the command line. yes, it could have been configured to be more user friendly. but i liked it that way. it was barebones, and its pentium-m dothan ran off only 256MB ram.

I wanted to make a shift when Mac OSX 10.4 came out but when I needed a Laptop, 10.4 (Tiger )hadn't arrived yet, so the laptop was an el cheapo one and that was the one that became my gentoo laptop. When the new Intel-based iMacs came out, I knew it was the moment to make the switch. I made the switch from a Linux Desktop to a Macintosh one.

Mac OSX was suppose to be what Linux could achieve. It came ready to run right off the box. I didn't need to fetch macromedia flash---it came with it. My iPod syncs perfectly with the Mac. Photos were stored properly. the only thing I needed downloading was a copy of openoffice and firefox. I didn't need to configure the compiler--- it was built and came with developer tools like GCC. It ran X11 apps with little or no adjustments at all.

It also comes with apache the webserver, python, and others.

What's not to love?

Mac OSX came with all the tools and it came 90% out of the box. Installing an application was intuitive. or rather counter-intuitive to how windows and linux does it. you simply download the image/zip/installer... mount it (just like putting in a CD for you Windows folks) and literally just drag the app to the Applications folder. and the software would run. no worrying about dependencies. it was simple and straightforward.

Mac OSX being founded on unix also allowed me to download stuff like a different version of apache, or mysql or the more powerful postgresql, run them off my iMac. it was simple and straightforward.

Mac OSX allowed me the freedom that linux gave: the command line prowess. A secure shell here, an ftp there. the multitude of apps from databases to scripting languages to webservers to office suites. It came with an easy to use environment that lets me play to: iTunes, iPhoto as well as play games on it when I want.

Parallels running two instances of gentoo linux inside Mac OS X

There is also Parallels, a virtualization solution (see image above) that lets me run Linux along side my Mac OSX, long before BootCamp came to town.

If i wanted to play games, there are more game titles available in Windows. Perhaps this was why this man, a lifelong Gamer wrote an open letter to apple as he lamented on the fact that Apple has showed no love for gamers like him. For them that may be the deal breaker but i'm happy with the fact Blizzard of World of Warcraft fame have always made their games available on the Mac and that games that i'd enjoy, if i'd play one like Civilization IV have been ported by Aspyr.

Yes, there are windows versions of apache, postgresql, mysql, php and gcc--- but they're all hacks and you'd have to make a huge effort just to make them run. just try finding a secure shell environment for windows.

in gentoo linux installing apps like secure shell, if it wasn't already installed, would be as simple as evoking an emerge command. in Ubuntu, an apt-get and that app would be installed and ready to run. In OS X, secure shell comes out of the box or via darwinports.

A lot of people love and use Ubuntu. It is successful because of all the distros it is the most Mac OS-ishy as well as it is Linux. It is getting to the point that grandma can use it. Feisty Fawn after all is a great next step for Ubuntu and great step for Linux distros everywhere, as is Sabayaon Linux (which I also use, it being based on gentoo).

a look at ubuntu's feisty; original youtube link here.

sabayon linux, youTube original link: here.

I still have gentoo linux machines and will not think of letting them go. They mostly do the heavy lifting. Sometimes it comes down to cost and flexibility. For all the power Mac OSX has--- the ability to tweak, to configure, to customize: Gentoo Linux is unparalleled. The right tools, for the right job after all works best.

Walt Mossberg wrote recently that the lines are blurring between hardware and software. He said, it used to be that the likes of Microsoft would focus only on software because "there was little margin on the hardware side" and guys like Sony, he said focused only on Hardware. Everyone seemed to be catching up and mimicking Apple who makes both hardware and software. While it is true Apple has always embraced that hardware and software when leveraged together can yield superior results, we forget that it was IBM who were doing both hardware and softare for many years, though not as elegantly made as Apple's.

One of the fundamental reasons why people who aren't technologically astute would refuse to touch linux was that it wasn't as polished. Not all printers would work and not all scanners would work, even though they were working on windows and on macs.

David Pogue makes a wonderful case in his "Simplicity Sells" TEDTalk, which is why Apple is so popular; it just works:

download david pogue's simplicity sells in zipped mp4: here.

Windows sucked because of it is mediocre and the guys running it--- they want nothing else but to redo the whole thing but an ecosystem has already existed around it. it isn't perfect, but it'll do for now.

There will be people who don't know Linux but don't like it. And even amongst Linux fan boys and girls--- the philosophical differences amongst the distro users can drive anyone mad at times and it may seem Open Source advocates eat their young.

On the other hand, Linux is powerful. It is great for a whole lot of things. People just love ubuntu for instance, and how it looks and feels. It still isn't as "easy" as the mac. Ubuntu is like a Toyota sedan. Gentoo Linux is like an Ariel Atom and here's the Top Gear episode of what an Atom is. Then there's the Mac (particularly this Mac), which is more like this supercar, which is really one of those moments too few to miss:

original youTube link from here.

"would i use Windows if it were GPL?" It was never because, Windows wasn't open source that I didn't use it. It was never because Linux was open source because I used it and will still continue to use and support it and build projects around of. The deal breaker for me why my primary machine is OS X was the ability of Apple to put together this Unix-based desktop workstation that had grace, flexibility and it had power: that's why I made the switch.