by Cesare Rocchi

No alternative to macOS (for now)

by Cesare Rocchi

I have been keeping my eyes open for alternatives for quite a while. So when I read Wesley’s post it resonated quite a bit. My search was a little adventure.

On purpose I started by ignoring hardware compatibility issues. I simulated a hypothetical PC with a Virtual Box machine. I know it’s a big assumption. Still …

I started simple, with a calendar. I need one. I am used to the one on macOS and iOS. Synching works usually fine. I could not find a good alternative in the Linux world. More than 50% of the calendar apps that I tried don’t even allow a visualization by week. The only option is just the whole month as a grid, unacceptable to me. Mozilla offers Lightning Calendar, which seems a good option. But if I want synching I’d need to run some CalDAV server or subscribe to a synch service.

As for email I feel confident, because I am using standard IMAP accounts. Although I didn’t test thoroughly I don’t foresee potential problems in switching. I might even use a web UI at the beginning while I look for a good mail client. Thunderbird, again by Mozilla, looks like a good option.

As for coding/editing Sublime Text is available on any Linux distribution, and so are the tools of the stack I use for web development, so no problem with that.

During my hunt I used also the second biggest search engine in the world: YouTube. I found a lot of people that “discover” a new distro, swear eternal love to it, only change their mind a week later. It was fun, for a while. Maybe the “distro switcher” is a job title and I didn’t know :)

What put me off?

My initial assumption bit me back.

Picking a piece of hardware that runs a Linux distribution with no problems (or with a number of problems comparable to macOS running on Apple’s hardware) is a huge challenge. I found an interesting PC but the Wi-Fi doesn’t work with off-the-shelf distributions. I dug a bit deeper and discovered I have to recompile the kernel. I’d be fine with that. Then I read about the dude that lost all his data because a security update screwed his custom configurations for disk suspension. And I didn’t even investigate on Bluetooth, which I don’t use a lot, or compatibility with audio peripherals which I use quote often.

Even when I read good reports of people that “successfully” switched to Linux there was usually a pretty lengthy section about compromises or “things I still have to figure out”.

I have been out of the Linux-on-the-desktop world for almost ten years. I used to compile my custom version of Gentoo back in the day. I remember that the whole compilation process took a weekend usually. Yes, more than 48 hours :)

While I can’t deny there’s been a lot of progress in the Linux world I think we are not there yet when it comes to the desktop. I don’t know why there isn’t a company that focuses exclusively on building computers AND a distribution tailored for them.

The closest example is Purism, which unfortunately is not building PureOS exclusively for its hardware. Keeping compatibility with other devices is good in principle. My feeling is that they are trying to solve too many problems at once, especially considering that they also aim at avoiding binary “blobs” included in Intel CPUs. It’s a huge challenge. I wish them to succeed.

On the software side of things elementary OS looks very promising and it’s off to a good start.

Ironically one of the most satisfying options was FreeBSD, the root from which NeXTSTEP OS (the father of Mac OS X) was born.

Decision fatigue

Apple is not producing the hardware I’d like and macOS is not bug free. But I’ll stick to the Mac, because venturing into the sea of hardware/distro combinations is not worth it at the moment. I don’t want to live with the concern that an update can screw my data and I don’t have time to buy, try and return hardware until I find a good combination that works.

If you are producing services and products like I am, and you are using Linux on the desktop in your day to day job, please write a blog post about it. I am eager to read and share it.

I am aware I can’t run Xcode on Linux so I am ready to keep a Mac around for that kind of job. Also, if I ever switch, I foresee it as a gradual move.

MS Windows is not an option to me. While I like more and more the Metro UI, I have big concerns about privacy.