Ruminations on MacOS vs Ubuntu

My friend Andy pointed me to this post on someone who tried ubuntu and went back to MacOs because of many small problems he had. It's a clearly written piece, where he is able to keep his frustration mostly at bay to write lucidly about why he feel ubuntu falls down for him.

There is a story about how keybindings don't globally work, how the open source community doesn't really help with niche issues, and how things just don't feel integrated etc... His conclusion is that linux needs paid for applications to close the gap.

It's a thoughtful post, but I have had almost the opposite reaction in terms of look and feel and the "wholeness" of the experience on Linux versus the Mac. I run ubuntu on a MacBook Air because I feel it offers a more integrated work environment and better Free & free applications than MacOS. My impression is that Gnome is actually more consistent overall than MacOS when it is a vanilla install with gtk applications, and I've also found things like keybindings and personalization to be better when one chooses to dig in and start changing things. It really is the best of both worlds in my experience.

Some apps do flub clipboard integration, openoffice being the most commonly used, but OO.o has clipboard problems on windows too. Mousebuttons seem to mostly work like MacOS even with my

As far as the community, I can only say that the open source community has been much more welcoming and responsive to me personally than either the Mac community or Apple inc despite my years as a machead and devoted customer.

Perhaps he is right that the difference is between paying your way vs pitching in to meet niche needs, but I can't see the economics really working out in the situation he uses as an example.

You wouldn't get a taker for $15 to add keybindings to an application in the mac world either... you need hundreds of people asking for that feature before it is worth the developers' time. If hundreds of people are asking for a feature in the open source world, it is also going to get done. If you're the only one asking for a feature in either the proprietary software world or the open source world you are SOL. Wait, except that in the open source world you can add the feature yourself given the right skills. In the mac world you would either have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for custom development, or write the app from scratch.

The one thing that apple users have over linux users is the howls that go up when an app doesn't behave in a mac-like way in terms of keyboard shortcuts or what have you. You won't find the critical mass of people to grab torches in the open source world simply because it is acknowledged that there is "more than one way to do it". There is a great benefit to having only one way to do it if you are part of the crowd that digs that way.

Perhaps there is also something to be said for proprietary applications in terms of the polish that gets added version over version in an attempt to get people's upgrade dollars, but I find that open source applications which gain critical mass build a community which provides a similar level of quality with much more flexibility and breadth of functionality.

For the normal, non technical user I feel both Mac and ubuntu would have similar tech support footprints, and perceptions of quality. Linux has come that far in 5 years. I would probably recommend a mac if it wasn't someone really close to me, because I would feel less responsible to provide tech support given that they are paying Apple. If it was someone in my immediate family what I could support locally, I would suggest ubuntu. Ultimately, ubuntu is free to try, even on their current computer. If it doesn't turn them on, point them to their local Apple store. It's their choice, just like it's our choice.

For a more technical user, I would ask whether they are interested in open source community and ideals. If so, go with linux. Otherwise, it's about even.

Anyway, same facts, different emotions. I totally respect his perspective, and I am really glad we get to choose between the two.