Switching from the Mac to Linux (a bit)
I've been a Mac user since 2003. The better part of those roughly 14 years I've been a happy camper. OS X has been, for the most part, reliable, stable and a pleasure to use on a daily basis. Over the years I've invested heavily (easily thousands of Euros/Dollars) in 3rd-party software, for many of which there are no suitable equivalents on other platforms. These 3rd-party apps are what – in my mind – make the Mac and OS X the most productive and enjoyable platform for me.
Over the last couple of years, though, I've become increasingly frustrated with where Apple seems to be headed as a company and how that course might affect the Mac. Apple's increased focus on iOS, iPhone, Apple Watch, producing their own TV show – basically anything except the Mac – has me worried that the Mac and OS X will soon change in ways I don't want it to or go away entirely. The latter scenario is less likely, at least for the next couple of years. But the former one is just as bad and, I fear, inevitable.
Preparing for the worst
It's still too early to say what Apple's plans for the Mac and macOS really are. As I write this, macOS is still more or less the same familiar and productive work environment I've grown to appreciate. But if Apple decides (or already has decided) to move macOS closer to iOS in more than cosmetic ways, I worry that I'll increasingly have to fight and work around limitations to get my work done. Possibly even to the point where I'll have to question if macOS is enabling my productivity, like it used to, or if it's starting to encumber it.
Whichever way things eventually end up heading, I like to be prepared. If I ever end up having to switch away from the Mac to a different platform, I want to do it on my own schedule. If Apple were to ever announce a new major version of macOS that didn't allow me to do my work in the way I want to anymore, I'd prefer already having an alternative in place rather than having to start looking for one just then.
A second home
In the past, whenever the topic of leaving the Mac came up in discussions, I always said that the only (back then, purely theoretical) alternative for me would be Linux. My first contact with Linux dates all the way back to around 1994 when I installed SuSE Linux on a 386SX-40. Since then I've always had a soft spot for the nerdiness and freedom of Linux.
What's more important, though, is that for a lot of the work I do, Linux is just as good a fit as mac OS, if not a better one. For most of my work developing Shopify stores, themes and apps, all I need is a browser, a code editor and the terminal. The work environment I've set up on the Mac can basically be ported over to Linux 1:1, since all the terminal stuff works there natively anyway or is platform-agnostic.
I've also been running my websites on Linux servers (or VPS) for years now. When I got started, I used cPanel for system administration because doing everything in the shell was too daunting. But the server this blog is hosted on is a Linode running on Ubuntu and I installed it completely from scratch and manage it via ssh in the bash shell.
All that is to say that I'm already fairly comfortable with using Linux. I just haven't used it as a desktop system for actual work.
So here's the plan as it stands now.
I'm going to continue using my Mac as my main work environment, because that's where I'm still the most productive right now. But I'll start setting up a Linux machine on the side to see which parts of my work I can move over and to slowly get comfortable in the new environment.
I'm pretty sure I'll be able to move my web development work over without much issues, but as far as the many productivity apps I also use on the Mac (I'll get to which apps exactly in one of the next posts), I have my doubts.
I think where I'll eventually end up is using the Linux machine for the web development work, but still keeping the Mac around for all the apps for which there are no good replacements on Linux. I generally prefer only having a single work machine (or OS), but I guess you have to be flexible.
Every operating system or platform has its strengths and weaknesses. Of course you could, for the sake of being able to stick to one system, try to make do with the weaknesses. I prefer cherry-picking and using every system for what it's best at.
Check out all articles in the cmd+Q series.
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