Things Linux Does Better…
Now a few months into the full transition on my main laptop to Linux, here are some observations on what I am very happy about and what I miss in leaving OS X. I am running XFCE as my desktop interface of choice, but all of these points are relevant no matter what UI I have run.
Ditching OS X 10.8 and moving to Linux really unleashed the performance in my i7 MacBook Pro. It runs much faster that it did really since Snow Leopard. I haven’t done side by side testing, but compiles and ffmpeg work moves along much faster since my transition. At 8 gigs of RAM and a decent speed Intel i7, it was remarkably slower under OS X 10.8 and it was “beachballing” far more than it should have been even after clean installs.
2. Workspaces / Virtual Desktops
Apple OS X never could do this correctly. “Spaces” and Expose never were great. I don’t miss them at all. I used to run Codetek Virtual Desktop and then Hyperspaces (http://thecocoabots.com/hyperspaces/) before various OS X version changes killed them off. The old-school workspaces way is the best way to deal with multiple desktops. OS X never got that right.
3. Package Management
Crazy that OS X never had decent options on handling software installs and removes. Sure, you could buy 3rd-party software that could kind of manage things, but now that OS X software is really putting files around the drive like Windows does (in /Library and in /User/Library, etc.) it is crazy not to have it. Heck, in Lion and Mountain Lion, Apple is even starting to actively hide the Library directories from users so they can’t get into purge preferences or fully uninstall apps that put garbage in there. Having many files from applications that came and went is not something I miss from OS X and I’m happy to be able to really manage it once again.
Also, in Ubuntu, the apt packaging system is great. The ability to add sources and keep updated far exceeds the limited Apple Software Update functions that have now been inserted into the Apple OS X App Store. Synaptic Package Manager is wonderful. The ability to install, remove and purge is just something OS X doesn’t do well.
4. Wireless Network Management
It sounds crazy, but I hop back and forth constantly over wlans that sit on top of vlans on my network for testing and troubleshooting. OS X never did that fast switching well. I jump back and forth between a handful of wireless networks on our campus to make sure services and performance are solid. With OS X, it was routine to go through a couple of wlans switches only to be timed-out because OS X couldn’t handle it. Daily, I would have to flip Airport (now “Wifi”) completely off to then be able to jump on additional networks. Under Ubuntu 12.10, I can hop back and forth between the 5 wireless networks with different encryption authentication settings all without a problem. This is a huge timesaver. I had always thought the problems were related to the wireless APs, but now I know better. The OS X client was to blame. The wireless Broadcom hardware on these MacBook Pros is somewhat buggy though no matter what OS I try to run. It sure seems to perform much better under Linux.
5. Customization of the GUI
The ability to tweak and set how you want your user interface to look is unmatched. There are a lot of things I can’t move around to my preferences on OS X. The Apple Menu is of little use since OS X and you can only hack the dock so much to make it work the way I wanted it to. I am much happier with XFCE, panels and Cairo Dock or Docky.
Things I Miss…
Linux is great. But, there are a couple of things I really do miss from OS X. I am sure they will eventually get worked-out, but tough to not have them.
1. VPN options are limited.
It’s really surprising to me that I am unable to get L2TP VPN running on Ubuntu 12.10. This should be automatic, but it is not happening. I have spent hours and still no dice. Some people have done guides on it, but still a huge issue for me. I have been able to get it to the point where it looks as though it should work, but it does.
2. SD Card Reader Not Usable (Yet!)
I didn’t think I used the MacBook Pro SD card slot reader much, but I do. Under Ubuntu 12.10, if I insert an SDHC card, I blackscreen. This stinks. It looks like it will be rectified in the 3.7 kernel, but come on! Standard SD seem to be okay, but SDHC cards (like the one I happen to use with our Canon camera) are not able to be accessed.