Ken Hess's Linux Blog
(link dead, sorry)
, a recent post asks "Are you smart enough to use Linux?". The
author explains that he really means "Are you smart enough to make the decision to use Linux and keep that technical edge?".
He makes the obvious point that most Windows users are not very technical. That's not hard to agree with. He also says that he used to think of Mac users the same way - presumably now that Mac has an accessible Unix base he thinks that has changed.
I ask this: Why can't you have it both ways?
I think Mac DOES offer this today - a powerful BSD base for those of us who want it and simple ease of use for those who don't.
I use a Mac as my daily desktop. I feel some guilt about that because I think Linux is important for political reasons, but I'm as lazy as the next guy so I chose Mac.
As is common in articles like that, the author brought up the issue of cost. Macs are expensive when compared to Linux, but not when compared to Windows. Considering all that you get (and the problems you DON'T get!), Macs are a far better deal than Windows.
Against Linux, well, it depends. If you hit the right hardware and your software needs match, Linux can be very simple too. If you hit the wrong hardware or want software that happens to be troublesome on Linux, then it can be not so much fun. But that can be true anywhere. You won't run into hardware mismatches with a Mac on the base machine but accessories can certainly run into problems and that's true for Windows also.
Although I chose Mac because I thought it gave me the best combination of ease of use and available raw power, I think I could easily make a similar case for choosing Linux. Probably my overriding point was my desire for a laptop; Linux laptops can be more troublesome and limiting. As a counter argument to that, what could be more limited than having to choose only from Apple's laptop line?
There is the tinkering aspect. The author and several commenters make the point that they enjoy that. Ken Hess says "I like to configure, enhance, tinker, tweak, and build something that's better than what's handed to me".
At one time in my life, I enjoyed tinkering. I'm past that now, so that aspect of Linux doesn't appeal to me as much as it once did. Of course when it does, I can just reach over to the keyboard of my server or fire up one of several Linux VM's I have here on the Mac.
I wouldn't think too many of us "tinker" with our main desktops anyway. Tinkering runs the risk of breakage; that's for VM's or unused boxes, isn't it?
One comment brought up the idea of efficiency; that you can get more done with Linux. I agree, but that's also true for Mac OS X. It's less true for typical Windows users, but I think a savvy Windows "Power User" type could justifiably argue that they can be every bit as efficient as we are - they just have to use different tools.
Why am I thinking about all this? Well, it's because my desktop is three years old in a few days. I usually don't keep systems even this long so it is way past time to think about replacing it. I'm thinking that I will probably keep it as a laptop for when I'm out, but it's time to put something new on my desk. The question is, what should it be?
We all know it won't be Windows, but I'm honestly torn between Mac and Linux. On the one hand is the very obvious fact that only with Mac can I have it all: Mac, Windows and Linux all on one box. That has a lot of attraction for me - if I put up a Linux box, I'd have to switch to a different machine for OS X (no, I am NOT going to hack OS X into a VM !). On the other hand, not using Linux does bother me at a psychological level and there's also the matter of "keeping your hand in" - while I have Linux VM's, that isn't quite the same as using it daily.
Another argument in favor of Linux is a change of pace. Getting out of comfortable habits helps keep your mind sharp. I've been using Mac OS X as my daily OS for more than six years now; maybe it's time for a change.
I don't know what I'll do. It's a tough decision. Understand it's not a matter of just buying one or the other: I could obviously buy both. This is a question of what I will USE daily.
By the way, Dell has seen the Linux light: Dell selects Linux to keep enterprise IT costs down reports that Dell is planning to use SUSE Linux Enterprise on their new OptiPlex FX160 thin clients.
Not that this has anything to do with me, of course. But it does indicate that Linux continues to grow. But then I come back to OS X, which is also growing.. aaarghh.. I need to clone myself!
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