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Aaron Wolf
Aaron Wolf

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Switching From Linux to Mac

I Switched.

This summer I switched from a System76 Linux laptop to a MacBook Pro M1. Which is better? I can't answer say, but here are some observations (good and bad)

In general I'm surprised by how similar Mac and Linux are in practice. Most of my "Linux" stuff on Mac is done through SSH to my home server. I still use the terminal on Mac a lot for web development, but all of that stuff is the same. Since MacOS is Unix based it's really similar to Linux.

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Set Up

When I got my Macbook I had to go into some "deep" settings to allow sudo, and it took a little time to get my Mac working the way I like, it took a lot of Googling to find where the settings I wanted were. In contrast, I automated most of my Linux setup with a script. I also find the settings in every distro I've ever used to be easier to navigate than what's in MacOS. With all of Apple's rhetoric about security, I was shocked that full disk encryption was not the default with MacOS.

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The Physical Machine

Mac build quality is exceptional. I wish there was a Linux option that came remotely close to this. I don't think there are any Windows PCs that even come close. I used to actually use Linux on a Mac a few years ago back in the Intel days. I've also successfully installed Ubuntu Server on a VM on my M1.

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(Perceived) Performance

I didn't do any performance tests, but it seems Mac is MUCH faster and overall performant. The battery lasts a long time, the memory usage is more efficient, and the laptop is extremely quiet (I think the fan has gone on once since I got it).

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This might be a distro thing, but I was rebooting my Linux laptop (Mint 20.2) a lot more than my Mac. I think I'd use Debian if I went back to Linux. My current uptime on MacOS is 24 days. It wants me to reboot for an upgrade; I'll do it eventually, but it's running really nicely.

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Mac sucks with Free Open Source Software (FOSS). I knew this going in, but I didn't realize how bad it was. There is no free equivalent to even Gnome Sudoku. Most things are paid for or ad supported on the App Store, even Sudoku 😡

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Command Line

I mentioned touched on this in the similarity of MacOS and Linux. brew is similar to apt install (or whatever package manager you use). I just wish more software was available through brew. Navigating the commandline is almost the same as in Linux and the filesystem is similar enough that it doesn't take much to figure out.

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The Looks

Speaking of software, software on Mac is a lot more polished LOOKING. This says nothing of functionality (could be worse, same, or better vs Linux). I've been enjoying Stage Manager when my laptop isn't hooked up to my ultrawide monitor.

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Trackpad Gestures

Trackpad gestures on Mac is excellent. I know that gestures are in development in many Linux distros. I've used libinputgestures on Linux. It gets the job done, but it's not as smooth.

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For some reason in MacOS trackpad scrolling is the same setting as mouse wheel scrolling. I like to have natural scrolling on my trackpad but regular on my mouse. Can't do that without 3rd party software. Why are these two settings connected? They're not in most Linux DEs.

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The Battery

I mentioned the battery in Performance and software in FOSS, but they overlap a bit. Both MacOS and POP!_OS (when installed on System76's in house machines) allow to limit the battery charging when plugged in. This can save the battery from the stress of trickle charging for long periods of time and extend the life of the battery. I installed Linux Mint on my S76 machine so I don't know how well it works, but it doesn't work at all on MacOS. I installed fairly expensive software on my Mac. Not happy about that.

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Big Brother

I've always been concerned about my private data and security. Main stream Linux distributions don't really have an issue with this. However, especially after the iOS debacle with privacy, I wonder how much of my personal information is actually being shared with Apple.

In Conclusion

I like both platforms. My overall impression is that- for me- I like the overall experience of Linux, but I like the polish of MacOS. I'll probably dual-boot when Linux becomes more available on ARM.

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