Archive for the 'Linux' Category

Why I’m glad I switched from Linux to Mac

Friday, February 8th, 2008

I still use Linux for one main task: my accounts. I love GnuCash, and installing the latest version on Mac OS X is a right pain. So I run Ubuntu in a Parallels VM just so I can use GnuCash.

I was getting a bit bored of my ancient Ubuntu version so I decided to download and install the latest and greatest – 7.10 – in a new Parallels VM. After waiting an hour and a half for the 700MB ISO to download, I went through the helpful Parallels setup tool to boot the new VM and begin the Ubuntu install.

I think it survived all of two minutes before randomly expanding and contracting the Parallels window, then coming up with this spectacular message:

The display server has been shut down about 6 times in the last 90 seconds. It is likely that something bad is going on. Waiting for 2 minutes before trying again on display :0.

“It is likely that something bad is going on.” Correct. What’s going on is another user is moving further away from Linux, and that’s baaad for Linux.

Now I know the Ubuntu team do an excellent job on the whole, and they’re really trying to make Linux successful on the desktop. But when a stock, stable release of Ubuntu can’t even install itself under a Parallels VM on a Mac – hardly an uncommon scenario – then desktop-ready it ain’t.

And yes, there probably are workarounds involving hacking xorg.conf files around – oh look, here’s one – but you know what? Life’s waayyyy too short.

Right, back to doing my accounts – in my old version of Ubuntu.

(No doubt I’ll eat my words when I finally attempt to upgrade my Mac from Tiger to Leopard, and watch it eat all my apps and data. Ha ha.)

Sweet, Sweet Music

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

speaker.jpgOne thing I’m really looking forward to when I get my new Mac is to be able to use some great multimedia software again. Multimedia on Linux is, well, not quite there yet! Don’t get me wrong – it’s come a long way in the last 8 years, especially in the areas of sound editing (Audacity), digital audio workstations (Ardour), sequencers (MusE) and video editing (Cinelerra). But most of these apps still lack the stability and polish of the commercial offerings on Mac and Windows.

You also can’t run Reason on Linux. I love Reason and have been putting off buying the latest version (v3) until I bought a new PC powerful enough to run it! Things were looking dodgy for Intel Macs for a while as Reason (like most current Mac software) is PowerPC based, and its performance on Intel Macs under Rosetta is supposed to be pretty poor. However, the Props have recently announced that Reason will be released as a Universal Binary. Woo-hoo! That’s another thing for the shopping list then. :)

Parallels

Friday, May 12th, 2006

mac_linux_win.jpgParallels Workstation is another reason that I’ve finally decided to get a Mac. I really need to run Windows, Mac OS and Linux at the same time to do browser testing for stuff like the PageKits, and ideally I want to do it all on one machine (space is limited in my little office). Well now for the first time I can, thanks to this nifty bit of software and also Apple’s move to Intel.

For the above reason I’m not really interested in Boot Camp (rebooting just to test a website in Windows would be a right pain), but Parallels Workstation fits the bill perfectly. Judging by this Macworld review, it’s pretty speedy and easily capable of running the 3 operating systems at once.

Yay! No more nagging Si to test PageKits in Mac browsers. Parallels will be on my shopping list as soon as (a) it’s out of beta and (b) my wallet has recovered from buying the Mac. I’ll also need to get myself a copy of Windows XP of course (Home edition should do the trick). My poor bank account!

iChat AV

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

iChat AViChat AV is one of the reasons I want a Mac. Si and I have regular weekly conferences to catch up on ELATED and other work stuff, and we’ve tried everything from Egika / OhPhoneX (where do they get these weird and wonderful names from!) through to Skype and Gizmo.

They all work after a fashion, but none of them particularly elegantly. I just tried getting Ekiga up and running after a recent Debian upgrade, but I can’t get the pwc driver for my webcam to compile without chucking incomprehensible error messages on the screen, so I guess that’s a non-starter unless I want to muck around for half a day.

Skype and Gizmo aren’t bad and at least don’t involve mucking about with firewall configs, but they’re audio-only on Mac and Linux (video coming to Skype on Mac soon I hear), and on Gizmo Si sounds like he’s rustling a plastic bag every time he talks. (He swears he’s not.). His Skype also has a nasty habit of crashing his Mac. Also tried OpenWengo but again – audio only on the Mac. Though it does work pretty well.

iChat AV (if it works as advertised) will be great – plug & play, excellent full-screen quality and 4 way video chats. (though I still reckon the latency between Australia and the UK might be slightly annoying.)

Now I just need to convince my Dad in Italy, who moved from Mac to PC a couple of years ago, to move back to a Mac so I can iChat with him too! :D

Linux

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

Tux the PenguinI currently use Debian GNU/Linux. I love Linux. Been using it on my main computer for around 8 years now. (Before that I was using an operating system called Windows – you might have heard of it!) But my plan (if all goes well) is to use a Mac as my main workstation from now on.

If I love Linux so much, why the “moving to Mac” idea? Well I’ve been eyeing up those oh-so-sexy sleek things in AppleCentres for years now. They always look like they’re “from the future”. I like that. And I love the idea of OS X being “unix-like” under the hood, so I should feel right at home. But up until now I’ve been faithful to my trusty Linux boxen.

I think what finally moved me from “vaguely wanting a Mac” to “I am going to buy a Mac” was when I recently upgraded Debian on my lovely (but battle-weary) ThinkPad T20, and the thing wouldn’t even boot into X. In fact starting X caused a hard crash (you know, the kind where you have to unplug the thing and take out the battery).

Now these things happen from time to time, but this one really stumped me. In fact I spent several hours trying to fix the problem. It’s still not properly solved (I worked around it by downgrading the kernel, but now sound doesn’t work – doh!).

That’s when it dawned on me. I spend a lot of time tinkering like this with my Debian machines. Occasionally it’s frustrating, and often it’s fun (if you like that kind of thing). It’s a great way to learn about computers too. But eventually I realised that most of the hours I was spending tinkering with Linux could be better spent doing actual work. :)

Like many people who have never bought a Mac, I have this vague idea that they are “more expensive than PCs”. But if the Mac can save me even an hour or two a week of tinkering then it will have paid for itself in a couple of years. I need a new computer soon anyway (my main machine is an 800MHz Pentium for goodness’ sake), which means I’m going to be forking out some cash whether I like it or not!

So my theory is that I waste a lot of time tinkering with Linux, whereas Macs are supposed to “just work”. For my main work computer, that sounds great. Let’s see if it’s actually true…