Why It’s Time to Move From MacOS to GNU/Linux

Like many others I’ve been waiting for months to see what Apple might come up with in terms of a replacement for my ageing Macbook Pro. I’ve considered all sorts of options during that time, and have kept the wagon on the road productivity-wise by swapping out my internal hard disk for a solid state drive, which has given my laptop a new lease of life.

The recent launch of new Macbook Pro models left me deeply underwhelmed. The dynamic keys functionality of the ‘Touch Bar’ is hardly a compelling reason to splash out a minimum £1500 (plus the additional costs of adapters so that I can continue to use all my existing stuff). Sure, the Mac is a great machine and I really like the OS, although somewhat less so now than back in the day when we were wowed by the cute Mac SE/20 running System 6. And of course it will be fast and sleek and cool.

But, against all of that Macintosh loveliness and my long history of working with Apple’s software and hardware — even through the dark days when Gil Amelio was in charge, when Apple’s very survival appeared to be in doubt — there is now a growing list of issues that lead me to the view that sticking with the Apple ecosystem no longer represents a sensible strategy.

Not helped by the recent loss in value of sterling against the US dollar, but Apple’s kit, which was always expensive, is now nothing less than extortionately priced. I don’t mind paying a premium for quality, and generally I’ve always purchased the best quality that I can afford at the time, but this goes beyond that.

But it’s not the price issue alone. In a world that is increasingly open and interdependent, Apple offers a largely closed platform. In the last twenty years it has become increasingly clear that the sustainable model is an open one, and open source software has led the way in making the case. To choose an operating system that is not open simply makes no sense any more.

And of course over the years I’ve changed, and my computing needs have evolved. I’m now much more willing to work on the command line rather than hunt around for a GUI app that will achieve the same thing, and have slowly developed my knowledge and skills to the point where I think that using GNU/Linux just makes more sense for me. At the same time the folks that make GNU/Linux have also understood that sometimes a visual interface does make life easier, and they’ve done a fantastic job by and large.

My values also come into play here, unsurprisingly. Back in the day when Apple was the innovating underdog and struggling for its survival I was happy to support the cause. But as Apple has grown into the planet-gobbling tax-avoiding behemoth that it is today, with its vast wealth and power in a world that is crying out for less inequality, I no longer feel comfortable being a contributor — however small — to its all-consuming monstrosity.

GNU/Linux is ready. I’ve watched the development of the open source OS with interest over the last 20 years or so, and from time to time I’ve dipped my toe in to see what it feels like to use it. And on each occasion I’ve come away impressed, but maintaining the view that as an everday desktop OS for the average user it’s not yet ready for prime time. Of course there have been hard core early adopters and geeks out there that have been advocating for GNU/Linux for many years, but these people are looking at the world from a different place to me.

And then a few weeks back I bought a very cheap used laptop off eBay for a project. It had Lubuntu installed, and it just works. It’s easy to use, it works well and fast on a machine that is perhaps nine years old, and I can now see no clear reason why I shouldn’t be using this OS (or some other flavour of GNU/Linux) for all of my day to day computing.

So I’ve taken the decision to drop out of Apple’s game. Instead I’m planning to convert my Macbook Pro into a dual boot Mac/Linux system as an transitionary measure, and at the same time I’m looking at acquiring a hardware platform that will see me through the next three to five years. Initial research suggests that I can get hold of a 4th Gen i5 machine (eitherlaptop of desktop)with 8GB of RAM for about £2–300, which should deliver pretty solid performance running Ubuntu (or perhaps the interesting Elementary OS variant), at about a fifth of the price of a new Macbook Pro.

Bundled in with this low cost option is a more sustainable and secure future, a truly open OS, a constructive user and developer community, a very long list of applications that I can use, and the satisfaction that I’m not helping to build Apple’s vast mountain of cash.

[Note: Some readers may have noted that this article makes no mention of Windows (or indeed other operating systems). This not by accidental omission. I was forced to use Windows for several years at a place I worked at, and it was not a happy experience. Even today Windows continues to elude me. Maybe it’s me.]