In my days, I’ve explored many different operating systems. My first computer exposure was playing games like Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, and Odell Lake on an Apple II in the classroom (ah, the classics). The first computer in my home, an Intel 386, ran DOS, eventually with Windows 3.1 on top of it. Through high school and college, I ran many flavors of Linux and BSD. When I started collecting a paycheck, I got a Mac, which provided the best of both worlds—a full Unix environment with hardware that just works. I don’t have as much time as I used to for tinkering with device drivers, X configuration, and window managers, though I still spend a lot of time on the command line, so Mac was a good fit.
First, I admit I hastily upgraded to Lion. I hadn’t had trouble with any previous OSX upgrades. A coworker had good things to say. I was sold. And the upgrade went fine (and even if it hadn’t, I still had my Time Machine backup). But when I saw the new features, I started getting uncomfortable.
My Computer is not an iPad
In my new Lion environment, the new launcher and full-screen apps make my computer look and feel like an iPad. I don’t want my computer to be an iPad. If I wanted an iPad, I would get an iPad. I understand there is nothing forcing me to use these features, but this direction and philosophy worry me. If this is where the train is going, I want off.
The Final Straw
Being a bit of an experimenter, I decided to try to embrace some of the new features. I added a second desktop in Mission Control and started using some full-screen apps. That’s when my machine started acting up. Every so often, apps would become unresponsive. I could switch between apps, but they wouldn’t respond to input. This, for me, was the final straw.
Beyond my own concerns and issues, I’d heard several people have bad experiences with Lion. My wife’s network card got flaky after her upgrade. I know folks needed to spend time getting MacPorts back together. One coworker’s machine had severe performance issues after his upgrade, and Apple support walked him through their equivalent of fsck. The filesystem “repair” left his machine unbootable, requiring him to start over at Snow Leopard, upgrade again, and recover from his Time Machine. Then there was Tim O’Reilly’s tweet about Lion. These horror stories were reputable enough for me to seriously question Lion’s quality, and not write off my own experience as a fluke.
So, I installed Ubuntu Linux, as it has the reputation of “just working.” And, that was exactly my experience. Everything down to e.g. the screen brightness buttons on my MacBook Pro keyboard worked out of the box. I’d heard some murmuring about problems with Skype on Linux, but even that worked fine for me. Now instead of my browser taking up a full 1920×1200 screen, I’m running xmonad in Gnome to maximize my screen real estate. Desktop Linux has come a long way since I first used it in the 90’s.
In brief, I do not like the direction Mac OSX seems to be taking. My computer is not an iPad, and I don’t want it to act like one. I’ve heard about and experienced Lion’s bugginess. Over the years I’ve been using Mac, Linux—specifically Ubuntu Linux—has caught up to the point where it works out of the box, while providing the ability to tweak it to my tastes. Linux is the friend I haven’t seen for years, but after reconnecting we have more in common than ever. It’s good to be back.