Lorenzo Villani

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The Linux Desktop Experience is Good Enough

Apr 30, 2014

From time to time I read articles about Linux being broken on the desktop. People who “endure endless shit” using it and get fed up in the process. Let me tell you, when it comes to hardware support, the alternatives are just slightly better.

I now know for sure is that OS X on a MacBook, widely touted as being a blissful synergy of hardware and software, is on par with with Ubuntu thrown on an all-Intel Ultrabook.

I hear complaints about being unable to get multi-monitor setups working, random system freezes, sleep & wake not working, random audio subsystem malfunctioning, etc.

If you think OS X is vastly superior in this department, it’s time to do a reality check.

A couple of months ago, out of curiosity, I bought a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. I wanted to try something new. I’ve been using Windows and Linux, each for more than ten years. I was bound to buy a Mac this time, so I did.

Within thirty days, I experienced two lockups during a Suspend/Resume cycle, the time to boot up and shut down the system degraded considerably for no apparent reason, WiFi is terribly slow to reconnect after waking up the laptop, and I experienced several glitches while using the Mac attached to an external display. 1

No problems with audio yet, but I was met with unresponsive applications, colored beach balls spinning furiously, being unable to shut down the system other than doing an hard reset because the Finder/Dock or god-knows-what-else wasn’t responding to my command.

I was appalled when my oh-so-carefully designed system failed spectacularly the same way an operating system put together by a bunch of hobbyists does.

Building an operating system is hard, but please stop saying Apple is doing the best possible job with hardware support, because it is utter bullshit. In the end, Ubuntu makes up for a fine engineering workstation experience. The only thing I would be missing, from an hardware perspective, is the amazing battery life I get under OS X.

Speaking of the desktop experience, instead…

  1. Some of the graphical glitches are apparently solved in OS X 10.9.3 which, at the time of writing, is in open beta.