Ubuntu is a version of Linux with about two million installations now. It’s billed as “Linux for human beings” and is meant to be easy to install and use. It’s free, and there’s lots of software available for it.

I’ll be trying it out sometime in the next few weeks, possibly on a System 76 laptop, as it’s made for Ubuntu and comes with it pre-installed.

I’m tired of the endless security holes, fixes, and flaws in Windows. It’s time to explore alternatives. Macs are a definite choice, however an Ubuntu laptop is considerably less expensive and I like bashing away at the command line, something you do a lot in Linux. (Yes, Macs run on a variant of Linux, but probably most Macs users don’t get up close and personal with the command line.)

Will keep everyone posted on what happens.


  • Accessing a command line on a Mac is as easy as clicking on the “Terminal” icon. I use it all the time, but only for remotely logging in to other computers. But it’s totally accessible if you want it.

  • As Eli say, a command line is trivial on a Mac, and it’s real Unix with a real shell (I use bash, but they’re all available).

    I use Linux professionally, mainly RHEL, but I can’t tolerate it on my desktop. Macs are a pretty good deal, if you compare any given Mac with an equivalent (say) Dell. It’s true, though, that Apple doesn’t have much in the way of truly low-end machines.

    I look at it this way: I spend the majority of my waking life in front of a computer console. Even if it costs a few bucks extra (which is open to question), I’m willing to spend them to make my life that much better.

    Get a Mac.

  • Daniel Rivera-Franqui

    Actually I’ve been a PC user, Mac User and Linux user at one point or another in my life (actually for a few months I used all three!). That said, the Mac does provide a clean, polished interface that is not without its quirks. Try this scenario on for size: In your HDD you have your MP3 collection, inside you have a Miles Davis folder. You brought some songs on your USB drive, so you plug it in, open it open and drag and drop the Miles Davis folder from your USB to your HDD, so that both folders are parallel and thus, as any Linux or Windows user would expect, you’d have both contents merged. WRONG! Your USB folder replaced your HDD folder! Made me lose a whole lot of data that way!

    Ok, but that’s just a minor thing really (unless you happen to lose your Graduate thesis’ files or something), I loved the whole Unix thing going on under the scenes. Its got a pretty good base and quite frankly it comes out with the most kick-ass visual features around (check Time Machine out!) and they end up being pretty useful too. Alas sometimes I felt like Mac was an exclusive club of “hey I’m much hipper than you, Windows is just wrong on everything” people. Disclaimer, I’m not ripping on any of the past people that have commented on this post. But switching to Mac does have an added cost plus some of the software can be costly unless you go with Open Source alternatives.

    But you could actually go Open Source all the way with Linux, which I use daily at home (at the office I use Windows). As Bob pointed out, sometimes you have to get up close and personal with the command line and that can either be a pain for some (i.e. my mother) or a blessing for geeks like me. Updates are easy on Ubuntu (as in Mac) plus you can get all sorts of open source software (my tool of choice is using apt-get on the command line). Support for different configurations are available at Ubuntu Forums, which has helped me inmensely sometimes. And the best thing is that actually trying Ubuntu out is FREE.

    For example, when my father passed away this past January I inherited his Windows PC. This is a 1.8GHz AMD Athlon PC with 768MB of RAM and around 72GB of HDD. Windows ran OK here but sometimes gave me some crap. I got the Ubuntu DVD from a friend (also heavily seeded on BitTorrent), planning on doing a dual boot PC but ending up with a Linux only PC. How much did it cost me to switch? $0.00 (using an existing PC).

    While I do feel like Linux does need a long way to go, Ubuntu is helluva a lot more than what I need. Plus I’m using it to learn more on the command line, I use it for browsing (Firefox), emailing (Thunderbird), BitTorrent (Azureus), Development (Eclipse (Java) and RadRails (Ruby, Ruby on Rails)). It just fulfills most of my needs as I’m sure that Mac does for some and Windows does for others.

    So before I get really boring (which I’m sure happened like 6 paragraphs above) I’d definetely advise on using Ubuntu at home, first on a dual boot just in case you need your Windows nearby. It’s a zero cost alternative (but of couse, backup all your important files before you try anything 🙂

    I’ll open up a blog on WordPress so that boring you guys is totally optional.

  • I mentioned on Eli’s blog that there’s a nice linux distro put together by some left anarchists in the UK called Blag. It’s very easy and the people on the forums are very helpful. It doesn’t have a “live CD”, though, so you have to install it to use it (a very painless process). I’ve experimented with several linux distros over the past few months–Suse, Ubuntu, Mandriva, and Blag. Blag is my favorite. You can check it out at

  • In fairness to the Mac, in the Miles Davis scenario above, it does warn you that you’re about to replace a folder.

    I take Daniel’s point that these preferences can and ought to be dependent on your application mix. I use MS Office a lot, not because I’m a fan of MS, but because it works fairly well, has a decent interface, and the file formats are standard. I’m gradually moving stuff to Apple’s iWork (no spreadsheet yet). I run OpenOffice from time to time, mainly when I get a non-portable file from someone, and I really hate it. But if you’re used to an X interface, I imagine it’s not so bad.

    One thing I’d be inclined to do, regardless of OS, is to get something with Intel’s newish Core 2 CPUs, for the extra virtualization support. It’s early days yet, but I can see it being pretty useful in another year or so.

    And hey, Ubunto isn’t Windows. How bad can that be?

  • I’ve had a System76 ‘Gazelle Value’ laptop for about a month now, and it’s a nice little system. I had a minor problem setting up the wireless connection, but I documented the fix

  • Daniel Rivera-Franqui

    On the Miles Davis scenario, OS X does warn you about doing a replace but so does Windows. Windows warns you that it is about to “replace” the folder, but actually “merges” it… so according to Windows, merging is “replacing”, deleting is “move to recycle bin” and f*cking it all up is “Press Start”. 😀

  • It’s an inconsistency in OS X that if I explicitly delete a folder, the folder goes to Trash (and is therefore recoverable), but if I delete it by dropping another folder to replace it, the original folder dies the real death. Files likewise.

    There’s actually a third variation: if I download a file with Safari or the like and the download folder has a file of the same name, the new file gets a version number.

    Well, you get used to it.

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