The switch from Mac to Linux, 2012
July 16, 2012 10:52 AM Subscribe
After a couple of mind-changing conversations I'm ready to give Linux another shot. Old hands, please help me pick a laptop, a distro, and offer a little advice for some transition issues. A few details within. Thanks!
posted by finnb to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Years ago I clumsily ran a version of Ubuntu on an old ThinkPad -- it was an ongoing string of hardware and driver issues, most likely my fault, and aggravated my own tendency to endlessly fiddle with things rather than doing my work. Despite the high prices and many annoying details of Macs I switched over and I've been using them for a number of years now. Some recent news and a couple of conversations with hacker friends and open source developers convinced me to try an OSS OS again, and embrace the fiddliness as a learning experience (at least until things are nicely configured). I also like the idea of a machine/OS that lasts a long time and takes me off the tighter and tighter upgrade/buy new stuff loop Apple is on, and moves towards simplicity and away from chrome, skeumorphs, and weird design agendas. I'm thinking of Arch Linux (Mint was also strongly recommended) and a ThinkPad. Here's a few salient details I'd love your input on:
- I work in lots of different places and while traveling, so portability, toughness, and crazy battery life are all Good Things. I'm mostly going to be writing and reading, so I don't need heavy-gauge video/game/etc processing power or whatever (though more capacity is always welcome, of course! -- and I do sometimes trim video clips for projects). Don't need a DVD drive.
- I'm pretty comfortable with the command line and vi -- not a programmer or a developer by any means, but I don't need a GUI right out of the gate (and I'd love to experiment with tiling window managers -- recommendations welcome!).
- I'm an academic, so I need to be able to make slide presentations, search across and read PDFs, write an absolute monstrous ton of email, print stuff sometimes, and deal with Word documents with track changes running. (I live in text files and markdown, but publishing, and many of my collaborators, will never leave that frustrating format. Do let me know your world-beating text editor, too!) My impression is that LibreOffice can keep up with all the latest bell-and-whistle junk added to Word, and has a PowerPoint variant. (If anyone can suggest cool new/different Linux-native presentationware I'd love to check it out -- something beyond traditional slides.) And I listen to lots of music.
- It would be great if the hibernate cycle and hardware issues and so on could pretty much Just Work, given some intervention. My last attempt involved super-irritating BIOS beeps (I'm often writing or taking notes in very quiet environments) and an ascetic pilgrimage through mountain and vale every time I had to get the wireless card working. I'm sure things are much better now. Any prominent snags or known problems I should be ready for?
- And I type in Dvorak, if that's an issue.
All your advice, recommendations for models and set-up stuff (SSD? extra battery slice? backup techniques?) is welcome. I'll be getting the No Starch intro the Linux command line, to help me get past n00bland. Neat stuff that can't do on other platforms also welcome, if only so I can use them to convince my partner I haven't lost my goddamn mind and decided to stop driving and build a bicycle out of old vending machine parts.
I realize a lot of this is likely available on one site or another, but before I take the plunge I wanted to narrow the search/choice space a little bit, and hear from people already doing it.
Thanks so much for your help in advance.