Using Linux as a Daily Driver in 2022?
July 15, 2022 3:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm on a Mac and mainly surf the web, software development and frankly am addicted to iMessage on my Mac, Most my work is cloud based so I usually use VSCode and JetBrains and SSH to debug and things, With very few exceptions I'll use an Azure VDI for Windows development. I use Linux daily, but headless and definitely not a daily driver. I toyed with an iPad but it really just works as a daily reader, I figure with the emergence of SSH IDEs I can debug remotely or at worst just run a VM, I have two Windows 10 Enterprise laptops from work and while once you eventually manage to login the UI is great but they've progressively have been to well enterprise and subscription.based. I might as well just use a VM or an Azure VDI and turn it off. My question is this when I tried Linux KDE in the early 2000s my experience was frankly horrible, Windows and Mac are smooth, knock on wood I don't have weird drivers die or other oddities. It also wasn't polished. The graphics looked a bit amateur, it felt like a gaggle of people with no clear vision (for better or worse Jobs for example had a clear vision), and even things like fonts looked second rate. This seems silly but I know no Linux GUI users to ask, Questions inside.

(1) I assume in 20 years it has improved? Are there guides out there to make it looks like a modern operation system? Like certain distros/scripts/etc I should look at it. I don't mind spending a day or two setting it up but I don't want a constant struggle, I've been running it in a VM to get a feel for it but that's a far cry from a daily driver,

(2) Besides the aesthetics which are very important because I stare at my screen too much is it generally stable? I mean obviously I run hundreds of Alpine servers that never go down but adding a UI lair changes that. Anything else that's generally "pretty stable but you have to love it or it gets annoying would be great.

(3) A lot of the "cool" kids I notice at coffee shops use Linux on Macs which to me seems like showing off to be honest but if it is the best it is the best premium hardware. Is Apple the just the cool kid now or are there better alternatives that are Linux compatible, This sounds silly but I like a large Mac quality screen, great battery life Also reasonably light weight. Again browsing and experimenting with code are my main goals.

If there's any giant caveats I'd love to hear it.

Oh and why not use a VM or rent a VDI? Well sometimes I run into things that just are Linux only and I load the VM, thousand updates and I end up fighting something. Any discords that would help me answer stupid questions would be great! Thank you!
posted by geoff. to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I run the latest LTS release of Ubuntu, more or less with default settings, and have done so for around a decade or so, across various desk-bound computers. For me, it is largely stable and boring, which is great. Consider creating a bootable Ubuntu LTS USB drive, boot from it without installing anything, and play around in a web browser and terminal, and see how you like it.

If you delight in installing the latest niche distribution, or tweaking your custom window manager, picking a popular distribution might not be for you. If you want something that more or less works with tolerable default settings, which is popular enough so that other people on the internet tend to run into any issues before you do -- and help fix them or document workarounds -- Ubuntu LTS releases might be for you.

edit: i have no experience running linux on macbooks. i have run it on second hand thinkpad laptops, and consumer grade amd64 desktop hardware. no complaints.
posted by are-coral-made at 4:43 AM on July 15, 2022

I assume in 20 years it has improved?
Yes, but depending on what you care about maybe not at the same rate OS X has improved. I feel like modern computers have been going downhill for the last decade or so, and Linux seems to be going downhill more slowly, but different people care about different things — whether a given operating system has gotten better depends a lot on what you care about and what you're willing to tolerate. If you care a lot about not having to fiddle with things, Linux is probably still worse than OS X, although it's way closer than it was in the 2000s.

You mention drivers in your post — that is something that has significantly improved, I find that most hardware basically works by default these days. GPUs can be a bit annoying (there are often several different drivers, and the one that is used by default might not be the best one), and things like Bluetooth can be a bit sketchy, but my experience these days is that stuff does just work, whereas I had to like, compile wifi drivers myself and crap when I started using Linux ~a decade ago.
Are there guides out there to make it looks like a modern operation system? Like certain distros/scripts/etc I should look at it.
I recommend taking a look at Elementary.
is it generally stable?
Depends on how much stuff you try to do / what distro you choose. Those Alpine servers are so stable because Alpine is very exacting about what software they put on the base image. If you choose to be similarly exacting, you can run a very stable Linux desktop, but that takes some discipline. I find that this is true regardless of what OS you use.

I do find that aesthetics and stability tend to be somewhat competing goals — for instance, I use i3 as my window manager, which is around 30,000 lines of code. That's a lot less room for bugs than, for instance, KDE, which is around 2.6 million lines of code, but it's also a lot less room for features that make it pretty.

My experience of Linux has been quite stable, moreso than OS X or Windows, FWIW. If you care a lot about stability, Debian would be a good choice, with Ubuntu maybe coming second (with the advantage that it's somewhat prettier and easier to use).
A lot of the "cool" kids I notice at coffee shops use Linux on Macs which to me seems like showing off to be honest but if it is the best it is the best premium hardware. Is Apple the just the cool kid now or are there better alternatives that are Linux compatible, This sounds silly but I like a large Mac quality screen, great battery life Also reasonably light weight.
This is surprising to me, I don't think of modern Macs as being particularly nice hardware, the nice thing is mostly the high levels of integration, which you don't get with Linux. But I haven't done this, so I don't know.

A X1 Carbon seems like it might be something you would like — a lot of people run Linux on them (including several giant corporations that pay people to make sure things work and fix upstream bugs), and I think it does reasonably well on most of the points you want.
posted by wesleyac at 5:18 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

This seems silly but I know no Linux GUI users to ask,

Create an USB install stick for whatever Linux distro and WM combo you can download, boot one of the laptops off it and test things for yourself.
posted by Stoneshop at 5:20 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]
posted by oceano at 5:40 AM on July 15, 2022

I'm using a Dell XPS 13 (9310) with the latest Fedora, and it's fine. Before that it was Fedora on a Thinkpad Carbon X1 (I was working for Red Hat and Thinkpads are what they provide). Both use Intel graphics. As wesleyac says, GPUs are the most complicated issue.

My current strategy is just to pick a laptop that looks good otherwise, and then google for "(laptop model) linux" to see if anyone's stumbled across any major issues.

I used to customize things a lot. These days I recommend picking a popular distro and mostly sticking to the defaults; if there's something you're not used to, give it a couple days to see if you can adjust, or dig around to see if there's a better way to do what you're trying to do, before you launch into lots of complicated configuration, or replace your distro or desktop environment.

Definitely it's changed enormously in 20 years. But it's hard to know whether it'll meet your standards. Can you try temporarily booting your current laptop to Linux, or ask for a quick tour from one of those "cool" kids at a coffeeshop?

Linux is pretty much all I've used since about 2000, so I can't make any comparisons.
posted by bfields at 5:57 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have emphasized that things like Podman, etc. are native to Linux and I have to run them in a headless VM. I've also been disillusioned with containerization on OSX with more and more and figuring that I'm running a VM anyway to get these to run might as well give it a shot and my iPad is the nice easy movie/book device unlike 20 years ago I had no easy electronics,

Everyone had a different distro and I have no affinity but Manjaro comes up as a developer favorite (I don't really know what that entails exactly as long as I can run CLion and Rider) and KDE seems popular, Is this just a fad? I'm pretty strong on the terminal obviously but is there material differences between distros? I choose Alpine or flavors because I run them as servers and do one thing and do them well. Is this just really a matter of choice? I have no desire to make things difficult just to prove nerd creds.
posted by geoff. at 6:35 AM on July 15, 2022

KDE Plasma is lush on a high-DPI screen like the retina MacBooks have. It's stable even when you're trapped at the back of a graphical lair. I avoid nVidia graphics and drivers, but the changes called 'kernel modesetting' have made huge gains in stability and output control. Suspend-to-Disk used to have difficulties on resume, but that's become safer, too. Getting an encrypted root & boot image with one password seems OK with Ubuntu, including resume-from-suspend.
posted by k3ninho at 6:42 AM on July 15, 2022

One of the biggest differences between distros is their approach to package updates (fixed versions vs rolling updates)

With Ubuntu, you'll typically install a LTS every 2 years and so 1 year after you install most of your packages will be 1 year old. You can set up PPAs to get newer versions of some packages (like Firefox). Also this is changing a bit with the snap store.

With Manjaro, you'll get rolling upgrades, so your packages will always be closer to the latest version. Manjaro also has the AUR, which makes it easier to install a lot of software that isn't open source (like Dropbox) using the same package manager as the rest of your system.

The tradeoff is stability vs newer packages.
posted by oranger at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2022

Personally I just use Windows 10 with WSL2 enabled. It gives me all the flexibility I enjoy on a Mac -- you get a nice GUI but with a command line to do the dirty work. Arguably better than MacOS actually, because you get to run real GNU/Linux instead of Apple's BSD-based thing where everything is outdated and slightly different.
posted by neckro23 at 10:47 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

I tried using a Linux laptop for work. Fought with it for 3 years. Compared to the Mac there's a constant stream of nuisances to deal with. Yes, everything "works," but then... Bluetooth dies. Or the UX stops responding. Or it forgets what you wanted "closing the lid" to do. All of these little things affect all OSs, but it's markedly worse on Linux.

I do all my development on a VM, so I didn't have to deal with incompatibilities in server stacks. For that setup, the Mac is much better. Plus M1 JavaScript performance is unparalleled - single page apps were noticeably laggy on my Linux laptop.
posted by rouftop at 11:08 AM on July 15, 2022

I have a MacBook Pro, and a headless x86 thin client that I put Debian on for hobby stuff. (I am a Unix sysadmin at work.)

What I notice is that userland stuff on Linux is pretty darn good -- after all, you mostly use a browser except for certain tasks, and Chrome is Chrome on any OS.

It's the low-level stuff that they are still fighting about: sound, for example, or windowing. And that's the stuff that's constantly churning, and Apple manages it all very well for me, even on 2015-era hardware.

So I keep on keepin' on, with my MBP for a daily diver and the little Wyse terminal thingy for Docker and an SDR dongle and stuff.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:15 AM on July 15, 2022

I've been using Linux as my sole OS for about 20 years -- mostly Ubuntu, because it's popular, so lots of people are working on it and it pretty much just works. Using Ubuntu doesn't limit you to a particular desktop environment; you can install a "flavour" with a different DE out of the box, or you can install vanilla Ubuntu and install the packages for different DEs or window managers so that you can try them out. Each DE is also heavily customisable, so if there's one that you like except for one thing it's quite possible that you can change it without having to change the whole environment. This is very much a matter of personal taste, which is why I'm not recommending a specific environment.

The only thing I will say about the UI is that the commandline is cool and still the best way by far (in my subjective opinion) to do certain things, even if graphical options are available. I use graphical tools for lots of things that I think they're much better for, but e.g. I haven't used a graphical file manager in decades and I don't miss it. I have a quakelike terminal that I can show and hide with a hotkey, and I highly recommend this hybrid approach.

You don't have to stick to LTS releases if you install Ubuntu. You can install the in-between releases. That's still not rolling upgrades, but it's much more frequent. I wouldn't actually recommend this, because at some point in the past Canonical extended the support period for LTS releases -- by severely shortening the support period for the intermediate releases. I got sick of having to update that frequently, especially on a work machine, so now I just stay on LTS. You always get security updates (browsers are effectively updated indefinitely on all supported distros), and there are ways of installing newer versions of other software (from PPAs or otherwise) if you need them (I only do this if I need a bugfix or a new feature). Third-party vendors also usually target LTS releases -- while their applications may still work on intermediate releases, they may not be officially supported.

I won't pretend that it's 100% smooth sailing -- every now and then you may encounter some weird hardware incompatibility, or an unexpected change in behaviour after an upgrade. But I would say that this very seldom happens, so it's not a constant annoyance, and if you're a software developer with existing Linux experience you aren't likely to hit any showstoppers.
posted by confluency at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've used linux as a daily driver for 20 years. Most of that has been Ubuntu for the same reasons confluency mentions.

1) I assume in 20 years it has improved? Are there guides out there to make it looks like a modern operation system? Like certain distros/scripts/etc I should look at it.

Ubuntu did a LOT of modernization since y2k, to move the experience closer to "everything just works". This is their niche. They shaved off a ton of corners, invested in many desktop designs (most of which didn't take), commissioned fonts, icons etc. They launched HW certification programs, liveboot options (LiveCD / LiveUSB) that you can test drive with, and engineered some workaounds to make installing proprietary drivers simpler.

Canonical took a lot of heat for the compromises for OSS "purity" but over time those have become less of a challenge as patents expire. Now they're getting heat for trying to containerize the desktop, but at this point ignoring neckbeard complaints are an Ubuntu tradition.

There's a sort organizing principle where the distros that advertise stability get communities that work on maintaining stability, and the people who demand bleeding edge builds daily vote with their feet to move elsewhere (arch linux?)

(2) Besides the aesthetics which are very important because I stare at my screen too much is it generally stable?

Ubuntu takes a 6 month release cadence approach, with Long Term Support releases every 2 years as mentioned. The current shipping OS is 22.04, which is also an LTS release.

It's been pretty stable for me, but upgrades can be harrowing if there's a kernel bug that breaks disk or GPU. Fortunately there are ways boot into old kernels post upgrade, and it's pretty rare. And LiveUSB works to both test and recover. Much of this comes down to how many other people use your setup and/or beta test.

I suspect in the same way that freshness and stability preferences form sustaining distro niches, you will find Linux laptops work best on specific models that people who want stability organize around. Dell XPS, Lenovo ThinkPads (and maybe Macbooks? IDK) are all popular picks. Some vendors, like System76, cater to linux users, but their HW is a bit... cheap -- they source from ODMs, test and certify, and rebadge. People post on HN regularly about linux laptops, so that's a good place to check where the community is.

(3) A lot of the "cool" kids I notice at coffee shops use Linux on Macs which to me seems like showing off to be honest but if it is the best it is the best premium hardware.

I'm not sure how viable that is now that Apple is moving away from Intel to M1 chips. AFAIK, there's only Asahi, and it's still newish. The high DPI displays are nice and the form factor is mostly good (USB-C only ports is a smidge annoying). I'm not sure you get access to the secure enclave, where touchID and such live. And it doesnt likely matter to you for a work laptop, but Apple has some kind of feud with nVidia that means their tech typically lags behind PCs.
posted by pwnguin at 12:43 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Between Homebrew and the ability to install bash instead of ZSH I haven't quite seen the point in running Linux instead of OSX on my work Mac, although I still think Finder is a mediocre file browser compared to Thunar or Nautilus.

I sort of miss some of the more absurd desktop environments like xmonad and whatever the rotating cube thing was called, but OSX overall has pretty decent window/virtual desktop management.

That said I have a 2013 MB Pro running Ubuntu, partly because Apple dropped support and partly because I like Linux and I don't like e-waste. With SSD and ram upgrades it's still a perfectly usable machine with what to me is still a preferable keyboard to any mac I've had since.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:05 PM on July 15, 2022

I'm another long-time Ubuntu user who runs LTS releases on a recent-ish Thinkpad. These days everything just works. It's very stable; even the stuff that used to be finicky 10 years ago (network manager, Bluetooth, suspend) doesn't give me any trouble at all. It has fewer problems than my ex-partner's Macbook Air. My biggest complaint is that I can't stream the Criterion Channel!

Ubuntu has followed the trend towards minimalism in UI design, which means they hide a lot of options in order to keep things simple for the user. The current look-and-feel is quite slick, but I wanted to change a few things, so I ended up installing a utility called Gnome Tweaks in order to un-hide some settings. Two days later I had everything set up how I like it and I haven't had to fiddle with anything since then.

IMO the #1 reason to go with Apple is AppleCare.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 5:27 PM on July 15, 2022

Another two decade linux user here, for the past decade it's been ubuntu on thinkpads or XPS13 for me.

I'm totally happy with that. he only hassle I will mention is that I wish I had access to the major specialist applications that you get on Windows or OSX. For instance I have just two choices for commercial DAWs and I can't run most pro audio plugins without special effort and a bit of luck. exchanging photoshop or MS Office documents will similarly require luck. I wish I could run fat-app Sketchup or Fusion 360 without goofing around with wine. there is nothing even remotely comparable to InDesign on Linux.

I have no opinion on aesthetics. in terms of stability, desktop Linux has been fine for me. I use Windows, Linux, and OSX regularly and OSX is the least stable of the three (tho to be fair my MBP 2017 is encumbered with a bunch of crap ITware courtesy of our underfunded / understaffed IT team.)

as far as hardware, I haven't used a more recent MBP but my 2017 work unit has a horrible horrible no good very bad keyboard and that dumb touch bar that serves only as an accidental Siri launcher/sound muter. I understand those things are much better now and that the apple sillicon is red hot.

If I had to type a bunch of code on a laptop that laptop would almost have to be a thinkpad, the keyboard on everything else sucks for these old fucking knuckles. There are def thinkpad models with great battery life. But you mention screen quality as a big deal and the thinkpad X-series laptops I use have screens that are far inferior to those on the macs.

The Dell XPS13 is a great linux laptop choice as well. Very nice screen, sexy tiny bezels, zero hassles linux-compatibility-wise.
posted by Sauce Trough at 7:20 PM on July 15, 2022

oh yeah, and I don't think the new M1 Macs are suitable linux machines at all -- linux support for the M1 chip is real immature at this point.
posted by Sauce Trough at 7:39 PM on July 15, 2022

I've used Linux on and off as a 'daily driver' since the late 90s. Currently I have two Macbooks and a Lenovo Thinkpad; the Apple machines run Mac OS and the Thinkpad runs Debian+XFCE.

There is still a high degree of variability in the experience you will have, depending on the hardware you are running Linux on. Contrary to some reports, I can tell you that Linux doesn't always "just work", particularly on laptops with hybrid graphics (processor-integrated graphics plus a second discrete GPU). I spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to get hybrid graphics running on my Thinkpad—which is generally accepted as being one of the most Linux-friendly hardware platforms—and finally just threw in the towel and turned the discrete GPU off in the BIOS. (There is apparently a bug with wake-from-sleep and XFCE and some versions of the NVidia proprietary drivers, which has been around for years and seems unlikely to be fixed. Maybe KDE or GNOME do better, I didn't test them, because I specifically wanted XFCE.) But there is still shit like that, even in 2022. There's also still a bunch of crap you have to deal with around wireless drivers, depending on the chipset that's installed in your machine; Debian in particular doesn't come with 'non-free' drivers, so if you have some types of WiFi card that require non-free firmware, you will have to either find the files and copy them to the machine manually, or you'll have to use Ethernet to set up the machine and download the firmware from the non-free repositories. Annoying. Ubuntu may do this better than stock Debian.

But just be careful what you buy. Apple hardware tends to be well-supported under Linux just because it's common, and they only have a limited number of hardware configurations so even if the hardware isn't particularly "Linux friendly", someone has probably worked out the problem if it's not a brand-new generation of machine. The Dell XPS line can be hit or miss, depending on how you configure them (again, beware of hybrid graphics, especially NVidia, and Broadcom WiFi cards). Buying a system that's actually designed for Linux takes this risk out of the equation (System76, Framework, Dell XPS "Developer Editions" specifically).

After that... the UI of most of the major Linux desktop environments is… fine. The unfortunate reality is that Linux GUI development is fragmented across a whole bunch of different pieces of software, many duplicative, and this results in a less polished overall experience than you get from a giant company putting hundreds of developers and testers to work on a single codebase. (TBH, it's actually surprising that Linux competes at all, given the resources that Microsoft and Apple have to throw at their respective OSes.) You can take a look at some of the major options installable on top of Ubuntu here, and see if any of them appeal to your aesthetics. Ubuntu's default GUI, based on GNOME 3.36, is probably the most "polished" overall, but tends to get knocked for limited customizability. KDE Plasma is also pretty consistent and also allows for a good degree of customization.

TBH though... if you can afford a new Apple machine, I wouldn't put Linux on the bare metal. I'd run Mac OS there, as God and Steve Jobs intended, and then run a development VM with your favorite flavor of Linux as a guest. When Apple stops supporting the hardware (which they will inevitably do when it still has a lot of life left), then I might consider putting Linux on there, but since you've basically paid for the OS license in the hardware, it doesn't make a ton of sense (IMO) to mess around with Linux on Apple hardware when the hardware is still supported by Apple. They have a lot of people spending a lot of time regression-testing their security patches and whatnot... might as well take advantage of that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:29 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

ditto what most have said. if you choose your hardware carefully, linux is a great environment. Especially KDE Plasma which by my lights is far superior to Gnome these days, which is a mess of poor UX choices. KDE also has better support for hidpi screens, so if you want to use a 4k display i highly recommend it. If you stick to the kde ecosystem everything looks pretty but otherwise individual apps are hit or miss. i’m basically in a browser, a terminal, or an editor all day so it’s all the same to me. But what are you gaining by dropping macOS. in the past i would have said some mumbo jumbo about freedom but i don’t really buy all that anymore. Apple has the best hardware on the market right now, there’s basically no competition for quality there anymore. 2 years ago I would have said a thinkpad and a macbook pro were comparable. today the thinkpad feels like it’s from another century. And you can’t run linux on the new macs yet (the asahi project is making progress but it’s nowhere near ready for daily use yet)
posted by dis_integration at 6:14 AM on July 16, 2022

I've been using Linux as a daily driver since the mid nineties but up until recently was also using a macOS for around two thirds of my personal non-game computing with Linux doing the rest. I then switched to a Framework laptop running Ubuntu 20.04LTS.

Here's my advice:

1. Be boring and mainstream

By which I mean, stick with mainstream stuff with lots of corporate buy-in.

Your distro should be something a bank uses, preferably with a long supported life like the Ubuntu LTS series. Each major OS upgrade may require a bunch of work to get things back to useful for you, so it's better to do that as rarely as possible.

These days, I generally go with the most recent Ubuntu LTS and use it until support runs out completely. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I've found that it's very rare for me to need something only available in a later major release and when I do, I can usually get it from somewhere else (e.g. a PPA or a Snap or Flathub installer).

(There are people who enjoy messing around with wierd distros but unless you are one of them, it's not worth the effort. And if you are, get yourself a second computer for that so that you can still do your taxes when an OS change knocks it out of commission.)
If your computer's manufacturer has an officially supported Linux distro, just use that. Otherwise, Ubuntu, Redhat or other boring corporate distros are going to make your life a lot easier.

(Note that this also depends on the resources of your manufacturer. I ended up having mysterious issues I still needed to track down and fix on my officially-supported OS because Framework isn't big enough to do all of the integration testing. Fortunately, the forums have a pretty big Linux community.)

In the same way, you should use a boring desktop like KDE, Unity (the Ubuntu default), GNOME or (maybe?) Mint.

I used to use XFCE but switched to KDE on the latest laptop because of the former's jankiness. The more widely used your desktop is, the more likely things are to Just Work or be easily fixable.

As for hardware, well, I've heard enough bad things about NVidia's Linux support that I just avoid them when I can, but other than that, I don't have too much to add.

2. Treat getting everything up and running as its own project

In my experience, 80% (+/- a luck throw) of the stuff you want will Just Work and the remainder is fixable; it's just a matter of how much effort you want to put into it. In general, it's helpful and less frustrating to expect this in advance and plan for it.

Fortunately, once you're done, you're done. (At least until the next major OS release, anyway.)

I suggest making a list of things you need to be able to do on your new computer, then go through it and ensure everything works. E.g. if you need to make Zoom calls, test the camera and microphone, install the software and make some test calls. If something doesn't work, fix that up front. This way, you won't find yourself trying to get Zoom working ten minutes before an important call. If you're lucky, this will take half an hour. If you're not... well, at least you found out early.

Also, it's worth taking notes and keeping them where you can find them again when you need to redo some fix from three years ago. For the same reason, it's sometimes worth encapsulating your work into shell scripts that you can just rerun the next time you need them.

Finally, if you've been using an Apple laptop, your new computer's trackpad will suck. This is because nobody can make a better trackpad than Apple. Fortunately, Linux provides pretty extensive tweaking capabilities and with some experimentation, you can improve it to the point where it's maybe tolerable. For me, this is still ongoing but what I have now is tolerable.
posted by suetanvil at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm sort of in the opposite place as you: I've been using Ubuntu for my personal daily driver since about 2010 and am considering switching to a Macbook. It mostly just works, and when something doesn't, I can usually fix it with a search of Reddit or Ubuntuforums faster than I can fix my wife's Macbook or my iPhone by calling Apple support.

However, my current laptop is at (OK, past) the end of its useful life. I'm still using a 2012 Lenovo Y480 that I've upgraded with a big SSD. I'm a little tired of Ubuntu right now, but I think that's mostly just my frustration with failing hardware.

The biggest thing that I find missing from Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular is an easy cloud backup solution. The default backup software, Deja Dup works well (I've relied on it several times in the past few months!) but cloud support is extremely limited: you have the choice of Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. I have neither, and neither offers enough storage to back up my 2TB hard drive, so cloud backups aren't an option for me. Instead, I have to manually back up to an external drive, and I'm not especially diligent about that. Just reinstalled and restored, and my last backup was almost 2 weeks ago. Oops.

I've also used Elementary for a few years on an Asus Chromebook, but I've just switched to Ubuntu for it. Elementary looks nice, but the app store is extremely limited and any upgrade to a new version requires a clean install. I wouldn't recommend Elementary. (I also wouldn't recommend a Chromebook either; sound doesn't work on either Ubuntu or Elementary. It does work on GalliumOS, sort of, but the GUI makes Windows 3.1 look polished.)

My wife and kid both use Macbooks, and I'm considering joining them. I'm really jealous of the cloud backup options and and iMessage with a real keyboard, but given the number of PCs and laptops I've upgraded and repaired over the years to extend their service life, I'm wary of Apple's hostility to upgrades and DIY repairs.
posted by fogovonslack at 1:30 PM on July 16, 2022

Response by poster: wow great advice, I spent all day trying to get VirtualBox to work but that's jenky even when I studiously tried to figure the arcane settings. I think I might get an Ubuntu laptop or something non-Mac. It worked but the GUI was just slow and I tried every setting possible even ones that didn't make sense but figured I'd just try, Part of me thinks it might be better just to RDP (VNC?) insto a server that has maybe more standard parts. Really I'm comfortable headless but going into GUI to do things has its advantages.

As others have noted besides the GUI being very unresponsive the Mac trackpad sucked. I stuck to a vanilla Ubuntu distro which helped keep down the sheer amount of customization. I get some people like customizing everything including the kernel but I really want to match my dev machine to my server environments so I could careless.

On a side note I love Windows but had a horrible experience with Windows 10 Enterprise that seemed to want to go to a subscription O365 model which is too bad I'd WSL is great. Apparently Windows is taking a "tenant" approach similar to Azure and even crippling the BIOS. But that's a rant for another day. As others have said even with ZSH on OSX the oddities are beginning to annoy me and Finder is the most horrible file system explorer ever. I'm not smart enough to not use a GUI for an explorer but that maybe a project for me.

On another aside if I get *too* good as terminal and say low level OS manipulation I find it hard to work with coworkers who use things like GUI git or Visual Studio but again another topic.
posted by geoff. at 5:20 PM on July 16, 2022

Response by poster: So another follow up but using Ubuntu and not a "cool" highly configurable lightweight distro was great advice. I don't need to configure really anything and especially not the kernel. Running things like k8s natively is a dream. Also either the non-corporate distros or VirtualBox caused all kinds of graphical issues like lagging or flickering. I also spent way too much time figuring out what my hardware supported. VMWare Fusion "just worked." My only complain is I simply don't know the keyboard shortcuts yet but its only been a day.

My workflow is to do all my dev work inside Ubuntu which is 80% of my work and use OSX for office productivity. LibreOffice I'm sure is great but for political reasons just sharing it natively in MS Office will have to do. Also OS X integrates with various entertainment things better like mirroring to my television for movies, etc. and I don't feel like spending a day figuring out the 100 options to make that happen in Ubuntu.

My only real complaint is there's *too* many terminal options and I just sort of went with Terminator and am trying to get Powerline10k and oh-my-zsh setup. Not difficult just too many ways to do it and not something I'd recommend to a non-advanced user.

I have to support some ASP.NET 4.8/IIS applications and it looks like someone figured out how to do this in Linux and/or Docker. Given the complexity of the application and I'm sure its reliance on other features in Windows I doubt it'd work but if it does I'd be in heaven and can get rid of my VDI.
posted by geoff. at 1:10 PM on July 17, 2022

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