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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mac vs Ubuntu

Lolcat based on photo by Kevin Steele from flickr (CC-NC)
I wiped out OS X on my Macbook and installed kUbuntu. I just couldn't stand it any more.

The good:

  • Packaging system is so massively better. Installing mysql is sudo apt-get install mysql-server-5.0 not spend a few hours on it. Upgrading actually works. Packages don't fail in the middle of installation, possibly fucking the entire system.
  • No need to register at random websites to have gcc. Did you know that they will spam you if you register, and "Unsubscribe" link in their spam won't work ? Now you do know. Oh and the spam is not even about Macs, it's about some crappy phones.
  • Window manager is way more functional. It manages focus of windows not applications. Managing focus of applications is simply braindead when application is something like Terminal or Textmate or Finder, windows of which live completely independent life. As far as my experience go, almost every single application with multiple windows should have them managed independently.
  • Middle click for the win ! Command-C, Command-V is so annoying. Unfortunately crappy Mac trackpad has only one button so I cannot middle-click it even with the standard "press both buttons" trick. Well, It's not like I planned to buy any more Apple hardware every.
  • Sane terminal emulator, with all keys working properly.
  • The system feels much faster, almost as if I upgraded the hardware.
  • Many applications are massively better. Amarok instead of some horrible piece of crap that I didn't use anyway because even command line music playing with mplayer was more convenient. Xchat instead of Colloquy. Nobody uses Safari even on OS X so Firefox doesn't really count as a change.
  • Polish Dvorak keyboard works.
  • All packages are reasonably up to date. I don't have to choose between ancient Ruby and working Java (Tiger), or recent Ruby and broken Java (Leopard), or spending way too much time to get it all working properly.
The bad. Most of it is Apple proprietary hardware's fault, not Ubuntu's fault:
  • Font rendering in kUbuntu is very ugly compared to OS X. They should really fix it.
  • No TextMate any more. I will need to find a decent replacement.
  • Interface looks somewhat less pretty. It doesn't have to look like Mac, but some nicer themes would be good.
  • I couldn't get secondary monitory working other than in shadowing mode. If I try to put secondary 1680x1050 monitor side by side to 1280x800 laptop screen I get error that total screen size would be bigger than the allowed maximum of 1680x1680. GPU driver issue ?
  • Wireless doesn't work out of the box, needed downloading some driver. Not very difficult, but downloading things when internet is down is an unnecessary complication.
  • Hibernate-on-lid-closure doesn't work out of the box.
  • Ubuntu doesn't autodetect FireWire-connected external hard drive (500GB LaCie). The same hard drive works when connected by USB 2.0. I blame Apple for including only 2 USB and 1 FireWire instead of at least 4 USBs. Mouse and keyboard alone take two slots for fuck's sake.
The random:
  • KDE used to have all configuration in one place - Control Center and it was good. Now it's randomly divided into Menu/System Settings, Menu/Settings, Menu/System.
  • It will take some time to get used to keyboard shortcuts being on Alt/Control instead of Command/Control/Alt system.


Anonymous said...

for ugly theme comment - check out qtcurve or domino style
and for ugly fonts comment - did you enable full antialiasing and sub-pixel hinting? for macish fonts run "sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config" (sadly don't remeber what options will give you the mac look) followed by "sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig"

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking of doing this myself. Was there any problem with the bootloader? I heard some comments about grub not detecting the keyboard and stuff like that.

Peter Eddy said...

I just switched to a MacBook (Pro 17"!) because I got tired of things like hibernate not working, and being unable to get newer Wifi encription to work in a reasonable and repeatable way. I don't think I'd switch back, but I do agree with the comments about packages, terminal key mappings, and window manager issues. These plain suck.

However, Apple's X11+xterm *does* work well for me WRT key mappings (oh yeah, aftern some painful DoubleCommand and .Xresources experimentation), and I absolutely *love* being able to connect my external monitor and have it just be available, no restarts or reconfiguration. That's huge for me. Also, did you try MacPorts? It's a pretty good package system, given that it's an add on.

Anonymous said...

-- KDE used to have all configuration in one place - Control Center and it was good. Now it's randomly divided into Menu/System Settings, Menu/Settings, Menu/System.

I think this is kubuntu issue not kde. Maybe you can execute "kcontrol" from a terminal.

-- No TextMate any more. I will need to find a decent replacement.


taw said...

I didn't have any problems with bootloader. External monitors work, I only have to increase their resolution with command "xrandr --output TMDS-1 --mode 1680x1050" so they don't try to use MacBook's standard 1280x800.

And yes, I did try MacPorts, and fink. I had massive problems with both, with half of packages failing during installation or even upgrade. Even compared to Gentoo portage system which is definitely not my favourite MacPorts just blows.

taw said...

Anonymous: I tend to use kcontrol for most things, but some are just not there, like wireless network configuration.

Kate is not a good enough TextMate replacement, at least not out of the box.

Anonymous said...

> No need to register at random websites to have gcc

It came with the computer. Unless you bought it from someone who didn't give you the DVD.

> Unfortunately crappy Mac trackpad has only one button so I cannot middle-click it even with the standard "press both buttons" trick.

Two fingers on trackpad causes a middle click.

> Nobody uses Safari even on OS X so Firefox doesn't really count as a change.

This isn't nearly right.
(Neither is the part about Leopard's Java being broken, or OS X not having Xchat, or the part about USB keyboards not having their own ports, or etc. etc. etc.)

I hope you enjoy the lame kubuntu theme like OS X but with all the useful color taken out because they thought it looked too gay and not manly-neckbeard enough, or the awful blinding color caused by nobody on Linux ever having heard of monitor gamma.

Tyler said...

> I installed kUbuntu

KDE instead of Gnome? That proofs you just have no taste.

> Packaging system is so massively better. .

You should read the sites you are linking to. Ever heard of MacPorts?

With that it is as simple as "sudo port install mysql5"

> Apple spams you

The Unsubscribe Link did work for me. *shrug*

> Window Focus vs App Focus

I think it would be braindead, if every Window of an App would live an independent life.

> Middle Click

I think you prefer that, because you are just more familiar with it. Its just adaption of muscle memory.

You also lose something with the X-Windows-style of select&paste: You can only highlight _one_ thing at a time. But If you work with many windows and many apps there are (at least in my work style) many selected objects: selected Files/Folders in the Finder, selected Text in Word/Xcode/TextMate, selected input in formulars, selected pictures… etc To specify explicit which selection should go in the clipboard seems more versatile to me.

> iTunes is crap

Oh come on you Troll! If you never used iTunes on a Mac how do you know it is crap? Propably your music is not very good tagged and you just don't know the various shortcuts and scriptability of iTunes. And Coverflow rocks.

> Xchat

Ever thought of to google "Xchat Mac"?

> Polish Dvorak keyboard works

You can edit your keyboard layouts with ukelele

> Most of it is Apple proprietary hardware's
> fault, not Ubuntu's fault

No. Most of it is your fault. If you like some other GUI principles: fine. If Linux is adequate for you: fine. But don't badmouth something just because you don't understand it.

taw said...

What can I say - Apple always had the best fanboys of all.

Peter Harkins said...

I've also got a Macbook running Ubuntu. Here's the xorg.conf code to tap two fingers for right-click, three for middle. Use two fingers to scroll. Full info in the synaptics man page.

This will probably be pretty ugly as Blogger won't let me use pre, code, or blockquote.

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Synaptics Touchpad"
Driver "synaptics"
Option "SendCoreEvents" "true"
Option "Device" "/dev/psaux"
Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
Option "HorizEdgeScroll" "0"

# borders
Option "LeftEdge" "10"
Option "RightEdge" "1200"
Option "TopEdge" "10"
Option "BottomEdge" "370"
Option "FingerLow" "10"
Option "FingerHigh" "20"

# tapping
Option "TapButton1" "1"
Option "TapButton2" "3" # 2 fingers to right-click
Option "TapButton3" "2" # 3 fingers to middle-click
Option "MaxTapTime" "180"
Option "MaxTapMove" "220"
Option "SingleTapTimeout" "100"
Option "MaxDoubleTapTime" "180"

# scrolling
Option "VertEdgeScroll" "0"
Option "VertScrollDelta" "20"
Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "1"
Option "HorizEdgeScroll" "0"
Option "HorizScrollDelta" "50"
Option "HorizTwoFingerScroll" "1"

# misc
Option "PalmDetect" "1"
Option "LockedDrags" "off"
Option "MinSpeed" "1.10"
Option "MaxSpeed" "1.30"
Option "AccelFactor" "0.08"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"
Option "SHMConfig" "on"

# corner buttons off
Option "RTCornerButton" "0"
Option "RBCornerButton" "0"
Option "LTCornerButton" "0"
Option "LBCornerButton" "0"

Peter Cooper said...

The bad? KDE, lol :)

That said, Gnome is not much better really. xfce (as in xUbuntu) is probably the most "Mac-like" choice, especially with its file browser Thunar which is suspiciously close to Finder in places.

Peter Cooper said...

One thing that can help a lot with the font / type quality, by the way, is to play with the hinting options (NOT just the antialiasing options). I find turning hinting entirely off gives a totally different style of render (looks more Mac like) to having it even slightly on (text looks more anaemic).

There are also a number of hacks out there to improve type quality that are worth Googling for.

taw said...

Peter Cooper: Finder is the worst file manager I've ever seen. All good managers follow the Norton Commander interface, Total Commander is a fairly popular one for Windows.

Finder just massively sucked. Not only the interface but also implementation - for example if it couldn't copy one file of 5000 it would abort whole copying operation without asking me. It's that bad. Not even Windows 3.11 or DOS+nc were that bad.

Anonymous said...

But you can customize key bindings on Mac OS X pretty easily (cf., found at

The best Mac OS X file browser around btw is Xfile,

Anonymous said...

If you don't like iTunes, well, some Apple fanboys cared about that. Just go and give or a try!

mungo said...

If you want to switch between windows, try Just my two cents!

taw said...

mungo: I've been using something like that (I think it was a different app than Witch). It still had a problem of grouping windows "by application", what's made it much less useful than the real thing.

vmguru said...

I believe you have got a point of how good is Ubuntu, but I disagree about how bad you described Mac. I have came across many comparisons between Mac & Ubuntu and most of them were quite happy of both. One which show the good and bads of both was Ubuntu vs Mac I hope you go over it and see how both have its advantages and disadvantages and not just disgrace Mac :).

taw said...

vmguru: The website you linked seems very inaccurate.

The worst inaccuracy is claiming that OS X supports automatic upgrades. You only get automatic upgrades of Apple software. You don't get upgrades of software you install manually (like Firefox). And you don't even get upgrades of software packaged by Apple like Ruby, gcc etc. So it's almost useless. Did I mention that Apple automatic upgrade once died halfway through and killed my machine requiring full OS reinstall?

In Ubuntu you can have automatic upgrades of everything, including packages from third party repositories, using the same mechanism.

Saying OSX has excellent CLI support is also wrong, as almost everything important requires going through GUI and isn't possible to set via CLI. It's somewhat better than Cygwin, but not by much, in any case far worse than Ubuntu.

Anonymous said...

I installed Ubuntu (8.04 LTS) and I made it look completely like a Mac, with Emerald and a little with GTK and Compiz. Its got a six page manual thing but is incredibly useful if you don't know how to do it already. Surprisingly, it looks very closely like a mac. It gives you a little more of the Mac feel with the ease of Ubuntu.

taw said...

Anonymous: Wow, the Leopard Ubuntu screenshot looks really impressive, congrats.

Walter Smitty said...

I started reading your blog and I enjoyed a few of your posts. "Intelligent and direct" I thought.

But then I bumped into your "I hate Apple" drivel.

You are a member of a tiny class of computer geeks who, in spite of demonstrating sound logic and reasonable taste in other subjects, turn into complete morons once the subject of Apple comes up.

Your stated hatred of iTunes and your comment about the iPhone being "crap" are so off-base and ridiculous it's hard to know where to begin. Whatever reasonable and soundly analytical abilities you normally possess are out the window. Replaced by an emotional avalanche of bullshit that's so over the top it's impossible to refute on it's own merit. It's like trying to talk sense into a Born Again Christian nutjob who hands out pamphlets in the subway. They're on a different planet. And so are you. Planet La-La-Land.

My only working theory is that, due to Apple's unequaled ease-of-use (grandmas use Macs) and immense style (art majors use Macs) you somehow feel threatened. No longer is computer mastery the sole providence of the geek-elite. Now regular folk can feel just as confident of their computer mastery as you do. You're no longer quite so special, and it threatens you.

How staggeringly narcissistic.


Anonymous said...

Having used Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu, and OSX, I like Ubuntu the best. I like the speed of Xubuntu and would probably use it, but I don't think that it is as stable as Ubuntu. That being said, I never really had a problem with OSX. It's just that Mac computers are expensive and mine was outdated. I was able to buy a more powerful Dell for cheaper with Ubuntu on it. Plus OSX is bloatware and uses up tons of hard drive space. Ubuntu does not.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting article comparing the Mac OS and Ubuntu from a "switcher's" point of view.

Adam Monsen said...

Great article, thank you.

Did you find a TextMate replacement? If so, what?

taw said...

Adam Monsen: No, never

Anonymous said...

not sure what i hate more. macs or mac users. the mac supremacists turned me away from buying a mac. i admit that the hardware is sleek and os easy to use but if becoming a mac user means having my nose permanently implanted into steve jobs' ass then count me out!

XXX said...

Ubuntu is the best, version 9.04 is just so great. Installation can't be easier, tons of software from repository that just work!, really fast, almost never crash, and more.

I like Mac laptop, hardware wise, they look sturdy unlike Dell's cheapo (which by the way I own two LOL). I've been waiting for an opportunity to snatch one macbook and install Ubuntu on it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, say "fuck" a lot. It'll help everyone think that you're really grownup.