I fell for the Thinkpad meme a few years ago and have since daily driven two old Thinkpads with Arch Linux. I’ve found doing this has been a vast improvement over using Windows in many ways but over the past few months I’ve realized that using ten year old laptops is silly, they’re heavy, have terrible battery life, terrible screens, underpowered hardware and everyone rightfully thinks that you are crazy for doing it, so I broke down and bought a macbook, and I figured that since a good chunk of you reading this are free software enthusiasts I thought it would be a good idea for me to explain why I did that instead of buying some Windows laptop and putting Linux on it again.
But first let’s look at why I switched to Linux in the first place. For some reason YouTube started feeding me Luke Smith videos and back then almost all of his content were Linux tutorials. His tutorials are quite good because rather than doing something boring like show you how to install Python then write a Hello World program Luke would take a problem that we might encounter in our time using a computer and show people how to efficiently solve it using the tools a Linux based operating system provided. I switched to Linux because it could do things that I wanted to do, there were other benefits but none of those were the reason that I switched and none were ever a dealbreaker.
Since that time my life has changed quite a bit, and my computer usage and computing needs are among the things that have changed the most. These days all I do on my computer is browse the web, edit text documents in Vim and SSH into the server this website is hosted on. I don’t need Linux to do that, really I don’t even need a laptop to do that, I’m writing this article with a bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPhone, but of course a laptop is better than a phone for all of those things.
Realizing this, and knowing that since they came out with their own processors they now make arguably the best hardware, I really didn’t have much of a reason not to buy an Apple laptop.
The first complaint you might throw at me is that MacOs is proprietary garbage which is true but after disconnecting myself from Linux culture I’ve come to realize that I don’t care. Like we did with my switch to Linux let’s go back to the beginning of the free software movement which contained what I’ve always found to be the most compelling argument.
Legend has it that Richard Stallman was working at some computer related job and their office printer had some strange issue with it that Stallman was able to fix by hacking into the software and correcting whatever faulty line of code that had caused the problem. Later Stallman’s office upgraded their printer to a more recent one from the same company and it had the same problem that Stallman already knew how to fix but in the newer model the printer manufacturer locked consumers out of the software and this frustrated Stallman so much that he started the free software movement.
The birth of the free software movement had nothing to do with things like privacy, customizability, communism or anything like that, these things didn’t become core tenants of the philosophy until later. In the beginning it was all about having the ability to fix your software like you can fix your car and this was what appealed most to me. The idea that if I had some problem with software that I could just fix it or whatever sounded amazing to me.
But that was only ever an idea because it was never something that I did and you’ve probably never done it either. In the real world if I didn’t like a certain piece of software I’d just try a different software until I found one that I liked, this is what you do to. Since I’ve already found all the software I like and it is all available on MacOs I’m not losing anything by switching.
In fact I’m actually gaining some things by buying a MacBook Air. Battery life and processing power are two obvious things along with being deeper in the Apple ecosystem than I already am which has its benefits but ever since I’ve switched to Linux my software has felt like it has been held together with duct tape and baling wire and I’ve gotten tired of dealing with that.
One issue I’ve had was that I was never able to connect to public WiFi. Does everyone who uses Linux have this problem? No, but I did and I spent several hours trying to fix it with no success. So back when I was in college if I wanted to go on campus with a computer I’d either have to make sure I had everything I needed already downloaded or just bring my Windows laptop.
Another issue came one day when I was trying to SSH into my server and couldn’t for some strange reason. I was connected to the internet, my web browser worked just fine, my website was up so my server was clearly working, but even if I tried pinging my domain nothing would come up. This was the same with other websites that I tried, I eventually figured out that there was something wrong with my terminal accessing domain name services since when I substituted my domain name for my server’s IP address it worked. But what was even stranger was that there was no reason for that to have stopped working in the first place, I hadn’t made any changes to my operating system in a long time and when I went into my config files to change DNS servers in case that is what went down and that didn’t work, I tried updating everything but was unable to because of the DNS issue. I was able to work around the issue until a week or two later everything started to randomly work again. This would not happen in an operating system that is not held together with duct tape and baling wire.
It has been said that “Linux is only free if your time isn’t worth anything,” and while the reasoning that the guy who said it was flawed (there is nothing wrong with learning new things) I’ve found that the statement is true in other ways. If your operating system randomly forgets how to connect to DNS servers then it is wasting your time. If your operating system refuses to connect to public WiFi or mobile hotspots it is wasting your time. If you cannot connect your computer to the average printer and you have to research what peripherals are compatible with your operating system then your operating system is wasting your time. Linux is just fine to mess around with as a hobby but if your livelihood depends on you using a computer then you need a reliable desktop operating system and in my experience Linux has not proven reliable.
Then there are the people who Linux attracts, there’s plenty of people like me who are alright, I’m cool with the people I’ve interacted with because I’ve had this site but we’re the type of folk who mostly keep to ourselves so we’re not really participants in the greater Linux community. (I hate using the word community in contexts like this) Then there are the privacy focused people whose paranoia I don’t share (because I don’t believe it is healthy) but I can appreciate and the smart ones keep to themselves as well so I don’t have a problem with them either. It is the digital SJW types that I can’t stand in the Linux community and they are of course the most common to see online and of course the most vocal, there are very few people who make Linux content on YouTube and stuff who don’t fall into this category and it is the YouTubers who have the most influence.
How many times have you seen someone complain that some piece of software (usually a video game) doesn’t run (or doesn’t run well) on Linux then say that the developers have to make stuff for them too? Have you ever done it? This is tranny behavior, stop it. Linux users are the transgenders of the tech world, they have their special needs that they want people to meet that 99% of the population doesn’t have and they complain when they are forced to use software at work or something that everyone else has no problem with. Nobody cares what software you run just like nobody cares what you do in your bedroom, stop forcing it on people. Again if you don’t do this and understand that by committing to using desktop Linux you are making sacrifices and work to not make your voluntary sacrifices be a burden on others then I’m cool with you. But if I were ever to see someone in real life say something along the lines of “It’s not called Linux it’s actually GNU+Linux,” there would be a part of me who’d want to punch that person in the face because since when did software have preferred pronouns?
I remember a few years ago there was a big controversy in the Linux world where the head of the Linux foundation (or something like that) was caught using a Mac, there were PDFs on the organization’s website whose metadata indicated they were created on a Mac. I saw Linux YouTubers who were expressing the outrage of the community over this. But looking back on this I honestly can’t understand why these people even cared. Why do you care that I use a Mac now? Shouldn’t the idea that people are free to use whatever software they feel best fits their needs be included in the “free software movemnet” or are you only free to use software that is approved by some committee? Linux is not a religion, it is a computer program, you need to stop pretending otherwise.
Now what other Macbook related complaints might you have? They aren’t very repairable and Apple is an opponent of the right to repair movement. I respect this argument because I am a believer in right to repair, it was a part of the reason I fell for the Thinkpad meme. But let’s take a step back from ideology for a moment. Have you ever met someone who has had to get their Macbook repaired because of a hardware failure? I haven’t, and I’ve known lots of people who have used the same Mac for years. Repairablity is not something I should have to worry about.
Macbooks also aren’t upgradable, but the same can be said of most other laptops on the market. I got the base model M2 Macbook Air, when it came out it was popular for tech reviewers to hate that one because the hardware was not as good as it could have been, would it be nice if I could switch out the RAM and SSD for something better? Yeah, but am I realistically going to do stuff that will push the hardware to its limits? Probably not, and if I do I probably won’t even notice the dip in performance because I’m coming from a computer made over ten years ago.
Are Apple products overpriced? That’s for you to decide I can spend my money however I want. When you use the basic version of Windows there are ads built right into your operating system because Microsoft is trying to make you the product, Amazon does the same thing with their hardware and I’ve even seen it on some Android phones. You don’t see that happen on an Apple product. It of course doesn’t happen on Linux either but Linux has a time cost instead of a money cost.
So far I have been happy with my Macbook purchase. I switched to Linux for the Unix tools that Luke Smith used to show off. MacOs is Unix based, it has the same stuff, I’ve been able to install wget and rsync, and of course pandoc is even avalible on Windows so I didn’t loose that either. There is a MacOs version of Neovim so I’ll be able to move my configuration file for that right over and feel at home. I get the feeling that around 80% of the stuff Luke showed off in his old videos can be done on a Mac, because why wouldn’t the most useful and popular Unix tools be available on the most popular Unix based operating system?