Why I mostly use Linux (and now some OSX)

For quite some time I have mainly been using Linux as my desktop operating system (and for the longest time as a server operating system) I usually have Windows somewhere as a backup but day to day I try to avoid it, and OS X comes with a high premium (price and limited hardware options).

Update Feb 2016

I succumbed and bought a Macbook Pro, currently very happy with it so far. To be fair not quite going against my principles (see below). I wasn’t exactly given one but opportunity arose.

Linux on everything

Taking an old laptop, running an outdated virus/adware ridden, creaking version of Windows, wiping it and making it a useful productive machine again, is a thing of great joy.

Taking an Acer c720 Chromebook and making it dual boot Ubuntu (creating a cheap but not under-powered useful little dual-purpose laptop) is a pleasure, I have done 3 of these now, two for students on a budget.

Keeping sharp on the command line

On a Linux PC I can use a desktop but I have easy access to a powerful command line, a command line that is the same or related to command-lines that I regularly have to use on servers. For a while this important skill (being able to move, find, upload, download, manipulate, script ... ) via a command line seemed to be losing favour but the explosion of tools etc. for front-end developers, cheapness of VPS solutions that give access to a server command-lines rather than just FTP/SFTP access are all reaffirming its importance.

On Windows that are options such as Cygwin that can make things at least reasonably sane but there is always a bit of faff and cases where things don’t run as smoothly as on a system with a decent command-line.

Plausible Windows deniability

I still have Windows running somewhere, I occasionally need it for testing (although browser testing is easily done on virtual machines). Sometimes I might be working in an office that requires me to use tools that only work on Windows and it is possible I could be be working with a team that uses Windows based tooling. As usual I can ‘never say never’ with complete certainty.

A really irritating feature of working in IT is that in the past when I am working in somebodies office I can be seen as “the IT guy” and end up being called upon to fix various problems on their desktop. I am happy to help anybody in a pinch and really keen to improve digital health and empowerment where I can but preferably via data, content, websites, web-services etc. not digging for viruses on their desktop or trying to work out why their PC has slowed to a crawl.

Being clear that I am at heart a Linux guy means I can avoid these issues unless absolutely necessary, make the sign of the cross, retain my status as an ‘IT guy’ and carry on doing what I have been paid to do.

Sometimes these situations entice somebody to actually try out Linux for themselves in which case I am more that happy to help.

OS X is a prestige os

Prestige in that it comes with a price.

One day I may get an Apple computer, every time I go to buy a laptop though, even when looking for a fairly premium spec. I always seem to find much better value for money with an non-Apple system. The Apple hardware and software is enticing when playing in the shop, but expensive and usually missing a touch-screen or a bit short of RAM or something else I can get on a non-Apple machine.

There are ways to make a ‘Hackintosh’ or get OS X running on a virtual machine and it’s BSD heritage does provide a much more useful and familiar command line than Windows, but at the moment that feels a lot more trouble that it is worth.

On the whole my interactions with OS X so far make me think that I would not mind using it (if someone gave me an Apple computer).

Ultimately though does it all come down to the web though?

As so much can be done online now, if I am not using Linux, I can be happy and productive on Chrome OS (with occasional command-line access to something wink).

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