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I’m Not a Mac #12–Linux, At Long Last

This post is part of my “I’m Not a Mac” series, chronicling my migration away from Apple after 15 years as a Mac user. Find other entries in the “I’m Not a Mac” series archive.

And I’m a Linux user now.

So sue me–I’m breaking my new rule about exclusively Jewish content to kind of finish a thought I began three and a half years ago when I first began my “I’m Not a Mac” series. In June 2009, I started to extricate myself from the Apple ecosystem after 15 years as a confirmed Mac user. You can read the series for more, but the gist is I wanted to use my computer (and, eventually, my phone) the way I wanted to use them–and without paying a several hundred dollar “privilege fee” just to have a picture of a fruit on my device.

As the series lays out, after considering Linux and Windows, in April 2010 I migrated to Windows 7, which I still believe feels far more classically Mac-like than OS X eventually became, and shortly after I migrated from iOS (i.e. iPhone) to an Android smart phone.

All went happily until a series of computer mishaps in autumn of last year reminded me that sometimes, when a Windows computer has a software fault, there’s no where left to go but to reinstall Windows. When my antivirus program (Microsoft Security Essentials/MSE) refused to update or, eventually, launch, after a month of fiddling I knew there was only one way out. And who wants to spend an entire day reinstalling and reconfiguring a Windows computer?

I didn’t, so instead I bought a sleek, fast, inexpensive little laptop I had been coveting for months (and HP dmz series.) I live for tiny, powerful computers, so going from a 15-inch anvil to an 11-inch featherweight was a dream come true. Especially since MSE actually worked on the new machine.

And then I sat on it while I was taping up window drafts while the remnants of Hurricane Sandy were blowing through Chicago and that was that. Spending several hundred dollars I didn’t have only to have to spend another whole day re-reconfiguring Windows and transferring files was just not something I wanted to do twice in two months.

And I didn’t want MSE to crash again and put me in the same bought for the third time. So…

I started looking at Linux again. In particular, Linux Mint, the version I had originally considered. I already knew I could use Linux however I wanted to. However, two years ago, the user interface and feel of the OS weren’t far enough in my comfort zone for me. This time, the opposite turned out to be true. After spending a week playing with latest versions of Linux Mint (specifically, the Cinammon interface versions of Linux Mint 13 and 14) on my old, dragged-out-of-retirement Anvil, that happy, “I feel like I’m on a Mac, only better” feeling was back.

And then I just did it. Went to K-Mart, bought a sub-$300, 11-inch Acer, tossed in my leftover RAM, overwrote Windows with a live-USB stick of Linux Mint, and waited for the worst.

Which didn’t happen. Besides being absolutely free and community-driven, modern Linux versions (or “distros”, and there are many) are easily as powerful and nice to look at as commercial OSes like Windows or Mac OS, run the same familiar browsers, and have access to similar (as in, duplicting feature for feature or better) apps that most people are used to running on their Windows and Mac machines.

Linux is also extraordinarily secure and resistant to viruses and malware, needs a lot less space to install, will make older and less powerful systems feel faster than if Windows or OSX were (or in some cases even could be) running on them, and offers a nifty, smart phone-like, one-stop-shopping software center from which to browse and install software.

I can’t say I wished I had switched sooner because Linux and I weren’t ready for each other two years ago. I can say I’m thrilled with both Linux in general and Linux Mint in particular. Also with being able to use my laptop however I want to. Never having to pay for an OS again or deal with Windows pre-installed bloatware. And if I change my mind about Linux Mint, dozens of other Linux distros will be happy to have my try them on for size, for free.

And none of them will force me to pretend to like a totally unnecessary, in-the-way new tiled interface, either. Sorry, Windows 8, I’ll never know you.


Categories: "I'm Not a Mac" Series

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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