10 days on a Mac

For those of you who know me, you guys know that I am a Linux lover. I switched to Ubuntu completely a few years ago, for work and for personal computer use, wherever I could. Yes, there is still a Windows VM in the house, but that gets rarely booted and only for some special usage patterns like Tax declarations or update of my Logitech Harmony. Pretty much everything else is Linux, including a set of Raspberry PI’s.

Now, a few weeks ago, a colleage offered me to get me a Mac. As you might know I work for IBM and IBM gives employees a choice these days to either get a Windows machine or a Macbook Pro. Standard Model is a 13” machine, but as I got some capital approved, I was able to order the machine I wanted. So I decided for the 15” machine to get some more power for certain tasks that I am doing from time to time.

Having said all that, I was really thinking about it in the beginning if I would be ready to try a Mac. Honestly, I am pretty happy with Linux, it does (most of the times) what I need it to do and it is fast. The only really issue over the last weeks was a virtual machine that took me in the end more than 5 minutes to boot up. It even felt more like 10 minutes before I was able to get some work done on the machine. Sure, that was due to the i5 and only 8GB memory on my thinkpad, nevertheless, it was annoying.
The other thing was that the support of Linux as a desktop OS is mostly an issue. Most apps which are not native web apps often only work through workarounds, you can get them working, but it takes one thing especially: time and patience.

So again, when the offer was made to get the Macbook, I said “ok, I’ll try”.

The machine arrived last Wednesday. Of course unboxing is great, the machine has a nice look and feel.
So I got it hooked up and started it. To make a long story short, the setup was easy, IBM provides good tools to setup the machine and get it configured. The only bad thing I experienced was the fact that I could at certain points not fugure out if the machine was hanging or still doing something as there is no indicator of HDD activity. That still feels weird.

So, after the setup of the tools IBM provides, the next step was getting some tools that I used on my Linux machine. To my great surprise, a lot of those are available. So I started to download the main tools and hit the first roadblock. A lot of the freeware packages were not signed by the developer and IBM had set the security to not allow installation of those packages. Google helped to solve that problem and up to now there is only one package I could not get installed – and that is not a terrible thing as MacOS has the functionality already build in.

Talking about MacOS, that was the other thing I was really worried about. My biggest worry was that it would limit me to much coming from Linux. But after a week into it, I think if you know what you need to do, MacOS let’s you do it. For example, I was missing my music and picture folders, easy access to my home folder and the ability to spread things our in my home directory. There were enought tutorials available to get going and now, more than a week into using the Mac I feel ok.
This morning I even got the mounting of my nfs shares done, so I am hooked up into my home network almost like I was on linux, with a few more things that I still need to fix. But there is no major hurdle.

The handling overall is different, but not bad. Having been a user of Unity on Ubuntu, the switch felt easy to MacOS as concepts are pretty similar overall. But the keyboard shortcuts are different, so is the keyboard. Yesterday for example, when writing emails, I constantly closed Thunderbird by mistake as
1) the @ sign on the German keyboard is on the Q
2) and Alt-GR on Linux is at the same locationan on the Windows keyboard as the Command key on the Mac – so I was constantly hitting Command-Q
But as I am mostly using keyboard shortcuts anyway – old habit – I was pretty quickly getting my handle on MacOS.

The other thing I am finding weird is that you have to specifically close an app on the Mac. That remains weird, as I try to keep my desktop Clean and really get things shut down. But again, if you are rather using the keyboard than the mouse, it’s not a real issue.

So – what’s the net here. I am surprised how smooth the switch to Mac was for me. I can work productive with it and I have not really used my other Laptop (except for copying data from it to the mac) in a week. I get things done on the Mac. And I feel I can get it to where I need it to be.

Last, but not least, the real WOW moment I had after I had migrated the virtual machine I was talking about earlier to the Mac. It took a while (80GB of disk at this point) – but the machine boots in the mac in about 10 seconds, compared to almost 10 minutes before. That clearly is a gain of productivity, as well as the ability to use tools I need of the shelf and natively install them on the Mac.

So – will keep you posted how I progress.

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