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September 26, 2006


A couple of the guys whose weblogs I read have publicly announced that they are switching away from Mac OS X to Ubuntu Linux. Individually, I'm sure their arguments are subtly different, but it seems to boil down to dissatisfaction with the proprietary lock-in of various file formats (iTunes, iPhoto, etc.). In a couple cases, vocal anger over DRM factors in as well. I admit that I dislike the DRM on iTunes music, even if I've purchased a number of tunes since the store opened. The fact is, were it not for the DRM, I'd be a lot more cavalier with my money. So I can understand where these guys are coming from, even if I'm not ready to abandon Mac OS X.

Anyway, some but not all of these folk claim that Ubuntu fills all their needs, and is just as easy to use as Mac OS X. Curious, I decided to install it on my laptop for a week or two, just to see for myself. The experiment has been concluded, and my laptop is running Mac OS X again. This in itself is not a judgement, as I fully intended to put it back after some period. However, I'm here to tell you that Ubuntu is not fully baked yet. Maybe in a year or two, since they seem dedicated to improving. But right out of the gates, I ran into obstacles. The wireless networking doesn't work, and a laptop without wireless is too annoying to contemplate. Sure, you can grab fwcutter and an open source driver for the wireless card used in iBooks, then patch the kernel and tweak some config files. You can also drive a nail into your temple, but it wouldn't be half as much fun.

See, that's why I use Macs at home. My sysadmin activities are usually limited to running Software Update a couple of times a month, and doing regular backups. The tools I use work. Sure, some of the tools have proprietary formats, but if I care, I can use open source tools on Mac OS X. I don't have to switch to an entire other operating system. And in practice, I manage my data just fine where it is. Should the world change and DRM go away, I'll be the first to celebrate. In the meantime, I'll just spend a little less money at the iTunes Music Store than I would otherwise. And while I'll save RAW files from my digital camera, if a particular image is important to me, I'll convert it to a TIFF or JPEG. So I'm still in control.

And in the meantime, I won't be spending my evenings tweaking the kernel of my OS.

Posted by dpwakefield at September 26, 2006 08:51 PM