I recently decided to leave Apple’s products for many reasons, after decades of using their hardware and software products. My MacBook Air and the household iPads are being sold. With the proceeds I am buying a NAS server box, a couple of Google Nexus tablets and probably a very small cute 11″ laptop by Hewlett Packard that I have my beady eye on.
I will be retaining one Apple laptop, that being the heat damaged one from my ill-fated laptop-as-a-server experiment, it is functional but not really worth selling now. So I thought it would be a good idea to replace it’s copy of Mac OS X Mountain Lion with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin).
After installing rEFIt to allow the machine to boot Linux, I downloaded and installed a MacBook optimised amd64 version from ubuntu.com. I had no major problems, the screen ran at eye-melting maximum brightness and the display had a blue tint to it, after installing the Mac’s native ICC colour profile and adjusting a few items in the NVIDIA X server settings, I managed to tweak it to my liking. There are a few NVIDIA ‘complications’ on the machine, I get a corrupted login screen after suspending, but it’s fine as I don’t need to see the display to login back in. Also playback in VLC results in a black screen/window, if I open a movie with Ubuntu’s default video player first then VLC works fine afterwards. I had to adjust the default video player’s colour hue because video colour was.. weird, everything seemed blue and red.
After getting everything setup the way I wanted it, I transferred all my data from the MacBook Air being sold and started foraging for software to replace my Mac equivalents. I am running all my favourite open-source and free software like Blender, GIMP, Inkscape, Transmission, VLC, VirtualBox and Google’s Chrome browser. I have also discovered new software that I am enjoying, like the lightweight scriptwriting software Trelby (replacing my usual bloated Celtx), the comprehensive LibreOffice suite, Shotwell to replace iPhoto, Rhythmbox to replace iTunes and OpenShot to replace iMovie (and I mean the original good iMovie, not the newer crappy one).
Ubuntu has come a long way over the years, I hated it’s desktop in the past, way too much dung-brown for my tastes but Canonical seem to have put a lot of work into not only redesigning the desktop but creating a truly unique look and feel. The Ubuntu UI styling and those gorgeous fonts make normally drab looking GTK+ apps look fantastic, LibreOffice for example looks great on Ubuntu compared to Mac OS X. As Apple have clearly shown aesthetics are important, developers can make some brilliant applications but some haven’t got a clue about good design, I’ve used some amazing software but with the most damn ugly or awkward interfaces (esp. in the UNIX world). Canonical seem to have learned to marry good software engineering with good visual design and I applaud them for doing so. Not only have they produced a first class, enterprise-ready Linux distribution, but they have created something that is visually pleasing and very powerful with an amazing range of software both open sourced and commercial through the Ubuntu Software Centre.
As I said at the beginning, I am getting a small form factor PC laptop for myself which should run Ubuntu just fine. I’m not intending to use the MacBook myself for too long, the wife is keen to have it as her own Ubuntu machine after seeing it for herself. But as the first step into a Linux-only world, I’ve been really pleased with the results. I have no regrets and I am missing nothing from OS X, until recently I never believed I would think that way.