Moving back to Linux

Last updated 2012-12-11 22:24:38 SGT

So my laptop died a week ago, and I've moved everything over to a Fedora 18 install. So far, everything works pretty smoothly, except that there's no official Bumblebee support so I can't use Stellarium (which is … pretty important, I'll say). GNOME Shell is very pretty and quite well-integrated. Kudos to the GNOME designers! Maybe not the developers, though; configuring anything not available from the GUI is a bitch.

It's taking me a few days to get back into the flow of linux. After using a Mac as my primary machine for so long, it's quite jarring to move back to a system where everything is made by different people. It's quite amazing that dbus and ICE even work at all, for example. Interprocess communication APIs and standalone applications are stuff that Mac OS X lets you take for granted, and to have them suddenly pulled out from under you makes for a rather unpleasant experience.

Also, Mac OS takes an everything-and-kitchen-sink approach to package management, in that (in the interest of user experience) dependencies do not exist: virtually all third-party software is engineered to be able to function with no modifications to the vanilla OS (except for things like Adobe AIR and Unsanity application extenders). Obviously this isn't going to work in linux because the distinction between first- and third-party is nonexistent. While this leads to a great degree of configurability, this also makes the system prone to errors in dependency resolution (e.g. texlive-xetex-def is required for texlive-xetex to work???)

Moreover, there is no analogue for Mac OS X's lipo multi-architecture fat binaries. This leads to stupid things like me installing i686 versions of libraries that I already have in order to use binary releases of software like Skype, which in turn causes dependency resolution errors.

On the other hand, it's very evident that linux desktop environments (GNOME in particular) have made enormous improvements since 2005 (when I got my PowerBook). I don't need arcane hacks to get xcompmgr working now, because xcompmgr is deprecated. I can change driver options on the fly (without even restarting X11). Wine actually works. Also, the modern linux desktop has adopted formerly Mac-only software features. Once upon a time, Quartz, Exposé, Spotlight and Time Machine were super awesome things that made a Mac fanboy out of 14-year-old me. Today I get to use them, just as I always have — except that I don't use a Mac any more.

Most importantly, though, I've changed, too. When I started using linux in 2005, the first thing I did was install Wine for Photoshop. And then realise that Photoshop was heavily bugged on Wine. Then I got my PowerBook and things were fine. When I first got my Mac, the first thing I did was install Keynote and Pages.

When I got this laptop, the first thing I tried installing was Mathematica.

I think I could get used to this.

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