I’ve been using the Mac OS since 1993, and OS X since beta (2000), but I’ve been wanting to give Linux a fair shot for the last couple of years. I’ve tried out different distros like Gentoo, Mandrake, SUSE, Debian and Ubuntu before but they’ve never felt ready to be my main desktop OS. That’s changed now with the latest release of Ubuntu, 10.04 Lucid Lynx.
A couple of weeks ago I figured out a way to squeeze a third OS onto my MacBook Pro without needing to wipe OS X and Windows 7 and starting over from scratch. I added the new partitions Linux would need, popped in the Ubuntu install disc and within a few minutes I was triple-booting my Mac. At first I was just curious to see what all the hubbub was about on the latest Ubuntu, but after a while I began to entertain the idea of giving Ubuntu a serious shot as my main OS.
What made me even contemplate it was that Ubuntu has improved in leaps and bounds since I last checked it out. The install was quick and painless. The new look and feel are light years better than the old, drab brown and orange. It’s considerably snappier. The bootup process alone is much faster; faster than both OS X and Windows 7. Nearly everything worked after the initial install: Apple keyboard keys, touchpad with multi-touch controls, suspend, ethernet, dual-screen setup etc. The only thing that didn’t initially work was my wireless card. That wasn’t hard to fix though since there’s a write-up on what is needed to get my MacBook Pro up and running like it should.
Once the MacBook Pro was up and running correctly, I started looking for Gnome-based apps that could replace my OS X ones. Below is a list of what I’ve been using so far:
|OS X||Ubuntu (Gnome)|
|Firefox + Firebug||Firefox + Firebug|
|Billings||Toggl + ?|
|Launchbar||Gnome Do + Parcellite|
The only two that I’m not happy with are Gpass and Toggl. On OS X, Yojimbo is a secure, well-designed password/note/serial number storage app. Gpass is secure and not well-designed. In fact, it’s butt ugly. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know. I’ve already tried Revolution, but it’s not any better than Gpass.
On OS X, Billings is a fantastic time-tracking/invoicing app. Very well designed, easy-to-use, great invoicing options. On Linux, Toggl is a Web-based service for time-tracking, but there are no invoicing options. Toggl has a Linux desktop app that you can run which is quite handy and easy-to-use. It also has nice reporting features and interesting graphs to show me how much time I’m spending (or not spending) on different projects. Its gigantic flaw is that you can’t create and send invoices. Again, if anyone has any alternative for Linux, let me know.
Textmate is a very nice text editor for OS X, but it has two big flaws in my opinion: horrible undo and no split view. It kicks ass in just about every other area though. Gedit at first seems like it can’t live up to the task, but it’s a sneaky little app. The first thing to do is to edit the default preferences. Enable things like line numbers, matching bracket highlighting, smart tabs and auto-indentation. Beyond that, Gedit lets you extend its capabilities through plugins. It comes bundled with several helpful plugins, especially External Tools, File Browser Pane and Snippets. I’ve also installed Advanced Bookmarks, Align, Color Panes, RabbitVCS, Session Saver, Snap Open, Split View 2, Tag Browser and Zen Coding plugins.
I use the ExpressionEngine CMS in the vast majority of my client work. EE has its own markup tags that can be used in EE-based templates. I had already created a Textmate bundle for EE that is used by a fair number of EE developers. It allows for code highlighting, code snippets and quick tag documentation. Gedit doesn’t support Textmate bundles, so getting Gedit to match those features took a little bit of work. I created a language file so that Gedit will properly highlight EE code. I also created several code snippets to be used with the Snippets plugin. And just last night I created a Ruby file that is run through the External Tools plugin. It allows you to select an EE tag in your template and quickly view the documentation for that tag. So Gedit definitely fills Textmate’s shoes, at least when it comes to my needs. It even has a more sane undo and split view!
So that’s where I’m at with Ubuntu at the moment. I’ve successfully used it as my main OS for a full work week now and have only missed OS X when it comes to keeping track of my time and invoicing. I did boot back into Mac to download the new Steam client and fiddle around with Torchlight, but even that is coming to Linux later this year. It really does look like Linux, or at least Ubuntu, is ready to be a serious desktop OS contender.
I’ve now been using Ubuntu for over a month and am still happy with it overall. I’m bouncing between gedit, Geany and gVim for my text editor. I can’t figure out which one I like the best.
July 22, 2010: I’ve switched back to OS X. I liked Ubuntu quite a bit, but in the end OS X is still easier to get along with. My time in Ubuntu did make me switch from Textmate to MacVim though.