Ten years ago, I bought my first Apple computer, a shining MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard. It was time to replace the current MacBook (the third I ever owned) but a new custom mechanical keyboard had led me to something I was thinking of doing for some time: going back to using Linux as my primary desktop operating system.
The same month I got the first one, I also founded the company that became my work focus for the better part of the decade, so this also symbolically closed a cycle.
I’ve built a “gaming computer” two years ago, but, confronted with the realities of parenting, I was using it only to play Netflix. Nevertheless, its specs are still as good as a brand-new MacBook Pro, so it was perfect for this experiment.
However, the real reason I thought this could be “the year of Linux” (anyone still remember that phrase?) was the raging reviews of the latest Ubuntu: “The best Ubuntu release Canonical has ever put out!”.
Unfortunately, the sizzle didn’t quite match the steak. I found the default GNOME desktop kind of ugly and limiting. But hey, I was a KDE fan before anyway so, I downloaded the latest Kubuntu and tried again. This time, the resulting experience was much more pleasant. Not mesmerizing, but quite enjoyable and practical.
KDE, especially the windows manager and the Dolphin file browser. Full of little details that make life enjoyable.
Surprisingly, Dolphin doesn’t have tabs, but it took me a while to notice, because it can split in exactly two panes, which is exactly for what I use tabs in a file manager. Being able to “cut” files/folders, not only “copy” and “paste” also helps.
–UPDATE–: Turns out that it does have tabs, hidden behind a shortcut.
I did miss some software that I regularly used. Like 1Password, that is only available as a browser extension. I’m also going to miss iWork, although I’m happy that I can still use their web version (yes, there is a web version at icloud.com!)
In the time I was away, some technologies for packaging universal Linux desktop applications emerged: Snap, Flatpak, and AppImage. Sadly, all of them are based on containers, and some apps run slower or crashes, and everybody seems to hates them.
I completely forgot that desktop computers don’t have a single integrated port for headphones and microphone, so I had to buy a splitter. But it still I can’t make it work with my EarPods. Don’t know if it’s a hardware or software problem.
I have to buy a webcam too, duh 🤦.
I love it. Maybe I’m still in my honeymoon phase, but I feel less constrained with this system, free to try new things. I don’t have time to lose tinkering it like when I was in college, but I don’t feel the need it either; the KDE defaults are great.
So the experiment will continue. I wish more people did the switch back and were, once again, a worthy target for developers’ tool makers. We need to feel like there are real alternatives to macOS that are not only viable but a joy to use.