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Switch to Ubuntu Linux not Apple Mac OS

This is a response to an article asking why people switch from Windows to the Mac OS instead of Ubuntu. The author concludes “So why are people not going over to Ubuntu? Beats me.” He even resorts to calling these switchers stupid: “Is it the snob value or stupidity that make people consider a Mac over Windows and not Ubuntu?”

I started this blog in July as a public exploration of my experimentation with Ubuntu. In that time I have tried to use Ubuntu as my default OS in replacement of the Mac OS because I wanted to see how feasible it was. While the simple answer to “can if be done?” is “yes,” it’s really not very easy. So my comments below come from someone who truly enjoys using Ubuntu Linux (I still use it daily) but who has come to appreciate the finer nuances of the Mac OS.

While the author of the aforementioned article does make a few good points about how far Ubuntu Linux has come he fails to recognize a few very basic advantages of the Mac platform that I have come to appreciate during my experiment:

There is no worry-free replacement for Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite on Linux. There is on a Mac.
The Mac has become the simplest zero-setup hub for our digital lives, something that Linux is not, yet.
Technological cutting edge — the Mac is on the cutting edge where it matters to the consumer.
Spreadsheets & Graphics

On the Mac we have a genuine Microsoft Office suite that is 100% compatible with the Windows version of Office. On Linux we have many office alternatives, the most popular of which is OpenOffice.org. While very good, it is no drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office. It is not a feature-for-feature replacement. In my experience OpenOffice hardly ever opens a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet with 100% accuracy. Regarding spreadsheets, half of the examples that come with the Excel Bible do not run on OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet or any other spreadsheet app that runs on Linux. Until a user can truly switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice without worry it will have a very hard time attracting users who do not want to worry about compatibility.

In the realm of graphics there are many feature-rich alternatives to the Adobe Creative Suite components. But, once again, none of them are drop-in replacements. None of them offer the same ease of switching that can be had by simply cross-grading from the Windows to the Mac version of the Adobe Creative Suite. This ease of switching without worry is very enticing.
Digital Hub

The Mac has become a central hub to our digital lives. And it does all this with a flare and panache never before seen in a computer. It is easy for anyone to manage all their music, photos, movies, finances, and anything else in one place, and it all happens in a fun and seamlessly way.

There is just no equivalent to this seamless experience on Linux. The best one can do on Linux is find the best alternatives to all the parts and pieces that make up the Mac experience. But in the end Linux still lacks the synergy that Apple has created with its Macintosh experience. And if one was to try to find the best Linux alternatives they would spend alot of time searching the internet, experimenting, kludging through various scripts, terminal commands, etc. Stuff that most users do not know how to do, nor want to.
Cutting-edge experience

The Mac has become a beacon of coolness in the technology world. The Mac has almost become like in-vogue clothing, with every Apple product announcement like a new fashion show, the sexy new products strutting down the runway and the audience eating it up. People who look to switch because of this want the cool technology to work. And, to put it quite bluntly, almost none of it does on Linux unless the user is willing to spend hours sifting through help forums and playing in their terminal. On Ubuntu Linux, out of the box, the isight, extra keyboard features, illuminating keys, multi-touch or gesture-based actions on the trackpads, and even num-lock does not work. Not to mention that it takes some effort to get wireless working. And sound is not as good — it “scratches” or “pops”, and it is very hard to convince Ubuntu to use the usb iSub.

Ubuntu Linux (and every other distro that I have tried) has yet to fully support the cutting edge technology that Apple offers its customers with their newest products. This certainly makes Linux less attractive than the Mac OS that already comes pre-installed on the hardware.

I think the two biggest reasons people switch from Windows to Mac are
The problems with Windows
The coolness of the Mac

Apple has done an excellent job of positioning its products to be cool enough to consider as an alternative, and technologically cutting-edge in areas that consumers really care about. Until Linux can offer something compelling beyond what the Mac OS already offers it will not break into that “switchers” market.

Linux needs to not just match the Mac OS, but offer something above-and-beyond the Mac OS that will entice users to spend the extra time they need to install it, learn it, and use it.

17 Responses to “Re: Switch to Ubuntu Linux not Apple Mac OS”
KA Says:
October 20th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Sorry to be a pedant, but you spelled “excellent” wrong (Apple has done an excelent job…).

But I totally agree with the article.
admin Says:
October 20th, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Thanks for catching that spelling error…it’s been fixed
Andrea Says:
October 20th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

I totally agree with you!
You need a lot of time to configure an Ubuntu box and sometimes you don’t have enough, so you need a quick solution and Mac’s got it.
What I like the most of Ubuntu is that has brought Linux to the final user and not just developers and IT people…But there’s still a long way to go for Ubuntu.
Scott Says:
October 20th, 2008 at 10:43 pm

“Linux needs to not just match the Mac OS, but offer something above-and-beyond the Mac OS that will entice users to spend the extra time they need to install it, learn it, and use it.”

I think it already does. The software is free. Free as in speech and free as in beer. Most people don’t give a rats tail about the speech part, but the free as in beer part usually gets their attention.

I like Mac, it really is the best OS out there. But why would I pay for it when I can get a near equivalent for free? Not just the OS, but practically every piece of software that I could ever want or need is free as well. Ubuntu is snowballing, Every six month release keeps getting exponentially better and better. Plus I can run it on any old piece of hardware I want, avoiding the Apple Tax. I just don’t think it makes sense to switch from one locked in proprietary piece of software to another. If you are forcing yourself into a new learning curve anyway, why not take the plunge and go all the way?

Free beer people. I look at it this way, my favorite beer is Guiness, but if Anheuser-Busch offers me me a free lifetime supply of Budweiser and their zillion other beers, guess what I’m going to be drinking from now on? Guiness is better, but it’s not that much better.
Jim Says:
October 21st, 2008 at 6:29 am

I think you need to reexamine these points. While I don’t necessarily dispute them as they relate to the average Joe, you are placing the fault on Linux when in reality it is either Microsoft’s or Apple’s fault. For example:

Office: Your main complaint seems to be that OpenOffice does not perfectly support Microsoft’s proprietary formats. Let me ask you: When one side’s code and format is open for all the world to see and use, and another side’s format is proprietary, on whose side is the burden of ensuring compatibility? Remember that Microsoft’s main business strategy is to use deliberate incompatibilities with competitors to lock the consumer in, and deliberate incompatibilities within their own products to keep the consumer buying new versions. There’s a reason they are still paying billion dollar fines to the EU for anticompetitive practices. Rather, I think MS Office is at fault for not offering a universal open standard format like ODF. That, and I’ve seen plenty of documents and presentations get horribly mangled just going from one version of MS Office to another, or on the same version of MS Office going from and XP machine to a Vista machine.

Cutting edge Mac features: You understand the concept of hardware drivers, yes? It isn’t the OS’s responsibility to magically support any random piece of hardware that you plug in. That Linux can often do that, given enough time, is to its credit. But the responsibility lies with the hardware manufactures to support their own products by supplying drivers to the OS along with their products. OSX just works because the same company makes both the software and the hardware. I’ve never tried running Linux on a Mac, but judging by your post, I’d say Apple probably does try to support Linux with drivers, nor would I expect them to. But then the fault lies with Apple here, not Linux. But despite this, the Linux people are often skilled enough to reverse engineer these drivers from scratch over time. If you really think OSX is magic, try running it on a PC and see how well everything works.
mark Says:
December 31st, 2008 at 7:55 am

I am not sure you understand what cutting edge means when it comes to computer equipment. Apple is cutting edge in looks and feel but it is far from cutting edge in regards to equipment. The motherboard, cpu, memory, graphic card, and network adapters are the same as you will find in any PC. So in reality what you mean to say is that apple products look like something out of a sci-fi movie but the guts are no better than any standard PC on the market.
Nick Says:
April 18th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Well, personally, I love both Linux and Mac. I’ve used Ubuntu and thought it was great for a beginning user to Linux, but it does have some compatibility problems. However, you can still get Adobe products (i.e. Photoshop CS(insert version here) with programs such as the Wine Emulator(Wine Doors provides Photoshop CS2 as a download). Even M$ Office is available if you have the download file (once again, you download it in Wine). OpenOffice.org is always a nice alternative to Microsoft Office. And OpenOffice can still read all of the M$ Office formats. Writer can read and save documents under M$ Word extensions (such as .doc), and you can download M$ Office file extensions on the package manager for the OpenOffice Suite.

I think I’m going to stick with Linux just because it’s free – however, Mac OS is probably still the best out there… just really expensive.
Anthony Says:
May 9th, 2009 at 2:49 am

I recently installed ubuntu-studio on my macbook, and I do agree that you need to spend a lot of time figuring out how the wifi works, sound works (on my macbook I have sound trough the built-in speakers and no sound on the jack output).

I think that Linux should go the Apple way. This is, proposing good bundles of hardware/software combinations that work out-of-the-box!

One company already does this: http://www.indamixx.com/

I think my next system will be one of these.

The more projects like this one starts, the more Linux will gain popularity.

Last but not least, check the video demos. If you’re a 16 years old, you’ll find Indamixx cool.

May 9th, 2009 at 10:09 am

“You need a lot of time to configure an Ubuntu box and sometimes you don’t have enough, so you need a quick solution and Mac’s got it.”

This isn’t entirely true. Unless you have extremely obscure or top of the line hardware, or your computing needs are especially demanding, Ubuntu is ready to go after you install. Sure if you want to make use of the eye-candy like Compiz Fusion you do have to spend maybe 5 minutes or so. Plus, these days installation is a piece of cake with the synaptic package manager. You just check what you want to install, click ok and it does everything for you.

And as for the lack of true replacements for other programs, they don’t exist because the companies will not hand over the source code or make a Linux version themselves for free simply because there is no money to be made doing so. It is not any fault of the OS. So yeah, you may not be able to do EVERY single thing with GIMP that you can do on Photoshop, but you don’t have to pay a dime to use it, and with Ubuntu it is pre-installed.

“The Mac has become a beacon of coolness in the technology world.” Not really. Any perceived notion of this is due to extensive marketing. Apple spends tons of money every year to push this image of being the cool kid on the playground. Congratulations, you’re a tool.

Read http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=macs_cant for further enlightenment on the matter
Brian Says:
May 24th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

“Cutting-edge experience”

If you are referring to the eye-candy effects in the OS you obviously never heard of the window manager Compiz-Fusion in Linux? Let’s see if apple can even compare itself to that!

I use Vista, leopard and ubuntu on a daily basis and when it comes to eye-candy effects Ubuntu blows them both off the shelf, and it’s easy as pie to install compiz too, at least for me, one click in the synaptic and it’s done!

My opinion is otherwise..Vista: a rather disappointment, a lot of softwares though, Mac: really good but very expensive and not always worth it, Linux: also very good (really cool & useless effects), sure you have to search a little to find the programs you need but come on here, you’re getting it for free and nothing comes for free in this world, in Linux case it’ll cost you some time but if you’re used to computers like me it’ll be a 2 pieces of cake..Linux is also cheap but not always as “stable” as Mac of course, but hey Linux doesn’t make their OS custom built to their hardware!
Isa Says:
July 22nd, 2009 at 10:31 pm

How is the system in user’s point of view, really end user, not technical. This philosophy are very strong in Apple, which is started to adopt (partially) in Ubuntu. Unfortunately, there is still no hardware vendor (yet?) want to work closely with Ubuntu to make hardware+software+ubuntu bundled as perfect as Apple does in Mac.
People (ordinary ones, not technical like us) are very frustating whenever they see inconsistency, whenever they have to ask (again and again) to technical guys for something “small”, like connecting to Wifi, print doc properly, etc. They prefer to suffer with virus in m$ windows to get that convenience level rather than keep feel confused, stuck with little things that make them really looks dumb. This is the point where Apple really excel – not only over linux, but even beyond windows (which already people “standard”). Whenever they have money, they will go to Mac. Definitely.
eric Says:
July 29th, 2009 at 6:21 am

I recently switched (at home) from Mac to Dell [this is not the place to discuss why], and tried going Linux for about a month and a half. Gave it up: It was just too damned hard to get anything done on Ubuntu. Switched back to Vista on that system because I knew I could get more or less direct analogs for everything I use on my Mac (Tbird, FF, Office, CS3, MAMP, MacJournal, and Scrivener [less direct, and I miss it, but i've replaced it with something very good]).

Ubuntu is a huge step in the right direction for Linux, but y’all need to not let up. You’re there for the stubborn and desperate of ordinary technical means; with some more work, you’ll be there for ordinary folks, too.
Sid Says:
August 26th, 2009 at 5:11 am

I switched from Windows XP to Ubuntu. My laptop is a cheap Dell laptop. Ubuntu was so easy, all the hardware were detected and configured automagically.

May be if you’re heavily into Photoshop, making music, etc … that Ubuntu isn’t perfect for you. But for a web developer like me, Ubuntu is the perfect OS.

My 60 years old mom and dad are using Ubuntu. It’s more than enough for them. No need to spend fortune on an OS!

Open office is great, I haven’t had problem opening any Ms Office files from my clients.

All things considered, Ubuntu is the best OS at the moment IMHO.
m4tic Says:
September 29th, 2009 at 1:24 am

Man! i live in South Africa and have been using Linux for a year now. I’m 17 and been using windows since i was 9. And now i realise that windows has been blinding me for a long time about computers. I’ve spent half of my life fighting viruses and not getting to enjoy how a real OS should be. Crashes and all that crap, Windows is what makes it bad. Two years back my Dad bought a Mac and i admit it’s pretty neat but the limited free software available is a real turn-off! So this year moving to University i discovered Ubuntu, what a great find! It works well with my nearly 6years machine. One thing i really like is the windows alternative software available. I’m a mechanical engineering student and i have to say i’ve never been glad to fin a professional free CAD software and most of all i don’t have to search the web for it, i simply go to applications/add-remove programs, IT’S THAT EASY! Try getting solid works, not only will you have to fork out thousands but the setup files are 4GIGs of useless icons! Gimp works well for an ordinary home user, if you’re a pro photographer with a business go with windows… your rich for it anyway.

If anyone thinks Ubuntu is difficult, try reinstalling Windows OS on your machine and get everthing up and running in an hour! Get an average user to do it as you criticise Ubuntu as not for them. After 40minutes of installing windows, play a cd for me. You won’t… Oops you have to find drivers for that machine, oh the average user won’t know where to start looking won’t they. So one thing’s left, call customer support if you have a fat paycheck to waste on phone bills, then be put on hold because the call has to go to india???(that’s what i got). Fact is with windows you won’t have internet, graphics, bluetooth,etc drivers from the windows install.

Ah try Ubuntu, 20minutes of install time, no reboot in between. First login quick as the last. Sound out of the box, graphics drivers come included and suited for video, desktop effects. Network works, bluetooth, just everything including using a mobile device as a modem, any camera older than 6months is going to work. So what will the avarage use go for?

I won’t say anything about mac install since it only works on mac hardware, wonder what they’re scared of(incompatibilities maybe). Mac users have that status thing going. Count Linux games to Mac games, count Mac applications to Linux applications. Not so pretty.

So with that my OS choice is simply going to have to be Ubuntu. It took me a year but i now know a lot more than i did about pc’s than i have with windows. I can browse the net securely for free, no antivirus free trial here, just Ubuntu.
Joshua Says:
November 13th, 2009 at 10:21 am

I’ve been using Ubuntu for about a year now. I think people waste loads of time fussing about with slow old windoze, its a bad operating system from the start (the kernel and all!). I also think that Apple are trying to trick people into buying apple macs by trying to make them look better than other computers, and really taking advantage over people because they don’t want to use windoze. Mac is proprietary closed-source software,people can’t deny that, and Linux has the most open source projects and programs than any other operating system. The command-line facilities are, in my opinion, better than any other operating system, but you only need to use them if you want to. You can get free alternatives for everything, Micro$oft office, Photoshop, practically everything and more. The recent games now have exellent OpenGL rendering thats really good graphics and faster than Directx. With mac they addict you into buying everything, but mac users are shut off from the rest of the world’s computing in one aspect. Linux supports more computers than Windoze and Mac ever will, it has a much better kernel, and exellent functionality. Ubuntu is way more advanced (complete with command line, development features etc.) than mac will ever be, and best of all, its open source and free!
David Says:
February 4th, 2010 at 3:27 am

After using many versions of windows over the years (last being Vista, and about to upgrade) I was surfing the other night (getting sick of windows bog-downs, crashes and viruses) and decided to check on linux. I had heard about it quite a long time ago, but it always sounded difficult to use and install. I had never even heard of Ubuntu, but after reading a few forums and feedback sites, thought I’d give it a try. For a free OS, this thing is tops!
After spending 20 or so minutes installing Karmic Koala on my laptop (fairly new Acer Aspire) I thought I might have a bit of trouble finding drivers for some hardware (bluetooth, wireless and network card, touchpad, etc), but when it fired up, everything worked! Brilliant! (and nothing like windows, I used to spend ages installing drivers to get everything working after an upgrade). The only thing that didn’t work was the fingerprint reader (but I haven’t even bothered to check that out yet, still having too much fun downloading FREE software!!).
This OS is great. Very stable (no crashes or problems yet), fast- everything starts up in a couple of seconds, and runs quickly, and there is software available (again for FREE) that does everything I want it to, and no worries about viruses any more! Bootup and shutdown is almost instant compared to windows too. It’s easy to set up different users, and I have installed some kids software already (my 3yo son loves Tux Paint!)
Overall, I am really impressed with this OS. I would recommend it to anyone, and I don’t think I will be going back to windows any time soon
Ma'ii Says:
April 6th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I love Linux (I switched 2 months ago), especially Linux Mint 8. It is an great OS that is super easy to use, configure, update, and is well supported. For my day to day and growing computing needs it is a perfect choice. The software availability between the two package managers is very extensive and covers nearly everything I’ve wanted to do with my machine, and exponentially more that I had never even considered. I have found Mint 8 (a Ubuntu based distro, btw) considerably more comfortable than OSX.
Oh I almost forgot to mention, I run a small business that has benefited greatly from the plethora of high quality business software that is available for Ubuntu and the Ubuntu based distributions.
Sorry guys, but I thought the other side might have a voice here.
Of coarse I might just be the odd one out here; I also prefer knowing how to do, and do all my own work on my car and motorcycle.
To each their own honestly… and don’t listen to a damn thing I’ve said or a damn thing anyone else here has said. You have a mind of your own, you can play with both and decide for yourself, hell as far as I see it as long as your not a Windows fan we’re on the same team anyway. ;p