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Are You Thinking About Switching to Linux?

Around 2006 I switched from Linux and Windows to a Mac as my primary computer and operating system. I paid for my expensive first MacBook with my own hard earned dollars. This was shortly after Apple switched to the Intel platform and it was the perfect combination of a great computer built around a Unix like operating system. For those who are not aware of it, Apple's famed OSX is a fork in a Unix system as is Android, Linux and many of the other myriad of Unix-like branches. For 4 years I begrudgingly got more and more locked into Apple's ecosystem. Apple - once the technically superior and arguably cooler option during the days when Steve Jobs was in control -  has slowly become nothing more than a business model comprised of corporate plans to ensure the locking in of their uses and various other nefarious practices that I - as a developer - am not at all super comfortable with. Microsoft's business model isn't any better considering that if you want to always run their latest and greatest you will have to shell out the bucks every few years for a new rig even if your current rig runs just great with the older version of Windows. Like Apple, Microsoft seems to have little to no conscience in getting their massive user base to go all in for one OS presentation of Windows after another and then slowly but surely phase out their previous "grand" releases. I realize that times change and so does the computer hardware that we use - I just question why any of us agree to be apart of this well planned corporate treadmill which is not only financially debilitating but also absolutely unnecessary. 

For a while the thing that stopped me from switching back to Linux or Windows was convenience. Mac, unlike Linux and Windows, has a reputation for having a great out-of-the-box experience and impeccable hardware support. And then there was the fact that the switch itself could cause quite a lot of lost time and there would be a lot of new things to learn or relearn, new software to research and discover and brand new programming habits to reform. But right now I’m typing this to you off of one of my Peach OSI installations on a Lenovo computer that I've upgraded a couple of times so what changed? Oh I've got several other computers - including a couple of 8 core monsters - one of which is water-cooled - but why in the world would a developer like myself switch to Linux?

Apple lost the argument

In 11 years a lot has changed but the main thing Apple and OSX had going for it was that it had a “it just works” reputation. In my experience, this is no longer true. My computing habits have not changed all that much. What has changed is that apparently over the years it’s become harder and harder for a Mac to perform the tasks that I require of a computer to perform the most. For a developer that does almost everything in a terminal and often perform compiling tasks - the most basic of computers should arguably be able to handle these kind of tasks quite well. But for some reason the iMac that I purchased 2 years ago with 8GB of memory is simply doing a worse job than the basic MacBook that I bought in 2006 running OSX Tiger. Initiating any new applications is terribly slow, starting a  terminal session takes forever and after boot-up it takes up to 10 minutes for the machine to feel ready to roll. The effect on my much newer iMac is much stronger than my comparatively underpowered and older MacBook Air. The prime difference is that the Air has an SSD onboard. Really? Come on Apple... On the newer Mac it stalls, hangs and reboots frequently enough to tempt a patient individual like myself to throw the darn thing out the window. And yes I did do a a full reinstall of OSX. It really seems that the last well-performing OS that Apple created was Snow Leopard. It really hurts to say that and if anyone else out there agrees with me then what in the hell is Apple doing and are they planning more second rate releases in the future?. Performance optimization of new software ends when it stops working smoothly on current hardware which means that it doesn't take long for new hardware to get branded as old and unusable. Every OSX and Windows release comes with the promise of better performance but my own experience tells me the reverse is true. How would it be if OSX developers were forced to build their "new and improved releases" on 5 to 7 year old hardware? I imagine that this problem would no longer exist. Everything feels worse on my latest Mac and it is extremely frustrating that I got this big honking machine fairly recently and it already feels old and it isn't at all fun to use. Steve Jobs must be rolling over in his grave. And where is Wozniak when you need him? Jobs and Wozniak built a billion dollar industry on things as simple as fun and reliability. This new crap was a big expense! I justified it because programming is my livelihood. So there was my latest reason to get back into Linux. I had a sneaking suspicion that running Linux on the same hardware would easily outperform OSX. Granted, I do believe that Linux tends to be a bit more ‘maintenance’ heavy, but if it runs fast I consider it a win. But where was I to start? I didn't want to lose my main development machine so instead I used my 4 year old Lenovo - previously a Windows 7 only machine. This was over 3 years ago.

Choosing a Linux distribution

The first choice for Linux distributions is always Ubuntu for most people and so was it for me. It seemed like a good idea to pick something else, but I had no idea what or where to start looking. The cool kids always seem to go for Arch Linux and I also considered installing Debian which I used all the time for fixing other people's Windows machines. Maybe you've had the great experience of getting up one morning to find that your Windows machine has died on you for some unknown reason overnight. Then most of you call on a guy like me to find out why. I'll inevitably tell you that either you've got a virus or some software that you've installed from God knows where has corrupted your Windows system. You will tell me that you have a lot of pictures and other files that you need to recover and I'll tell you Ok and I'll Live Boot a copy of Debian so that I can recover your - oh so important files. So Debian was my first choice just because of my experience with it and it's ability to boot on just about anything in any sort of situation or environment. But all Linux distros seem to have their own pros and cons and it was hard for me to make a quick and a good choice. I even resorted to searching for how to pick a Linux distro only to be none the wiser. In the end I decided to just play it safe. Since I’ve been using Debian-based distributions for a long time and since I’m already making all these changes, I decided to go for a system that I know. Right off the bat Debian itself somehow seemed too ugly and adolescent from the screenshots - and I admit that I am a bit shallow in that regard. I like a desktop that says "Hey dude, here I am, let's get started". That left Ubuntu and Linux Mint. I have tried Mint before and I remembered that Mint had issues in the past upgrading from one major version to another without reinstalling. So I ended up back at Ubuntu, what I thought would be the safest choice. But damn, right from the start I hated Ubuntu. It's unfriendly sidebar menu and ill equipped menu system seemed to me to be so unnatural - left handed - you know what I mean. Nothing seemed to be where it should be and after a few days I decided something had to change. So I played around with a few things until I realized that nothing was going to make me happy until I had an OSX similar Linux desktop like what I had become accustomed to. And now you know where Peach OSI derived from. Out of a pure disdain for Apple's lack of planning and customer consideration, Microsoft Windows abusive and expensive merry-go-round and my own taste in what I wanted my desktop to look like. For me there is a certain elegance to be found in simplicity. I believe that a computer operating system is of no practical use at all if the average person has to read a 1200 page book on how to use it. A good operating system should be like getting into a new car. You may have to look around a bit to see and find the things that allow you to interface with the machine but once you recognize those simple things you can put the machine in gear and begin your journey without having to learn how to drive all over again. That's what I wanted so that's what I set out to build. Not only for myself but for you as well.

Peach OSI

I'm rather proud of my little creation. It literally solved all of my issues. It's fast on anything. Boot times and shut down times are lightning quick. I built it so that it could handle anything that I like to throw at my PC's. I keep finding more and more uses for it. For instance, I have a 20 year old Toyota running an in-dash Android receiver that I've Peachified with more goodies on it than you'll ever believe. It bluetooths the Toyota's onboard computer data to the head module for real-time onscreen virtual gauges so I can monitor everything from alternator output to engine performance, temperature and altitude - it has free GPS - it can play movies to other LCD screens, play my recorded music from usb sticks, SD cards, CD's, it has front and rear cameras and more. So if you're reading this and you were like I was a few years ago, pissed off at your Mac or Windows PC, boy have I got a treat for you. Give Peach a go. I think that you will be glad that you did....