I’ve had so much fun these past few months learning my way around (Arch) Linux
on the desktop. Using a ThinkPad while mobile instead of a MacBook Pro or iPad
has been a pleasant change of pace.
I settled on the i3 Window Manager and found it to be a totally new and mostly
pleasant way of working with windows. I tried all sorts of cool software that
I’d only read about before. I spent lots of time editing configuration files, tweaking the
dickens out of every possible feature. This has provided countless hours of
entertainment and I learned a lot.
However, I’m putting my Linux experiment on hold.
It’s the idea of Linux that I love. Wall to wall freely distributed, open
source software is such a cool thing. Being free from reliance upon any one
particular vendor is a great feeling. Having endless choices for how the
operating system and software behave is liberating. I like having a variety of
hardware options and not being stuck with a brand new laptop with the shittiest
keyboard in the world. And I must admit, I don’t mind the nerd creds that using
something like Arch provides. It makes me feel like I’m zagging, and I like
zagging. Everyone (well, not everyone) I know uses a MacBook Pro and it’s fun
being the guy using something totally different.
But I run into problems. The trouble starts when constantly switching between
macOS and Linux. Keyboard shortcuts are close-but-not-quite the same. My shared
dotfile configuration needs exceptions so that paths and apps work correctly on
both systems. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
Were I to switch completely to Linux I’d have none of these issues. Someday I
may go all Richard Stallman about software and that will be that. Until
then, I’ll have to remain content being a “Mac Guy”.
I’m not yet ready to give up the wonderful software I’ve used and loved for a
decade or more on my Mac. I’m not ready to find reliable substitutes for all the
little tweaks and scripts I’ve collected over the years. Mostly, I’m not ready
to put up with the constant friction of living in two similar-but-different
The ThinkPad will remain at hand, though. I like using it as a single-purpose
writing device. A screen split between Emacs, a Terminal, and a Browser makes
for a pretty tight, if not completely distraction-free, writing environment.
Plus, the keyboard is way better than the one on my MacBook Pro.
I’m also using the iPad more.
“But wait a minute,” you protest. “That’s two different platforms, right?
Doesn’t that cause the same problems?”
Good question, but no, it doesn’t. The Mac and the iPad are entirely different
devices. Switching between them doesn’t cause me to suffer from the “uncanny
valley” problem. They are so different that I don’t try using them for the same
things in the same way like I’ve been doing with macOS and Linux. Seems weird,
maybe, but it makes sense to me.
I’m sure that I’ll hear about all sorts of ways to fix everything I’ve mentioned
and that “It’s just a matter of editing foo.conf and memorizing 75 new key
bindings.” Thanks, but no thanks. Not right now.
All this to say that I’m having fun tinkering with Linux but I’ll be sticking
with my Macs and not worrying about whether every app I want to use is
cross-platform. I won’t be worrying about /home vs /Users. I won’t have to give
up any of my beloved tools. I won’t suffer the mental friction caused by subtle
differences in how everything works.