OS X versus Linux: Which is more practical?

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OS X versus Linux

OS X and Linux users share a similar desire to avoid using Windows. But after that the two groups often split apart when it comes to the question of OS X versus Linux. Which operating system is the more practical option for users that don't want Windows? A writer at Datamation explored that question and ultimately sided with Linux.

Matt Hartley reports for Datamation:

OS X is a solid operating system for those who enjoy Apple's vision of the ideal desktop. It offers access to pro-level applications that many industries rely on. Yet it isn't always the most practical operating system for the casual end user. In fact, in some cases, it's completely overkill.

In this article, I'll explore why I believe Linux is a more practical solution than OS X, if local techs would simply bother to support it. This article isn't about which platform is “better.” Instead, it's a matter of which platform is more practical.

Linux on the desktop avoids planned obsolescence and allows the end user to customize their computing experience to meet their needs. Linux also avoids the use of special ID logins to re-install software. There is also something to be said about having physical media for installing your operating system.

If Linux distributions had the same level of consumer tech support available that Windows and OS X does, we'd see adoption number exploding. I ought to know – any machine I support runs Linux. And each of those individuals being supported by me love the fact that they don't have to upgrade their hardware every two years.

More at Datamation

Linux redditors responded with their own thoughts about OS X versus Linux:

SysadmEnt: "Found this to be pretty one-sided and a bit nit-picky at points. The factual inaccuracies/omissions didn't help either. I'll try to address them...

What if booting to the other kernel doesn't solve the problem because of a misconfig later in the boot? What if the bug report goes unanswered, is closed as unreproducible, or just never gets fixed? While my experience is that Linux drivers in the past few years are pretty fantastic, I can hardly say they've been perfect. Heard of my share of wireless issues with Macs too, not trying to suggest perfection there, but one point in Apple's favor is that the small number of hardware profiles makes troubleshooting easier.

The article author mentioned this isn't about which is better, but which is more practical. I agree, but if you're trying to be practical it seems prudent not to leave out lots of relevant information about Macs just because you don't prefer using them.

I'll try to keep my other points shorter...

The author mentions that rolling back a release is easier in Linux, despite explaining that both require a backup and reinstall. They also left out the fact that you can make USB install drives for all the recent previous versions of OS X.

The author nearly seems to concede that installing applications is about the same before arbitrarily deciding that it's easier to backup and restore on Linux because it's "only a few keystrokes." OP apparently never having heard of rsync which works fine on OS X and is as "automatic" as running apt by hand. (Not to mention the number of CLI package managers available for mac! macports! brew! You can even run a gentoo prefix!)

Apparently the author doesn't like Finder, and fair enough, but are they even aware you can run XQuartz in OS X and run whatever file browser and desktop environment you want? I've done it, it works fantastic. You even have choice of modes... first mode interleaves all your X windows with your native Mac windows. The second keeps them entirely separate, and you can switch back and forth between native Finder and X with Alt+Enter.

Yes, only when you remove Linux troubleshooting, the thing most notoriously difficult for newbies, can you say they're equally easy. It's not like anyone ever has to troubleshoot issues, be they on Linux/Unix, OS X, or even Windows.

As a Mac and Linux user, I'll say as always, use what is practical and makes you happy. I just hope you have better arguments for why than this guy.

Sendmetohell: "Kernel selection was being suggested in case that was the problem. Obviously if it's not the kernel, then you would do something else.

A lot of the supposed difficulty with troubleshooting is just hype or people with a bias against command line tools.

Graphically-driven platforms still require you to have special knowledge, it's just that it relates to you just knowing that if you go into this Window, right click here, select this option, and look at the bottom of the window you'll see the setting you're wanting.

Once you get the basic idea of troubleshooting in Linux it's actually easier to troubleshoot than Windows or Mac where you can often run into the situation where you're making educated guesses because it's so hard to get actual information out of the system.

Thankyoueve: "I run both OS X and Linux and I must say this is a fairly accurate review. OS X can be very powerful and customizable (if using homebrew for package managing and extending the command line) but you must be willing to be imprisioned in the apple ecosystem. And Linux of course rules and is customizable beyond measure."

More at Reddit

Readers over at OS News also had a few thoughts to share about the Datamation comparison of OS X and Linux:

Sergio: "Linux is more practical because it runs on SPARC. That's a killer feature for the average Joe. Yeah!! Linux for the win!! OSX you are doomed!! Linux fanboys are incredible... only a nerd living in Mars can write an article like that and take it seriously hahaha

Get real!! The average computer user doesn't know what a hardware architecture is!!! How running Linux on ARM can be more practical for them?!?! Are you on drugs??? I cannot believe how smart people can be so stupid and shortsighted...

And that stupid nerd mentality is what ruined Linux as a Desktop OS (and almost every other end-user open source project). Linux fanboys live in a parallel world. It's a shame. ;)"

Ebasconp: "Anyway, he has the ultimate point: Finder is one of the worst file managers right there! Actually Windows Explorer is far better. In Linux I actually like Thunar: It simply does the work! and in Windows, Total Commander is king."

Lindkvis: "The Finder does every job any typical user needs. In contrast, Windows Explorer confuses the hell out of my mother and my wife barely uses it. Both prefer to use the applications and the open/save dialogs to do all their file work. Ask them to create a folder somewhere specific and move a file into that folder and at least my mother would struggle. Windows Explorer completely fails the "Aunt Tilly"-test.

I've come to the conclusion that the default file manager should be dead simple, like Finder or Nautilus. If you know enough about computers to find them limiting, you know enough to swap them for something else without bitching about the simplicity of those file managers."

Vanders: "My wife has just switched to a Mac. Watching her struggle with Finder really does highlight how counter-intuitive it is; functionality is difficult to discover and the window manager behaviour in OS X sometimes makes the functionality it does have more complicated than it needs to be (E.g. drag & drop)."

Bill: "Yeah, pretty weak article. Its almost as bad as a huff post article."

Shmerl: "The average user sticks with what comes one the computer preinstalled. How many do you think ever installed Windows or OS X on their own?

Which goes back to good support. If users would have been getting computers with preinstalled Linux and good support attached, Linux usage would have skyrocketed. Windows and OS X aren't better or more practical. But they have the benefit of being sold preisntalled in massive numbers with having support.

So Linux ends up being used mostly by those who are up to installing the OS on their own. Which is already a minority. So all this "nerd mentality, Linux is hard to use" etc. is bunk. Preinstalation is the key."

Nicbunu: "I use desktop Linux myself for both fun and work, but I can honestly say such fanboysh articles were boring even 10 years ago.

It lost me as soon as the first point "Linux can run on old PCs, new PCs, ARM powered micro-computers, even on consumer appliances." Seriously, try to run a so-called "modern" Linux desktop (GNOME, KDE) on anything less than a relatively new machine and then talk about it. Sure, there are Linuxes for old/low powered machines, but don't call those user friendly desktops.

The rest is equally boring: rolling back a release is described at a full OS install, the installing software part is avoiding the lack of availability of entire classes of apps and so on.

I acknowledge I couldn't write myself a better article, but that's because I *never* owned myself an Apple device, but I expect to be the same as a Linux/Windows comparison, each having its ups and downs."

Leech: "Maybe I am nuts, but I find Gnome far easier to use than OSX. Far more stable even. I haven't had Gnome crash and completely reboot the system in a long time. I have a very recent 13" macbook pro from work and I dislike it a lot.

But about the point of old PCs and Linux. I imstalled Debian Wheezy with LXDE on a p4 with 128mb of ram and it was still decently usable. The problem with running gnome or kde on such a thing is the compositing. So it really all depends on the video for a smooth experience. I would also suggest a minimum of 256mb of ram (probably 512mb even).

Apple's real problem/advantage is their fanboys are very pushy, the products are crap though. New macbook pro rattles if the fan kicks in and I happen to be laying down and holding it at an angle. Plus things like releasing discoveryd before it was ready, Apple Maps, etc. It may look shiny, but the unternals are a mess. Oh and screw their tendency to use uppercase file and folder names...."

Notisnt: "Mac fans tend to pretend that Macs Just Work. However, when they Just Don't (which happens just as often as on Windows, minus the malware), it's virtually impossible to get them up and running again. Apparently, single user mode doesn't work on the latest version of the OS (disabled on encrypted file systems?). The community is entirely useless ('Have you tried restoring permissions?'), and there's not a single good resource on the web. At least, Apple's own pages are not."

Carewolf: "Macs "Just Doesn't Work."

They are the still the only type of hardware or software I have ever had to call tech support on. A Mac Mini I was borrowing bricked when the internet fell out during an update. It couldn't reboot, and OS X had to be reinstalled, and I had no internet so I couldn't look it up on a non shit device like my Linux laptop, and of course nothing is documented or intuitive on a Mac. "

More at OS News

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