July 3, 2006 20:06 | Technology

I'll consider it when...

Foreword: I am a long time Apple user BUT ALSO have ALWAYS considered Apple to be far far more evil than Microsoft, and more recently Google combined. Apple's fascist streak has been showing ever stronger since the victorious return of the beloved leader. Their desire to control your experience knows NO bounds. Anyways, let's get to it...

Seriously, I've considered trying out Ubuntu a few times the last few months. Considered buying a ThinkPad or some such and trying it out for a bit, see how it feels, make an informed decision yada yada...

But you know... it doesn't bode well for the whole "PC" world when I can't even get through one of the major reseller's online store without giving up in frustration.

  • Exhibit A - Time yourself to find the machine with the widest screen, then try to configure it to the advertised max. It's a simple task. I couldn't do it. (Hint: Z Series, you want a 100Gig 7200RMP HD, 128 ATI video card, 4 Gig RAM) Once you find a machine to configure, wow, now you have to wade though 5-600 options many with almost identical labels! And garish colors! I can barely see the total estimated price. Blehhh ciao!
  • Exhibit B - Here I drop you already in the family or series I'd be into. Inspiron? New Inspiron? What's teh difference? Ok "New Inspiron 6400". Customize it. Ok Dell did their homework and sort of copied Apple Store. Still very "clunky cheap faux-metal plasticky" feel to the UI though. Oh well at least I could choose a machine here with a minimum of fuss. Despite THREE PAGES of optional crap they wanna sell me. Woops! Store crapped out at second step of checkout. Too bad. I'm not getting a Dell.
  • Exhibit C - Woops can't customise. Gotta go see a reseller. Yeah sure.

Only the Lenovo/IBM even offered 15,4" screens with resolution over 1440. The Dell was offering a crazy 256M ATI Card but nowhere could I find actual tech specs of it's performance (I found linked tech specs but they were not relevant/outdated go figure), so one could only assume...

Here's a little secret: I ordered a MacBook for someone today. It took 10 minutes from beginning to end, and that was with no real knowledge of what my options on this new machine were.

If they can't even make it easy for me to buy one of their machines, how can I trust that the quality of any of the experience after I've given them money will be any better?

To be fair, this has nothing to do with Ubuntu. Lord knows I've heard people swear upside down and backwards that it's sooooo close now to being perfect. Of course these people tend to be long time Linux users already, but I digress...

But I am willing to try! Someone wanna order a decent machine for me? ;)


I'm glad you're considering it - you're the person who convinced me to switch to Apple in the first place. I'm in "transition" from OS X to Ubuntu (running both on my Powerbook right now, though Linux on x86 is still far superior than on PPC, mainly because of hardware support).

Apple isn't the "cool, revolutionary" company that lots seem to think they are - they just are really good at making kick-ass hardware and software and marketing it. They're still nothing more than a corporate behemoth, though.

The machine I'm looking at is the Dell XPS. The specs are great, the nvidia card and intel wifi chipset work fine in Linux, you can get 12" or 17" (or 20"+ if you're on crack) and Dell has started to be pretty good about supporting Linux.

If you want to go high end, take a look at Alienware (owned by Dell) or VoodooPC. In terms of hardware and quality, they're pretty much the only machines I've used that come close to matching Apple.

The main reasons I'm leaving Apple are philosophical; I find it pretty ridiculous to listen to people pontificating about the benefits of open-source from behind their Powerbooks - I'm no exception of course. Linux is also very "cool", and almost all of the apps I've been getting used to in OS X exist many times over in Linux (though not as polished). I'm even going to replace the ole 'pod with an Archos Linux media thingy.

Ubuntu 6 is a great distro - even on my powerbook. Why not just set up your Mac as a dual-boot machine so that you can at least try out Linux and see if you like it before splurging for a whole new machine?

2- Danny Silverman

Dude, just install it on your Mac. I used Ubuntu's PPC version a year back to recover all of my data off a PowerBook hard drive that Disk Utility told me was unrecoverable. And there is a Live CD. Easy as pie. I think you'll find you're happier with the Mac anyway (or at least that's what I've found).

As crazy as this sounds....

one of the main features I love on OS X is the rendering of fonts. I know this is soooooo trivial but in all the screenshots i've seen of Ubuntu, the fonts look like Windows, and cheap.

Can you anti-alias screen fonts...


the old designer in me rears it's ugly head.

No no Warren, you raise a totally fair point. There is a segment of the market, myself included, who definitely pay attention to this, and that segment has always been one of Apple's strongholds: designers, mainly visual, with attention to details such as this.

The average user doesn't notice at all and wouldn't even know how to answer this, and the average Linux geek would rebuff you with "who cares about font anti-aliasing!?"

So, yeah a valid question: system-wide font anti-aliasing. Steven? Danny? Anyone? What's the story?

Regarding why I don't do dual boot:
1- I have *maybe* 4Gig to spare on my HD right now.
2- I have NO interest in chancing my unique production machine just to "try out Ubuntu"
3- booting in and out of OS's is not realistic for me. I have 5 minute windows of play time when i am waiting for an email or a reply or some such, with all kinds of projects open etc.. last thing I am going to do is shut everything down to go see how "task X" would be accomplished in Ubuntu.
4- cost is not really an issue. if I am going to try this, I am going to really try it. doesn't mean I'll get the craziest system out there, but it does mean I can go and actually buy a computer just for this purpose. (that's what we make money for, people: to spend it, hopefully in some fun productive way.)

I will probably upgrade by Powerbook on the next gen of Macbook Pros for the dual boot, mainly for two reasons....

1. to test websites my team develops in Win XP / Vista so that I know it works for the majority of site users. I always find myself saying to my team "have you checked your work in IE6?". As much as I hate that browser, it is the standard beast.

2. Oh, and to play games. For example. I am a SimCity fanatic, but it plays so much better on an older PC, with a weaker video card than my PowerBook.

but i know I also have very specific needs.

I can see why for someone like Cory Doctorow, or the other Umbutu converts, it's a reasonable decision.

Switching for which benefits?

When Mark (aka rant) Pilgrim switched to Ubuntu, it was not because of the OS nor exactly the applications. It's all about the format of your data. How to be sure that your data will still be usable in 10 years from now.

This document we have written 10 years ago:
is it still readable now?
will it be readable in 10 years?
do I *really* have to read it in 10 years? (and in this case why do I keep it?)

I have stopped using Office Word for *my* own document in 1996 when I quit the first Web company, I have worked in. I had switched to HTML or email *text*. I have stopped to accept Office documents from people 6 years ago, which led to some funny and disrespectful nicknames. Looking back, I'm so happy to have done it.

Guess what I'm doing with so called web 2.0 services these days, which are leading me to some similar nicknames.

Open format specifications for data is a must. I don't really care if the software I'm using is opensource or not. It has benefits if it's open source, but the most important is open format.

The second debate is about what kind of open formats. But that will be too long for here.

So my question is all the data you are producing on your machine, are they locked-in. For those who are because of a close format and/or applications, is there an application that you can use on the macintosh, which is more respectful of your data (extension of you).

Example: I'm using VLC and not the Apple DVD player.
I'm using Apple Mail and its weird format… BUT in imap, which is accessible from any IMAP clients. and yes I'm not a designer, but I care for the anti-aliasing on the screen.


"I have stopped to accept Office documents from people 6 years ago"

do you have an other alternative? I would like to do this, but I even have trouble with Visio and Project files, more than Word.

Hi Warren,

There are many alternatives, it really depends on your needs and what you are ready to fight for, to win AND loose.

My first beloved format is text only in an email, not even HTML email, no style, plain information, some text markers and text structure to convey the semantics. (era of wiki editing, markdown, textile, ReST are other possibilities but too geeky for most people)

HTML is a wonderful gem. People don't see how much HTML has helped to change the world. There are zillions of tools, there are many ways of creating HTML documents which are self contained, it's easy to read, to style, to convert, to grab the information. If I want to create a document which is more sophisticated I do it in HTML and put it on a server. There are even tools to edit the same HTML with more than one person at the same time: SubEthaEdit for example.

Again, the question to ask yourself first, and when people are grmmbling is more on the side of: "What do you really need in Office Word to get your job done?"
I would be careful if the person tells me and I can't do other way than that.

I have never used Visio and Project. So, I can't help you here, though… project management is a workflow process and it's what I do every day for the last 6 years using mail, Web, action items, etc and sometimes IRC with people in different timezones, using different tools, that I don't know and don't want to know.

But it's a good comment that illustrates exactly my point if you start to think in terms of product/brand more than tasks/jobs etc. You got a problem.


i'm with you on what i need to work with.

I like plain text, and simple HTML....the problem is not me, but the multiple formats that clients love to send me.

I wish, in a real world example that they would only send me text / rtf / html / xml file. But they don't.

So, i would would love to go completely Ubuntu but i feel even as a Mac user that I have to stuggle every day to "keep up with the Jones'"

let alone going yet another level into "indie"...i love indie...but it doesn't seem realistic.

First, I do *not want* to switch to Ubuntu. That's exactly the opposite point I'm making ;)

HTML is not indie, it's a realistic choice. And I don't know what indie is. Wikipedia: [The term indie is short for "independent" and refers to artistic creations outside the commercial mainstream, without the support of a major record label, major movie studio, or other source of a large budget.]
Then I'm not indie at all.

I'm living in the real world with real people around in a real job with different cultures (Here come a possible long chapter of work choices)

About your clients, that you qualify as real business context, and that I would qualify as a different cultural context. It's no different. (not to make my point stronger, but I have worked in Web design agencies too, and I never wore a business suit, nor a tie, even in clients meetings and I have received word files too, but I digress.)

You illustrate the points of being a mac user and the difficulty which comes with it. What's behind what you are saying is "I need a steak in my plate". Aka I need to make a living of my business, to have clients who pay, to give what clients want, to make my business relationship smooth, etc, etc. Let's stay concrete, very concrete, until where are you ready to go to get a contract and work with a specific client. I said it at the start, what are you ready to win AND loose. I'm not talking about right choices, purity, etc. I'm talking about plain benefits.

Is it realistic to sleep with the client? (some will do) Is it realistic to pay the dinner, play golf, give personal gifts with/to the client? (some will do) etc, etc.
Is it realistic to say, "hmmm could you send me what you just said over the phone in an email to have a written record?"

I'm not saying you have to give up Visio/Project, I'm saying what are your needs and benefits? If there are things from your business you still need to open in 5 years and 10 years, I say be careful to the format.

For you own private life, it's another story.

So yes it's realistic depending on your needs and your context. Do not say "no, I don't want this", BUT more "can you send me this, that format or this way", "please, select all, copy and paste the text in an email and click send".

Often, we say "it's not realistic" a priori without trying, because we don't think it's possible to change. aaah. choices, choices, choices.

Choices are exactly it. We all make choices on how we choose to deal with clients.

I'm not complaining about mine, in fact I'm very satisfied with the way we manage, work with and take care of projects.

To me, All that matters is that all parties involved feel satisified.

Just to clarify, the MacBook that was purchased so easily will have Ubuntu installed on it, and if my resolution (personal not screen) holds up Ubuntu will be the primary installation with Mac second and maybe a depressing Windoze third (for IE checking as mentioned earlier).

Karl, I am with you. Formats aren't open until they're immediately obvious to any computer. TXT for the win.