I’m a longtime MacOS user. I bought my first MacBook in 2006 just after Apple’s Intel transition, a 13.3-inch, white polycarbonate, 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB of RAM machine. It was perfect, and served me for four years.

For me, the transition to MacOS Catalina has been a rough one. Even a fresh install feels rushed and unfinished. This could just be Apple’s Vista moment, however couple this with Apple’s focus on the iOS platform and near-abandonment of power users, I feel less confident in my dependence on the Mac platform.

A while ago, I ended up acquiring a Dell Precision T7610 Workstation featuring dual 10/20 core/thread Intel Xeon E5-2690 V2s clocked at 3.5 GHz and 128 GB of RAM manufactured around 2016. Around the same time, some AMD Vega 64 graphics cards were flooding the market after becoming unprofitable and being dumped by crypto miners. I scooped up two. All in, this machine cost a little over £500, not bad.

The intended use for this machine was to serve as a powerful backend to my development environment, allowing me to carry a lighter machine day-to-day but not give up any productivity. For this purpose it served venerably, particularly with the advent of Visual Studio Code Remote.

Now with the release of Ubuntu 20.04, and given I have little reliance on software that isn’t either cross-platform or browser based, I decided to give using Linux a shot as my daily engineering driver on this machine.

The good:

  • Snap Store: Almost everything I’ve needed to install, from Visual Studio Code to Spotify, as been available in the Ubuntu App Store as a snap.
  • Native Containers: I run development dependencies like databases in Docker containers with Docker for Mac. Docker for Mac is not a lightweight piece of software, and was often the most resource intensive process on my machine. I have switched to running these containers with Podman and systemd, very little overhead.

The bad:

  • Some remaining MacOS applications: I said earlier I had little reliance on MacOS specific applications, there are a few expcetions I am really noticing. Most recently Paw, I have tried to learn Postman which just isn’t as polished, and Sketch, which is very different to the browser-based Figma.
  • No Native Firewall: It is advisable to enable a firewall on any machine, and while Ubuntu does come with ufw, it is noticeably absent from the desktop experience, which feels like a huge oversight.

The ugly:

  • Bluetooth Support: Perhaps I have been unlucky, but almost every Bluetooth dongle I have tried, name-brand or otherwise, crashes or locks up several times throughout the day, rendering my mouse useless. The fix is to disconnect, then reconnect, the dongle, afterwhich is picks up where it left off. I will continue to try devices until I find one with a reliable chipset.

Overall my Linux experience has been uneventful. Now I don’t think this is indicative of “The Year Of The Linux Desktop”, it shows more how software development has changed to be web centric. Almost everything I use day-to-day ultimately runs in a web browser one way or another.

I am not giving up MacOS entirely, I will be keeping my 2018 MacBook Pro 13-inch for multimedia, “soft” tasks and travel.