For most of 2021 I’ve been moving my personal tech back to Apple hardware. This has been met with some major questions in some of the circles I’m in as, for the last 3 years, I’ve been pushing Linux pretty heavily.
This begs the question, will I ever go back to Linux as my daily driver? If so, what would it take to change my mind. If you’re just here for the spoiler, yes, I absolutely would go back to Linux but it’s going to be a while. Here’s why.
Why I moved back to Apple
Before I get deep into what it would take for me to go back to Linux I think I need to first address why I’m moving back to Apple this year.
At the beginning of the year I had been considering what my next machine would be, especially as the new Apple chips really do sound perfect for my needs. I even talked about it in a post asking “Will I Buy an M1 Mac?“
All things considered, I loved the operating system with my Oryx Pro but the hardware and apps left a lot to be desired. I made the choice to try to get away from big tech but, within a year of leaving Apple behind, I quickly found the only way Linux worked for me is if I went deep into Google’s ecosystem. That defeated my purpose and left my data in an even less safe place than it was with Apple.
I spent the next two years trying to make smaller, open solutions work as replacements for big tech and I did come close. In the end, if it was just me, I think I really couldn’t made Linux work permanently but that is not a privilege I have.
The reality of my tech is I don’t support only myself but also my wife, who also works from home, and my parents who, while retired, are very tech dependent in their own right. From sharing photos to helping when something went wrong, the further I got away from Apple and big tech in general, the harder my support duties became.
The current state of Linux can, I believe, best be summed up as Linux is 80% of the way there to replace Apple, Google or other big tech. The problem is, while I could live with that 80% most of the time, my family absolutely could not and the split was making my own life increasingly difficult as time went on.
Even if it wasn’t for those I support, who were already on Apple, I was ready to replace the Linux machine I had. It was only two years old and it worked great but it was just too big for the ways I need to use my computers. I tried to solve that by buying a 2nd machine. This lasted a little while but the 2nd computer died after only 16 months and the repairs were more than the computer was worth. Sure, I could buy another but, when the Asus failed, I really began to rethink my use of Linux as a daily driver.
Finally, while most of what I needed was available on Linux there were just too many little frustrations with the software that, in the end, did me in. As early as last April I wrote about some of these issues and how they already were preventing me from recommending Linux to others. I chugged along with it all but, when a video driver update made my Oryx Pro incompatible with my monitor, it was just time to cut my losses.
What I miss about Linux
Two months after selling my last Linux machine I do miss a lot of it. I miss the speed of using Docker in Linux and just how well thought out Gnome was under Pop!_OS. I miss quality FOSS apps, like Firefox and so many others, that really felt like they were made for the machine rather than being taped on with duct type and super glue.
Frankly, I miss a lot of things.
As a desktop operating system Linux is at least as good as any of the competition and, in so many ways, far better. The UX of Pop!_OS was superior to Mac and the dev tools were easy to find and often much faster on Linux than they were on Mac. It was almost the perfect computer.
What I want in a computer
My issues with Linux stem not from what I could do with the system but, what I couldn’t. I’ve talked about my issues with a family fully into the Apple ecosystem but that isn’t all of it. For me the biggest issue with Linux had to do with how I use any given device.
I’ve never been someone interested in multiple computers or other devices. I want to be able to work with a single machine at any given time, this includes my mobile devices. If I’m on my laptop and I get a phone call or a message I want to get it on my laptop, not dig for my phone. When I pick up my phone it is because I’m leaving the house and it is now my primary connection to any information I may need.
Yes, there are things I can do with a laptop that I cannot with a phone but that’s a good thing. I don’t need to be reviewing code or approving pull requests while I’m walking outside with my wife. I don’t need to be writing code when I pick up my iPad to write a post.
Each device is an extension of my laptop that takes the data I need to places my laptop can’t go. From calls to messages, browsing to maps, I will normally try to work on a laptop first and rely on other devices only when I have to. This is a workflow that simply does not work well outside Apple.
When I first went to Linux I thought I had this with Google but, in the end, the business model of Google means they are even worse stewards of my data than Apple. In addition, with my parents all in on Apple even Google services weren’t as useful in the family, nor as seamless in my workflow, as Apple’s devices.
Will I go back to Linux
I would absolutely love to go back to Linux but, as of today, it isn’t the best fit for me.
To get there I would first need the support burden of supporting my family’s computers to reach what it was when I was on Linux. Right now it is so easy to help my parents or my wife because everything is so standardized with Apple. If it started to fragment that would change the equation significantly. Of course, if I could make other tech as easy to support that would also work but I don’t think that will ever happen.
Second I would need a solution for true phone integration with a Linux laptop or to become comfortable completely changing how I use my devices. If I could get a phone that would pass through calls and messages as seamlessly to a Linux machine as my iPhone does or if I ever got comfortable with keeping multiple devices on me at all times then Linux would work for me. Without that it would be a tough sell.
Finally, to be comfortable going back to Linux I would like to not have to host all the associated services myself. A big draw of Linux is privacy. That quickly falls apart if I’m still using Google or similar services. The alternatives are just too cumbersome for me to want to deal with. A little maintenance here or there is one thing but I was spending more time on services than I was on code, writing and other things. I won’t be going back to that.
It’s not all or nothing
In the end it isn’t all or nothing on any tech. My devices might be all Apple for a while but that’s about where it stops for me. These last few years did help me find numerous services and accessories outside of the big tech companies that help keep myself and my family safe. That is the important part.
As I write this it is just not practical to completely break from big tech and maybe it doesn’t have to be. For now I look forward to having 3 devices (phone, tablet and laptop) that all work together the way I want them to and which all connect to services and accessories that are safer and more independent than they were four years ago. That’s a win regardless of which operating system my laptop runs on.