It’s hard not to notice MIcrosoft’s new add push against Apple. The punchline is that buying a “PC” (the ads never mention Windows, oddly enough) tends to give a consumer more choice and better value compared to buying a Mac.
As a longtime Mac user, I tend to agree. Except the logical extension to the argument is to point out that Windows isn’t the only non-Mac OS in town, and that Linux-based alternatives such as Ubuntu offer the same value proposition: more choice and better value (not to mention “free’).
So it’s with that thinking in mind that I finally bought a new laptop after casually looking around for something to replace my aging Mac iBook G4. I wanted a machine with the following characteristics:
- good battery life
- good screen
- excellent keyboard (since I intend to use it for writing and notetaking)
- light weight
- decent performance
I seriously considered one of the recent larger netbooks, but ultimately went with a Thinkpad X61s. I got a refurbished model for less than $700 direct from Lenovo, complete with 3 GB of RAM, a 9-cell battery, and a free bag.
Is it quite as elegant from a design standpoint as a Mac alternative? Not in the least! But despite being last year’s model, it’s really fast, it’s really light, it has very good battery life (haven’t really tested it, but I expect to get over four hours of real use out of it), and a great keyboard and screen. It’s also really nicely built.
So what about the OS? Some version of Linux was clear (I did boot into Vista at first in order to prepare the USB boot image, but subsequently wiped it out completely; good riddance), but which one? I started out with Arch, but gave up when I couldn’t establish a network connection to finish the basic installation. I then moved over to Ubuntu, which installed and configured without a hitch; everything simply worked: wireless network connection, suspend and wake, etc., etc.
But one thing I really like about Mac OS X is the design aesthetics. There’s something nice about working in a beautiful environment. Sadly, Ubuntu is not that for me. But xubuntu, on the other hand, is right up my alley! So a quick addition of the xubuntu packages and I’m happy.
The only thing that makes me a little hesitant to do a wholesale switch off of the Mac OS is it’s superior support in the image editing arena. If and when GIMP catches up to the ease-of-use and resolution-independent editing of Lightroom and Aperture, that will probably be it for me.