Thursday, March 28, 2013

How I Use Linux

What's with all the hostility to Linux on PowerPC? If you've read certain forums or blogs you've probably come across it. Not just, "Linux isn't for me," but attacking Linux as bad for everyone and warning people not to do it. Among those attacks are common complaints like there's no flash, the UI is boring, the hardware is unsupported, etc. First, flash's performance sucks. You can get way more mileage streaming through Mplayer or VLC. Second, the UI is whatever you choose. And third, I don't remember the worldwide sturm und drang when people put out HowTos on how to install Tiger on unsupported hardware with XPostFacto or Leopard with LeopardAssist.

The fact is Linux is not OS X. And OS X is not Linux. One does some things better than the other and vice versa. I run a mixed environment. I have a desktop that primarily runs OS X and a laptop that primarily runs Debian Linux. So I thought I'd compare the two and show you the ways which Linux has helped me.

On OS X my most used applications are TenFourFox, iText Express, iTunes, Mplayer, MacTubes, and Transmission (it's always on in the background. I'm on a private tracker). Incidentally, all of those applications have identical or very-close-to-it counterparts on Linux. I also commonly use Cyberduck, ToyViewer, GIMP, SABnzbd, TenFourKit, and GarageBand. But sometimes it's not enough. One limitation I have is I don't have a widescreen monitor, so it's difficult to play video and do other work simultaneously. That's where my Linux laptop comes in. I use it for streaming media, Youtube, etc., and it has its own dedicated processor so my desktop's doesn't get bogged down playing a webisode of The Guild. It also has Pithos, which is unavailable for OS X, that streams Pandora radio.

Another thing I turn to Linux for is LibreOffice. LibreOffice on OS X is too dog slow (and the Tiger version has monospace font issues Bug fixed), but on Linux it feels almost like a lightweight word processor.

Lately I've been getting my feet wet with music production and trying software synths like Yoshimi and Phasex, and sequencers like LMMS and Qtractor. Some Linux DAWs and synths are more polished than others, but the range of choice is amazing. And as far as music playback goes, I love Audacious's xmms interface and hate that there's nothing like it on OS X.

My point is, nobody who says Linux will be bad for you is making a definitive statement, 'cause I'm right here and Linux for me is working nicely. Here are a few screenshots taken with Shutter (a Linux Skitch replacement now that Evernote has destroyed the original). I find the dark theme much easier on my eyes.

Pithos on Debian

Mplayer and Youtube on Debian

I had to use -vo x11 to capture the Mplayer video, 'cause with the xv default it showed up as a transparent window.

JACK and Phasex on Debian

Openbox menu on Debian


  1. Another excellent post from the Luddite.

    The hostility to Linux from the OS X crowd, particularly the lowenders has long puzzled me as well. I think to some extent its an extension of the totalitarian kool-aid that Apple sold for so long, if you buy into it, nothing else, especially not something that has a PENGUIN as its mascot, can possibly compare. The more ardent the hatin', the more kool-aid has been drunk.

    And, Linux does not hand hold. Linux does not give you fancy GUI installers (for the most part). And so on and so forth. Its probably always going to be this way, just as Yankees fans will always hate the Mets, just as Newcastle and Sunderland fans will kill each other if the police let them.

    Also, thanks for your help, I think I've narrowed down my issues to pulse audio, the lovely little app that it is.

  2. Well, to offer a counterpoint, I think the Linux dislike is pretty much across the board. Linux on the desktop is a train wreck. Sure, some people dig it and get a lot of it. Cool for them. But for most, hardware issues, software glitches, community splintering, and lack of overall vision have just hampered it. We are still waiting for the Year of Linux on the Desktop.

    I love the open source process - it's pretty damn important and offers a ton of potential. TenFourFox is an amazing project and is an example of open source software at its finest. Linux has yet to reach that potential, even though Ubuntu is by far the most compelling distribution that seeks to provide that comprehensive vision and direction.

    Every time I've tried any form of Linux on my MBP or a G4, ultimately, there is no reason for me to boot into it. It wasn't faster than Leopard. TenFourFox and Webkit-Leopard were faster web browsers. Pages '09 is lightyears advanced to LibreOffice. There weren't any games to play that might entice me. It wasn't more stable than Leopard. It didn't look as good as Leopard. There weren't any better apps than the ones I use for content creation (Pixelmator, Rapidweaver, Final Cut Pro, Garageband, etc.). It wasn't as easy to install as Leopard. You add this stuff up, and the equation is pretty simple.

    Hey, it works for you. Way cool. And let's be glad there are people maintaining it as an option. As a server OS, it works well for me too. But let's not think people just hate of it because they are dumb or have drunk the Apple koolaid. Maybe, just maybe, they don't like it cause it's not as good.

  3. I installed Ubuntu on my G5 and it ran pretty well. The deal breaker for me is that I can't use Dropbox. I don't have a workaround for that. Ubuntu and Mint seem to be the two versions of Linux that feel like real OSes. I use CrunchBang on my old ThinkPad and it's the most stable Linux distro I've ever run across.

    I like Linux and I've used it on the PC since the Slackware days. I've installed it on a couple of Macs now. Yes, it's not the same as Leopard or Tiger. On the other hand, Linux on PPC is still supported and updated. Apple has a history of making perfectly good hardware obsolete. (And let's talk about the insistence that I upgrade from Tiger to run a version of itunes that will let me sync my iphone. Yet I can sync the iphone on a PC running XP! That makes no sense to me.) In the end, people use whatever feels comfortable to them. I'd bet if the folks developing apps for Linux had the same sort of corporate structure and income as the companies that developed the software above, they'd be every bit as successful.