I spent close to six months trying to make it work, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The final straw came when the built-in keyboard failed; every time I pressed a button, the whole system would crash. I tried to find solutions online, but they all involved downloading unknown binaries and running risky commands. After following the advice, my nVidia card stopped working, but at least the keyboard was fixed… or so I thought.

I’m done with constantly fixing one issue after another. While Linux is cool, I need to focus on getting work done, not constantly setting up my workspace. I’ve tried this experiment before and it went on for years, so I’m glad I was able to cut my losses early.

Now, I have high hopes for the 2020 M1-based 13” MacBook Pro.

What Didn’t Work

  • Keyboard layouts were a struggle. I tried to get it as close as possible to the convenience and reliability of the OS X “Command” button, but it just wasn’t possible. Switching back and forth between different layouts multiple times a day was affecting my performance.
  • Intellij IDEA’s shortcuts were a mess. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t make them work effectively.
  • Basic office productivity apps, such as Contacts and Calendar, were non-existent in the Linux world.
  • I liked the choice of window managers and low-level system tools, but as soon as I thought I had everything set up, another bug or issue would arise, demanding my attention.
  • Lack of higher quality software was a major drawback. Simple tasks, like editing a PDF or image, were difficult.
  • Bluetooth was unreliable and would disconnect at random times.
  • Sleep mode wasn’t working properly and the laptop would restart after waking up.
  • External display would stop working randomly.
  • The meta-key in i3wm would stop working randomly.
  • Pressing the Fn key would sometimes reboot the laptop.
  • No automatic updates.
  • Multiple visual and rendering issues.
  • Intellij IDEA was incredibly slow to open, especially on the first start.
  • The AMD 5900HX performance was okay, but it didn’t “wow” me as I expected.
  • Making the system truly secure was much more difficult than on a Mac. Linux is better for protecting against government attacks, but Mac is better for protecting against everyday bad actors.

What Worked

  • The tiling window manager i3 was amazing! It would have been perfect if it had proper layout support.
  • The system was snappy and apps responded quickly.
  • Good typography on the 4K display was a pleasant surprise.
  • Owning the system and understanding how it worked, especially after de-bloating Ubuntu, was fulfilling.
  • The “geek factor” was a definite plus.

What I Learned

  • The importance of not relying on walled gardens from large companies like Apple and Google.
  • The benefits of using open-source tools that support end-to-end encryption.
  • How to get rid of trackers and use Pi-hole to protect my privacy.
  • More about DNS-based tracking and how to avoid it.
  • The different Chromium browsers and how to make them secure.

Returning to Mac

I’m writing this on my MacBook and it feels fantastic! It’s exactly what I’ve been missing: it just works. I’ve been wondering why Linux can’t achieve this after all these years. I believe it comes down to the difference between a company run by engineers (like all the open-source contributors) versus a company run by product-focused individuals (like Apple).

Ultimately, it’s about weighing the trade-off between security and the various comfort, convenience, and productivity features you’re willing to sacrifice.