Hello Again – Or Back to the Mac after a Linux Attack

So this is my third blog post today. Huh. Something of a record. Mainly trying to test out posting in Markdown instead of using that God-awful Gutenberg. I’m trying to learn to love it, or at least tolerate it, but it is a struggle.

Just wanted to recount my recent adventures in using this aging MacBook Air with Linux instead of OS X for a couple months earlier this year. TLDR: I tried it, it was okay. I am back to using OS X.

For those more interested, here is a longer version. This laptop is a ten year old MacBook Air that has worked admirably. However, it no longer get software updates from Apple and it is stuck on High Sierra, which I think came out over 4 years ago now. No Mac OS X security updates; no Safari updates (not that I used that browser very much) and more importantly to me, no more Homebrew updates soon. I decided to try installing Ubuntu 20.04 on this machine back in February. It worked, but it was kind of pokey slow and was not the upgrade I was looking for. So I decided to give mxLinux a spin on this computer and I was pleasantly surprised. It ran well, I was able to install everything I needed and get updates on a regular basis. I know Debian well, and this distro had all that plus a bit extra tooling that I liked. I installed mxLinux in late February and used it for two and a half months.

So what happened? A few things :) – First and foremost, I borked the boot process one day when I overwrote my GRUB settings during an apt-get session. While I could have struggled through this issue and figured out how to fix the GRUB boot process and gotten back into mxLinux, I started thinking about some other issues that gave me pause. A couple things really stood out to me.

  • First, one of my biggest problems was the trackpad sensitivity and settings. Using mxLinux was frustrating me for weeks. Everytime I tried to type something, the heel of my hand inevitably would brush the trackpad, sending the mouse pointer into frenzies across the screen. I would lose my focus, or click away to another application. It was frustrating. I figured out a setting to disable the trackpad while I was typing, but then trying to use both trackpad and keyboard (like web browsing and scrolling through a page, filling in a form) became a slow… motion… pain… in… the… butt. Waiting a second or two everytime I switch between the two input modes slowly grew excruciating. But I could live with it.
  • Second was the realization that my battery life on Linux was just terrible. I just took the time and effort last fall to replace the battery in this laptop, and using OS X I got 3 – 4+ hours on a charge, using the computer almost constantly with either video or music playing in the background. Under Linux, I was lucky to get 2 hours out of the battery. Worse, the battery percentage was completely off kilter. It would say 62% charge remaining, then just completely die 3 minutes later. Not cool bro.
  • Lastly, I have to honestly say I missed some of the benefits of the Apple ecosystem. Turns out I like being able to take a Facetime on my computer instead of my iPhone. Managing the Apple family plan was easier on a computer instead of my iPhone too. Huh.

So I am back in the Apple fold for now. It was pretty easy to restore everything back to where I was in February. Thank you Time Machine. Only took about two hours to put everything back in place and get back to where I was on February 8, 2021. I got a lot of apps furiously updating themselves right now. Looking at you Firefox, and you VS Code, and you Kindle, and you WhatsApp desktop, and you Dropbox, and you Teams. Just not you Safari :)