Friday, 8 March 2013

Being an OS tart ...

There's a bit of a meme going around about why people choose or advocate particular operating systems or desktop environments, and indeed why Linux on the desktop never made it out of sandal -land. Here's my story.

In the beginning I was a command line person. It's an age thing.

MS-DOS, VMS, VM/CMS, Unix, even George3. And for around ten years my life revolved around getting MSDOS systems to play nicely with VMS and Unix systems, including exchanging files, mounting disks and booting from them.

The other things I used to do was convert files from one format to another, At the same time we used wordperfect at work which had a common file format between Windows (DOS really in the early days), VMS (multi-user version) and the Mac – not quite you had to do a magic import, which meant that you could write a file on Windows, upload it to VMS, work on it some more, convert ito the Mac version, work on it even more, and then upload it back to VMS to print it. (There ws a Solaris version and an java version as well at one stage, but I never played seriously with them)

So, despite using windows at work, at home I had a Mac. First a classic which was stolen, and latterly an LCii. The reason being that I've always been interested in writing as a recreational activity. In the nineteenth century I'd have been a diarist.

Both provided a superb writing environment and I had a lot of fun with modems and the internet in the early, pre www days.

But then Apple fell into a deep hole, and I bought a PC for home, and started using Star Office for writing. I even bought a support license from the rather wierdly named Star Division before they sold it to Sun.

And for quite a few years I used a pc at home and a pc at work.

Then I found myself managing a web migration project, taking content from a classic hand built website to a CMS based solution. And I ended up using a desktop linux machine (using College Linux) purely because it was infinitely easier to script content conversions and build test environments.

It was also a lot easier to do a lot of the solaris management I was doing from Linux than from a PC.

Then I moved and they put a Mac laptop on my desk, and I discovered that Apple had climbed out of the deep hole and OS X was pretty good.

At the same time I started building virtual machines, and having a couple of virtual linux boxes (and an open solaris virtual box) on my Mac, such that I didn't need extra machines round the place.

I was so impressed with the Mac that I ditched my old Windows laptop and bought an iMac for home. At the time most of my time at home was being spent on the web and in Google Docs or Open Office, so when J needed to spend a lot of time using the iMac in the evening I moved over to using an old PowerPc iMac I'd installed Xubuntu on.

And that worked well for a couple of years until I found that I couldn't take the Mac any further, so I bought myself a Windows 7 laptop and was pleasantly surprised as quite how much better 7 was compared to XP – somehow I just missed the whole Vista thing.

And that's more or less where we are today. A mac and a Linux laptop on my desk at work – and a pc and mac at home, plus a an old Linux travel netbook and a slightly newer windows netbook, and a couple of tablet computers.

The thing is they're tools to get things done. If you spend a lot of time inside Chrome or on Libre Office there's precious little difference between Linux, OS X and Windows, and in fact I push files between all three via Dropbox all the time

The real discriminants are:

  • Linux doesn't have a native evernote client and this does limit its usefulness
  • Linux is much better for 'play' experiments.
  • Kate is still my editor of choice
  • OS X is stable and now has a decent Libre Office implementation
  • Text Wrangler is a pretty good editor and comes a close second to Kate
  • Windows, well it has some nice applications, but really I just use it for web productivity

So there we have it, OS X and Linux for productivity and Windows as an enabler. Probably if I had to lose one out of the equation it would be Windows, and if I could only keep one it would be OS X.

As always your mileage may vary. We all do different jobs and work in different ways.

No comments: