The Random Thoughts of a Tea Drinker.

The thoughts about life, the universe and some things geek by a Christian sort of geek

Apple or GNU/Linux

Posted by james4tea on July 17, 2009

I normally use GNU/Linux because it is far far better than MS windows. Recently though I bought a MacBook Pro 13.3″. Because of the work I do, I have to use Adobe CS4, for the time being anyway, so it was either use MS Windows or Apple OSX. Really this is a no-brainer, and I went for the model above. I up graded the RAM memory to 4 gig in preparation for Snow Leopard. I have been using this for about a month, so I thought I’d give a brief comparison of the two.

The Apple

The hardware is as standard except for more ram. OSX is fully updated with added software of my choosing. Thunderbird for email, Nambu for twitter and, Firefox for browsing, Vienna for rss, cyberduck for ftp and sftp, Adium for IMing, Ecto for blogging, Lyx for writing (also use openoffice) and MaxSword for Bible study. There are a few others but these are the main ones.


The battery life is nothing short of brilliant. Up to 7 hours, haven’t tested to 7 hours though, just says so in the battery monitor. It has gone for more than 3 hours watching a DVD (Star Wars) which is pretty impressive. The screen is LCD lit so is good, clear and bright, but does suffer a little from reflection but you get used to it. The key board is good to. It reminds me of the square tablets with letters on that you use for playing Scrabble. Back lit keys are really useful. The only problem with the keyboard is that I ordered a UK spec machine and the “@” symbol is swapped with the ” ” ” symbol like the US model. Apple do have these annoying quirks. The track pad is good to. On to the software. It all just works. The only thing I had to do was to download a plugin so I can sync my Nokia E71 phone. Some of the security setups can be a bit of a pain. I use 3 login (user) accounts, admin, mine and guest. I use admin purely for doing updates and admin things. I use my user account for doing everyday stuff, and guest for trying out new software, so it dont effect the machine if it goes wrong. Some software has to be installed in admin account otherwise you cant update it, all the permissions are wrong like CS4.


The hardware is a Lenovo Thinkpad R61 with 4 gig RAM. It is similar in many ways to the spec of the apple. The screen in 14.1″ TFT but is good and clear. The keyboard is one of the best I’ve used, light and responsive with a definite feel, better than the Mac, I think. The track pad is small compared with the Mac so I use a wireless mouse. Battery life is two and a half hours max, but that is with a high workload. On to the software. Here I use different “distros” or flavours for different tasks. I run Debian Lenny “stable” as a production desktop. Sidux as a personal desktop, to test things I might want to put on Lenny, like Gwibber (a twitter client), and other such things. I have space for three more distros which will be Fedora 11, CrunchBang, and a version of slackware like Kongoni. All these are 64 bit systems. All the software running on Debian just works. No problems no mess, it just works. The only thing I find with Linux is that sometimes I have to hook the laptop to the router physically to download the wireless network card drivers. I also run Virtualbox on Linux in which I run windows, which to my amazement runs quicker that natively installed. I also try out other systems in Virtualbox like Openbsd.


I have an Epsom printer that works on both. A Wacom tablet that worked “out of the box” on GNU/Linux, but had to install the driver for the Mac. The Canon scanner (4400f) was a pain on both the Mac and GNU/Linux. It now works with the Mac, but its a no-go with GNU/Linux. I will not buy a Canon product again until they become a more caring company, not just to GNU/Linux, but the computing community as a whole. They don’t support GNU/Linux at all. Nothing. When queried about updated drivers to fix bugs, one is greeted with a stoney silence. Phewy! They don’t even seem to like to update their driver at all, but I may be wrong, I hope so because they make good products. External hard drives and audio players sync on both with very little set up.

Lasting Impressions.

Writing this has made me thing about both products. The Apple came with everything working, although I had to add and adjust things to get it right for me. The Thinkpad I had to add more and adjust more to get ti right for me. Which do I prefer? I like them both for what they do and for what they give. I am reminded of when cars where built in such a way you could tinker with them and make them unique and yours. The thinkpad is in a way like that. I upped the memory, I put GNU/Linux on it and configured it to work the way I like it. A bit like the Ford Escort MK2 with a new paint job, stereo, seats and a custom center console, a sound solid performer. The Mac is like the Ford Capri Ghia, a little plusher but just as much fun to drive. If I had to choose between the two, it would be a tough call, but at the end of the day, the Thinkpad would just edge it, and I think that mainly on the grounds that it is more adaptable and flexable than the Mac. The Mac after all is proprietary and GNU/Linux isn’t. I can do more with GNU/Linux than I can with a Mac, and that for me says a lot about how far GNU/Linux has come.


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