Exactly one year ago, I got fed up with the Mac, decided that I didn’t want to be a Mac user anymore, and switched to Linux. The distro I chose was Xubuntu, and I’ve stuck with it.
Ironically, you know what else I’ve ended up sticking with? Apple products, and particularly, the same 15” Macbook Pro I’d decided to give up using.
My Xubuntu box is now a server that I still use for nearly everything, but I do it remotely from my Apple devices, which serve as thin clients.
My setup consists of:
- Xubuntu desktop
- 2010 15” Macbook Pro, whose hard drive I replaced with an SSD
- iPhone 5
- iPad Air
The Xubuntu box still runs a desktop, but there’s no monitor connected. I use the xorg dummy driver to trick the system into booting with a desktop, otherwise it would realize there’s no display connected and not bother with one. I can VNC into this desktop from my MBP or my iPad.
In most cases, though, VNC is heavy and unnecessary. Thanks to the rigorous training at my new job, I now prefer to do everything I possibly can at the command line, whether it’s in Linux or in OSX.
I have SSH keys set up so that my iPhone, iPad, and MBP can SSH into the box easily. For the iOS devices, I use the iSSH app to do so. On the MBP, I have an alias set up so that I just type “linuxbox” and it automatically runs the SSH command, with the proper alternate port that I use and everything.
I use Namecheap dynamic DNS, combined with port forwarding on my router (Apple Airport Base Station) to allow me to SSH into my Xubuntu box from anywhere, without knowing my home network’s public IP.
When I SSH in, I can resume whatever I was doing previously on any device. I use vim and tmux together as my IDE, where tmux allows me to split one SSH connection into multiple terminal sessions. All I have to do is type “tmux attach” and I get back a tabbed multi-terminal environment with everything I was already working on.
I have a simple FTP server running on the Xubuntu box that shares my filesystem locally, including video content. I use OPlayer on my iPad to watch videos that reside on the Xubuntu box, as it allows you to use FTP as a streaming source.
I don’t even bother using Banshee or any kind of graphical music player/organizer anymore. I now use Beets, a CLI music organizer, combined with my own personal scripts, to sync music to my USB flash drive seamlessly for listening in the car.
So what do I use my Mac for?
- browsing in Chrome
- iMessage (all my friends that I text regularly have iPhones)
- graphics editing (with Pixelmator)
- MS Office for Mac
- Sequel Pro (the best free mySQL GUI out there)
- Transmit (to mount the Xubuntu box’s filesystem locally on the MBP)
Just running the Mac versions of proprietary software is much smoother and easier than trying to get Windows versions running in WINE. But I don’t have to sacrifice any of the power or freedom that Linux provides, either. I’m getting the best of both worlds.