Linux vs. OS X on Mac Mini

December 22, 2005

A Mac Mini does not only look cool, it is also very, very quiet and therefore, recently I got one :) So far it works pretty well and I like it.

However, my opinion of OS X changes over time: When I don't use it or see somebody else working with it, I like thinking of the "eye candy" user interface and the easiness of usage. Most of the stuff in there "just works". And, thanks to fink and other extensions, the underlying UNIX (named Darwin) is quite mighty, too. No clicking around in the GUI if you want to grep for something in a couple of code files somewhere. And it does not only work, it also looks good at doing that. In other words: OS X is fun.

Most of the time. <!--more--> When it comes to details, it can become pretty annoying. Everytime I use it, I almost break my fingers using the totally unintuitive keyboard shortcuts that usually involve pressing shift, apple and some character that has nothing to do at all with the name of the function that is actually executed. What also drives me nuts is that weird spinning beach ball that appears when I do some sort of operation like accessing a network device that is currently unavailable in the OS X finder. It stops every single finder window (and some of the other applications, too) until the network device responds?!

Not to mention the response speed: I consider 1.5 GHz and half a gigabyte of RAM at least enough to have three applications open at a time. When I open another Firefox tab, though, everything apparently starts to be swapped to the hard drive. Hello? Where has all my memory gone?

To cut a long story short, just as much as the Mac Mini (the hardware) itself is what I was looking for: small, quiet, yet enough hard drive space and wireless as well as wired connections... as much the operating system keeps annoying me.

I have no problem with a GUI that "just works" (as opposed to Linus Torvalds ;) ), but I want it to be at least quick enough for me not to fall asleep when doing something "usual".

Therefore I decided to give Linux on PPC a shot (the "Ubuntu for PPC" CD I picked up two weeks ago in Portland seems to be predestinated for that). It will be a dual-boot installation (just as with Windows on any of my other machines back home). The biggest problem that used to be there was that the Airport Extreme WiFi card was not supported at all on Linux. Big problem, as I use WiFi exclusively in my apartment. But this problem got solved just two weeks ago, too.

Another option would be to give Gentoo Linux a try, especially because a few of my colleagues would probably help if I asked them about it. On the other hand, the Mac is still not the fastest machine and I am not quite sure if I want to compile all of my stuff myself... you know: ("Ubuntu is an ancient African word and it means I'm sick of compiling Gentoo" - Jeff Waugh ;) )

I will let you know about how much progress I've made.

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