My thoughts on macOS vs Linux

Small essay with thoughts on macOS vs. Linux:

I know @Exadra37 is just waiting around the corner to scream at me “I TOLD YOU SO!!!” but I started getting weary of the Mac ecosystem as well.

I like the displays, a lot, and that will not change. I like how snappy the machines are (usually) and I know for a fact that I will buy second generation MacBook Pro M1. They are the uncontested kings of the laptop market today. Battery life is out of this world, performance too, and the damned things almost never turn on their fans to audible levels! I can’t say no to that.

All of that is true and I am not seeing any other company doing anything even remotely good as Apple on these fronts.

BUT… and that’s not a small “but”, sadly… they started to diverge from their UNIX roots too much, to the point that you need scripts and specialized knowledge for both macOS and Linux now, and I don’t like it. Using homebrew commands and various other trickery you can make macOS be very close to Linux… but I am paid to work on apps, not chase a constantly moving target. Maybe I am getting old but I am getting sick of that treadmill.

Don’t get me wrong, Apple are IMO generally on the right path (even software-wise, and here’s where many people would loudly disagree with me) – but they started slipping. Also that thing with hashing every single program you run and sending it to their servers – I don’t like it. I know it’s made with security in mind but they are a corporation and I am sure they got tempted to monetize that info already.

What actually started making me consider going to Linux was the awfully bad market of browser extensions and apps on macOS – everything remotely good is paid and I am sick of it; having a macOS machine is like buying a game which is then also filled with micro-transactions. :frowning: (To be fair though, Linux has the opposite problem; if you have even slightly exotic needs then you have to download some obscure GitHub repo, build the thing yourself and then it doesn’t work 50% of the time… There’s no clear winner between macOS and Linux here.) People are just not that incentivized to create when you have long and tedious (and easily flagging you as a threat) approval processes, it seems. Again, might be good for security but also introduces a singular gatekeeper and I think 2020 has been eye-opening about how unscrupulously the gatekeepers exercise their power.

Thoughts on Linux desktop today.

I am really torn lately, especially after spending some time with my loved new home server (on Manjaro) and got reminded how (mostly) easy Linux is and how insanely fast and lightweight it is. I miss that in my machines!

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. X11 (the windowing system of most Linuxes) is a legacy mess where security is an afterthought and simply does not exist. If you install Chrome on Linux, your privacy and security are gone the same instant – stealing info from the clipboard and the screen is a child’s play on Linux. Let’s not mention recording your key presses. And let’s also not mention that it’s relatively trivial to bypass a lock screen… And Wayland (the other competing thing) isn’t much better; I heard it improves things somewhat but it too quickly devolved into a desperate effort to support anything and everything under the sun and is now a new brand of Frankenstein’s monster, just like X11.

I know people like @OvermindDL1 would jump in defense and say that you can make it work but he’s a special breed who can configure these things while he is making his morning coffee while we would still be fine-tuning the thing 3 months later and not have gotten it right. Let’s be real at least. :laughing:

What I want to use from now on and in the future

The solution I am gravitating towards is: have a Mac machine but mostly do your professional work in a headless Linux workstation.

Macs are still very user friendly, still easy to use, still with gorgeous displays and their deteriorating software is still working quite okay. But working on a Mac and deploying to Linux for staging and production is becoming more and more of a chore with time (at least for me).

And, if your Linux workstation is headless, you dodge all (or most? @Exadra37, what do you think?) the security problems with X11 and Wayland in one fell swoop.

So for 2021 – or maybe 2022; I am not in a rush – I plan to start gathering money for an AMD Threadripper Pro workstation (likely the 3975WX Pro in particular) and swallow the fact they are usually OEM machines with very little customizations possible. Or maybe I’ll just build a last-gen Threadripper 2950x workstation – even with 128GB of ECC RAM and a 4TB NVMe SSD I think the whole thing amounts to about 2500 EUR which is peanuts relative to the processing power you are getting.

Anyway! Whichever I choose, when I buy it I plan to just plug it to a display once – until I set up the installation and configure SSH keys – and then just remote to it from my iMac Pro or MacBook Pro M1 (when I buy it). I also plan to install a VPN on my bare-metal home server so I can use my Linux workstation’s compute wherever I am physically.

This also means I have to pick up a machine that can get remotely powered on (in case of power loss). Never researched how that works but hey, I’ll make it work.

As mentioned in the past here – and before my insane treadmill with my previous employer where money was the best I ever got but the stress was too much and the atmosphere was awful – I really want to tone down the tech purchases. But that means investing in long-term tech so you don’t have to think about it for at least 5 years. I aim for 10 years though, we’ll see.

Unlike many others, I am not as hyped about Intel moving to TSMC production (people think this means the next i3 / i5 / i7 / i9 CPUs will beat AMD because of 5/7 nm process) or about Apple’s M1 processors. Pretty sure both things will amount to improvements, sure, but I am still betting on the AMD Threadripper CPUs being the kings of workstations. Especially the Threadripper Pro series combines the best of both workstation and server features.


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Great post Dimi - it deserves a thread of its own so I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of moving it into one :blush:

I think many people are in the same boat, we love our Macs and macOS but Apple are pushing us away by their terrible decisions. I often sit there using my Mac wondering whether Apple devs even use Macs. Sounds insane when you say that out loud doesn’t it? But that’s how I feel because some of the issues would be glaringly obvious to anyone who actually spends time on a Mac.

I really hope they sort this mess out soon because like you, I am not sure I can take it much longer! :cry:


All true but sadly the way things are developing I am afraid we’ll soon have zero choice. Even if Apple’s software is kind of rotting and its changes are mostly driven by people who are padding resumes, we’re only left with Windows 10 and Linux as alternatives. And installing all your favourite apps inside Linux with graphical environment is a security + privacy nightmare.

I will always have a soft spot for Windows. Especially Win10 is indeed the best they ever did in terms of stability and features (damn ugly UI though, plus actually two of them). But you have to actively fight the OS to not put huge amounts of telemetry on the network. That, plus Linux is provably and observably faster and uses the hardware better.

I fear we’re nearing a point where we have to shut up and swallow the lack of choice. Things are not going well in the software world. At all.


What about this…

Not looked at it yet, but I think a new OS may well be our best bet :smiley:


In principle yes, in practice it could need decades to take off and become compatible enough with legacy software and libraries so as to tempt mainstream programmers to migrate.

But then again, they might get brave and just put a few clever solutions that bypass most of the migratory work. Who knows. The creativity of the techies is astonishing.

Wouldn’t hold my breath though. Nowadays everyone is holding tight to their job and are unwilling to take too many risks. Which is understandable and relatable but it doesn’t help innovation at all…


:joy: :innocent:

To be honest I never looked into the subject in detail. I know X11 has its issues and Wayland was supposed to fix them, but don’t know more then that.

I don’t feel secure on Windows, but I recognize W10 is away better then previous generations.


For me mac is a way to go for several years now (at least for work laptop), while there is a lot of paid software, the quality of software is sometimes incredible (and UX as well, dunno why, but people developing for mac just have a really good eye for UX).
When I work, I usually do a lot of sripting/automation for both linux and windows. Which can be incredibly tiring when solving some complex issue and I usually do not want to fight with my desktop during or after work.

On home PC I have Windows 10 with WSL with openSUSE and that is enough for my needs in most cases (heck, even docker can run in WSL now). vscode’s integration with WSL is also top-notch, Jetbrains IDEs now also have quite ok integration (but they can do better here)

Another big point for me for MAC is Parallels virtualization. I need to do C# and PowerShell when I write automation for windows and running Windows 10 in Parallels is simply great. they are tuning that virtualization specifically for seamless integration of the two systems. so I can just start my windows in the morning and forget about it. all the apps from windows are then available on my panel in mac, they open as apps in mac (coherence mode), disks are automatically shared and properly mapped. if I install something in windows, wrapper for mac gets created automatically for me for use from mac.

I did not manage to have as seamless experience in linux desktop.

I might have different opinion if I wouldn’t need to use windows as much, but for now, MAC it is.


I agree on all points, macOS might be gradually deteriorating but it’s still the best choice today.

It’s just that I, like you, get tired of scripting for very different platforms.


My Mac is close to not usable atm. Ok it’s useable but it’s incredibly frustrating. If I run IRB or a Rails console Ruby takes up CPU 100% processing. Swiping from space to space has a noticeable and very annoying lag, the emoji pop up in iMessage stutters, the animations to go to Mission Control from a hot corner is also choppy. I have no spam folder in Mai! Instead I now have to use the option where spam shows in the main messages lists but marked as spam - I have a lot of email addresses so this is extremely annoying!!

I’ve had many of these issues with Macs in the past and doing a clean install has fixed them, so I’ll wait for the next release of Big Sur (never experienced these kinds of issues with Apple Mail before tho).

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There is huge difference between the M1 and Intel based Macs with macOS Big Sur. A few months ago my maximized MacBook Air 2018 was not able to run a VM or Docker without spinning his fans. Using an external display was also a bit frustrating (hot adapter after 10 mins of usage).

Since I switched to an M1 MacBook Pro all my previous issues disappeared. There are some disadvantages too, like the lack of native NumPy & SciPy but in a few months these should be solved too.


What was you machine like when it was new Paul? I bet it was fast as heck :laughing:

I think the point many of us are making is Apple may well be deliberately throttling older Macs because they want people to upgrade. The slowness on my machine for example, there is absolutely zero reason for it - the machine has 64GB of RAM a good GPU, CPU, SSD etc. There is not genuine reason why it should take 30 seconds to open an app, where the UI continually stutters, etc.

Sory about the rant :see_no_evil:


I know that you may be tired from me throwing this links at you, but you are asking to be remembered again :wink:

Yes, you have a genuine reason, at least from the Apple point of view:


Haha I know :laughing:

Although I am not sure it is just because of that, because there are slow-downs all over the place that are not related to opening apps. Either way we’ll find out soon enough since they said they are adding options allowing us to disable those checks/dialing home. Wish they would hurry up! :upside_down_face:


I don’t know if it is a deliberate move from Apple but I can attest the effects. 2018 MacBook Air was faster with the original OS.


Apple is doing this for ages in the iPhones, and even forces the user to update the OS with that constant pop-ups, and then the device gets slower with each update, and then it’s time for the user to put money again in Apple’s wallet by buying the last new shiny release, that also mandates you to carry a plethora of dongles around.

But hey, that’s the price to pay for status, exclusivity, and vendor locking, and some features Apple fans love :wink:


Most people who work at important places in Apple – iOS, iPadOS, macOS development being three examples – are painfully well aware that such a job, even if it lasts only a year or two, is a HUGE trampoline to a very lucrative career afterwards, so many people are just padding resumes and CVs with bullsh1t buzz-titles like “led the effort to redesign the Home pane of macOS”.

So chances are, many people act out of greed and NOT out of malice. Apple are a big organization and details and nuance gets lost in bureaucracy and in-fighting.

Is that bad? Of course it is. But is it out of malice? 50/50. I prefer to think people are greedy. :man_shrugging:

It was also very clearly proven that the “iPhone throttling” was mostly done because the battery couldn’t guarantee full performance. So to prevent the thing exploding in your hand, they preferred to throttle your phone until you change batteries.

That people expect one battery to last their lifetimes is another matter entirely. :smiley:

I still use 8 Plus and my wife’s brother uses 6s Plus. Zero problems. I get an occasional lag when entering the settings for 2-3 secs like once a month.


Now you are just hating because of your anti-Apple bias. There are no factual evidences for such claims so I really don’t know why don’t you just stop. It makes a bad impression. For the record, I agree with part of your criticisms – when they are actually criticisms and not this generalized hate.

And if Microsoft’s Windows experience has taught us anything is that people will go to EXTREME lengths just so they don’t update, very often to their security peril.

Aren’t you, as a security-focused programmer, recommending people to update their stuff?


At my previous work I kept seeing my colleagues mentioning it and it was a company doing mobile apps for iOS and Android for big retailers.

Also seen some friends complaint of such, but I don’t have empirical evidence to back it up.


Yes, but I don’t like upgrades with hidden agendas :wink: