OS eXodus


Until late 2010, I’d been using pretty much entirely open source software on my personal desktop and severs. This mostly worked pretty well, except very specifically with regards to my photography work. At that point in my life, photography had turned from a minor hobby to a major obsession. My suite of tools (GIMP, digiKam, ufraw) was becoming increasingly tedious to deal with at the time, so I took a big leap and bought a Mac Mini to run Adobe Lightroom on.

To be honest, this setup worked really well for my photography workflow. Some other aspects of the Mac desktop were a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, it was more polished (except Bluetooth, which to this day is almost as klugey on Mac as it is on Linux). But it was also very closed, and with the rise of iCloud, I had some very serious concerns about what my computer was sharing about me behind my back.

My photography has tapered off as I’ve focused more on my career in systems engineering. I rarely go into Lightroom anymore. So I don’t have a huge compelling reason to be on a Mac anymore. The Mac Mini is feeling long in tooth anyway, and it was time to start looking at something a little faster. I also wanted something more portable this time around.

So I decided to start my exodus from OS X (or, as I’m starting to call it, my OS eXodus).

I still have an iPhone, an iPad, and an AppleTV to think about. I spent years ripping all of my CD’s and DVD’s into iTunes. My collection far exceeds anything that the Mac can reliably handle on its own, so I have a SmartOS server running Netatalk which houses all of my iTunes content, and iTunes reshares that to the AppleTV. I’ll deal with these iOS devices further down the road. For now, the Mac itself needs to be replaced.

So I hopped on the big auction site and found a Lenovo Thinkpad T410. During my years of consulting at IBM, I built a huge respect for the Thinkpad as a workhorse laptop platform that can take some abuse and provide a sensible array of features. The T410 that  found was a late 2010 model, same vintage as my Mac Mini, but better specs. It’s got a Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM (upgradeable to 8GB), and a 320GB hard disk. Price? About $290 + shipping.

When it first arrived, I did try to give OpenIndiana a chance to be my desktop OS of choice but I’ll be perfectly honest: OpenIndiana is nowhere near as ready to be a desktop OS as it is ready for server duties. If it gets remarkably better, I’ll try it again. In the meantime, I went with Xubuntu Linux (the Xfce flavor of Ubuntu) and it’s working very nicely on the Thinkpad. Everything more or less “just works”.

Except Bluetooth. It works, kind of, but it’s really inelegant and temperamental. But then, my experience with Bluetooth on the Mac is also kind of a mixed bag.

I do miss the Mac’s trackpad, I’ll be really honest about that.

But I’m getting all of my other apps moved over, and so far so good. I still have to work out what I’m going to do with regards to my media library and my photos. I suspect I’ll keep the Mac around for these functions for awhile, but use the Thinkpad for everything else.

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