It’s more than five years since I became so infuriated by Microsoft, whose ‘Service Pack 3′ had ruined my new Dell desktop, that I switched to the Linux Ubuntu operating system. I’m the household computer techie; Ian relies on me to sort out any computer problems he has, so when I switched he switched too. Last year, I reluctantly decided we’d have to switch again, this time to Apple.
It was an emotionally fraught decision for me. I was loathe to lose the aura of independent, free-thinking anti-consumerism conferred by using a Linux system, and I was also going to lose the camaraderie of the Ubuntu forums, which I turned to every time I had a technical problem to solve. And I hate spending money, which was why, when I rejected Windows, I’d originally chosen a free, open source OS rather than the most expensive one on the market.
There were three reasons for changing. The first, and most pressing, was that the latest editions of Ubuntu were not compatible with our laptops. This negated what had formerly been one of the chief advantages of Linux, that there were few hardware compatibility issues compared with Windows and Apple.
The second reason was to do with home networking. I’ve never found this easy with Ubuntu, and usually settled for just getting our laptops connected to the internet. Now the possibilities of home networks have expanded from file sharing to TV, audio, back-up systems, and wireless printers, the networking limitations of Ubuntu look like a major drawback instead of a minor inconvenience.
The third reason was the perennial Linux word processing problem. Microsoft Word is not compatible with Linux, so you have to use Office Libre (once known as Open Office) instead. Then when you send the document to a Word user, you have to convert it from the Office Libre format to Word, or they won’t be able to open it. What I kept forgetting was that having done the conversion, you also have to re-check the formatting, which often gets altered in the transition. Ian kept complaining that he found it confusing to use Office Libre at home and Word at the university.
We started the transition by buying an IPad, then at Christmas we bought his and hers Macbook Air laptops. Our desktops are still Ubuntu, but we find we are not using them much any more. I admit I love my Macbook Air. I’m a very noise sensitive person; the roar of our forced air heating system, and the hum of our fridge can get on my nerves, so I’m besotted with the Air’s solid state drive which means it has no fan and is absolutely silent. It is also noticeably faster than Ubuntu (although Ubuntu had always seemed fast compared with Windows).
Given that silent running is one of the Air’s strongpoints, it baffles me that you cannot customize it to turn off the “Da-Dah” noise it makes when it is turned on. For Ian, who uses his laptop primarily for work in libraries and archives, the “Da-Dah” is a potential embarrassment. The only solution is to remember to turn the volume control down before you turn the Air off, so that the noise is muted when you turn it on again.
I also miss some of the free software I used with Ubuntu. The Linux calculator is far superior to Apple’s, and I’ve had to pay for home financial and genealogy software to replace Gnucash and Gramps, even though they don’t do anything that Gnucash and Gramps can’t do. On the other hand, Scrivener is a useful bit of kit for book writing which is only available on Apple.
Transferring my files from my Ubuntu desktop to my Macbook Air is a more arduous process than if I were transferring from a Windows system. I’m doing it bit by bit. When I’ve completed the transfer I’ll have no further use for a desktop. As a touch typist, I prefer a sloping keyboard, so if I’m typing at length I use my Macbook air with a wireless keyboard and mouse.