What operating system should I choose?
Have you asked yourself the same question? This is how I look at the three big providers: Windows, Linux (all distros seen as flavours of one), and lastly macOS.
Disclaimer: I have used OS X as my primary OS at home from 10.3 Panther, and I am at El Capitan as of now. At work, I’ve mostly used different versions of Windows, from XP to W10.
What I look for in a OS:
I want it to take advantage of all the hardware in my computer. Bluetooth, Wireless connections, peripherals all need to work. I don’t want to hack for an hour to make my new printer or sound-card to work.
I value personal freedom to choose what vendor I would like for a service. Apple & Microsofts integration of their respective “clouds” make it harder for me to chose a rivalling product. Its also a plus if the big names are present (Adobe for instance).
The OS should be light weight. It is there to facilitate the other applications, not to spend the resources for it self. In my opinion, all the major OS fails in this regards, as they all come with a bunch of not necessary applications.
It seems to me, that Microsoft and Apple ran out of good ideas, and try to expand the operating system into two “new” arenas: tighter cloud-integration and AI. This is not necessarily helping to keep the OS light weight (although you could argue that Apples automatic move unused files away from your computer is.. in a way).
First off: Cloud-stuff is not my cup of tea. I like to keep track of where I put my own stuff. Not having it automatically moved away. What if i need the file, and are on a off-line flight? The tight integration of cloud services in all applications should be a opt-out in my opinion. I’m also not a fan of pay-per-month deals in regards to where I put my important files.
Secondly, why are they so focused on artificial intelligence, aka Cortana / Siri? Why should I want to say “Open reddit.com in Safari” instead of just pressing a reddit bookmark?
Well, where do I start?. Apple has renamed the good old Mac OS X -> macOS Sierra. With this new release, we’ve seen a tighter integration between whats on your computer, and what’s in your iCloud. Apple believes it is more user friendly, but it makes it harder for me to choose a different provider or even host my stuff on my own NAS.
Apple makes it harder and harder to run unsigned applications found on the net. At some point I fear that all applications must be installed from the App store.
The new features for macOS was so little impressive that I consider switching away from the Apple eco-system.
Microsoft has made a solid product in Windows 10. However Windows has some huge shortcomings in my opinion. Yes, PowerShell and Ubuntu Bash among the rest of the improvements in W10 are huge improvements. But still, the start-menu, and tablet stuff has nothing to do on a desktop computer. Also, don’t forget we still have the remnants of “registry-hell”, “dll-hell”, and old GUI elements (I’m looking at you, control panel). This will probably be sorted out in the future. You don’t have to be a wizard to predict that Windows will be a solid competitor for Apples macOS in the coming years.
Microsoft has shown that it can change, with its open source initiative. However, the over-the-top-aggressive information gathering in Windows 10 is not helping me trust the “bad guys”.
I’ve used different GNU/Linux distributions from time to time. At some point ( > 10 years ago), it was my primary OS. After package-managers arrived, installation was a breeze. When you on Windows had to figure out all libraries and software you needed to set up a development environment, it was just to run “yum install apache-tomcat” or whatever you needed. The package manager would figure it all out for you. Before this, we had the “dependency-hell”, where you would have to manually figure out all dependent software and libraries on your own, and download it separately.
My main concern with GNU/Linux today is two things: GUI and Software. I have a hard time complaining about this, because I know a lot of talented developers have worked for free to make free open software.
Let me elaborate on GUI first. Of the main desktop environments Gnome and KDE, both have made huge improvements over the years. Both are relatively easy to customise to your needs. However, they use quite a bit of screen real estate. Especially many of the “apps” that are included. The applications are not as easy to use as their Windows and macOS counterparts. Some applications suffer from “feature-sickness”, and are therefore just ugly. Look at Amarok for instance.
Having Steam on Linux would be amazing back in the day when I did som minor gaming. Nowadays, I want to edit and sort my photos, maybe do some sound mixing, and a bit of software development. Yes Linux does these things, but sadly, both Windows and macOS still does these things better.
In the mid and late 90s, you could not be sure if your external units worked with an Apple computer. This is sadly still an issue on Linux to a certain extent.
To sum it up
I guess I’ll still stay on the Apple bandwagon and drink as much cool-aid to pay Apple-tax for my computers. Not because I’m as enthusiastic of the OS as I have been, but because there is no significantly better alternative.
Nice write-up! I mostly agree with your sentiment on macOS and Windows, but do have some comments regarding Linux.
Yes, Linux is still for the nerds, but the threshold for getting started has been lowered considerably the last ~3 years. I abandoned the Apple ship in 2013 and embraced my inner nerd by setting up Arch Linux. I was surprised to be up and running within a few hours, without any prior experience of using Linux. I learned a lot in the process, and really enjoined having a minimal OS and an overview the building blocks of my system.
Linux on the desktop has improved drastically, so much so that when my father needed a computer for surfing the net / email, I installed GNOME rather than Windows. GNOME now sports a very concise and intuitive UI / UX, also for people new to computing. I much prefer it over macOS and Windows 10.
Apple is still ahead of the pack when it comes to offering a complete set of easy-to-use tools for the average consumer. But for the prosumer and professionals Linux now has a lot to offer. Take a look at Darktable for example, an unparalleled (RAW) photo editor that offers tools and a workflow that neither Apple or Adobe can compete with at the moment. I think they have a build for macOS also, if you want to give it a go 🙂