With the recent step by Canonical to remove the native Firefox in Ubuntu and replace it with a snap, something strange happened. My main computer is a beast, it sports an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, that is a 16 core CPU, hyper threaded (or whatever AMD calls it), 32GB of RAM and a super fast Samsung SSD with a read-spead of 6400MB/s. And that machine just feels very slow right now. Firefox is my single most used program and the first launch takes forever. Given, once I launched it once, it’s super fast as before. And yes this isn’t really a big deal, but it annoys me.
Even my MS Surface Go with a Core M3 opens Firefox faster, why? Because it runs Fedora and Firefox is natively packaged there.
So I started looking around, there are other distributions out there, Canonical can’t force me to use Ubuntu right?
Long story short, I got very deep into the rabbit hole this time, Ventoy entered my life and I just loaded ISOs of any distribution onto it I could think of. After a couple of boots I settled on Manjaro KDE, which is Arch based btw.
Naturally I started customizing my KDE and at some point found that the installed version of Firefox did not export its menu to the global menu. So I pulled a version of it from the AUR that did and started compiling it. And then Thunderbird. I would like to point out, that I never use the main menu of Firefox, so not sure at this point why I bothered, but I spent about 6 hours on this.
The next day it hit me, that one might say I am wasting my time with these kinds of things and that this person would probably be right.
So in the evening I decided to go to the cellar, get my old Mac Mini out of storage and forget about the entire Linux and free software thing. Same goes for my /e/-OS phone and Fedora tablet.
Spoiler: This is written on a linux machine.
Entering the Apple Universe
I attached the Mac to my monitor, put the Sim into my iPhone, put on the Apple Watch I still have around and went all in. (I still used my iPad, so no change there, the Fedora tablet is more of toy honestly)
Now whatever you might think about Apple as a company or its products, one thing no one can deny is that it is very impressive how seamlessly all their products work together. Did you know, a Mac logs you in automatically if you wear an Apple watch, because it knows you are sitting in front of it? Me neither, but it does…
Moving from my free software setup to the Apple ecosystem felt like stepping out of a rust bucked like Millennium Falcon and boarding something like the Enterprise at first.
Your phone and computer and tablet and even your watch can be controlled by voice and it doesn’t even suck. Applications are polished, everything works together without any effort. And just like LCARS on the Enterprise, MacOS, iOS, iPadOS and WatchOS and TVOS work together perfectly. Watching a video on your iPad? One click and it’s on you TV. Want to stop that video? One tap on your watch. Started browsing the web on the Mac, pull out your iPhone and continue at the exact point you left of on the Mac.
There is a shared clipboard between all devices, the Bluetooth headphones just seem to know which device one is working on and that’s where audio comes from.
It really felt like computing on Star Trek is shown and the more I used my devices, the better they seemed to know what I wanted them to do.
If you swipe down on iOS you open a global search and that also provides you with recommended apps. After a while, the first app recommended to me at any given time or situation any day was a perfect hit. Prior to driving to the office, I usually start my work PC remotely by calling it. One day I forgot and my phone reminded me to call it.
My devices started taking care of me and not the other way around and that was kind of what I originally wanted, they aided me and did not keep me bound to a desk to maintain them.
But knowledge is a tricky thing, you can ignore the warning voice in the back of your head that screams to you to run away from this as fast as possible, because you know, what kind of tracking is necessary to offer that kind of convenience. But it keeps getting louder.
Another nice thing came with the latest iterations of Apples software. Focuses.
What that does is give you the option to block certain notifications at certain times. E.g. you don’t want to be notified about fosstodon things while working since that would only distract you from what’s making you money.
One day, as I went into the office, my phone vibrated and informed me it now knew when to activate the work focus and suggested to automatically activate it for me in the future. Also this worked flawlessly from there on.
More screaming in the back of my head…
Macs have a different keyboard layout than Linux and Windows. I am not really used to that layout and it often gets in my way when working on the Mac. For some reason Apple does not allow me to change the keyboard layout to a standard one.
At this point something hit me, that Mac is a computer I bought. By any legal definition it is mine. But Apple does not allow me to change my keyboard layout to something I like?
Punch it Chewy, let’s get out of here
You see, the thing is, Starfleet officers live a very comfortable life aboard their starships. Everything is shiny and all works together, responds to their voice. The computer knows everything about them, to the point of where they currently are and adjust everything so the feel alright.
But they don’t get to go where they want to, they go to where they are ordered to and they don’t get to choose what kind of computer they use, the use what they are given. They don’t own their computers and starships.
And the same goes for Apple users and Macs. If command in Cupertino decides something is done in a certain way, that is what happens.
Things are different on the Millennium Falcon, it might be a rust bucked, but it is Solos rust bucked. It goes where he wants it to and it works the way he wants it to. Even if one uses parsec as a measure for time, it goes along with it.
If something doesn’t work exactly as he wants it to, he rips it out and replaces it with something that does. Yes, it might let him down some times and take some time to maintain it, but then again it is his ship, altered to serve him the best way possible, there is no other like it.
And with Linux and free software it is the same, it might not have all these fancy party tricks, it might let you down some times, it isn’t as closely working together with your other devices. But it is yours, works the way you want it to.
It sometimes takes an effort to keep it together, but it always gets you where you need to go at the end of the day and where you want to.
So at the end of of it, I switched back, ran off the fancy starship and got back to Linux. The screaming in my head stopped and my phone does not remind my to call my work PC, because it doesn’t give a s*** about what I do at what time and place a day. Honestly I ended up on Ubuntu again, but I ripped out the snap parts I didn’t like and replaced them with flatpaks, why? Because by now I know that OS by heart and while there is a recommendation by the vendor on what to use, it doesn’t mean I have to, because my computer is mine and I can choose how it works.
And now that I removed the parts that were slowing it down, it again does the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.