Life after OS X

For years I’ve been grumbling about OS X – Apple’s loss leading product that’s the best thing they’ve ever made for users – turning into iOS – Apple’s loss leading product that’s the best thing they’ve ever made for their business – and how it’s bad for users. I’ve also been toying with the idea of making a Hackintosh for a long time.

So when, 7 weeks ago, I came back from holiday to start work on a new project, only to find my 2.5 year old MBP with an unrecoverably broken HDD, I decided to buy a different laptop. I needed something to code on quickly and didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so after a very small amount of research I opted for Acer’s cheap-as-chips C7 Chromebook.

It’s got a dual core 1.1GHz chip, came with 2GB RAM that I’ve bumped to 10GB (it has user-upgradeable parts) and a 320GB HDD. With my RAM upgrade it cost £250 all in. It’s lighter than a Macbook Air and smaller too, with a decent keyboard.

After playing with (and enjoying) Chrome OS briefly I went on to Crouton and then ultimately to a ‘full’ Ubuntu install via Chrubuntu – it’s now a full Ubuntu machine with dual-boot into Chrome OS.

And you know what? I haven’t looked back. OK, well I am cheating a bit. I still have a Mac Mini in the living room that I use almost every day. And I’ve only really used this machine for browsing and coding (which is a dream – coding on the same platform you’re deploying to is great!). And I have occasionally missed Keynote, Photoshop and Illustrator, though the LibreOffice presentation thing isn’t too bad.

But overall, Ubuntu (with Unity in my case) is easy to learn, easy to set up, easy to use, fast, and basically great. Actually so is Chrome OS, though it doesn’t support a lot of the dev tools I need. Most of the utilities you’re used to using on your computer work well on Ubuntu (Skype, Dropbox, etc); so there’s really no need to hold back. And for £200 for a portable, relatively hardwearing machine, you really should…

4 thoughts on “Life after OS X

  1. A few years I saw that Apple was going to leave my machines behind, so I switched to Open Source. I have a Toshiba laptop running Linux Mint 15 and I love it.

    Right now I really want a Chromebook with the same setup you have. Was installing that very difficult? And have you noticed any issues with it?

    • It took a bit of hunting around to figure out what would really work well, and as a result I ended up reinstalling Linux about 4 times until I had it the way it felt most comfortable.

      About two of those were because, although Crouton is good and running in a chroot in general is kindof amazing, it took me a while to realise it wasn’t really for using Ubuntu seriously.

      Putting Linux on it is basically a hack, but having said that Chrubuntu works well; installing it is easy and one it’s on you don’t think about it at all.

      The main issues are that every time it boots you get the developer warning screen: basically for 30s or until you hit CTRL+D there’s a scary message displayed, and it’s easy to lose your install from there by resetting it to ChromeOS only. A few people on forums have had other halves do this in a well intentioned way.

      Otherwise it doesn’t always wake well from suspend, but everything else works great.

      I have to say, although I would now (and do) recommend ChromeOS to friends and family, I haven’t booted it into Chrome since my Ubuntu setup was working nicely. It just supports coding so much better.

      I guess one other thing to note is that my Acer C7 definitely feels the price it is – i.e. cheap. It’s super light and portable, and I quite enjoy carrying a machine around that I wouldn’t mind getting knocked about a bit, but it’s more Netbook than Ultrabook.

      Go for it though!

      • Thanks that’s great information! Losing chrome on the machine kind of scares me, so I might do some more research before I commit to a full install. I’m interested in chrome for the fast boot and lightweight laptop feel. Have you tried the HP 14 chromebook?

      • You don’t lose chrome – what’s scary us that you could lose Linux (and that’s where I spend all my time now).

        I looked at a couple of others but chose this in a hurry. If you want to put Linux on a different one search for instructions for the specific model, I don’t think they all work as well (the Acers HDD meant there was lord of space for a start).

        Or leave it with chrome, that’s a good machine too…

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