jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Preferring The Hard Way

This past Friday I got sucked into a conversation about operating systems and user interface decisions again. Looking back, the conversation was not a bright moment for personal interaction in my life. I believe the term I used to describe my friends personal preferences was “there’s a masochist born every minute.” Sometimes people care about really silly things, and I am no exception.

My friend was describing how he likes to use a Mac “basically as a Linux box”, which, thanks to the Unix underpinnings of macOS is completely possible. If one was so inclined, they could even run a custom window manager in X11; in fact, I think I recall doing that myself in the past, an experiment that didn’t last long. I think he said that Linux on the desktop has always been enough for him, I believe the only reason he runs macOS at all is because work issued him a MacBook. What I should have done is asked him what about the Linux environment he found attractive, and why he chose to do things, in my opinion, the hard way. Instead I made snarky, stupid jokes at his expense. A decision I regret.

The thing is, he’s not alone, and a trip through my own archive would show that I’ve been there myself in the past. After a couple days thought I realized that what I was being condescending about wasn’t his choice in operating system environment, it was his fandom. Sometimes we like to do things the hard way because it’s just more fun that way.

As a Mac user I think there’s no doubt that using Linux is a more difficult experience, one that’s likely to get in your way. I also think that given the rising prices of Macs, if you can get by using a cheap Linux computer than more power to you. I personally wouldn’t make that choice, but I can understand those that do.

We touched on what I thought was best about the Mac, the unified user experience, the ecosystem of high quality third-party applications, and the high quality hardware. I got to throw in my favorite anecdote about making a deal with Apple way back when. (“I give you money dollars, you take care of all these technology bits.”) It’s a deal I needed, because I was throwing away hours and hours building and tearing down Linux and BSD computers. Throwing away isn’t really an apt description of what I got out of all that time I suppose, it eventually turned into a great career.

So why do I feel the need to convince someone else not to go down the same road I went down? I don’t have an answer, which really means that, as always, I need to be more mindful of what I say, and how I say it. Luckily enough, I think my friend knew that this was all just good-natured jabbing, and I expect he’ll be back at breakfast on Friday at the coffee shop. If anything, I’m writing this to remind myself to be kind, and to be more accepting and curious about the motivations of those around me.

Sometimes doing things the hard way is the best way. As a runner I bundle up in my cold weather gear and run outside no matter what the temperature. Its undeniable that running inside on a treadmill would be easier, and more comfortable, for in this being uncomfortable is the entire point. I choose to run this way because I care not only about the results, but about the path chosen to get there. I get more out of exercise when I do things the hard way, but I completely get it when people call me crazy for doing it. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me. Sometimes people care about silly things, like running in the cold, or using your computer on expert-level.

linux, mac, ui