Bye bye Mac, hello again PC!

If I appear to be slower to respond to e-mail lately, it’s because my two-year-old MacBook Pro broke down last week, leaving me without access to my local data. It started with some occasional graphical glitches (see video) but it only took a few days until the computer wouldn’t boot anymore. Interestingly, during this gradual fail, the rEFIt boot menu that normally allowed me to start Linux suddenly disappeared. The first time it disappeared, I could restore it by resetting the PROM memory, but now it’s just gone.

Tiger trying to fix my computerMacs are weird in so many ways. You can’t just install Linux and expect it to work — you have to install additional software like rEFIt just to boot into another OS than Mac OS X. Furthermore, you can’t just plug a USB stick in and boot from it. In short, Apple is the very definition of locked down proprietary technology and it annoys the hell out of me.

I’m sick and tired of Macs and I’ve decided to even out the remarkably unbalanced Mac/PC ratio at Mozilla by getting a PC as my next computer. I’ve also decided to give in to my passion for Linux and use it as my full-time OS from now on.

While I’m waiting for my new computer to arrive, I’m writing this from Sofie’s little 12″ PC running Ubuntu. It works like a charm, but I am definitely not as productive as I was with my own computer. I sometimes have to let go of the computer for a few minutes so Sofie can check her mail — after all, I’m the one borrowing her computer. However, the biggest reason why I’m not as productive as I was before my MacBook broke is that I don’t have access to my local data.

Two things I’m a lot more dependent on than I ever thought:

  • The local address book of Thunderbird
  • The local AwesomeBar data of Firefox

I’m working on getting a Linux Live CD (Sofie’s laptop doesn’t have a CD burner) to boot up my MacBook and transfer all my local data to this computer so I can resume full productivity speed again.

16 thoughts on “Bye bye Mac, hello again PC!

  1. Jon Pritchard

    Sorry to hear about your laptop issues. Is the only reason Mozilla seem to love Macbook Pros the triple-booting? I didn’t even know it was as bad with regards to Linux as you say (can’t boot from a USB stick).

    May I recommend a Thinkpad instead? The new T400s looks to be a popular product.

    Thankfully my AwesomeBar data is synced to the cloud with Weave, however unlike advertised you don’t get the same results in each browser because the ‘frecency’ is not saved presumably.

  2. Tomer Cohen

    I always good to know there are some people who use Mac but prefer other operating systems. The problem with Firefox running under Linux, whoever, is the speed of the software which is slower than running the same application under Windows or Mac, and even slower than running Firefox with Wine. Unless it will be fixed soon, people may leave Firefox for another browsers such as Google Chrome which I understand that is running faster under Linux.

  3. Damian


    While it’s sad news that your computer has died. It’s nice to see a Mozilla employee switching away from a Mac, I always feel like I have an uphil struggle convincing anyone in the Mozilla camp that actually that design change only looks good in Mac and just looks weird elsewhere!

    Tomer Cohen: I know performance is mildly worse on Linux but I personally never had a big problem with it and I always felt I lost too much functionality and native look when moving to Opera or Chrome on Linux. Why on earth would you run Firefox through Wine on Linux? That’s just asking for performance losses…

  4. Sean Hogan

    Windows – not a natural fit with unix
    Linux – bad memories of poor driver support, poor GUI software and time-consuming upgrade scenarios
    Mac – limited and expensive hardware options and, as you say, locked down proprietary technology

    Which way do I jump? Probably to windows for my desktop and a headless unix box in the corner.

  5. Ricardo Maçãs

    Hey djst, I switched to linux recently.
    The KDE has improved its initially ugly-looking KDE4 to something usable. Still, I would recommend Gnome because KDE is just unstable now.
    But i like the bleeding edge, so 😛 .
    BTW, you can make an hackint*sh if you’re not worried about legal and technical issues.
    Wish you the best luck.

  6. Topher

    Sad day for you data, happy day for your computing happiness. 🙂 Try enlightenment 0.16, it’s very fun. 🙂 I have some cool hacks to make it work nicer.

  7. David Tenser

    Jon: The T400s is exactly the computer I’m hoping to get. It looks like exactly what I want, except perhaps a somewhat poor graphics card.

    Ricardo: I might try KDE out but I’m so used to Gnome I’ll probably use it instead.

    Sean: I find Ubuntu’s upgrade system to be working fairly smoothly, although I agree with you about driver issues in the past. This particular PC seems to struggle with graphics even though it’s an Intel chipset which Linux supports natively. It’s just sluggish. I hope the T400s won’t have the same problems.

  8. Percy Cabello

    As a happy T400 user for the last 8 months, and T42, T30 and T23 before that with some Dell’s and HPs in between I can’t recommend it more. My only complaint till now is that I have to reinstall from the recovery CD/DVDs combo whic his pretty slow (around 1 hour) compared to 20-30 mins If I was able to install from clean Vista DVDs. But you probably won’t care if going Linux.

    I would also suggest to go with a 9-cell battery despite the extra space it uses.

    I as well used a MacBook for a few months last year but gave up in the end as I found learning all the new stuff (and I love learning) wouldn’t get me anywhere farther than I was already on Windows. I finally sent it back to the eBay.

  9. Jeff Walden

    Did you not get a three-year warranty on it? Two years old puts it at about the same age as mine, which recently had what appeared to be graphics card problems (artifacts not exactly like yours, freezes, eventually artifacts at boot followed by a kernel panic). There was a recent issue with them such that Apple would repair even laptops out of warranty, might be worth trying that. (Also on that, are we the only two people who actually try to use hardware for the full warranty period? I’m planning on getting at least through the 10.6 release on my current one, and I’ll probably go for the full three years unless the Mozilla codebase decides it doesn’t want to work on 10.4 any more.)

    I’m a little annoyed that the responses so far are mostly anti-Mac knee-jerk responses (overstating it, but still). If you want to hack on software that runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac, Mac systems are simply all that’s out there to support that (usually not multi-boot but rather through virtual machines, actually, to the other commenters here). This is not a personal preference; this is a fact. Further, so long as licensing makes it harder to virtualize OS X (need the server edition, can’t virtualize except on Apple hardware), and assuming you can’t have it as a guest OS on non-OS X even if on Apple hardware (I would love to know if this is possible but assume no), you’re forced into running OS X if you want to be able to have access to all operating systems without a tedious reboot. I wish this were otherwise, but it’s the way things are at the moment.

  10. David Tenser

    Jeff, I don’t think the comments are knee-jerk — what you’re describing as “the way things are at the moment” is exactly what I don’t like about Apple: they force you to run their system as it’s the only way to conveniently test on all three systems. Why would Apple get to decide that for me? If I want to run Linux and virtualize Mac OS X rather than the other way around, that should be possible.

    I’d rather be without Mac OS X altogether, but then again I’m not a developer.

  11. ThomasS (Lendo)

    Hi David, sorry for your loss, but welcome back to the Linux user community! 🙂 I’m using Ubuntu (with Gnome) for little more than 1,5 years and I love it – I would never go back to Windows. (I never had a Mac.)

    Sean Hogan: Your memories are really old and outdated. It’s going better every half year.

  12. Michael Kaply

    Take it to an Apple store.

    My Mac died and was out of warranty and come to find out there was a recall and it was fixed for free.

    Might as well check.

  13. Jeff Walden

    I did say I was overstating, didn’t I? Perhaps even “overstating” wasn’t a strong enough modifier…

    In any case, I recognize that your gripe was about Apple, and I fully agree. However, my comment was directed against comments, not your post — and there the responses contained not even the faintest hint of disapproval of Apple or any acceptance, however, slight, of the resultant need to have Apple hardware to support the OS choices of Mozilla users. Even a little bit of, “I see where you’re coming from, too bad you have to do what you’re doing”, would have been sufficient, but almost never do I see any such empathy ever expressed. *That’s* what frustrates me — not that Apple is evil (they are in this instance, not in others, as of course no one is wholly good or evil), but that no one really mentions it or acknowledges that this forces us to make tradeoffs, rather than simply taking a Manichean view of the matter.

  14. David Tenser

    Jeff, got it. And yes, I did see the “overstating” part; no worries. But I think most people’s spontaneous and cheerful reactions here are based on the fact that I’m switching to Linux, not that I’m leaving something else (Apple).

    I do think that at Mozilla there are too many people using macs. Even though it’s a good way to virtualize all three OSes, many if not most developers end up using Mac OS X as their main OS, making people focus more on that OS than it rightfully deserves. At least 80% of our user base is on Windows, and I daresay that a significant portion of our community is on Linux, so the attention to Mac OS X is at least partially undeserved. All in my humble opinion, of course.

    To me, switching back to Linux feels natural and exciting, and doing that on a PC is a lot smoother than on a Mac.

  15. Robert Nyman

    Sorry to hear about your troubles, David. I wish you the best of luck in your switch, and part of me wishes I would dare to do that as well… 🙂


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