My 7 year old desktop computer has finally died. After having replaced 2 disks, 3 power supplies, a VGA card, the USB ports, several fans and a monitor, its about time for this machine to retire. With its innards spilled onto floor and hooked up to multiple power supplies, its being kept alive long enough for me to copy all the important data over to my NAS.
I already looked around a bit and will probably reuse the case, power supply and some disks for the new machine. With a new gigabyte motherboard, core i7 CPU, plenty of RAM and an SSD for the operating system, it will probably be insanely fast compared to this one. But that brings me to the final choice, which operating system to use?
I have experience with most operating systems. My desktop has always been linux (first debian and later ubuntu), but I also own a macbook pro and use Windows at work. None of them are perfect, so choosing between them is pretty hard. Note that I can't really run OSX on the new hardware I plan to order, but I'll include it in the comparison as I could buy an iMac instead.
The most important functions for this machine are:
- Running virtual machines (development environments & tests).
- Surfing the interwebs.
- Communication tools (IM/twitter/email/..).
- Access shared data stored on the NAS via CIFS.
- Connecting and disconnecting monitors while its running so that I can use one of them to watch TV.
So here is how I see the advantages and disadvantages of the different operating systems at this time:
- My trusted desktop environment for years. I know what its good at and what its limitations are very well.
- Easy shell scripting for bulk operations.
- Lots of free applications, although not all of them are good.
- Software updates for all applications, not just the OS.
- Very easy software installation.
- Has gotten pretty bloated over time. Definitely no longer the lean and mean OS it once used to be.
- Inconsistent when it comes to accessing CIFS shares. Only certain applications can access files opened in the gnome explorer, for CLI tools you need to manually mount it again.
- Very poor performance when accessing the CIFS share.
- Support for multiple monitors and accelerated graphics in general is horrible.
- The nightmare that is Audio.
- Frequent upgrades required and every time something breaks.
- good at dealing with CIFS file shares.
- Easy use of multiple monitors.
- Lots of applications and nowadays quite a lot of freeware as well. Most of the applications I use are cross-platform.
- Not as easy to use scripting.
- Its Microsoft and I'll have to listen to rant after rant about me selling my soul to the devil.
- Main target for malware so I'll have to run an antivirus program which will affect performance.
- Pretty hardware and it has an Apple badge. Admit it, thats one of the main reasons they are bought.
- Easy to use multiple monitors.
- It can do scripting just like linux.
- Lots of applications and several of them are quite user friendly. Even though I'm not a novice, I still appreciate a clean and simple user interface.
- Its Apple, which as a company is far worse than Microsoft.
- It has quite some troubles accessing CIFS shares. Especially if authentication or hidden shares are involved.
- Bloody expensive and nearly impossible to upgrade the hardware afterwards.
- Video and audio codec hell.
- It will not allow you to choose anything other than Quicktime to open videos which are located on a read-only CIFS share.
- Requires quite a lot of tweaks to work the way I want.
At the moment I'm leaning towards using Windows 7 as my primary operating system with a Linux virtual machine to run my collection of scripts. I'll still give Linux a try when the new hardware arrives, but I don't really expect anything amazing from it. Getting it to work has always been a struggle, especially when it comes to multiple monitors. I don't expect this to work properly, especially attaching and disconnecting the monitors while its running.
OSX has already been ruled out because of its price and lack of hardware flexibility. I'll simply keep running all the cool OSX stuff and image editing on my macbook as I already do nowadays. If I could run OSX on my own hardware, that would probably have won.
I have mixed feelings moving away from Linux on the desktop. It's still running on my servers of course, but now that a lot more has shifted to the web and the few other applications that I use have become cross-platform, many of the reasons that I was using it on the desktop have vanished. Quite the irony as most of these applications are open source.
On the other hand, as I look at all the Linux server admins, 90% of them are using macbooks. So I don't seem to be the first to admit that Linux has lost the battle for the desktop.