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Poll: What is your primary desktop OS?
25 points by AhtiK on May 25, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments
I'm moving away from Windows and torn between OS X and Linux. I've been using Linux for quite a few years but for the last 3 years had to use Windows because of a customer contracting work.

I understand that it all depends but curious to see where most of the HN community gets their stuff done.

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Linux user here. Aside from being free and running on just about anything, the fact that you're familiar with Linux means you're likely to end up frustrated with UI shortcomings or (intentional) system limitations that you can't get around (by design) in OS X.

Of course, if you just happen to love everything Apple has baked inextricably into their OS... then awesome, and you'll certainly be happy! For the rest of us, though, the flexible, stable, useful devil we know is likely a better choice.

I recently switched to OSX after being exclusively on Linux for 14 years (Redhat 6.0!!). My employer gave me an awesome laptop and I decided to give it a shot.

After hearing for so long how great OSX was I was shocked to find out how poor the experience was compared to Unity. Go figure.

I'd switch back _today_ but all distros have very bad support for the latest retina MBP. A few years ago I might have done it anyway but honestly one of the reasons I was so open to switching to OSX was that I just feel worn down by the constant battles with hardware issues in Linux. It is better than it used to be but still sucks and the last thing I want to do is dive into a known bad situation.


> After hearing for so long how great OSX was I was shocked to find out how poor the experience was compared to Unity. Go figure.

OS X is (in my opinion) miles ahead of Unity at present, which is unsurprising considering Unity is so new -- I imagine some of your discomfit may just come from unfamiliarity. OS X is definitely not for everyone, but I certainly wouldn't say it's poor! Just different, and I appreciate the GUI is frustratingly inflexible if you're used to Linux--but at least that gives it a sense of consistency, so you do get something for it.

If you'd like to give Linux a try on your MBPR, you do have options, e.g. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/MacBookPro_Retina Agreed that support isn't great right now, but it's getting better all the time.

It depends a lot on what you do for work, I bet. I'm in sort of a similar situation as you--Windows at work, Linux at home, but I also have a mac. I run a pretty bare-bones setup on my Linux desktop (#!: an OS for those who got frustrated trying to learn Arch and still like APT). The lack of extra stuff makes me less prone to messing around, so it's great as a GSD system and when I want to dedicate my CPU and memory to the primary task instead of to the overhead of a bulky GUI and other features. Having a CUDA-capable GPU is nice, too, instead of having to use an emulator. If you do technical or scientific computing, Linux may be a good bet. The vagueness of my advice is because I'm only involved in a small subset of the technical computing world, but a lot of the statistical programmers in the FOSS world use Macs or Linux boxes (Debian-derivatives are very popular in the R community).

OS X probably has a bigger advantage for front-end and mobile dev, though.

If your decision is based purely on aesthetics, given enough time, I'm sure you can find a GUI for Linux that you like more than OSX. While OSX gives you a GUI with no fuss, the customizability of a lot of desktop environments for Linux means you can tune it to exactly what you want, whether you want more graphical flare, or less (for the OpenBox folks out there--represent!).

> If your decision is based purely on aesthetics, given enough time, I'm sure you can find a GUI for Linux that you like more than OSX.

People choose OS X because of its design though, not because of its aesthetics. "You can't put lipstick on a pig" and all that. The trouble with Linux is that there's no consistency in UIs between various apps, and skinning just makes things even less consistent.

I'm in your scientific computing category, and I'm using OS X as my main machine right now--my only complaints are the occasional missing package from Homebrew. I suspect I might prefer Ubuntu in that regard.

In all seriousness, if it's just an occasional missing package, consider adding it to Homebrew. It's a relatively painless process and adds a tool to everyone's working palette. This is a mitzvah.

If that was a polite way of saying "many missing packages", that's a different story.

I agree, and I'm trying :) So far it's just been two packages, one of which has since been added (not by myself) and one is still presenting problems, but it's always a pain struggling to compile something knowing that it's a simple apt-get away on Ubuntu.

I'm mostly doing java, eclipse rcp, python and web stack work so Linux would be fine.

But occasionally I need to work with color-calibrated monitors for photo processing and I have yet to try out if Linux and ICC get along fine and if there's a chance to hook my Spyder calibrator without booting to Win or Mac. Also need to check if CR2 raw files in Gimp is something that I can build my workflow on.

Additionally, with linux I'll miss some music creation with a DAW and a bunch of VST plugins. That forces me to keep multibooting to Windows when choosing Linux.

With OS X it would be a single env.

Well, I haven't really tried it with a real color calibrator, but I have heard from someone who has used that argyllcms stuff successfully. Should be pretty straightforward to use. I don't really know how it is related, but there is dispcalgui/dispcal that automatically put themselves in ~/.config/autostart and load color profiles.

Also there is this relatively new colord stuff which gnome seems to support (I think only loading profiles)...

VST... well, it's a "standard" but it uses compiled native code. What can you expect? There are some projects like festige/fsthost/dssi-vst that try to integrate with wine. When I tried it I got very mixed results but then I did not try with a realtime kernel and additionally I only tried it with the default priority of jackd run as user. I was told it would work much better on low latency systems. Ubuntu Studio is apparently still a thing, so there are probably an number of easy to setup distribution with this stuff enabled. But yes, the VST situation is bad.

Sorry, '#!' is basically un-searchable. Which distro is this? I like Arch, but I wouldn't mind something even more bare-bones.

It's pronounced "shebang" but it's probably easier just to search "Linux distros" and Ctrl-F "#!", which is what I did. Google-fu :)


And agreed--this is a silly name for an OS, but it looks pretty cool at least! Though sadly it seems like they don't have a non-Bittorrent download option, so I can't try it out -- if anyone knows of a mirror, that'd be great.

Thank you!

I should have thought to search for it that way, given that I know that pronunciation...

I have heard great things about CrunchBang in the past, actually. Neat. I used Fluxbox at one point in time, so OpenBox shouldn't be too big of a change. It's also been a few years, so re-learning things would be nice as well.

I am a lifelong Mac OS user (started with System 6), and currently use OSX on a MacBook Air, but my next purchase will be a non-ultrabook form-factor generic PC, possibly a ThinkPad, running Arch Linux.

:3 that's going to be a lot of fun to set up. Enjoy that!

I've been using Arch for a few years, first on the desktop, and then on several servers, and it's an absolute blast.

The ease of use and mostly-open-source aspects of OSX are great, but recently, Apple (and Google, and...) has been doing enough bad stuff that I need to swing back to as much open source as possible.

The most recent situation: Apple still ships Ruby 1.8.7 by default, which is no longer receiving security patches as of June. And in order to compile Ruby 2.0, a new OpenSSL must be compiled because that is old. And in order to compile them, you need the compiler tools or XCode.

And if you want to use eliptic key crypto, you need to install homebrew, install a tap, and then recompile OpenSSH...

Going back to my XMonad will be pretty enjoyable.

Yeah, OS X is still there for developer needs, but it's taken a step back from the uber power usability (aka, your example). At the end of the day, as long as you use an OS and software that meets your needs, use it.

I've been jumping between the big three every other year now over the last decade (OSX when I was into MacBookPros, Linux or Win when I was into other hardware vendors).

They all have their own unique little annoying-quirks and favourable strengths. I've found that when your environment is say, Sublime Text + a browser + a command line, the outer OS matters surprisingly little.

Really curious (I only have second-hand experience with it) - you made cmd.exe or cygwin work for you? I keep hearing from people who tried it that they gave up after a while, switching to an OS with native bash/zsh.

From my experience, Cygwin can pretty easily be tuned to the state of fitting almost all the needs of an average developer looking for a *nix env at Win platform. The problems start appearing when you need to somehow integrate Win apps with Cygwin apps. For example, the idea to run Cygwin's ruby|python|php|gcc|whatever directly from Sublime Text can take a lot of figuring it out on how to do it.

cmd.exe in its turn lacks a portion of basic functionality, like tabs, for example. A 3rd party apps, like Console, can help solve this problem, but in its turn, they have their own issues. Console, for example can have noticeable delays when rendering output.

I'm really not into Cygwin, just "Mingw / MSYS" works for me. But I'm not too much of a shell ninja to begin with--might rather script my needs in an x-platform way (whether that be Python or Node or Dart or plain Go) because I know I might be on Windows whenever I'm going through a gaming phase. Those come and go but when there is one, I'd want to take a quick break firing up Steam without needing to reboot, so I'd just work from Win7 to begin with.

I find OSX is a very powerful Unix with a very usable window manager. I spend almost all my time in iTerm anyway.

Plus the machines themselves are the best damn laptops I've ever used.

OS X, but strongly considering a jump back to Linux (I ran Linux for about 15 years).

Oh, and I have a Win 7 partition on the drive, too, but it's rarely booted.

Was there anything specific that you felt especially annoying in OS X or something missing that was available in Linux?

I'm becoming increasingly unhappy with the direction Apple is headed.

I'm running Xubuntu. The combo of Xfce/Ubuntu gives you the flexibility of Linux, but without inflicting on you the constant changes you see in other DEs/WMs. It just works and gets out of your way.

FreeBSD...has been my primary desktop OS for about 7 years now. Overall very stable with occasional problems.

I'm increasingly surprised that this matters at all to software developers.

Software developers aren't afraid of changing UI. (In fact, they usually are the ones inflicting that upon others.) So, it shouldn't matter where your menus are, how you switch between applications, how the file browser displays files.

The technical differences between operating systems are huge, but they all support the same day-to-day features: they all multitask reasonably well, they all have or support reasonable filesystems, they all support a lot of different kinds of hardware (and most of what you're likely to need to use).

Worst-case scenario, you can fall back on multiboot or virtualization to fill in a few gaps.

Software developers spend most of their time in just a few applications: a text editor or IDE of some sort, a web browser, maybe an ssh client. There are perfectly usable options for each of those on each operating system.

So ... seriously, what does it matter? I have a mild preference for Debian/KDE, but I could do most of my work on MacOS (in fact, I did in the past) or Windows, with just a couple of days of tweaking and setup. The only possible spot where Windows might fall down a bit for me would be in supporting a locally-hosted LAMP setup, and even then there's WampServer (http://www.wampserver.com/en/).

Gnu/Linux with KDE, I've been using it for a while and I find that it fit my needs perfectly. Currently using it under Chakra Linux, but I'm liking OpenSuse lately.

Been using Slackware for the last years. It started out as a learning experience and I haven't had any reason to switch yet. I've gotten the games to work mostly on wine and on the off chance I'm dual booting with windows on the laptop purely for games.

I highly recommend using a tiling window manager (I'm happy with xmonad). No more resizing windows with the mouse, things simply work. That I'm on a dual monitor setup is a big plus for that as well.

This is one I'm really curious about. I triple boot, but most of my time is spent in Linuxm but most of the time I'm on a PC I'm trying to be productive.

For me I had to vote for all of them:

Linux - 70% - Development and experimentation

OSX - 20%- Development and Leisure browsing

Windows 10% - .Net development or running something that wont run elsewhere

Other - Something I'm playing around with, FreeBSD, Unix etc.

Unless you count my time at work, then Windows is much higher, as I'm forced to use it there.

I have currently been using windows but today I switched to Ubuntu. I had previously used it but only in dual boot or a VM.

I started with Ubuntu Linux then made the switch to Mint for a while and switched back just within the past month. After a few weeks of dealing with constant error popups on Ubuntu 13.04 I decided to permanently switch to Mint. May switch to Debian or OpenSuse just to see what they are like.

I do design, art, sound and development (web applications and games). So the OS X is the choice. It has *nix environment combined with natively working Adobe Creative Suite apps and a lot of platform exclusive graphic and sound editors.

I've used all 3 over the last several years. My favorite is Linux, but the app support just isn't there. Using free alternatives to apps like Photoshop (face it, Gimp sucks) and Office (LibreOffice sucks) was way too painful for me. Also, no Google Drive client (yes, Insync also sucks and constantly crashed/failed to work properly).

So to me, OSX was the only clear alternative to have a native *nix OS with all of the app support.

I would go back to Linux in a heartbeat if I had the app support. And wine isn't an option either, I don't want to spend countless hours configuring crap and having apps crash on me.

One thing I never did was experiment more with windows and Cygwin.

Ubuntu, here. I use it for software development, so I'm not much of a Linux connoisseur. I have used it for developing J2ME apps, developing a Linux-based OS for VoIP phones, and for several years now, Android development.

I started using Ubuntu back when the quip was that it's the Swahili word for "Can't install Debian." I used LXDE for a while while Unity was in its bumptious youth, but I like Unity now.

BUT if I know I won't have to use an IDE for a meeting, I'll take only an Android tablet. With the latest updates it is within spitting distance of being a complete office work machine. Offline editing of Drive documents would complete the picture.

OS X planning to jump to Windows and Ubuntu.

Interesting. Why the jump?

Better yet, why Windows?

I don't like Apple's direction with OS X ML. Windows for gaming and GNU/Linux for dev work. I also personally think Windows is snappier than OS X.

I was really pleasantly surprised when I ugpraded to Windows 7. With enough ram, it is very responsive and a fairly pleasing experience.

Why not Windows?

I use OSX with a Windows & Linux VM on standby for anything that I can't easily do on OSX natively. I don't have to use them very often but I like having options. Occasionally I need a Windows-only app or need a bleeding edge release of some package that won't build easily on OSX. I used Linux as a desktop OS for about 6 years before switching to OSX and I have no desire to go back. The amount of time I wasted just trying to get things working properly was not worth it and OSX (Windows also) just have much better desktop software available.

OS X may not be as reliable as advertised. Most people don't have issues. But my mac has significant issues with any software that needs to be installed. Drag-and-drop installs to the applications directory are fine, but anything like Mac app store, Adobe update manager, or Office Mac installers will not function correctly. My apps also frequently crash. I have lost hours in the double-digits to my unreliable mac. Never had these issues on Windows. Now I'm stuck and unsure about any future mac purchase.

An OS is just an OS. Remember that there's a learning curve when switching and some things will be baffling ("Why the heck did they do this like that?" "Why can't I turn this off?" etc). Some of these are just annoyances and have work arounds. Some of them are more serious and you're stuck with them.

FWIW I don't do anything serious with any of my machines, so any OS is fine. I have Fedora on the desktop, and Vista with Kali on the Thinkpad. I had OS X snow Leopard until that computer died.

Linux user since 1996. Not going to change - I like having an OS that's open to the core, and behaves how I want it to. Focus follows the damn mouse, for instance.

Windows, because of the polished .NET universe.

Btw, is there any alternative to Autohotkey on Linux/OS X? Cannot imagine how to use any desktop GUI without it anymore.

I boot into Windows on my primary desktop and use it most of the time, but I've been turning to a Linux Mint virtual machine for more and more of my programming projects. It just seems a lot easier to get up and running quickly in a Unix environment. I also recently purchased an Android tablet and will probably carry it around instead of a full laptop for doing remote server work and such.

Windows. Stayed on it because of the games. If someone makes decent VGA pass trough or gaming layer on wine will drop it in a second. Everything I need runs better and faster on Linux. And with linux taking over the server world (or took over depends on who you ask) it makes a lot of sense to have your work environment closely resembling your server one.

Linux at home, Windows and Windows Server at internship. Makes me remember everything I disliked about server administration. Let's just say the commandline is really my thing.

Edit: Oh and I got an Android phone that also runs Debian. Perhaps it's interesting to add iOS, Windows Phone and Android to the list? You can vote multiple options anyway.

Why you do not control your server by Powershell then?

I'd even rather use BASIC

Why the hell!? :)

I primarily use OSX due to its GUI consistency. I also like Linux a lot but I always end up breaking well working software and installations or the sound drivers in it:-). If you need to do occasional windows work then a desktop dual boot with windows and OSX/Linux is your best option.

I use a MBP15" with OSX host with Win8 and Debian VMs Virtualbox is amazing these days, no need for bootcamp. OSX - writing, reading, browsing, entertainment, dev Win8 - CAD, FEM Debian - server dev why settle for just one OS when you can run all three at the same time?

I am using OS X because of the built in terminal and Retina display and until recently I was using Windows. I don't see how Mac is better.

There is no such thing as the best OS there is only one that suits your needs. Anyone who says Win or Mac or Linux sucks are just dumb.

OS X for work (they gave me the Mac), but I spend most of my time in a Linux shell or IDE. I used to split my time between Ubuntu and Windows for development.

I prefer the dev environment of OSX and Linux to Windows and the UIs of Linux and Windows to OSX.

i have been using windows for many years, but in recent years i got experience on linux (console) environment. then i tried many times to switch linux permanently, but always i can't find it easy to use. for example when i connect my monitor to my laptop, switching between my laptops sceeen and monitor is easy on windows but linux can't handle this well, or when i watch video on youtube linux can't perform well on fullscreen, but on windows, it plays with no lagg. however i think when it comes to server environment, windows has no chance against any unix like os.

Linux and Windows, the former mainly.

I have both installed in both my PCs (Desktop and Laptop) and I boot into whatever I need to do the work (Or gaming) I need.

Although lately I rarely boot Windows, and if I do: It's for playing some games.

For the last 5 years, the wonderful Arch Linux. Currently with XFCE.

Using the same setup and I've been loving it so far (almost 3 years now).

The package manager is just so sweet.

OS X because it obviously is useful for Mac and iOS work, but works well for everything else (except Windows, obviously, but a VM fixes that). XAMPP gives me a setup for playing around with LAMP, and iTerm and a Linode gets me going for dedicated Linux work. None of that would matter if I had to run OS X on crap hardware, but MacBooks make for some of the best laptops. The downside is that if you DO want to run on lesser hardware, you're out of luck without a lot of hassle. (I've done hackintosh in the past, and though fun to hack around, if your time is worth more than minimum wage you're not saving money.)

I changed from Windows/Linux to OS X. It's much better now.

Ubuntu 13.04 with MATE, but most of my work is done on virtual machines (all sorts of Windows and Linux) and on servers I ssh to (mostly Linux).

I used FreeBSD for a couple of years around 2003, other than that I have been running GNU/Linux since the Atari ST days.

OSX. But I'm desperate to get back to Linux.

Linux for my desktop (where all the apps I use live inside a tmux session) and OSX for my laptop.

Amazing how osx is winning over devs

Why would you follow our recommendations? Just try for yourself and make an opinion.

Not following, just curious to see how many find Win adequate to their needs and if Linux is worth the conf hassle for others.

I'd love to try all out but OS X with a MBP is a rather expensive for just trying out. Borrowing for a weekend is out of question, it takes more time to see if one can settle and hate to see the face of my friend after returning his reconfigured MBP :-)

There are ways of getting it running in Virtualbox if you just want to give it a shot.

ArchLinux with Gnome 3

What is a general opinion about hackintoshes?

Not worth the effort. Though my last attempt was a couple of years back. Bought an MBP after that effort.

Dual booting Windows 8 and OS X

I'm using OS X for all my desktop needs, which are coding, network- and sysadmin things, along with the occasional writing and whatever else a single-person developer shop needs to do. Here's why:

1. OS X is the clear choice for a desktop system that just works and has all the power of Unix underneath. I've used various Unix desktops in the past and they all had one thing in common: You had to spend a lot of time to get things working to some kind of acceptable level, you had to spend more time keeping them that way and in the end you often get "you cannot do that" or "Software X isn't available, you have to use Wine/a VM/an inferior clone". I also use Skype, despite it's security issues and uglified Mac client, because it's the easiest to explain to clients[1]. I haven't tried using Skype on Linux myself, but I've heard things like "Sure, lemme just swap audio drivers and reboot real quick". Err, really?

2. Applications. On OS X you get some standard things that you may need, like Photoshop and Skype and a mail client along with a great choice of text editors. You also get Pages and Keynote[2], both of which are fantastic when you need to write documentation or a presentation and have them look effortlessly pretty and export to all kinds of file formats. On top of that, there are some pretty awesome apps from small and mid-size developers than you can get only on OS X. First and foremost of these is OmniGraffle, which has not only saved me tons of time but earnt me several "wow, I didn't know Visio can do that" comments (It can't). Oh, and if you can't avoid dealing with BigCorp clients, you can get Microsoft Office for those pesky .doc files they insist on sending you that always look a bit wonky in LubricateOffice.

3. You still have X11 for Wireshark (that's all I ever use it for anymore).

4. Time machine is a convenient zero-setup-required backup that will save you time when you screwed up and need that file back. It's seriously fun to restore a file with it compared to any other backup software I've ever used ("please insert tape labeled .. into slot 7").

5. Same for FileVault (full disk encryption).

6. I don't know what you do, but if you ever decide to pick up OS X or IOS development, you already have everything you need.

7. The font rendering is oh so very pretty.

8. If you happen to have any iDevices, they'll shut up and sync.

9. The hardware looks nice, is well designed (in practical terms) and when it breaks you get pretty good service. And Retina is awesome.

I guess it all boils down to how much time you want to spend fucking around with your system instead of getting work done. Note that you still can fuck around with OS X to a great extent (GeekTool), it's just you don't have to. Same reason I use FreeBSD (instead of OS X or Linux) for servers and Windows for gaming. You can certainly get some Windows games to run in Wine or learn how to navigate GNU info to read docs, but that's time and frustration I'd rather not inflict on myself.

[1] "Just give me your Skype username. Don't have one? Click that." is a lot less trouble than "Install this SIP client and then open a port in your firewall and follow this 35 page instruction manual". I wish it wasn't so, but it is.

[2] iWork costs a few extra coins but is well worth it.

I agree that OS X is a more polished on the desktop, but I think some of your specific issues are not quite accurate.

I use Skype on Ubuntu 12.10 32-bit version (Metacity like 11.x default) it works pretty well without having to manually fix drivers etc. It does work for voice chat without issue.

LibreOffice works well on Ubuntu, Windows, and probably OS X for those pesky .doc files.

I really wish X11 wasn't a factor for OSX anymore. I keep running into software I'd like to run but their "OSX" version requires you to fire up X first. From a speed and a visuals perspective it's pretty terrible.



I was on various Linuxes for several years and went back to Windows. Why?

* Buggy updates. About 1 in 3 kernel upgrades produce a crash or hang on bootup. About a quarter of those that survive booting fail to recognize my network card. A smaller fraction of updates delete features from my desktop, and some give me a broken X that won't load. Then there's the annoyance that the upgrades often spend half a gig of bandwidth; I'm glad I'm not on dial-up anymore, or in a rural area.

* Uncancelable fsck. Windows does not randomly keep me off my own computer for an hour at a time when I'm most interested in getting some work done.

* Games. I don't even mean mass-market games. Wine for old Win9x games is a crapshoot. The Linux version of Adobe's flash player underperforms and the open source version doesn't perform. On games that are playable, the sound is a half-second off.

* Opportunity. Windows came with my new computer.

YMMV, but these are my reasons.

Just made the jump to Linux. I'm using Pear OS, a Ubuntu-based Linux distro that's a decent clone of OSX.

Linux finally getting unofficial Netflix support was the last thing holding me back. I have three iPhones, two iPads, and an Apple TV but Macs are too expensive, especially when you already own a PC.

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