The Frictionless Joy of Using a Single Platform

I’ve had so much fun these past few months learning my way around (Arch) Linux on the desktop. Using a ThinkPad while mobile instead of a MacBook Pro or iPad has been a pleasant change of pace.

I settled on the i3 Window Manager and found it to be a totally new and mostly pleasant way of working with windows. I tried all sorts of cool software that I’d only read about before. I spent lots of time editing configuration files, tweaking the dickens out of every possible feature. This has provided countless hours of entertainment and I learned a lot.

However, I’m putting my Linux experiment on hold.

It’s the idea of Linux that I love. Wall to wall freely distributed, open source software is such a cool thing. Being free from reliance upon any one particular vendor is a great feeling. Having endless choices for how the operating system and software behave is liberating. I like having a variety of hardware options and not being stuck with a brand new laptop with the shittiest keyboard in the world. And I must admit, I don’t mind the nerd creds that using something like Arch provides. It makes me feel like I’m zagging, and I like zagging. Everyone (well, not everyone) I know uses a MacBook Pro and it’s fun being the guy using something totally different.

But I run into problems. The trouble starts when constantly switching between macOS and Linux. Keyboard shortcuts are close-but-not-quite the same. My shared dotfile configuration needs exceptions so that paths and apps work correctly on both systems. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

Were I to switch completely to Linux I’d have none of these issues. Someday I may go all Richard Stallman about software and that will be that. Until then, I’ll have to remain content being a “Mac Guy”.

I’m not yet ready to give up the wonderful software I’ve used and loved for a decade or more on my Mac. I’m not ready to find reliable substitutes for all the little tweaks and scripts I’ve collected over the years. Mostly, I’m not ready to put up with the constant friction of living in two similar-but-different environments.

The ThinkPad will remain at hand, though. I like using it as a single-purpose writing device. A screen split between Emacs, a Terminal, and a Browser makes for a pretty tight, if not completely distraction-free, writing environment. Plus, the keyboard is way better than the one on my MacBook Pro.

I’m also using the iPad more.

“But wait a minute,” you protest. “That’s two different platforms, right? Doesn’t that cause the same problems?”

Good question, but no, it doesn’t. The Mac and the iPad are entirely different devices. Switching between them doesn’t cause me to suffer from the “uncanny valley” problem. They are so different that I don’t try using them for the same things in the same way like I’ve been doing with macOS and Linux. Seems weird, maybe, but it makes sense to me.

I’m sure that I’ll hear about all sorts of ways to fix everything I’ve mentioned and that “It’s just a matter of editing foo.conf and memorizing 75 new key bindings.” Thanks, but no thanks. Not right now.

All this to say that I’m having fun tinkering with Linux but I’ll be sticking with my Macs and not worrying about whether every app I want to use is cross-platform. I won’t be worrying about /home vs /Users. I won’t have to give up any of my beloved tools. I won’t suffer the mental friction caused by subtle differences in how everything works.