Apple Versus Linux - Observations

I’ve used Linux ever since I got my first computer. Currently, I run Linux Mint, but I’ve always run Debian/Ubuntu-based OSes on my primary computer. At my summer internship however, I use an Apple laptop. This page will serve to list some of the most notable differences to me between my current primary laptop and the Apple one. So here’s a running list I’ll modify over time:

Software

Speed

Apple computers run much slower than Linux computers in my experience. I think this is partially because programs use crazy amounts of RAM, which pushes stuff into swap, which will make any computer act slow. On my Linux laptop, I can have 50+ tabs in Firefox open and be at less than 6GB RAM usage for the entire system, while on the Mac 10 tabs will take up 8+ GB for Firefox alone after a few days.

Recently, I had to copy almost 30GB of files to a fileserver. After connecting to the server via WebDAV, the upload was going at around 15 Mb/s on the Mac. That was too slow, so I cancelled the upload, put all the files on a USB drive, and tried using WebDAV on Linux - that went at around 30 Mb/s (the computers were within two feet of each other, on the same network). That was still too slow, so I ended up just using rsync on Linux, which got about 80 Mb/s.

Case Preserving, but Case Insensitive Filesystem

This is quite annoying, but at least it hasn’t caused problems (yet?). Apple not only ignores case in commands relating to the filesystem, gives false answers about it too:

$ mkdir TEST
$ ls
TEST/
$ cd test
$ pwd
/Users/zeke/test

Why doesn’t it just silently redirect cd test to the TEST directory? Oh well. I hear Linux can be made to do this to, but I can’t think why someone would want it.

Hardware

CMD/CTRL Confusion

Apple can’t seem to make up its mind about when to Use CMD, and when to use CTRL for keyboard shortcuts. So far, I’ve figured out that it seems like “primary” actions use CMD (such as CMD+C), and “secondary” actions use CTRL, like CTRL+Tab to switch browser tabs. However, this seems unnecessarily confusing. Other OSes get by fine without having a special CMD key. The only thing I can think of on Linux where a typical CTRL shortcut doesn’t work is copy/pasting from a terminal, where CTRL+Shift+C/P is used in order to avoid sending a ^C signal. At least this has a clear reason though. Maybe the Mac behavior would be less confusing if I used it as my primary OS instead, though.

Touchpad

The touchpad on the Mac is generally good, although it’s a lot easier to accidentally click stuff while typing since the entire touchpad acts as a button. However, the horizontal scrolling on the Mac is far better than on Linux. Linux’s horizontal scrolling is bad enough that I usually keep it disabled and just drag the scrollbar instead. Hopefully one day Linux will improve this, although it’s not something I use often.