My Year Of Linux Inside The Desktop

Christmas has come and gone, and nothing much has happened other than an untimely viral flu, a fair amount of reading and the start of a well-deserved break, during which I noticed it’s been a year since I last posted about Elementary and built a rather nice Hackintosh, and that it’s probably worthwhile to do a little recap.

Another Thing In The Closet

First off, about that Hackintosh, which I rather affectionately christened rogueone.

The long and short of it is that although I was able to get most of the niceties working (including Bluetooth input), I never had the time to fix dual display support under Sierra (which is critical for me) and ended up installing Elementary on it instead–which worked beautifully with everything, except that Linux power management and fan control lack finesse to a degree where the machine was substantially louder–and even with handpicked components, the fan noise was too much compared to my mini.

Since I needed to run Windows and have a native Linux server for testing, I set up KVM (Elementary is Ubuntu LTS under the hood, after all), stuffed the machine into a closet and turned my nearly eight-year-old Mac mini into a souped-up thin terminal, which has worked out quite well in many regards–there is now zero fan noise in the office (the mini also runs cooler), I get to use both my monitors and can still enjoy all my Bluetooth input devices.

Thin and Big vs Fat and Locked Down

In fact, I’ve been pondering if I shouldn’t follow through–just get a cheap fanless PC to dual boot between Windows and Linux and call it a day. I’ve even drafted a shortlist (currently topped by the Mele PCG35 paired with an LG 43UD79), and the only two hard requirements are that it has to be utterly noise-free (so low-end fanless machines are mostly OK), and that it needs to be able to drive a 4K display.

Given these preferences, It’s pretty obvious to me that I’m not part of [Apple][a]’s elusive “Pro” segment–I’m a UNIX guy that codes and builds cloud solutions, I don’t do (much) audio or video editing, my photography needs aren’t really met by their software (although the OS does have great color management), and I find all-in-one machines to be too limiting, especially when they’re not expandable at all. The mini form factor suited me perfectly until they stopped being upgradable, but I’m getting round to accept that my hope for a decent compact Mac desktop is 90% likely to go unfulfilled.

On the other hand, it’s actually quite amazing to think that I spent a good portion of my time working inside the Linux subsystem in Windows and hardly missed the Mac during business hours–were it not for my reliance on Mail.app (something that Thunderbird never managed to solve) and the buttery smoothness of macOS input devices, and I’d probably have switched wholesale to Windows for office work and Linux for coding and photography.

Less Entropy is More

And, let’s face it, that is an increasingly likely option given the mess macOS turned out to be during 2017. I kept running Elementary on my ancient Chromebook, and the thing is absolutely rock solid and consistently smooth (even with only 2GB of RAM, a crummy screen and a lousy touchpad), to the extent that it’s often the first laptop I reach for when inspiration strikes me.

Yeah, it’s Linux, and it’s impossible to file away all the jutting corners and kludges. But it’s been a year, and I can’t find anything (else) wrong with it that I can’t work around or live with. In fact, it’s aged better than macOS, and that alone should give you pause.

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