Linux on a Mac the Basics

Before we even start I am going to keep things simple here. This blog post is for those folks who have yet to even try Linux. This will talk about why someone may want to run Linux on a Mac or old PC computer.

What is linux? And why is everyone so excited about it?

So the super simple answer to the what is Linux question is, Linux is an alternative Operating system that will run on your PC or Mac in place of or alongside your current operating system. (Trying to keep this simple is not easy)

Linux is Open Source software. That Basically means that you can download it for free!!! In fact, 90% of the software you will find on Linux is free to use.

Linux is a very powerful Operating system and actually runs most of the internet. it is also the standard for Security professionals and developers. Though Linux is very powerful does not mean that you need to be an expert to use it.

Advantages of Linux

The list of things that Linux does best. Once again this is for those people who have never tried using Linux. This list is much shorter than what I would write for a computer Tech.

Runs on very old machine

Now and then I get someone who has a very old computer that does do well with the current operating system. (Web browsers no longer working, Etc) When I find out that they are not able to afford to get a new computer, This is when I recommend that they try Linux.

I have installed Linux on an old mac before and it worked great for basic use. It is a good way to bring new life to an old computer and very cheaply.

Runs on PC or Mac

For the times that I have installed Linux on a PC or a Mac the result has always been the same. I have found that now and then a version of linux will not play nice with some of the aspects of a PC hardware. (Mostly lesser known brands) but with Mac computers and the major PC brands it works fine.

Duel Boot

Though you do have the option to totally wipe the hard drive when you install Linux. You do have the option to “Duel Boot”. I have used this feature on my Macbook for years. I’m currently running OSX High Sierra and Ubuntu 18.04 on my 2011 Macbook Pro. (Yeah I need a hardware upgrade)

You can also run Linux on Virtual Box making it so you can run Linux and OSX at the same time.

Live Boots

You can also install Linux on a USB Stick. This allows you to load Linux on any computer Temporarily. This means that if you need to use a friends computer but do not want to change their settings. Connect your USB stick .. reboot the computer and now you are using Linux. (Slightly more complex than that but not much) And once you reboot it was like you were never there. Respecting your privacy and your friends at the same time.

However, I do want to warn you that in most cases everything that you save during the session will be deleted unless you are using a persistent USB install. (another blog post)

Free Software

If you are one of those people who like the Apple App Store you are going to love the Linux version of that (Actually Linux had that for YEARS before Apple did) The main difference is that at least 90% of the Linux software is free. So if you do not like it ..just remove it.

Malware and Virus Resistant

If you like the fact Mac are Immune to Viruses and less likely to get Malware. you are going to love Linux. Though I have to use the phrase Resistant because I do not believe in absolutes I have yet to encounter any Linux Malware or Viruses.

Linux is also very secure in comparison to Windows.

Super customisable

Linux has the ability to completely customise it. This can be from how it looks to what kind of icons you have. You can have really custom effects to super simple.

Perfect for Tinker projects

Linux uses all kinds of programming languages like Bash, Python, Go etc . This means that you can program all kinds of neat features that will give your system a lot of power. Because of this a lot of open source software works well with linux. it is also the key operating system for Raspberry Pi. So all kinds of projects can be done with linux

Things Linux could do Better

Linux is far from the perfect operating system. It does have some things that it needs to work on (And trust me people are working on it)

Some things are not straight forward

The Graphical User interface sometimes is not as straight forwared as OSX. There are times where the person who designed the free software looked at its creation with the view of a computer expert. This does mean that now and then software that you install may have a high learning curve. Though the most common features are often very well designed.

There are also times where the free software you just downloaded is from the early 90s. So it will leave you scratching your head thinking ‘What kind of crap is this?” (Just uninstall it)

Some things need converting

Software like MS Office will not run on Linux so you will have to use the free alternative that comes with Linux. This software works fine and is compatible. However, if you plan to share your documents you will need to convert them first. If you are a Mac user who likes the Apple Pages app this is nothing new.

Linux is intimidating

Because what people see of linux on TV is mostly hackers and command line interface, There is a misconception that you really need to be a programer to even start to use Linux. I know that I was a bit intimidated as well when I first started. There is also a false arrogance that Linux users have when talking to PC folks, giving the impression that you must be part of the computing elite to use it. Though I am happy to say that if you mention you want to try Linux your penguin obsessed friend will be very helpful.

Some things Mac users should know before installing Linux

Even though Linux and Mac OSX are both from a similar root of Unix ( Pun intended) There are a few things that you should know.

Linux uses a different file format than OSX.

A while back I talked about the kinds of Drive Formats. I did mention that was a simple list. Well, the list goes on from there the moment Linux gets involved. This does mean that your mac will not be able to read the drives that are formatted for Linux. However, your Linux can all of the before mentioned formats except for APFS (without installing some additional software)

The hotkeys like copy and paste

This is the most frustrating thing about using linux for me and my wife. IF you spend a lot of time using the hot keys like command+C command+V you are going to have to get used to using Hotkeys like a PC. Control+C Control+V. For me I’m able to swap over without even thinking about it. However this is something that my wife will complain about as she does not use Linux as much as I do.

Some Apple Apps do not have a Linux equivalent format

Similar to the issue with an issue using word vs open office. A lot of Mac cannot be directly opened by Linux software without exporting it to a common format. Just like Pages and Numbers, documents will need to be exported to Xls. and .doc before moving it from OSX to Linux. This for me is not a deal-breaker but does require some forethought.

Linux for the Tech Illiterate

I will have to admit there is a learning curve for Linux. However because you use Linux using the GUI only it does open up possibilities for the average user.

I’m currently testing a few version of Linux that require no understanding of computers other than using a mouse. (Install takes a little bit of knowhow) As for using things like Google Chrome, Firefox and Email everything is exactly the same. There is no reason why you can’t install Linux distribution on your grandmother’s computer.

I currently recommend Ubuntu as it is the easiest to use and has the most support.

Linux on a Mac

Though even mentioning running Linux on a computer will send some tech illiterate folks into a panic attack. Once they start to use it will have no problems other than the usual “I forgot my password”, “Do I right-click or double click “.

I’m not going to go into how to install Linux in this blog as I’m more focused on Apple Computers. However if you do need to have Linux installed on your PC or Mac in the Lithgow area I’m more than willing to schedule a call out for the normal fees.

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