My Desktop Environment

With the release of the Mac Studio recently — something that, for quite a long time, I thought I had been waiting for — I started thinking about what the ideal desktop environment for me is. This is what I use currently:

  • A PC (i9-10900k with 32GB of RAM) running Ubuntu, hooked up to a 28-inch 4K monitor.
  • A MacBook Air (M1, 2020 model)

I used to run macOS on the PC, but that experiment finished after a year or so. It was pretty stable and I had almost no problems, but hardware compatibility and performance was lacking. (Having a very Docker and Linux heavy workload meant that most of the time I was running Linux, virtualized in macOS, anyways, so I thought — hey, it would be better to just run Linux anyways, right?)

I think the setup I have now gets 95% of the way there, but it is far from perfect. There is a long list of nitpicks for both macOS and Ubuntu Linux, but they both have their time and place in my workflow.

For example, macOS has excellent keyboard shortcuts (the command key is the “killer feature” for me), a healthy ecosystem of apps (I’m still waiting for something like iTerm 2 for Linux, currently using WezTerm), and a general cohesiveness between apps. On the other hand, some programs just run much more smoothly on Linux: QGIS and Docker, to name the biggest pain points on macOS for me.

I then thought: if money was no object, what would I do? Would I throw away all my Linux stuff and go all-in on the fully loaded Mac Studio? Honestly, probably. But still — the M1 Ultra is “only” 20 cores. I could get a Threadripper system with 64 cores and 128 threads, with more IO than I could use and be happy with that for years.

So, I guess this all boils down to two paths: continue the dual Linux-Mac lifestyle, or relegate the PC to PC gaming and do all my work on the Mac.

Continuing down the dual Linux-Mac path probably means a little beefier workstation in a few years (I got the i9-10900k for macOS compatibility, if it’s just going to run Linux I would be able to get a Threadripper). Moving work back to the Mac means I’d have to work on the KVM setup.

Honestly, I think I’m going to continue dual Linux-Mac, at least for the next few years. I’m satisfied with my M1 MacBook Air, and for CPU heavy tasks I do, the i9-10900k is a great balance between power and versatility. Additionally, desktop Linux has gotten so much better. I’ve tried various distributions of Linux as my daily driver at various points of time in the past, but this is the first time that I’ve used it every day for more than a few months.

I’ve always wanted to get in to desktop Linux development. Maybe now’s the time to get more involved in the apps I use every day.

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