Here’s why I’m switching from the Mac and iPad to Linux

After decades of only using Apple computers, I’m switching from macOS and iPadOS to Linux. And surprisingly, it feels a lot like when I got my first iBook.

This ongoing series will detail the good and the bad points of switching away from the Mac and iPad, and eventually probably the iPhone. I’ll talk about my choice of Linux distro, hardware, and the difficulties of finding alternatives to my favorite Mac software. I’ll also talk about the best parts of Linux, and how I feel like I’m in charge of my computer again, instead of borrowing it from Apple.

But first, why switch at all? I already own a Mac, an iPad, and an iPhone. What happened?

The iPad is stuck in the past

I have a 2018 iPad Pro, perhaps Apple’s best iPad until this year’s skinny M4. It’s notable mostly for the fact that it can still do everything an new iPad can do, and will be up until the autumn, when iPadOS 18 adds a bunch of useless AI junk that requires an M1 or better.

The reason the 2018 iPad Pro is so great is partly because it was absurdly overpowered at launch, but also because iPadOS never really got any more demanding. The only times it feels old are when it runs out of RAM, which is when you’re using multiple apps, or trying out Stage Manager one more time to see if it’s usable yet.

This isn’t the place to catalog all the iPad’s shortcomings. Let’s just say that I finally got sick of the terrible Files app, the spotty support for drag-and-drop, the impossibility of using it for anything but basic audio jobs, the ever-frustrating software keyboard, and the fact that even Apple’s own pro apps, like Logic, annoying to use on the iPad, and still require that you move the project to the Mac for basic features.

What I want is an iPad that is a Mac when docked to a keyboard, and as Apple is never going to make that, it’s time to look elsewhere.


I’ve also been getting increasingly uncomfortable using Apple products. Its AirPods are disposable, and its Macs get ever less repairable—you cannot upgrade RAM or storage. But more than that, it’s the creeping in of ads to Apple’s apps, the gradual enshittification of its first-party apps (the TV app, for example, is just terrible, and Apple Music is a joke).

Apple might be the privacy company, but then we found out that its computers still send analytic data back to Apple even when you disable it. And then there was that whole photo-scanning debacle, where Apple thought it had the right to scan my photos, right there on my own device.

This all came to a head when Apple announced this year’s round of OS updates, and stuffed AI in there. Its implementation is better than Microsoft and Google’s for sure, but Apple has still trained its models by scraping the web for data, without asking anyone if they can use their data. And AI data centers still use too much power and water, even if you are doing some of the work locally, on the computer itself.

Taken together, I finally realized that I no longer trust Apple, and that I don’t even like its company goals any more. It’s as as sneaky as all the other big tech companies, and now its sense of entitlement is really on show, between its lack of ethics in the AI race, and also its pathetic refusal to obey EU law.

For me, was is the tipping point.

The alternatives

So what are the alternatives? Very few. Windows is out, because Microsoft is worse than Apple, and Windows is just a bad OS, which I hate using. ChromeOS is made by Google, so obviously that’s out.

Which leaves Linux. The last time I tried Linux was soon after Ubuntu came out, and I had to burn it onto a CD to try it out. I figured things had changed since then, and they have. A lot.

We’ll get into the details later, but the main point is that I’m currently running Manjaro Linux on a 2013 MacBook Air with just 4GB RAM, and it rocks. Not only is it as responsive as macOS running on a more recent machine, I can run up-to-date versions of the OS, and the software. It’s not stuck on an old, insecure version of the OS.

The first thing I noticed when running Linux (using the KDE desktop), was how snappy it is. On that 11-year-old Mac, KDE feels almost as snappy as macOS does on my M1 MacBook Pro, with one big exception—apps take a few seconds longer to launch.

The other thing I learned is that I can customize anything. You can even put the window close/minimize buttons on the other side of the window bar, which—for someone used to the Mac—is an insane amount of freedom.

Linux is still not as easy to use as the Mac, but that’s partly down to the power you have. And as I’ve seen, there are alternatives to most of the apps and software features I rely on. In some areas, like alternatives to Apple’s Music app, the choice is way, way better.

That’s it for now. Next up will probably be a rundown of my favorite Linuxes, and why I settled, for now, on Manjaro. And then we’ll get to hardware.