Why I prefer GNU Linux | Performance Magic

Ramblings from a Sysadmin

November 24, 2016

Why I prefer GNU Linux

As many people know I usually use a GNU Linux desktop environment, and have for a few years. I have previously had to use Windows during stints at large Engineering orgs, but most of the time, I was able to setup a second computer with Linux on it for day-to-day tasks.

I’ve also used macOS/OS X a few times in the last few years, and I’ve got pretty frustrated with it.  Recently I had a lot of trouble with my daily work-horse (Dell E5530), where Dell actually took it away for a few weeks. I needed something quick and $employer was able to help me out. The best laptop available was 2015 MacBook Pro.

Initially I tried to install GNU Linux on it, but I had to patch quite a lot of things to get some normality in my day to day.  It also just interacted a bit oddly with the hardware. (maybe I’m just fussy!)  Sadly I’ve also had to spend a bit more of my time in the MS tool kit recently (I guess that’s what happens when you become more of an architect and less of a doer), so I found myself using OS X.

I had split the flash-drive in 2, 12 Linux, 12 OS X. I wanted to gain that space back and I didn’t think I would be going back to Linux for my day-to-day anytime soon. I thought it would be an easy task.  After reading a few articles, blog posts, etc on the Internet, I thought I was ready. How wrong I was.

I tried to use Disk Utility to change the partitioning, but it kept failing, so I rebooted into recovery. Then I found the recovery HD, which seems to be in the way. I did some reading and it appears that you can delete this safely. This is where things went very wrong.  You see I use FileVault2 and it seems that the key is stored on this partition. That means that as soon as I deleted the Recovery HD, my main partition became unusable.

This of course wasn’t immediately apparent to me and I couldn’t understand why.

I wasn’t too sure what was going on, so I thought let’s install OS X on the old Linux partition and try to read the drive.  I installed OS X and while that was happening I tried to find out more information, which was when I found out that I was pretty much stuffed. Not so bad I thought. I have backups and most stuff is stored in the cloud anyway.

And things went from bad to worse…

I use CrashPlan for backups (used it on Linux, paid for it, and it was just easy to move it across).  What I didn’t realise is that it had never backed up anything as the desktop application does not make it clear at all that I didn’t have the right plan to backup 2 laptops.

At this point I sighed.

It was getting late by this time so I just got on and started the downloads of XCode, and Office and all the other apps I could think of I needed.  In the morning I got up early and started to install everything.  I was ready before 0900 for the day with everything. It was really just a matter of re-configuring things as I had just lost all my settings.

So, what’s my point?

When you have to “build” something yourself, you understand how all the components fit together and where the gotchas are.  When you rely on the Vendor and they effectively hide things from you without all the safeguards in place, you can royally shoot yourself in the foot. Twice in this case!

Lesson definitely learned.

© Greg Cockburn