I put Ubuntu on my laptop about a year ago. You can read very brief notes on the install on this github issue, this post is some thoughts on the switch so I don’t forget.

I mostly use the desktop at home, and I travel much less since my daughter was born so it was quite low-risk, although this has also meant that I haven’t been as motivated to fix small niggles.


  • Speed – everything is faster! Blindingly fast for everything!
  • Speed – everything takes longer because there is a config you had to google, or install, or something.
  • Maturity – Ubuntu is so much more stable and lovely than it was, even if it is still ever so slightly ‘off’. This goes for the application software as well.
  • Bugs – the camera and sound on my macbook don’t work now. That would be a deal breaker if I used it more.

Things that made it easy

  • Most of the software I use is already fairly open source: Firefox for most everything, Darktable for photography, and Vim is my editor of choice. The programming languages I use are universal. Switching from OS X to Ubuntu in general means ‘opening the same software but in a different interface’
  • I spend a lot of time in the terminal anyway, but I’m not good enough to know the difference between shells – that’s the perfect level of familiarity to switch.
  • Recently, being fileless, has made simply having two machines easier.
  • As xkcd points out, we do everything in the browser now anyway, so it hardly matters what system you use. Processing email is still processing email.

Things that made it hard

  • Relearning keyboard shortcuts – going back to ‘ctrl’ after years of ‘cmd’ was very hard.
  • Not making it my primary machine for a few weeks – It’s great for a bunch of work at the moment, but when something doesn’t work I tend to give up and use the other machine later.
  • There’s not been a ‘big win’. There’s nothing on the machine (the speed is nice, obviously) that makes the switch super obvious. Like, Ubuntu doesn’t solve any big problems I have, it’s just the cheap, open, slightly crap version of existing OS’s. I use it because I want to support open software. It would be nice if there was some cool innovation that I could point to and say “That, that’s the reason”.

Things I had to get working

I pretend I have quite a relaxed ‘just do it’ workflow, but there are quite a lot of things I want to have on a machine before I ‘just do it’. I found X which is a ‘good enough’ clipboard manager, and Y which is a ‘probably much better text expander if I worked it out’.

Things that remain annoying

  • Builtin camera doesn’t work
  • Speakers don’t work
  • I can never remember how to type ‘#’
  • Won’t connect to eduroam
  • Screenshots don’t seem to have a keyboard shortcut.
  • In general, there are fewer keyboard shortcuts than I would expect
  • Battery life has dropped considerably and it’s unclear why. It particularly seems that power-saving simply doesn’t switch on when I’m away from the keyboard or close the lid.
  • SD card reader seems to struggle (particularly annoying if I’m taking it on photography shoots)


I want to be able to say how much I love it. But it’s mostly just ‘there’. I’m not going to convert my desktop, but I’m not going to convert the laptop back either.