Only a Ubuntu User is a Happy OSX User

I own my MacBook now for a year, having been convinced by a friend. He - like me - had become tired of fiddling around with kismet and iwconfig just to make networking work at this conference, or at that meeting.

The Pain Returns

While networking and also email worked out well for me, as soon as I started developing software I was confronted with the lack of package management. Or actually the many you had to run in parallel:

  • The occasional .dmg file to download, followed by the braindead installation.
  • The Apple-owned update, that with the enormous downloads and the loooooooong reboot times.
  • Then the ambitious, but ultimately loosing MacPorts suite for most important binaries and libraries.
  • Then the CPAN for the Perl packages.

You can install the Perl distribution with any of the four. And then you have to start to look out for very strange effects.

And some applications (such as Firefox) use their own update mechanism.

But where you really loose me is when one tries to install Amarok via MacPort Amarok:

  • After hours of downloading prerequisites and compiling most of these, you figure that the port infrastructure is not the latest.
  • When you try to upgrade it will tell you that it needs the latest Xcode.
  • You have to re-register at the Apple site.
  • But - after a long download - it turns out that is it incompatible with the current OS X on my box.

Maybe I should have tried to find a compatible version, but I had enough at that point.

VirtualBox + Ubuntu = Happiness

I long played with the thought to replace Mac OSX with Debian, but the Wiki left me unconvinced whether this is without its problems. And having Debian would bring me back to iwconfig.

Enter VirtualBox with Ubuntu as guest: It installed like a charm (ok, I have here 2Mbytes/sec to the next .deb mirror), and all the usually gimmicks work:

  • Access to the host file system.
  • Bridged and NAT networking.
  • USB automount.
  • Fullscreen resolution.
  • Hibernation works reliably.
  • Snapshots.

What is really strange is that the music quality under Rhythmbox/Gnome/Ubuntu is so much better than that of VLC/OSX.

Seamless Integration

But where I was deeply impressed was that Seamless Mode works: Like for other virtualizers your Ubuntu windows become windows on Aqua (OSX windowing system):

In the screenshot (yes, real camera :-) the Chrome browser and the menu bar left run under Gnome. All the rest is the usual OSX styleware.

Now I have a decent console (sorry, but iTerm does not cut it for me) and emacs as editor for everything. I just hate to edit in 5 different modes.

But most importantly:

I have my apt back.

I, for myself, have a Happy Christmas! I hope you too.

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Network Manager

Modern Ubuntu uses Network Manager to manage all dynamic connections. I find that nowadays it pretty much just works. The trick is to make sure you have a well supported wireless NIC.

The best choice is probably one of the Intel offerings, which come built in to many modern laptops.

Dave Rolsky (not verified) | Sun, 12/20/2009 - 20:50

Re: Network Manager

Modern Ubuntu uses Network Manager to manage all dynamic connections.

If this should encourage me to have Ubuntu native on the Mac, then this is a message well received. For the time being, I will continue to use the virtualized version.

A happy HTML::Mason user. :-)

rho | Sun, 12/20/2009 - 21:23

The best of both worlds

Again, you're one (tiny) step ahead of me. :)

Just when I contemplated whether the ease of configuration which accompanies the use of VirtualBox would be worth the performance penalty (w.r.t. to the duplication of a primarily linux-based work/service environment), you already posted the results of your transition.

Using the teleport functionality, it's finally possible to move (vm-based, portable) services/applications between your laptops/desktops/servers, even if some (or at least one) of them are/is a Mac(s) ;)

Regarding MacPorts: While I spent quite a number of hours in order to copy the foremention environment, I have to concur that the user (or, more importantly, developer) base is (still) too small to be able to update/'backport' all ports (which sadly is the same for some Linux distributions like Mandriva). By using VirtualBox, it's possible to re-deploy your favourite pre-configured applications (more often than not chosen based on the size of their user base) w/o tinkering. [*]

So, I guess I'll finally upgrade to Snow Leopard and stop thinking about all the little problem discussions that keep emerging on/in the respective mailing lists/IRC channels (even if, in my case, this means that I'm going to use a linux-vserver-based environment within VirtualBox under OSX). Sounds like an interesting New Year's Eve project... :)

[*] at least subconsciously, you have to realise that you're getting old after typing in this sentence. I for one pretend that it also reflects acquired wisdom, though. :p

Markus Ueberall (not verified) | Sun, 12/20/2009 - 22:01

Re: The best of both worlds

the performance penalty

I have not noticed a slowdown of the guest. Where there might be a penalty is when lots of disk activity is necessary. I think this might be a VirtualBox issue. Feedback is appreciated!

In terms of duplicating your infrastructure into the guest machine, you may want to look at unison (or friends).

Sounds like an interesting New Year's Eve project..

Make yourself a present! :-)

rho | Mon, 12/21/2009 - 20:20