One and a half years ago, I started to use GNU/Linux as my daily OS. To be honest, I still went back to macOS from time to time. The reasons are about productivity. Either I was not aware of the best solution on Arch Linux, or I was rushed to get things done without digging deep. Today, there are still certain things I could do better on my MacBook Pro comparing Arch Linux on ThinkPad. I want to summarize them and start working solutions for the future. Here are the top 5 moments I couldn't break up with macOS or MacBook Pro.

Force touch Trackpad vs. TrackPoint & Touchpad

I barely use a mouse, unless the keyboard can't perform at all, or under the circumstances require cursor attentions, such as the demonstration in a Zoom meeting. TrackPoint and trackpad bring me efficiency, so I'm picky about this. Also, It's lucky that I have used both for many years.

I had a wonderful journey with my ThinkPad T43 back to the year 2004~2009. I love the red nub. It's precise when you control the cursor, and it saves energy without moving your arm to direct a mouse. Furthermore, it makes you tying faster while you keep all your hands on the keyboard. I'm very grateful to have this laptop during my early engineer career.

I started to only use Apple products round 10 years ago when it comes to laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. In recent years, Apple pushes human-computer interaction to another level by keeping involving force touch and gestures in its products. From iPhone, iPad to Magic Mouse, Trackpad,  MacBook Pro now has a larger size of trackpad. We get used to the touch and force, tap and swipe, pinch and spread multiple fingers.  

There is no doubt Apple's Trackpad provides a more modern and natural solution. But I'm just old enough to have been learning the other way around. I could survive this if that's the only issue of fighting muscle memory. I'll stop pinching two fingers to zoom in or out. No swipe, no notification center. No mission control with four fingers. I'll forget fancy gestures to do slick transitions. I'm just going to knock down the keystrokes in an old way, and a hard way.

By the way, when it's time to type, I can't wait to hug the real keyboard on ThinkPad.

Dual 4K monitors hassle

My setup on the desk mainly counts on two 27-inch monitors. P2715Q on the left is primary, and the right is P2718Q standing vertically. One horizontal, one vertical. The reasons why you should do this:

  • Screens are over wide(Your neck will feel pain) if you don't place one vertically
  • Vertical has a better up-down vision range either on reading or on coding
  • Too high to sit webcam or ScreenBar if all monitors are vertical

Nowadays, modern video output interfaces from laptops are Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3/4 Type C. Monitors stay using DisplayPort. Remember to always buy Thunderbolt - DP cables.

When Apple unified all interfaces on the MacBook, we were depressed to buy adapters for extra money. Companies like Lenovo, they serve business customers, and they know better how to sell their products. My X1 Carbon 6 with WQHD screen has a decent config, but only two Thunderbolt interfaces. And one of them is for the power supply of course. Their solution is a dock with a price of $300.

Furthermore, the connector of ThinkPad to the dock station needs proprietary firmware to be installed in some cases. It's a pricey mass than Apple, I know.

Missing proprietary software

  • WeChat (Web version is just ok so far)
  • Dictionary (Chinese to English)
  • Things
  • Parallels Desktop for Mac (Have no time to convert my virtual images yet)
  • Zoom (Can't share separate windows but desktops - I don't use GNOME)

The above are the top 5 programs hurting my butt right now. There are not too many for now(I'll append this list in case of discovering more later). One reason is I've been using both systems for a long time, and I've created my workflows. For example, I prefer tiling windows manager instead of desktop environments. I'm running my launcher tools on my customized dwm and terminal emulator st.

The gap is between the finest to an alternative that just works. Since I don't spend time on Xcode in recent days and don't play video games, there is no barrier for me. Although I like many programs and tools on macOS, there is nearly everything you can find for a replacement from Arch package repositories or AUR(Total packages from both reach 60,000 today, which is almost the same as on Debian.)

Many people find that software is the most difficult part for them to migrate. I think this trade-off is all about time. Not only spend more time to get used to the new world, but also spend more time to think about what you want from the future. For us, and others. It's an opportunity for more software programmers to come in and accomplish their work.

Disconnect from Apple family

I still use my iPhone, wear Apple Watch, sometimes read and play on the iPad. I keep all my photos on iCloud with a paid family membership. With said, I will lose all these techniques.

  • Handoff (Copy across multiple devices)
  • Unlock with Touch ID, Apple Watch
  • No iCloud sync.

Bluetooth microphone disorder

I can listen to music on my Linux machine with my Bluetooth Bose QC35. But for online meetings, I have to find my wired earphones. Because the microphone over Bluetooth is still an issue on my Arch. This is not critical in most of the time. But since I have no problems with mouse and keyboard, they are just working fine wirelessly.

[ Updated on 5/7 2020: It appears A2DP profile in this case is unidirectional so that microphone can't work out at the same time. Switching to HSP solve the issue when I need sound in & out. ]

I'm running a self-motivated Twitter hashtag for spending more time on the GNU/Linux desktop. It is #day3oflinuxonly by writing down this blog. I may write more topics about how/what to embrace Linux in the future, but for now, it's simply straightforward for me to realize the roadblocks of the journey. I'm surprised that I have more problems with hardware than software. At the same time, I have more faith to achieve a wonderful result.