Coming from a Linux background what are the main difficulties I will face if I start to work on iMac? I use to work on Linux with consoles and I know I have a huge apps repository (synaptics) for almost all I need. I'm programming Java and Ruby all day long, so what are the main differences?

Differences like UI and passionate things I already know, so please tell me only useful things. (otherwise we'll keep this question for years)

Have you faced this before? Is it a slightly migration?

I'd be thankful.

4 Answers 4


I did a switch from Linux just a week ago. I am using Linux for 15+ years. Lately, my Desktop distro of choice was Ubuntu.

Mac OS X is a BSD based system, so minor issues you will have to get used to is stuff like using ipfw instead of iptables.

As you will pretty soon realise Ubuntu (and other distros) simply mimic lots of Mac solutions when it comes to usability. You will find yourself being very familiar with a lot of GUI elements.

There is virtually no difference from a developer point of view. You can just install rvm and develop your Ruby apps as you used too. Main difference is, that now you can use the famous TextEdit! :D

As for the drawbacks:

Mac has worse package management and you might miss some fancy features of apt-get / dpkg (or yum / rpm). It's not groundbreaking however, and Homebrew will be sufficient in the end anyway.

There are various minor things like key shortcuts, window management which takes couple of hours to get used to. I for one can't get what's the idea behind how the window maximization works.

In the end, I must say that I don't miss a thing so far. I got everything I loved about Linux + beautiful system which can run StarCraft and Photoshop. :-)

  • thanks for the feedback. I think you've got the point I needed. In general for development purposes ain't no changes, besides you can get practically everything from Linux and a bit more. I'm really considering to achieve my iMac 21.5". By now I'll keep my Linux notebook to fulfill my needs and my hacker spirit (since Mac OS X does not allow us a lot of that). I came here to ask something else, because I haven't found anything good about this issue. Thanks again :D
    – axcdnt
    Jun 22, 2011 at 23:59
  • Some more questions: Are there good apps for free to work with: graphics, sound and image edition? If you have an iMac 21.5", is it good for running HD videos?
    – axcdnt
    Jun 23, 2011 at 0:31
  • My 13" MBP runs HD video just fine, same as WoW or SC2 with decent framerate and its equipped with only Intel HD3k Card. iMac will have high end Radeon and i5, so no problem there. As for apps - Gimp works, althrough it doesn't have the right look and feel. I am sure there are apps which will be sufficent for you.
    – mdrozdziel
    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:42

Some minor differences I encountered when I was using both Mac and Linux systems: The most common Mac OS X file system is case insensitive, whereas Linux filenames are case sensitive. There is no default and enabled account named "root" on a Mac.

  • Hi hotpaw2, so have you done this migration before? So I think in general I'll have no problems.
    – axcdnt
    Jun 22, 2011 at 17:25
  • HFS+ is case insensitive, but it is also case preserving. Jun 22, 2011 at 17:41
  • 1
    Actually, there IS a root account, it's just not enabled by default.
    – Harv
    Jun 22, 2011 at 19:06
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    @Harv Correct -- you have to deliberately enable "root", and it's also probably a good idea not to do it. However, it's typically a good idea when you first come to a fresh OSX install to log in "very first" as "Administrator" with a different password, then afterwards create another account for your daily use. When you need to do "administration-type stuff" like installing applications, doing updates, and the like, you can then switch your login to logging in as the Administrator user. Jun 22, 2011 at 19:17

I'm not a Linux switcher, but I know several now die-hard Mac users who came from Linux. The biggest issue for all of them seems to be the fact that OS X only has one "console" (screen), while Linux offers a lot more and can switch between text and graphic consoles easily. While several parallel desktops are supported by OS X via Spaces, something like the console switching (AFAIK) doesn't exist for OS X. This isn't an issue if you're not used to it, though - I for one never needed it. The file system is slightly different since parts of OS X are based on BSD - the differences are minor though and easy to learn.

Since OS X (IMHO, but I'm not alone...) offers a superior user experience in comparison with any Linux desktop environment, you should quickly get used to any differences.

  • Thanks René. Do you know something else about my issues, like: programming tools, Java, Ruby and other facilities Linux gives me?
    – axcdnt
    Jun 22, 2011 at 16:48
  • Unless you're using an IDE that is not available for OS X and you don't want to use anything else, there shouldn't be any issues in these fields. OS X is the platform of choice for many Java and Ruby programmers.
    – René
    Jun 22, 2011 at 16:56
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    It's important to note that in OS X you will have to access the "console" (called Terminal in OSX) less often, and when you do, things like /usr /etc will still be there. Jun 22, 2011 at 18:14
  • 1
    @Martin, I suspect that "Terminal" and "console", in the way that René is using the term, might be slightly different things. "Terminal" is an application that's capable of interacting with the OS as the input/output point for a pseudo terminal; but it's also possible that Linux offers a user the ability to use their same display/keyboard to behave as if it were entirely different physical terminals, from the kernel's point of view, letting the user switch the same hardware to act as input/output points for these various consoles. AFAIK, OSX doesn't quite let you do that. Jun 22, 2011 at 19:10
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    @Harv, as of recent OSX releases, Terminal.app also supports tabs. This lets you start several shells, all attached to separate pseudo terminals. However, again, pseudo terminals are, technically, not completely equatable to "consoles", depending on how one wants to use that term (one might say that a pseudo terminal device, like Terminal.app attaches to, is a kind of console, and a particularly limited kind of one). Jun 22, 2011 at 19:20

You can install many useful open source tools such as wget on your iMac thanks to the open source community. There are couple of projects you may want to look at.


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