Originally Posted by jasn
I've used Powerbooks since the original G3, and now am on a G4 1.25ghz (Aluminum) Powerbook. After switching to OSX, I discovered the fink project and installed fink on my Powerbook, and have used it for a while. I also found the darwinports project and tried it for a while too. Both of these systems do one basic thing, they take linux apps and re-package/compile them to be run under OSX. For the applications that have been ported, it works very well, as long as the command line isn't scary. (fink has a gui for it, Finkcommander, and I just downloaded a darwinports gui, but haven't played around with it since I'm still running fink) For me the biggest differences between the two are that fink will update installed applications pretty easily and darwinports won't. I personally like installing Darwinports more, even though it's a bit harder, and I don't know if I'm influenced by that fact that Apple engineers directly and actively are involved in the Darwinports project or not. Some claim that you can install and use both at the same time, but it's been too confusing for me, so I stick with one or the other.
The main issue with this approach to Linux apps, is that it takes a project maintainer (anyone can volunteer to do it) to bring a particular Linux app to OSX. So for example I wanted to run an open source checkbook type of application and looked at both Gnucash, and Kmymoney. Gnucash is maintained, and installable under fink, but Kmymoney isn't available in either place. That's just one example for me, but I'm sure that others find "missing" apps in their desired list too. You can emulate the middle button paste with Apple's X11, but since single button mice are the Mac norm, you would need to get used to something else in OSX. If you use a two button mouse, ususally the right click brings up a menu with paste on it. I haven't been able to implement focus follows mouse in OSX, and only with Apple's X11 running in full screen mode, not under Aqua.
Additionally if you really want to get weird, through fink you can install a complete KDE or Gnome environment, (but not so, yet, with darwinports). I've found it to be overkill because my main use of the environment is to run just one or two apps, like Pan, and maybe Abiword and Gnumeric, and some command line tools for video and audio. Having said all of that, there are some projects to port popular Linux apps to OSX, and have them run under Aqua, without having to load an X11 environment. Abiword, and NeoOffice/j (OpenOffice port), are examples.
If you wanted to use a Mac and take the pure Linux route, you would be guaranteed better access to Linux apps, but again, not all. There are apps that run in an X86 world that don't run in the PPC world. I've successfully loaded both Gentoo and Ubuntu on my Powerbooks in the past (Gentoo install hard, Ubuntu install easy), and then setup a dual boot environment. My biggest pain was not being able to figure out a partition scheme so I could share data between Linux and OSX environments. There are other distros that work, Yellowdog being one of the oldest, but the only two I tried were those. I would also let you know that the same kinds of Linux/hardware problems you have heard about in the X86 world, exist for Linux ports on the Mac too. The wireless issue already mentioned being a major one. Linux on the Mac would probably get you both middle button paste, and focus follows mouse, but I didn't play around with it enough to see.
For me now, I'm in the process of moving back to the X86 world specifically because I want to run as supported a Linux environment as possible. So for me the decision is X86. There's another aspect behind my choice, and I'm not trying to start a separate discussion, but Apple's recent litigations moves, (suing some college kid cause they caught him uploading a Tiger beta to a Torrent site, and suing popular Mac rumor sites because they want to find who at Apple is leaking information to them), basically sealed the deal for me. It's tough to find a platform that conforms to ones consciousness, but for me the best choice is to try and go as pure Linux as I can, on the platform with the widest support, again for me it's X86.
The really funny thing is that I can't completely go Linux/X86 because I can't find the right Linux software to replace the whole iTunes/iMovie/iDVD experience on the Mac for my wife. So I will move to a Mac desktop / Linux/X86 laptop model. Anyway I guess it's kind of dumb to throw away all of the software I've bought for the Mac platform and most of the computer work I do is on my laptop for work anyway.
My recommendation for the reasons stated above, would be to go to X86/Linux. I've heard that in terms of Linux "out of box" experience, the IBM laptops are tops with almost complete compatibility, followed by other brands like Toshiba. You can probably get most bang for buck in this department by going with Intel wireless, not Broadcom, and going with nVidia graphics, and not ATI (although support does exist for both). (I'm going with a Toshiba with nVidia GPU, and Intel wireless)
Anyway.. Sorry for the length, but there was a bunch of questions there..
BTW, on a separate note, does anyone have suggestions on how best to share a partition among XP and Linux environments in the X86 world? (Hopefully it's easier than in the Mac world)