There's quite a bit of curiosity about the best operating system to use as a student at Bitmaker. No one will tell you that Linux is a bad idea, and various alumni stand as shining examples of people who made it through the program without caving to the temptation or gentle peer pressure to buy a Mac. I had planned to be one of them.
After the first few weeks, my comfort level with Linux, which I started using for the program, increased to the point where I didn't have any doubts that I'd make it the rest of the way without any troubles.
The software itself is perfectly adequate and for some preferable for working with Rails. With the standard four-quadrant work spaces in Ubuntu, I was able to put my text editor in one, my browser in another, terminals and the server in their own block, and still have a fourth to use as a utility space for anything else I might need. Once they were in place, I would just jump from quadrant to quadrant as necessary. Admittedly, the Mac doesn't deviate from this much, but Ubuntu's free.
The problems I ran into were all based on the hardware.
The Thinkpad that I'd gotten in 2008 worked acceptably well, though flipping quadrants too quickly could be a trial for it. The wireless card wouldn't work with the Bitmaker network, but I was able to work around it with an ethernet cable.
I thought I'd made it. At week six, I was looking ahead to our final projects without considering a new computer or regretting my decision to use Linux in the least.
Then the screen went dark.
The backlight in the monitor failed the first day my group was meeting to plan our final project. As Graham and Arya were drawing up the screens for our user experience, my monitor was flickering like crazy. A few minutes later it stopped but not in a good way. It took an external monitor and some Googling to diagnose the problem. So while the computer still worked with the external monitor and could be fixed, I decided a new machine would serve me better through the last three weeks of the program.
It wasn't until that point that getting a Mac even became a consideration. Two days later, however, I became a Mac owner. Switching operating systems wasn't a prospect I was very enthusiastic about with three weeks and our two biggest projects left, but within 24 hours of the purchase, my development environment was up and running, meaning I could concentrate on coding instead of worrying about whether anything else on my machine was going to give out.
So while you may hear stories of previous students who found it too difficult to use anything but a Mac, you should know that I was perfectly comfortable in Linux. There were a few reasons that led me to switch. I wanted to get back up and running as quickly as possible, and dual booting and installing a new operating system was going to add steps to that process. I'd been encouraged throughout the program to consider switching, and all the instructors use Macs. Since, by virtue of being here, I'd already put a lot of faith in them, following their unanimous endorsement seemed like an acceptable investment. And from what I can tell from my time at Bitmaker, a Mac is almost an industry standard for web and software development, and by getting one, I'll be acclimated and ready to go when I land my first job in the industry.
By Matt Lackey