John Terenzio > Blog > From MacOS to Linux on Various ThinkPads

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2023-01-24 16:00:11

A little over a year ago I took the leap and switched from Mac to Linux (both for personal use and professionally). These are some notes from my journey which may be helpful to anyone else considering the switch. Even though my learnings run parallel, I am going to cover hardware and distros separately.

TLDR: Today (January 2023) I run Debian Testing (bookworm) with KDE Plasma (X11) on a ThinkPad Z13 AMD with some manual management of Linux firmware. Before the Z13, I also used a ThinkPad T490s and a ThinkPad T14s Gen 2 AMD as daily drivers with great success. For distros, I evaluated KDE neon, Kubuntu, and Debian Testing (bookworm) extensively, and finally settled on Debian Testing for reasons discussed below.

Why did I switch? I'm a developer and I love to have control over my environment. I felt increasingly over the years that I was simply renting space on my Mac and that Apple was slowly chipping away at privacy features and my ability to control my own machine. Switching to Linux has been liberating in the sense that I now have full transparency and control of every aspect of my system (excluding BIOS/firmware).

The first big consideration when switching to Linux from Mac is choosing hardware. With Linux, there are more choices of hardware obviously, even including Macs. After researching a bit and getting vibes from different online sources including Reddit, I started my adventure on a ThinkPad T490s which I picked up lightly used on eBay in late 2021 for ~$600. ThinkPads, while not super tailored to Linux, tend to work reasonably well and receive reasonable Linux support from Lenovo. At this point, I wasn't 100% sure if the switch from Mac would be possible or sustainable for me, so I wanted a low stakes computer that was a little older to ensure easy Linux hardware support. Another thing I really like about recent ThinkPads is that they use standard USB-C charging, not a custom plug (like some Dell or HP models, for example). Many existing Mac accessories will work with them. The T490s ran KDE neon 20.04 pretty much perfectly out of the box. The main issues that needed to be fixed were:

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