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You might think that using a Mac and a Linux machine together would be pretty easy thanks to the shared origins of their individual kernels in the UNIX language, but in actual fact thanks to the various application layers and user interface options it isn’t really any easier than connecting a Mac to a Windows computer.
Various methods are available for using these two platforms together, but of course it is up to you how you proceed…
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One way in which you might use a Mac and a Linux machine together might be by remote desktop or another online sharing method. There are various ways in which this can be done – some are perfect for particular tasks, while others offer a wider selection of less focused options.
One of the most popular remote desktop applications is GoToMyPC which offers support for Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. This means that you can connect via the web using this service and access your Mac computer from your Linux box or your Linux box from your Mac! Using these two platforms together is made ridiculously easy with this software.
An alternative is NTRconnect, remote software than can be set up on Mac OS X and used to remotely connect to and control a Linux computer. As with any remote desktop software, this can be used to great effect, particularly if you are experiencing problems connecting your Mac and Linux computer in other ways.
Connecting a Mac to your Linux box requires you to understand a bit about networking. Whether you’re directly connecting your Mac and Linux computers or accessing one or the other over a local network, being comfortable with the basic principles of configuring a Linux network is vital.
Probably the most common option for using two different operating systems together is to share files via a local area network. To do this in Linux you will need Samba, server software that can be easily downloaded and setup via your distro’s package manager.
Once your Samba server is set up, you will be ready to connect your two computers and share files. Assuming both computers are on the same local network then the sharing should be pretty instantaneous, and will save time copying files to disk and swapping between computers.
For the best results in using a Linux and Mac machine together over any lengthy period of time, you might consider using particular applications that are available on both platforms. For example, you can use the Mozilla Firefox browser on both computers. Similarly, rather than rely on Evolution mail on Linux and the native email client on your Mac, the Mozilla Thunderbird email client is available for both.
Similarly, you might wish to choose an office suite that provides a good layer of compatibility between the two platforms. Your best option here is probably OpenOffice or LibreOffice, both of which are derived from the same source code. If you’re using a Mac and have NeoOffice, a quick read of this article will show you what similarities exist between NeoOffice and OpenOffice.
If you’re using both computers separately but for the same project, you might be happy running them side by side but swapping files between them when needed. However this can become irksome, particularly when there is a lot of data to share. We’ve already seen how a Samba installation can help with file sharing, but you might prefer to simply connect your Mac and your Linux computer with a cable.
Using two computers isn’t the only solution for using Mac and Linux together. You might have decided to dual boot your Apple computer in order to install Linux alongside Mac OS X. In this situation, you will need to find a good quality boot manager to facilitate loading the correct operating system.
Dual booting is difficult to achieve in some cases, but fortunately since Apple started using Intel-based architecture and chipsets it has become a lot easier. It should be a simple task to install Ubuntu on a Mac as the secondary operating system without worrying about affecting the primary OS!
Despite the differences between Linux and Mac OS X, there remains some obvious similarities and some not-so-obvious. One of these is the hosts file, an index of URLs and IP addresses that your computer can visit. By editing this text document you can make various changes to which websites your browser is able to visit.
Rather than dual boot your Linux and Mac, why not simply boot into OS X and use VirtualBox or VMware to install a virtual copy of the operating system? The benefits are considerable: you can save physical space, switching between the two operating systems is largely painless, and best of all you get to save energy by only running one computer!
We have already seen how remote desktop applications can be used, but if you have plans to also run your Linux installation as a virtual machine on your Mac, then connecting remotely probably isn’t an option. However if you also plan to connect remotely to your Mac then you can kill two birds with one stone by connecting remotely to VirtualBox!
Choosing the best Linux distro for dual booting or running in a virtual machine in Mac OS X is important, and you can do this by comparing memory use. While a dual booted Linux distro will have access to all hardware resources, a virtualized environment will not, so you will need to make sure that you make the right choice in this situation, otherwise the virtual machine could heavily impact the host operating system.
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