Linux served as my primary desktop for nearly a decade. I used it when using it was, quite frankly, painful. However, I stuck with it through it's evolution into a very usable and quite elegant OS and was happy to do so. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it. I would have stayed with it but I eventually migrated to do some audio production work. At the time MacOS and some specific MacOS apps were the best tool for the job and that migration made my life much easier.
I don't regret that decision at all. MacOS got out of my way and let me get my work done. That's what tools are supposed to do. However, Apple has made the Mini increasingly less flexible and upgradable while also pushing prices through the roof. Their other hardware doesn't really appeal either.
Locked down, and relatively short-lived, hardware would be forgivable if it was truly a bare bones machine offered at a much lower price but that's not really how most people use a Mini these days. Dropping over two grand for hardware that isn't impressive to begin with and that has a relatively short lifespan isn't very appealing. It gets even less appealing when you start to feel like the company that you're dealing with is aggressively rigging the exchange in their favor. This business model has been amazing for Apple's bottom line but as a customer it leaves feeling like I'm getting played - hard. I've loaded up and configured a new Mini several times over the past few months but just couldn't bring myself to press the buy button. Bummer.
I thought about Windows, for maybe two minutes, but security and privacy concerns sort of make that a non-starter for me. It has improved in many ways (and gotten worse in others) but I'm just not interested in going there. I have a cheap Windows laptop that I used for a project and, aside from all of the objective reasons that push me away, I just don't like using Windows. I never have. So that's out too.
This all leads us to a company that I've had my eye on for quite some time - System76:
System76 is a cool company. They're small. They're transparent. They're innovative. And they're advancing a business model driven by core values that ultimately benefit their customers. That could change but I've watched them evolve over the past several years and they only seem to be getting better.
I can spec out a beautifully built and very powerfully equipped Thelio for exactly the same price that Apple wanted for their Mini. Not only will it serve my needs for a very long time but I'll also have the ability to upgrade it as needed. Yes, I could go the cheaper route and build out my own system but price is only one factor here. The bottom line is that I like the premium product and experience that System76 is offering. They align with my values, my needs, and my desires. This is what the Apple experience could and should be. This is what unlocks the checkbook. I'm still parting with a lot of money but it feels like an honest exchange. It is an honest exchange.
Honest hardware is one factor but the control, privacy, and flexibility offered by Linux, and System76's in house Ubuntu-based distribution Pop!_OS, is the most important factor in this decision. Absolute control of my data (and where it goes) is essential. MacOS still edges out Windows on privacy and security issues but Linux puts much more control in the hands of the user. And control is always better than trust when security is at stake. Plus, I just enjoy using Linux (98% of the time).
Apple isn't getting completely kicked to the curb. I'll keep my perfectly usable, if somewhat sluggish, Mini as a backup. This isn't a messy breakup. We're parting as friends. Who knows? Perhaps someday we'll reunite.