The guilty man speaks (of Mac OS X)

I have been a GNU/Linux user for almost 7 years (no not dual booting, but exclusive user). Recently, I switched jobs ( Castle Rock Research great place to work btw) and ended up with MacBook pro in the bargain.

You can imagine as a Linux user I have used everything thats out there literally (Gnome,KDE,Xmonad, Awesome, WindowMaker, Stumpwm). My previous notebook was running KDE 4.3.2 and was pretty happy with it, overall.

Since I started using Macbook, my initial days were all pain, toil and fumbling in dark. Man O man. The biggest confusion is, many well known applications(such as Netbeans) use Command key in place of Control key in OSX. But this behavior is not uniform (there is no behavior, thats just my flimsy theory of adapting to OSX environment). So for copy you will have to press Command-C, but for some other shortcut you may still have to use Control key.

Then there is Emacs. The first question you will ask yourself as Emacs user on Mac OSX is, what should be the Meta key? Alt or Command? Well for me, both. Needless to say, Emacs will block some of global OSX shortcuts that use Command key, when you start using Command as meta key in Emacs.

What I miss most from Linux?

  • apt-get.
  • Having a true POSIX environment which is supported by open source folks. Now there. Don’t jump the gun and say OSX is POSIX. I know that already, but as I discovered painfully, Snow Leopard in particular has broken many Open Source libraries and tools. (Emacs23, rb-gsl, RMagick and many more). It was painful to see Apple fans blaming open source developers for this breakage and not coming up with the fix.
  • KDE4.3. I really loved KDE 4.3. I loved multi-screen handling of KDE 4.3.2. I could move window between screens. I could move focus between screens. I can set window to start in particular screen. All without moving mouse. Its way ahead of whats there in Mac OSX (which is click and drag essentially).I miss vertical maximize. I miss, window specific shortcuts which I used to have ( and yeah QuickSilver can fix some of that, but its nice to have all these features right out of the box).
  • I miss Qt and Gtk. I was decent with Gtk+ I think. When fancy took me, I could whip up utility applications in Gtk+. I have new ropes to learn now.
  • More importantly I understood the system inside out (at least little more than basics).

What I gained?

  • Applications. CRRC uses some specific tools for communication, which simply won’t work on Linux.
  • No hibernate and hence fast resume.
  • Better batter life.

I certainly wouldn’t add “ease of use” or crap like that here. If applications I need, would run on Linux, I would format this stuff and go back to Linux.

6 thoughts on “The guilty man speaks (of Mac OS X)”

  1. Toni,

    There is a bunch of stuff thats broken in Macports because of Snow Leopard update. Moreover, ports packages are still external to System and thus say if I do, “port install mercurial”, I will end up with one more version of Python on my machine (not a agreeable situation imho).

    And yeah I am loving spaces, but there do not map to screens (which is different display altogether).

  2. The Command/ Ctrl conundrum is a problem especially on Java apps (I face the same issues on IntelliJ). Apps that follow OSX’s UI guidelines (which is pretty much all native OSX apps) work very consistently. In fact all shortcuts are common across all apps (Command + , for preferences, for example).

    It took me a few months to get used to it (I was on Ubuntu before that) and it was pretty annoying. I persevered because some of my fellow hackers swore by OSX. Now, a year later, I wouldn’t consider anything but a Mac Pro for my next laptop, and be damned to the expense (my current MacNook Pro is courtesy ThoughtWorks). BTW those hackers I mentioned earlier were hardcore FreeBSD, Gentoo and Fedora+KDE – they started on OSX with dual boot into their favourite OS, but now if you ask them they’ll tell you it’s been several months since they booted into anything but OSX.

    A few tools that might help: Visor, Growl, Disk Inventory X, Porticus, Skim, SMCFanControl, Sequential.

    You get used to the quirks of Darwin Ports after a bit; if you were a Gentoo/BSD guy you’d be right at home (ask them sometime and see how they crib about apt-get :)).

  3. And BTW, I forgot to mention – Cocoa is the most awesomest UI framework ever. It hammers everything, Swing, SWT, WinForms, Qt, GTK etc. hands down. The guys at NextStep got it right; I wish the others had leaned from them. Try it out and tell me what you think.

    And the trackpad gestures (pinch, zoom, scroll) are simply awesome.

  4. Well, for me it was a drastic change from the Windows Environment.

    I was overwhelmed with the MAC, but when I go home and login into my windows laptop, it’s mayhem.

    I always have to remember, or at-least keep it at the back of my head, “Where am I”. So, that I can switch to Windows or MAC mode. 🙂

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