Mac and Me

In a classic example of 'too stupid for my own good' I tried something very dangerous during my upgrade to Mandrake 10, the Linux distribution I run, and managed to fry my partition table. Even though the damage was my fault I was sick of driving a car with no seatbelt. I had enough of figuring out how to run Java, or print pictures or deal with install quirks or never figuring out how to get flash running or living in fear of installing non-RPM software lest it toast my system. I really just had enough. So I decided to buy a Macintosh G5.

First Impressions

OS X, the latest version of the Macintosh operating system, is really pretty. More then that, everything just seems to work. My clock correctly sets itself without me remembering to go in and active NTP (something Mandrake now fixes). My printer just prints without occasionally disappearing (something Mandrake 9.2 w/CUPS never got right). Setting up an encrypted file system took about a second. Finding the firewall settings and setting them the way I liked took about a minute. I wanted an OS that, as much as possible, stayed out of my way and that is what OS X delivers. It really is impressive.

My Requirements

Equally if not more important than the OS are the apps that run on top of it. There are four types of application that account for 90% of my time at home in front of the computer:

Software I used on Linux
Web Browser
Outstanding browser, really something special. It's also my Windows browser at work.
Very solid, I use it for my Work e-mail as well.
Office Suite
Open Office
A much better price/performance ratio than MS Office and 'good enough' for my home use (which includes writing a book)
Financial App
Quicken 2002 under Crossover Office
Buggy and unreliable but I never lose data and it generally worked o.k.

Life under OS X

My current choices for OS X are:

Software I use on OS X
Web Browser
It's a decent browser but I would switch to Firefox, whose renderer is both faster and compatible with more websites, if they ever got easyGestures working for OS X. Although to get the middle button working on a mouse with Firefox you have to use USB Overdrive. I tried Camino but it doesn't have a search bar.
Apple Mail
It's Bayesian filter is really good and it fully integrates with the OS X address book but it's keyboard behavior is annoying (see point 3 below). I'd switch to Thunderbird if it had OS X address book integration just to get better keyboard behavior.
Office Suite
Open Office is barely supported on OS X, uses no Mac UI or fonts and is unstable. I evaluated AbiWord, Mariner Write, Mellel, Nisus Writer Express and Ragtime Solo and none met my needs. I also tried out Appleworks, it's pretty good and seems to meet my checklist of features but accessing features is still clunky enough that it didn't make the grade. I'll probably have to buy MS Office.
Financial App
It's a great application but still needs a lot of work on its OFX features and on fit-and-finish. But, the support is top notch and over all I really love the app. A much better UI then Quicken or GnuCash. Even if I went back to Linux I would still use Moneydance (it's written in Java).

Things I Wish OS X Did Better

  1. There is a keyboard shortcut for everything but I have no clue how you are supposed to find them. Who knew, for example, that command-~ cycles windows within the same application?
  2. Why do home and end go to the start and end of the file rather than the start and end of the line? Who would ever figure out that you are supposed to use command-arrow to get to the start and end of a line?
  3. When selecting multiple items in a list who had the bright idea that using the up and down arrow should extend the list from the top or the bottom rather than just shrinking/expanding the list like every other sane OS?
  4. Why aren't all the active windows directly visible in the docking bar rather than constantly having to use Expose to find lost windows? Although the command-~ shortcut does make this a little easier.

But let's face it, these are all minor complaints.

Some Cool Mac Apps

NetNewsWire – Once you configure it to open browser windows in the background this is actually a really awesome RSS reader.
PasswordWallet – With it's excellent browser integration and automatic clipboard expiration I think this is an even better application than Password Safe
Little Snitch – A reverse firewall ala ZoneAlarm.
Fink Commander – A relatively friendly UI for Fink which lets you download a bunch of your favorite open source applications (OS X is UNIX based).
USB Overdrive – Can make the buttons on your mouse work under OS X, for example it lets me configure my forth and fifth mouse buttons to 'backwards' and 'forwards' for Web browsing.
Disk Inventory X and WhatSize – Both provide different views onto how diskspace is being used. I found them useful when I noticed my disk usage had reached insane levels.
KoalaCalc – I find Apple's calculate painful to use and it has at least one bug, I use this calculator as an alternative.

Was It Worth It?

From a practical perspective there is no question that Mandrake is a better value for me. I already have a good mastery of basic Linux so most of the rough edges aren't a problem for me and anyway Mandrake just keeps on getting better and the majority of application software I need is available for Linux for free.

In the Mac world everything costs money. The utilities and programs I listed on this page cost over $130 and that doesn't include MS Office which I haven't bought yet.

In any sane world I would get rid of my Mac as quickly as possible and run back to Mandrake.

But… well… you see… there's this stuff that Apple puts in the water and apparently it has finally managed to penetrate my system. Things in the Mac world are just so much easier. It's nice to not have to spend forty minutes searching the Internet to find instructions every time I want to do something moderately interesting under Linux. It's nice having software whose idea of an interface doesn't involve a command line. It's just, well, nicer in the Mac world. So for now, I guess I'm staying in Mac land.

2 thoughts on “Mac and Me”

  1. Sorry that you left the linux way. This is the only place I have found a good well written instruction on how to install java on your linux box, and make it work with Mozilla.!

  2. It's because I found myself needing to write instructions like that, that I left Linux. I wanted to spend my time actually doing things instead of trying to figure out how to do things.

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