OSX vs Linux - 2 Months report

  • The first excuse (aka Disclaimer), for sure there are lots of things I have yet to discover or get used to them. Don’t consider this a professional opinion.
  • The second excuse, I bought the system from a company that pre-installed some software (Mac Office, Adobe Suite full), maybe they did something wrong.

I used Linux about 8 hours a day for the past 5 years. The companies that employed me allowed me to use any OS I want as long as I get my stuff done. This means I have a pretty good idea about what’s under the hood and how to tune it (read break it).

What I like in Linux:

  • moving windows with click + Alt. Don’t make me look for the title bar to move a window. Once, in OS X, one of the task windows of EasyTag got stuck under the top menu bar. I had to delete the program’s preferences file to make it move away, when using Alt + click would have been much easier.
  • lots of free software, I had almost everything I needed, especially a great software for tagging mp3s called EasyTag. Luckily, I can install this program from MacPorts (a FreeBSD ports like system), and works almost like in Linux (for whatever reason, mimetypes are not really well integrated into the OS X version).
  • installing software is easy (if you have a decent package manager system, like portage in Gentoo). Still some software might not work properly (I had some issues with Skype, KDE and sound/microphone settings).

What I don’t like in Linux:

  • there are lots of stuff, I won’t write them here explicitly, but I’ll mention some of them between the lines.

Looking from the opposite corner, I used OS X more then 8 hours a day for the past 2 and a half months. I still have to pass some exams to be considered a ‘user’.

What I like in OS X:

  • integration - Addressbook - iSync - iTunes - iPod - phone. I can have access to all my contacts from my Nokia phone, iPod or laptop.
  • integration 2 - Open a text editor, write a paragraph or two, select the text, then go to AppName -> Services -> Mail -> Send selection. There is something similar in Finder, when you select a file. Under Services Menu there are a lot of actions you can do with the selected text/file.
  • consistency (sort of), command+n, creates a new ‘thing’, command+o, opens a ‘thing’, command+shift+{} moves between tabs (except in Firefox).
  • starting a program is really easy. Press command+space, start typing and press enter when you’ve found it.
  • MarcoPolo - a great free third party software that changes different settings following certain rules. For example, mounts my network shares, sets up the screensaver to 3 minutes and turns bluetooth on when I get to work. Disables the screensaver, turns bluetooth off when I get home.
  • installing software is easy, if that software was packaged according to the rules.
  • I don’t have much options to configure. Defaults are enough for most of the cases. This allows me to concentrate on getting things done instead of playing with the settings.
  • software update is integrate in most of the apps (ala Firefox update). I don’t have to ‘emerge –sync; emerge -pv world’ weekly. Works pretty good, except when the updates break other things (for example QuickTime upgrade broke Perian subtitles).
  • the big companies actually consider making software for it. (Google Sketch, Adobe Full Suite - I don’t use it though, Y!Messenger - that works with the integrated webcam, but without sound, Skype with video).
  • Spelling is integrated in almost everything. I hear it will be integrated in KDE4 also.

What I don’t like in OS X:

  • keyboard layout - I’m using the Terminal pretty much (working remote, editing with vim), so I’m using the control (ctrl) modifier quite often (ctrl+d, ctrl+a, ctrl+e, ctrl+r, ctrl+w in vim) and I can say it’s not in the best position. A nice solution to this is to switch Caps and Ctrl (ala old Emacs gurus) and then get used to it again. It is a bit harder on the first days, but then it pays off.
  • keyboard layout 2 - I got used to Romanian Programmer Layout (alt_gr + t,s,a,i,q) on Linux and Windows. There is a similar layout on OSX, just that alt is placed on the other side on the laptop keyboard, and instead of using right hand for alt and left hand for a,s,q now I have to use the left hand for alt which is not so easy.
  • Others complained about the above too, and Apple took some steps to fix this. On latest MacBookPro models, they replace the small Enter key with Alt/Option. On the bright side, the US laptop layout looks much better then the European one, for the same laptop model.
  • keyboard layout 3 - it might look like a hardware issue, but I can’t use a normal (external) keyboard, because it lacks command key, which is heavily used by OS X.
  • clipboard history - you can have it by default (or a small setting) in KDE and Gnome. You have to pay for a program to do this in OSX (or find a free alternative that works in Leopard, like jumpcut)
  • crashes - It happened a couple of times for the laptop not to wake up from sleep, I had to power it off and power it on again. After the update from 10.5.1 to 10.5.2 it happens less often. This could be caused by a third party software (perhaps Firefox).
  • crashes 2 - Some apps refused to start when I made something wrong. For example, Mail didn’t started (crashed on start) when I created an empty ToDo item, or System Preferences’ Language Settings didn’t started (crashed on start) when I changed something in the language input list. All these changes were made from the user interface, I didn’t fiddle with configuration files or other Linux-like things. (This happened in 10.5.1, I didn’t test it again in 10.5.2).
  • command tab not switching to the first window, but to the application. This happens for Firefox, if I switch to TextMate or Finder, I get the first/last window used (assuming that I have more then one window open), when I switch back to Firefox, I get the Application, not the first/last Firefox window. This means that I need an extra command + ` (backtick) to switch to the first/last window. (I talked with a guy that had Tiger installed and Firefox worked as expected there, so it might be specific to Leopard, or particular to my system). Later note:it looks like it’s because of del.icio.us’ extension. I had an older version that appended the ‘del.icio.us’ menu item after the help menu item. I updated that extension to latest version and the problem went away.
  • installing free software from MacPorts/Fink might be a pain. When I’ve tried to install EasyTag from Fink, I noticed that one of the depending package was Tetex. This isn’t EasyTag’s fault, because it depends only on GTK, libmp3 and a couple of X11 libraries. Tetex was a level 2 or 3 dependency. Why can’t I pick what I need and what I don’t (ala emerge -pv easytag and then add or subtract dependecies) MacPorts was smarter though (minus the mimetype issue).
  • applications have a habit of stealing focus. If I click on Firefox to start and then click on Terminal to do something else, when the systems maps Firefox, it will still my focus, and if the application is set to start forced on a different space, it will switch to that space also. Don’t do that! Why doesn’t starts in background and let me continue with what I’m doing? Next to Firefox I can name Adium, Y!Messenger, and lots of other applications with this annoying habit.
  • the passion for closed formats (iTunes XML Library, plist files instead of .programrc files) and changing of Unix standards (the stuff normally started from /etc/rc.d or /etc/init.d where moved to launchd + plists, same for crontabs). This point was influenced by Mark Pilgrim’s rants about Apple closed formats.

I’ll close this short list by quoting a FAQ from alt.sysadmin.recovery:

Q: Is there any OS that doesn’t suck.
A: No.