Mac OS X vs GNU: my personal summary (1/3)

When I started working at Funambol, Hal asked me what kind of computer I wanted, PC or Mac? At that time I had suffered some frustration with my usual setup, using GNOME. I was especially frustrated by the mail program Evolution while using GnuPG encryption and its lack of support for ‘discussions’ like Gmail. Also, I was very curious to see what innovations happened in the past 6/7 years since I last used a non-free operating system.’  So, without thinking too much, I answered ‘I want a Mac’. I have a white MacBook with Leopard installed.

Now I’ve been a Mac user for almost 1 year and I’m ready to summarize the experience. Keep in mind that I’m comparing the Mac to GNU/Linux as an experienced user that, despite not being a developer, walked the whole learning curve during many years.’  This is a series of three posts: the bad, the ugly and the good things.’  Today I start with the bad stuff.

I use the MacBook to give presentations at shows and events. The guys at Apple decided not to include the connectors for VGA or DVI in the box. Those are sold separately for €19.’  That, IMHO, is cheap (not “affordable”).

Spaces brings multiple screens to OS X. Doh! Amiga had those in 1985 (even at multiple resolution) and *nix had them forever. This is such a new thing to OS X that they work in a very chaotic way. Microsoft Office goes totally crazy with it (I’m told it’s Microsoft’s fault for using their own graphic libraries) and the management of focus between applications on different screens is confusing at times.

Apple Mail still doesn’t work well with GnuPG encryption and doesn’t support any of the good features that Gmail has. Plus it crashes way too often. And why does it store attachments in a folder on the filesystem? What happens if I accidentally delete the file: will it disappear from the email box?’  And if I delete the email message, will it delete the file too?’  It’s a very very basic email program.

iSync is neat, but it’s not compatible with latest phones. Just like I would do with GNU desktop software you need to google around to find a solution, or wait for next release.

iPhoto only syncs to Apple .Mac/MobileMe site. Right, like I want to hand the keys to my personal history all in the hands of any random dude. For me that’s unacceptable, so I had to google around to find a gratis plugin that makes iPhoto compatible with Flickr.’  I’m keeping my personal photos on my other computer running f-spot: it feels safer.

At home I have an HP all-in-one printer and scanner psc 1210: I couldn’t find a way to print in B/W only (if there is it’s well hidden.) And the scanner is not recognized by the Image Aquisition software bundled with the system. I should probably google or ask an experienced friend to find an answer (tipically: install this 45mb software by HP that invades your system with useless crap, when all you need is a simple driver).’  On GNU you would have to do the same (google and ask peole) with the difference that if you need a driver, you get a driver.

That’s it for now, tomorrow I’ll tell you the ugly bits, before going to the good stuff (there is some, I promise).