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

After two days bashing Apple, here is the good stuff as promised.

iWorks is good stuff. Keynote is simply amazing: everything is where it should be, the templates are gorgeous, animations are fluid, automatic aligning of pasted items is superb. Pages is beyond any wordprocessor out there. I haven’t used Numbers enough because I don’t have much time to learn it, but it looks amazing and innovative too. Seeing iWorks made me think of the amount of work for free/libre software developers to catch up.’  To OO.org (and koffice) developers my suggestion is: stop wasting time imitatin Microsoft Office, abandon Base (not useful), invest on improving Presenter and new UI paradigm. And get designers to work on good templates.

Time Machine is another masterpiece: that’s how backup and restore should work on all systems. I’ve always dreamed of having something so simple on GNU. All the tools are already there, but nobody ever designed such a beautiful and simple to use interface. I should probably talk of ‘experience’ instead of simply an interface because Time Machine barely has an interface. To backup you simply plugin an external disk and all the job is done without a question asked, magically. To restore you simply click on the Time Machine icon and you’re brought back in time with the interface of the software you’re running. It’s too difficult to explain, you have to watch it live. GNOME and KDE guys: please, learn from that.

Finally the hardware: bad keyboard, but amazing case. I love the magnets to hold the screen down, very very convenient. And I love the power plug. If Dell or HP made gorgeous GNU/Linux compatible machines, especially desktops that you’re not ashamed to put in a living room, I’d spend extra bucks to buy them.

So in the end, I’m happy I tested Apple’s system but I wouldn’t buy one for me: it’s too expensive for what it gives back to somebody like me that already knows how to use well a GNU system.’  Considering that GNU learning curve is so much less steep than it used to, I really don’t see many reasons not to start walking it today.

Mac OS X vs GNU: my personal summary (2/3)

Yesterday I described the bad things I found with my year experience with a Mac. Today it’s the day of the ugly stuff.

The ALT-TAB (or CMD-TAB, in Mac world) has the stupidest behavior ever. It cycles through the open applications, not the open windows. For being an OS based on the documents, not the apps, it’s disappointing, at best. It’s also annoying that if you have minimized a window, CMD-TABing won’t bring it back in foreground: you have to go on the bar and click! Dude: that’s silly!’  I know you can install third-party apps that restore the common CMD-TAB behaviour, but that’s not the point: the system should work well out of the box, as claimed.

I tried plugging in my Samsung MP3 and OGG player and the first time I did that the kernel crashed. Now, after 5 major updates, there is no crash but only a message saying ‘Cannot read this disk: eject or ignore?’ Lame Apple, lame. Especially since the same player works perfectly on OS X 10.4. Reporting the bug didn’t help (almost one year has passed).

But wait, it gets worse. Quicktime player doesn’t play DIVx and other formats out of the box!!! WHAT? The first and foremost complaint I’ve heard every time I tried to defend my GNU systems was that there are no codecs for movies. And I get this expensive computer only to find out that I still need to download VLC to watch my collection?

So, in the end, any GNU system is not different from Mac: you need to hack your box to make it work how you want it, you need to install software, you need to put codecs. Free software comes to rescue the Mac, with VLC, Firefox, Thunderbird, Songbird, MiroTV, Cyberduck, Adium, OO.org ecc completing the otherwise very limited experience. But all this software is already available out of the box on any GNU/Linux system: why pay more and use the same programs?

Disclaimer: I’m not adding any rant about the defective, DRM crippled iTunes simply because I never used it. My collection of music is in OGG Vorbis format and iTunes is of no use.

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).