Mac Tales

Mac Tales

Introduction

About two years ago I had the plan to borrow a Mac and finally (first time since either Summer 2000 or 2001 when my colleague upgraded his work Mac from an OS 9 one to an OS X one and let me play with it fresh after the installation) give at a more thorough try than all the 5 minute uses when struggling to use a colleague’s Mac during a presentation. Well, it finally worked in September, but only now I found time to compile my notes, have fun :)

Day 1

First steps

  • Setup: Very nice, at least compared to last pre-installed Windows box.
  • Asking for Apple account twice: annoying
  • “Connecting to Apple” after choosing to use only a local account: WTF?
  • Oh god why can’t I just scroll in the right direction?
  • Possibility to add a mugshot on account creation: nice
  • Calling the machine “Florians MacBook Pro”: braindead
  • The dock on the lower end: Are you kidding me? 1680x1050 is bad enough for a 15” notebook bought in 2011 - why waste 100 Pixel for a huge dock? At least putting it to the right side was easy.
  • Settings: nice, found “tap to click” very fast

Apple Mail

  • Autoguess is far worse than Thunderbird
  • Why do you need to give a password at this stage? How will I know you won’t just try plaintext authentication?
  • Why do I have to reenter my address?
  • Why don’t you check for MX records yourself?
  • Why can’t I use tab?
  • Why do you suggest POP if there’s no POPd running on that hostname I gave?
  • Plaintext: Redeeming quality
  • Changing settings gives instant feedback: nice
  • Signature feature: Broken? Why no automatic “– “?

Keyboard map

  • why? Why? WHY?
  • @ is bad enough (I finally learnt not to quit random apps), but I can’t remember | at all. Same with \.
  • But it doesn’t feel too bad typing on the keyboard itself. Illumination is discreet and looks very good.

Software update

Definitely better than Windows Update :)

Photo Booth

  • Why ESC to quit?
  • Whitescreen as a flash? WTF

Address book

Arr, anachronisms (and alliterations) ahead! Looks a little funky as well.

App Store

  • Is there no “free” category or am I just not seeing it? Weird ideas, I know.
  • Why do I need an Apple ID to download free stuff? :(

Hardware

  • Why did you have to switch cmd and ctrl again?
  • after 2h, it’s quite warm. From installing apps and idling at less than 10% cpu used

Safari

  • Why can’t I rightclick? WTF.
  • Downloads: animation is cool, the clearly visible target button is cool

Font tool

Looks nice, but why would you put fonts into a “fun” category by default?

Messaging

  • iChat: Why do I find “create account” under system settings (which is cool) but the app is only findable via spotlight?
  • ** Colloquy**: hmm, out of the box: confusing

Quicksilver

Best install dialog ever

Installations

Why “drag to install”? - why not just “do you want to install? yes/No”?

Misc. Apple stuff

  • Modal dialogs sliding in from the top: nice
  • Why do I have to doubleclick on Programs when the icons in System Settings open with a single click? That’s more inconsistent than Windows…
  • Why do some apps close on X and some won’t?
  • “Don’t Save” buttons: so much saner than Yes/No/Cancel
  • Why the hell don’t I find the Terminal under Programs?
  • Password dialog on screensaver + wrong password: looks nice and wobbly
  • Auto-Resizing dialogs: nice
  • DigitalColor Meter: nice
  • Grab: nice
  • Java Preferences: Tells me that Java is not installed. Weird.
  • Preferences: Either hit or miss, and sometimes really hard to change.
  • Network utility: Has finger, geek cred points.
  • VoiceOver (Screenreader): Haven’t tried it, but nice that it’s packaged by default.
  • The Maximizing +: Why is the behaviour so weird? Full height, full screen, nothing. And I thought some custom styled Windows apps (Winamp) were bad…
  • Gestures: Too many, but seem to work like a charm overall.
  • Spaces: I can’t imagine anyone would find them in Mission Control without googling. Even I as a total non-Apple user knew the term “Spaces” or could have made sense of it - but that was up to 10.6. m(

Github for Mac

  • First impression: sweet
  • Clone repository to “Documents” -> “code/bar” and what do I get? /Users/foo/Documents/code\:bar - WTF?

iTunes

Oh hey, compared to Windows this is actually really nice. As in, it doesn’t crash on first launch and is even able to play some web radio station.

Summary for day 1

  • Overall handling with only one hand: very good so far
  • Biggest Plus so far: the font rendering engine, everything looks really smooth.
  • In general the gui feels integral, most apps look alike - in a good way. The Exception is: Safari.
  • Podcast Publisher: First beachball of death. Uptime 2:36

Day 2

I gave in and got an Apple ID in order to use the Mac App Store. The Xcode download seems to be huge and while the progress bar looks kind of slick, I’d preferred some info like size or time left though…

Major WTF: the Productivity category. Why not label it “Misc. crap” or “didn’t fit anywhere else?”

I switched to English in OS X - that went well. The App Store was English, but the contents were German. After clicking the German flag I was asked about my country. I clicked USA and the contents were English, but I was logged out.

Is that a different App Store? Who knows?

At least the back button works.

Safari doesn’t let me copy/paste my apple id password. Can’t tell you enough how glad I was that I picked a very random 16 or so character combo of stuff…

connect.apple.com doesn’t know UTF8.

I like the screensaver, although it’s kind of generic if you’re used to people with macs.

Stuff I’d really love to try, but it’s payware (which is not bad per se, far from it, but I can’t just test it for a day): Pixelmator, Acorn, GarageBand, Coda, Cathode (iirc)

Actually, Safari is more usable than what I imagined. Haven’t tried doing any web dev work though.

So, after finally getting homebrew to work, which needed Xcode, which needed an Apple-ID and was a huge download that took forever, then needed me to click through a lot of Xcode dialogs, then install the forgotten CLI tools I have seriously forgotten for which tool I wanted brew originally. I really can’t make this shit up. After some pondering I think it was Textmate 2, but I’ve since installed Sublime Text, Chocolat and PHPStorm. Oh, and MacEdit is a really nice default editor btw, I think I could get used to that one.

Laying on the sofa and coding some python, I once again notice that I like the keyboard. Even the Cmd seems to make some sort of sense now. Just when I get a positive vibe I come to the point of having to type my first square brackets. After around 5 pairs I already want to punch someone. Maybe using US layout helps, but if I use US Intl (which I’m not 100% confident with yet) plus Mac special keys I’d be more than lost. On German keyboards… programming is definitely worse than on PC keyboards.

The volume up/down buttons are really nice and I use them all the time and they work better than on some of my laptops. As I write this I notice that the speakers are quite ok. Not perfect though, but I’ve seen worse.

Why the hell do all the key bindings have be slightly, but not completely different? cmd-tab instead of alt-tab, alt-left to skip words, cmd-shift-left to select towards line start, alt-n for tilde.

The major takeaway from this experiment is that everything somehow feels new and fresh and I’m using new tools and workflows for basically everything I do. I’ve installed a big pile of stuff, really.

Running now: Safari, Chrome, Terminal, iTerm2, TextEdit, Twitter, PHPStorm, Adium, Appetizer, MacVim, Quassel.

I like the automatic space switching, I’m missing a shortcut to send a window anywhere, but for now Expose? and dragging works. It’s also annoying that some minimized apps show up in cmd-tab. Or all? Minimizing/closing behavior is really weird, anyway.

Tried and not used really: TextMate2, Colloquy (didn’t like it at all), Sublime Text 2 (didn’t need it yet), QuickSilver (bit useless, so far Spotlight was good enough)

The MBP getting really hot on your lap/under your palms without any meaningful load is really annoying.

Summary

Yes, I think I could work with a Mac. No, I don’t think I’d fall in love.

I’m not often working with a laptop literally on my lap (like just now, making a blog post out of my messy notes, on a train), but if I would, I could definitely rule out the MBP (late 2010 model, iirc) - it’s just running too uncomfortably hot, whereas my Lenovo, Asus and Fujitsu ones stay cooler even when compiling.

What I hate most is the keyboard layout, but I think after a switch (and I think I’d really prefer US keyboard layout) I could get my work done in the same speed after a week or so.

In general, I was sometimes positively surprised that stuff really is that much better and nicer than on Linux and Windows, but at other times I was shocked how weird and inconsistent some things were, especially as I’d heard this a lot as a pro-Mac argument.

So, all in all I tried to be as fair as possible and not think about price differences, the closed gate model, etc.pp - I really just wanted to explore and try to get stuff done.

Personally I don’t think I’d gain anything buying a Mac, given that I can’t get rid of Windows anyway and am still a lot happier with Linux or FreeBSD. But if my employer forced me to use a Mac (no, a slight nudge won’t help) I’d cope with that, unlike having to use a Windows machine for web development, that feels like working with both hands tied to a hot waffle iron, or something.

Farewell MacBook Pro, I don’t see us meeting again soon (but it was still fun).