August 31, 2006

Confessions of a reluctant switcher (part 4)

It's been a couple of months that I've been using my Mac Book Pro now, so what's the verdict?

Definitely mixed.

With the help from the people who posted comments on my previous posts (here and here), I was able to configure my Mac in ways that I feel very comfortable with, now:

  • Double finger tap is equivalent to a right click.
     
  • I love scrolling with two fingers (more convenient than my Thinkpad's pad side scrolling).
     
  • I had to activate keyboard shortcuts for all widgets.
     
  • It feels good to be back to zsh.

Having said that, there are a few things that still bother me and probably won't go away at this point:

  • Eclipse is harder to use.  I blame the Command/Control key insanity.  It sounded simple at first:  "Use Command whenever you used to use Control".  "Great", I thought, "because the Command key is easier to reach than Control".  Except that...  there are exceptions all the time (H and Q come to mind), and for these, you need to revert to Control.  Now I find myself always having to remember when I should use Control or Command, and it's slowly driving me insane.
     
  • Mac OS is still not keyboard-friendly, and I find myself having to reach for the mouse way too often.  I find this very insulting to disabled and power users alike.
     
  • Mac OS X feels less snappy than Windows, even on my two-year old Thinkpad.  It's hard to describe, but in general, switching windows is faster on XP, Widgets are more responsive (they react when the mouse passes over them), and overall, I feel that I navigate faster between different tasks on Windows than on Mac OS.  Also, the Windows command prompt, while underpowered compared to UNIX shells, scrolls much faster than any Mac OS consoles I've tried.
     
  • The user interface is inconsistent and limited in silly and irritating ways (I still find myself wanting to resize my windows from anywhere, or wanting to resize certain dialogs, or moving columns around in table widgets).
     
  • Mac OS is not Java-friendly.  It doesn't support any wireless toolkits, so no Java ME development is possible, and the recent decision to drop the Cocoa bindings sends the clear message that Apple doesn't care about Java.  I want to work on a Java-friendly operating system.

But the ultimate test was a few weeks ago, when I was about to fly out to the East Coast for the weekend and I found myself wondering if I should take my Mac or my Windows laptop.  It didn't take long to choose Windows for the following reasons:

  • It's lighter.
     
  • It doesn't burn my thighs if I keep it in my lap for more than a half hour.
     
  • It has better battery life (do I really need two CPU's if I all I'm doing is watching a DVD on the plane?).

The bottom line?

Both operating systems are good, you won't be disappointed whichever you pick, but Windows remains my operating system of choice, especially for development.  Windows is and remains the ultimate operating system for hackers and tinkerers.

 

Posted by cedric at August 31, 2006 09:09 AM
Comments

I'd disagree with your statement that Mac OSX is not Java-friendly. It's the only operating system that comes with Java pre-installed on all machines, and apps can decide which version of Java they want to use (or just take the latest and greatest). Plus, it's a bunch more aligned with the OS than, say, it is on Windows. Where's the Windows support to allow you to talk to objects with Java? At least it was there for a while with the Java-Cocoa bridge in Mac.

As for the lack of J2ME toolkits; that's more a problem with the vendors of J2ME toolkits, rather than Mac per se. You'll find about as much stuff available for Linux in that arena as you will for Mac OSX.

Just because you haven't found all the little hacks that you can do on Mac OSX doesn't mean it's not a platform for hackers. Which other OS allows you to replace bits of applications on the fly? Just because you're more used to (say) the Registry, doesn't mean that Macs don't have the same functionality; it's just accessed through the 'defaults' command and realised as .plists, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than a giant binary file that is user.dat.

Alex.

Posted by: Alex Blewitt at August 31, 2006 10:05 AM

being in the same situation as cedric, here is my list of things i noticed over the last months.

Cons:

- the keyboard thingy is definitely ugly. When using the mac keyboard the most important developer keys are not even visually exposed like braces, brackets or pipe. Reaching them in default layout is scary. All in all, i prefer the windows style, but it may be to some extend a matter of habbits. The worst is that some java programs still use ctrl-c for copy and some use command-c as prefered on OSX.

- startup of certain programs like firefox feels slower.

- i am missing some software which is just not available on the same quality level than on windows like:
>> irfanView (there is nothing comparable on mac with the same snappiness)
>> homebanking (all commercial banking apps suck)
>> order/invoice management system like SAGE stuff
So i still use Bootcamp and Parallels for some important tasks.

- Cedric pointed out J2ME tools. This is definitely true but i dont use them. But there could be at any time other tools that are only available on windows which are then not accessible without virtualisation. But not a problem for me _currently_

Pros:

- SHELL

- iSync

- Anti-Aliasing everywhere and Vector based desktop

- Firewire support rocks

- modularity of the OS and the way user folder are handled.

Summary:

The big question remains... Will i buy another MacBook in about 2 years when my normal hardware renewal time arrives? I honestly dont know. Its a 50/50 thingy.

Marc

Posted by: Marc Logemann at August 31, 2006 12:06 PM

Ah, from an Eclipse user at last the confession that Eclipse is not cross plattform and a second grade citizen under every OS beside Windows ;-)

Posted by: Stephan Schmidt at August 31, 2006 02:12 PM

If you've been using MacOSX for ever and are a power-user for OSX, then you'd know darn well why Q and H don't use CMD for their shortcuts. Because CMD+Q is quit, and CMD+H is hide.

These commands apply to *all* MacOSX UI programs.

Personally, I get upset every time I open up outlook and hit Ctrl+F to find something, because it's all "Who do you want to forward this to?" ??? I want to FIND something, not FORWARD something. Ctrl+F is find, don't change that you stupid inconsistant UI!

Also, Windows is much less responsive for me. If it's working hard, the mouse will stop moving, and that's the most annoying thing. Of course WinXP is a little more snappy on the windows, there's less complicated stuff to draw, wait until Vista, and you'll see how dog slow Aero will seem.

Plus, I get annoyed at Windows for having dialog boxes block access to the application it opened up on. I can't even open up a new window and surf around in IE if I have a save dialog box open in another IE window. It's torture to use windows anymore!

Posted by: Cassy at August 31, 2006 02:31 PM

Cassy,

Yes, I know why H and Q work this way, I was just pointing out that it made the experience under Mac OS very inconsistent. Eclipse is not the only application showing this schizophrenic behavior, never knowing for sure if it should ask you to press Cmd or Ctrnl.

Your other Windows complaints are actually application-specific complaints. There are as many modal dialogs in Mac OS applications than there are on Windows, so I fail to see your point.

Posted by: Cedric at August 31, 2006 02:35 PM

Widely held opinion:
The only reason to use Windows is when there's a specialized (usually business) application you have to run, and it ain't available on other platforms.

Why else would you choose to put up with having to run AV software?

Also, OS X gives you the power of (multi-user) Unix, the convenience of advanced (PDF, Exposť) graphics, and modern (Cocoa framework) and easy to use (template-based) applications.

Compare the Windows Task Manager with OS X's Activity Monitor. Which inspires more confidence?

Since MS has .Net, I doubt that Apple has stopped caring about Java.

Posted by: Rob Dickens at September 1, 2006 06:50 AM

And OS X lacks all the viruses, trojans, bluescreens and automatic restarts after unwanted software upgrades.

Posted by: Lars Fischer at September 1, 2006 07:44 AM

Sorry folks, but the Mac is a second class citizen in everything that doesn't originate on that platform. That's just the way it works when you have such a small percentage of the market and Windows rules the world. I'm a former OS/2 guy. You just have to learn to get over it or join the crowd. Unfortunately, most Mac fans are in complete denial about the state of these things an insist it's not only equivalent but a better user/dev platform. I wish they were right. Of course Jobs is just as big of an ass as Gates, so maybe not.

Posted by: Sam at September 1, 2006 08:08 AM

Sorry folks, but the Mac is a second class citizen in everything that doesn't originate on that platform. That's just the way it works when you have such a small percentage of the market and Windows rules the world. I'm a former OS/2 guy. You just have to learn to get over it or join the crowd. Unfortunately, most Mac fans are in complete denial about the state of these things an insist it's not only equivalent but a better user/dev platform. I wish they were right. Of course Jobs is just as big of an ass as Gates, so maybe not.

Posted by: Sam at September 1, 2006 08:08 AM

Part 4?!? where is part 3? If its just a typo then nevermind, we just human :), but if not please give the link for part 3

Posted by: Kim Bille at September 1, 2006 08:18 AM

I wouldn't have been suprised if you were talking about anything besides windows.

For example:
Both operating systems are good, you won't be disappointed whichever you pick, but ubuntu remains my operating system of choice, especially for development. GNU/Linux is and remains the ultimate operating system for hackers and tinkerers.

But Windows? really come on. Many hardcore Java hackers that I know were linux -> mac switchers.

Anywhoos complaining about Java's lack of platform integration is like complaining about it's static Type saftely features.

Posted by: Ozten at September 1, 2006 09:47 AM

My experience has been similar. After 6 months on the MacBook I'm not convinced the UI is all that much better. It looks better and I love having a native non cygwin shell but for heavy keyboard use I totally agree that it falls short. Still, I'm glad I switched, even if only that I don't have to mess around with cygwin anymore!

I had to do a double take though when you said "Windows is and remains the ultimate operating system for hackers and tinkerers". I tend to think of FreeBSD and Linux as the ultimate OS for hackers and tinkerers whereas I think of Windows is the antithesis of a hacker/tinkerer OS (unless you're doing J2ME where it's the only real choice).

Posted by: Todd Huss at September 1, 2006 03:55 PM

With a MacBook you can run windows (using Paralells) under OS/X. It works like a champ! Visual Studio works. Cygwin. Gee, even Starcraft! See: http://butunclebob.com/ArticleS.UncleBob.MacBookProComic

As for Java under OS/X IntelliJ Idea worked out of the box. Ruby works too. TextPad works. I have yet to find something that doesn't work.

And the battery life is at least 3 hours plus.

Oh yeah, and it doesn't crash, boots fast, and doesn't punish me for doing something out of order.

So, all in all, the MacBook is MY hacking tool.

Posted by: unclebob at September 1, 2006 05:32 PM

>> Oh yeah, and it doesn't crash, boots fast, and doesn't punish me for doing something out of order.

Thats the most laughable statement i have every heard. OS X has as many bugs as Windows, for sure. Ok, i cant honestly say if its their operating system or their bad bad hardware they are tossing out at the moment. But thats a different story. Still have to find someone who had to send in a notebook 3 times in 4 months as with my macbook pro.

What the mac makes big is its unseen fancrowd where 80% of them seem unable to judge based on facts. For them, OSX and Apple never make mistakes, never crashes, is never slow and never fails short. They just have to watch one of Apples fancy new "i am a pc" adds and they are lucky for all time. Perhaps its because most of them never used anything else in the last 10 years. So its time to say to them: "Windows dont crashes more often than OSX do".

And to all those Ubuntu/Linux hackers (alone the word hacker is so freaky, i dont want to be mentioned with this word). I already have abysmall commercial software support on Mac, i dont want to take it to the next level by using plain Linux.

But it all depends on what you need. I am running a company here and have to have all sort of programs running for my business. Using tools like Parallels or dual boot into windows is still a pain in the a**. I wish Codewaever would be more successfull in porting even more apps with wine. Thats a user expierence!

Posted by: Marc Logemann at September 3, 2006 07:33 AM

I admire you for the courage to say what you said.

There is a sort of a peer pressure in our Java/Ruby/Linux community to abandon everything Microsoft no matter how good or bad it is.

I had the same experience in terms of chosing the OS for development.
I was looked upon by my anti-Windows friends as a traitor for doing all my development on Windows with help of Cygwin when needed.

I have one Linux and one Windows box at work and I played with OS X .
I just could not match the convenience and productivity of MS Windows for the feeling of free or independent that these other OSes give me.

It is like going back to conventional gas powered, plenty of HP car over Prius if you need to get to airport in a rush.

In terms of Windows I just find it more convenient for day-to-day develoment. Little things like you mentioned ...

I am sure that lots of members of our community will throw anathema on us for saying things like this, but so be it.

Posted by: Edmon at September 3, 2006 11:26 AM

FYI, there are a few j2me sdk/emulators available for OSX such as http://mpowerplayer.com/for_developers.php

Posted by: Jason at September 4, 2006 06:59 AM

> Windows is and remains the ultimate operating system for hackers and tinkerers.

Wow. I never thought I'd hear that. Although it's got its strenghts and place, Windows is the ultimate ANTI hacker/tinkerer OS in my opinion.

Posted by: Harel at September 5, 2006 07:11 AM

Hi Cedric,

To address one of your complaints, I use WindowDragon to make the resize move work like on many Linux Window Managers.

The way I have it setup, I can move a window from anywhere with Alt + Button1 and resize from anywhere with Alt + Button2.

http://homepage.mac.com/tconkling/windowdragon/

Note: The restart/logout in the instructions is no joke, you have to otherwise it won't work.

Also just curious, are you using QuickSilver at all?

- Sylvain

Posted by: Sylvain at September 7, 2006 02:27 PM

Cedric,
2 Months aren't enough to readapt to a new OS. OSX is pretty different from windows and when you're used to doing things in a certain way it feels frustrating to have to do it differently. I went through the pain of switching 2.5 years ago and couldn't stop complaining for about 6 months but it hit me when I had to go back to windows one day at a client site! :-D

OSX in general is a much more fluid experience, of course there are inconsistencies, but they are far fewer than windows. We just get used to the inconsistencies in windows and they become pretty natural to us :-). OSX's inconsistencies will become second nature to you in a while too :-)

I'm keeping a log of how many times my mac crashes or freezes:
PowerBook G4: 1 time in 2 years.
MacBook Pro: 5 times in the last 3 months alone.

There are some quality issues with the new MacBooks, but its a new product and 5 crashes in 3 months is still much better than Windows, which you have to reboot every now and then just to keep it responsive!

Also, when you said "and the recent decision to drop the Cocoa bindings sends the clear message that Apple doesn't care about Java" I got a little shocked :-)

Objective-C had always been the language of choice for serious OSX apps and continuing to support the bridge just doesn't make economic sense since no one is using it! This should not be confused at all with Apple's commitment to Java!! The fact that a certain language bridge technology isn't worth keeping around doesn't mean Java, from OS-X perspective isn't worth committing to!

Apples' implementation of the the SWT makes SWT applications behave more like first class citizens than any other OS in the market. For God's sake my grandmother can download an SWT based java app and run it in 2 clicks. Ask her to do that in windows :-D

Cheers,
AT


Posted by: AT at September 10, 2006 05:55 PM

I keep getting an unexpected error. After a few times that it worked, it can not creat a player window. Please help me!

Posted by: Fish at April 27, 2007 08:45 AM

My mpowerplayer works very well, once! After my first sesion I get a unexpected error, my mpp can not create a player window! Wat's going on? Help me! Pleas!

Posted by: Fish at April 27, 2007 02:27 PM

My mpowerplayer worked also very well, once but now I get a unexpected error, my mpowerplayer can not create a player window! Wat's going on? Help me! Please!

Posted by: sizwe at January 22, 2008 08:10 AM
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