I’ve recently made the leap across the divide and having never really touched a Mac before, splashed out £1600 on a MacBook Pro. Seeing Vista Aero for the first time had caused me to snap somewhere deep inside (oh the waste of opportunity!) and I vowed then the next machine I bought would be a Mac. About a year later, with my Tosh sounding like a 1960’s hoover I stumped up the cash to make my desertion a reality (despite Windows 7 coming out in the interim with rave reviews).

So, I am now a blissed out and smug Mac user, raving about OS X to anyone who will listen.

I wish.

In fact, it has not been the dreamlike nirvana I was hoping for .. in fact it’s been a mixed bag. In fact, as much as I hate to bring delight to my friends who told me not waste my money, at the moment I’d have to admit It Is Not Working Out All That Well.

Some possible causes for this:

  1. I am completely ignorant of OS X so, despite having 15 years experience of developing on and maintaining Windows boxes, and 5+ years on Unix a long time ago, I am bound to find aspects of a new-to-me OS bewildering. As much as I try to make allowances for that, it is bound to leave a bad taste in the mouth and make me a bit grumpy.
  2. I am a software developer using Flex Builder on a very big project, so although I can run from Windows, I cannot hide from the fact Eclipse (and specifically the FB plug-in) is a bit of a dog on all but small projects, and should just learn to make better use of my 3 minute downtimes.
  3. Moving to Mac is like going to see a film that everybody has been raving about for weeks; no matter how good it is, it is going to be a disappointment
  4. Moving to Mac is choosing to be part of a minority which has downsides (some apps are either not available, or flakey since a lower priority for the software co.) as well as upsides (dramatically fewer viruses, sense of coolness and belonging)
  5. OS X isn’t actually as good as it’s made out to be

I suspect it is a combination of all of the above (and others?), but here’s a list of thoughts and experiences from my journey so far.

Shocks re the OS itself (OS X, 10.6 Snow Leopard)

  • There is no ‘Create new …’ on the context menu in a folder.  Googling on this revealed that there is a free Mac utility NuFile – but that is not available for Snow Leopard (causing some users to refuse to upgrade for that reason alone … which says something about the value of that functionality, and thus the oversight of not building it in to the OS).
  • Installing apps involves downloading a .dmg Disk Image file, which looks like a file but which is ‘ejected’ instead of deleted. This is fine now I know what it means but for a system that I’d thought was super simple to use, I found it a bit bewildering at first.
  • .* files are invisible in Finder – and as a result you can’t replace a file via drag and drop.  I find that pretty annoying – such files are relatively common (e.g. .actionScriptProperties, .project etc) and I want to be able to manage them like other files.  It is possible to list the files in Finder – by changing the search criteria to specifically list whether files are visible or not – but it’s fiddly and it’s not possible to have the default view list everything in a sensible way.
  • When  ’svn update’ hangs in the terminal (reason TBC, but may be something dodgy in the repo, so not in itself an OS X issue), ctrl-C fails to kill the process (!). I can put it in the background via ctrl-Z, and could move it to the foreground and back again, but kill %1% wouldn’t kill it and ctrl-C doesn’t kill it.  In fact closing the terminal window doesn’t kill it – despite warning that it will – so I have to do a force quit via the Activity Monitor … I was hoping I’d left that kind of thing behind with Task Manager!
  • This morning – just as I was about to add ‘Reliable recovery from sleep’ to my list of Good Things About OS X, my machine failed to wake up properly. Specifically, the notification area in the top right was ‘beachballing’ (the Mac’s ‘too busy for words’ animated cursor) and Activity Monitor wouldn’t open to let me see what was going on. I restarted (with sadness in my heart) only to reach a blue screen and stay there (darker shade of blue, same sense of dread).  In the end I had to do the ‘hold down power key of death’ routine … at which point it did restart pretty quickly and recovered where I was at. So, some positives in the end, but I’d rather have been able to write ‘Never fails to wake up’ below :-(
  • The ‘Applications’ folder – which is effectively an equivalent to the Start menu – doesn’t let you change the size of the icons. You can display it as a list, which is smaller, but they’ve missed a trick there – would be nice to have a 2-D layout of small icons (and being able to group them would be even better).  Googling on this turned up lots of gripes on this – apparently it was nice in Leopard (which has further put pay to the belief I had that Apple always did sensible things).
  • In my opinion, the Mac approach of having the application menu bar always appear at the top of the screen – which may be some way from the window(s) used by that app – doesn’t make as much sense as the Windows approach of having each window self-contained (i.e. the menu bar is attached to the window itself). I don’t like having to move my eye/mouse up past potentially half-a-monitor or more of unrelated windows etc. to get from the work area to a menu controlling that work area. In particular I also don’t like it that when I close all of the windows used by an app, it continues running. But maybe that’s just a question of adjustment on my part.

Software not available for OS X, or flakey on it

  • TortoiseSVN is evidently the envy of the Mac world. Even the paid-for SVN clients on Mac are, by common consent, nowhere near as good. I’ve tried several, and I miss TortoiseSVN something rotten. Subclipse does work fine … but I really want something outside of the IDE since Subclipse
    • a) requires I have a whole load of projects open, which has various repercussions and
    • b) stops me doing much else in Eclipse while an update is grinding away, even when in background
  • I miss Google Chrome! It should be coming out soon for OS X and I’m counting down the days, or would be if I had a firm date.  I know Firefox is cooler for us Developers, and I hate to be a slave to a Might Be The Devil In Disguise gargantuan, but I just love Chrome, FireFox just seems clunky and ugly in comparison .. and Safari, though fast, has a problem with remembering passwords that’s a showstopper when using SAAS apps.
  • MSN Messenger has a Mac version but I can’t for the life of me work out how to access the preferences on it. Must be me being dim somehow, but I’m not a complete ninkenpoop so I think there must be some kind of issue there.  At the moment I’m getting bling notification noises throughout the day and can’t work out what’s causing them … I suspect it is someone coming online on MSN, but can’t find the preference to disable such notifications!

Eclipse/Flex Builder-specific issues

  • Dragging and dropping multiple files into Flex Navigator only copies one file (!).   That seems like a major to me. Cmd-C/Cmd-V copies multiple.
  • Flex Builder 3 plug-in is not compatible with Eclipse Galileo on OS X (see earlier post).  Hopefully will all come good with FlashBuilder.
  • Overwriting a file (in Eclipse) does not show details re the sizes and modification times of the files involved – I find those really valuable in determining if I should overwrite or not, or in confirming to me that a file I was expecting to be updated by a build had been.

Good things

Of course with all this grumbling I should point out the positives too … and I’m sure this list will grow as I learn more.

  • The MacBookPro machine itself is lovely. Looks great, mousepad is great, speakers are great, backlit keys mean I don’t need a nightlight on if working late, magnetic power plug is practical and feelgood, etc. etc. Even if this ends up primarily a Windows 7 box it won’t have been a complete waste of money … though er, some of it would have been.
  • DOS vs *nix in the terminal? No competition, it’s nice to be home in that respect.
  • The dock is clean and pretty.
  • The four-finger-sweep-to-show-min-versions-of-all-windows is nice
  • The ability to change desktop every X minutes and/or when waking up is nice. Maybe Windows has that and I just didn’t notice?
  • Ok, I had to restart, but that was after a week of uptime … I don’t think Vista behaved that long between reboots, and I heard a first bad report of Windows 7 today, so maybe that’s not a silver bullet either.

So, that’s a dump of my thoughts/experiences so far.  I’ll endeavour to add more as I go. Other thoughts/contributions more than welcome!

kdw.

Interesting read about this new Mac user. I am a dev myself and some of the stuff he complained is BAD !!

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