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So y'all are gonna laugh, but I bought a Mac. - The Desian Universe
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deskitty
deskitty
Des
Wed, Sep. 9th, 2009 10:50 am
So y'all are gonna laugh, but I bought a Mac.

You read that right, and I'll say it again just so the point sinks in -- I bought a MacBook Pro on Friday.

No, I'm not sick. Yes, I'm in my right mind. And yes, I do still think Apple is evil, the Mac UI is annoying, and Steve Jobs needs to get smacked with an open-platform cluebat. I still won't buy an iPhone or an iPod, and I won't use iTunes, either. I still believe that if I buy a piece of hardware, I have the Dog-given right to run whatever the hell piece of software on it I feel like.

So what gives?

Well, first off I want to correct a commonly-held misconception: I am not an operating system zealot.

I believe in using the best tool for the job. I have strong opinions about what tool that is, depending on the job in question. (Dev = Linux, Games = Windows, boring everyday shit = Mac) And I categorically reject the notion (espoused by the Free Software Foundation) that proprietary software is inherently bad or somehow immoral. (Indeed, I feel the FSF is acting somewhat immorally--or at least disrespectfully--by trying to shove their particular brand of "freedom" down everyone else's throats.) I feel there are a whole host of PRAGMATIC reasons to choose Open Source over proprietary software, and I'll discuss those below. But I have no problem with proprietary software as such.

In my case, there are a number of fairly compelling, pragmatic reasons for buying a new machine, and a Mac in particular. First, I need a new laptop -- I discovered a while back that my current machine eats (and I do mean EATS) laptop batteries, so I effectively have no laptop. Having a mobile computer is important to me, because I like to travel on the weekends and need a machine I can take with me. Also, the importance of getting a server machine has diminished, because I'm trying to stay away from the computer while I'm not at work -- I just can't afford to use my hands that much anymore if I still want to be able to type in 20 years.

So why a MacBook, instead of a Linux laptop?

Honestly, there is a certain class of problems for which the Mac is better than any other system out there. I'm thinking here of bread-and-butter PIM, mail, chat, etc. The Mac is a package deal in the sense that you buy it once, it works (almost) out of the box (well, except when it breaks, in which case you're screwed, but I digress), it's pretty, and everything is really nicely-integrated. I can sync my Google and Exchange accounts, (yet keep them separate -- work doesn't get to know what I do on the weekends). I now have a (mostly-)full set of Outlook tools that doesn't make me want to stab my eyes out with a spork. Safari is a respectable browser, and I can get Firefox if I need it. Adium has an interface superior to any other IM client, on any platform, that I've seen so far.

Linux, even KDE (which is by far the best of the bunch) doesn't come close to this. Exchange support is being worked on for KDE 4.4 (thanks, greeneg!), but the CalDAV stuff for syncing Google Calendar doesn't work, and there's no way to sync the address book. And forget pushing my contacts to my phone. Linux has no idea what to do with Bluetooth, let alone a RAZR, and I don't feel like spending an entire weekend figuring it out.

Now, all of these problems are fixable. But the focus of KDE, in particular, seems to have shifted from "bread-and-butter make-it-work so I can get my shit done", to "pretty-shiny desktop widgets and social networking". I've never been much for social networking (except the kind that you do yourself), and while the desktop widgets are pretty-shiny, they spend most of their time on my desktop, buried under windows in which--you guessed it--I'm doing actual work.

I guess I feel the KDE project has lost its way.

It seems like everyone is focusing on this Plasma thingy to the exclusion of relatively boring programs that do something useful. Kopete is limping along -- every time Yahoo changes its protocol, Kopete can't log in for a few weeks until one of the developers has time to port the relevant change over from Pidgin's libpurple. The UI is better than Pidgin's, but still clunky -- and hasn't seen any major work since the contact list was re-written. KMail has turned into a massive pile of spaghetti code which may or may not lose your mail if you try to use, e.g. offline IMAP. It has a superior user interface (I'm sorry, Mail.app just doesn't do threading right), but under the hood, I question its stability. Konqueror is based on KHTML, which is fine, but now we have developer infighting over whether it should switch to WebKit or not. (The infighting is a waste of time -- maintain both, let them fight it out, and then kill off whichever is inferior.) Its JavaScript engine hasn't kept up in terms of speed or functionality, and it too is becoming more of a maintenance nightmare.

If we move down the stack, we get to Qt and X11. Qt is well-maintained, clean, etc. -- though it should be, it's now owned by Nokia. The graphics and audio stacks are a different story, however. X11 is plagued with driver problems and instability -- we have several different acceleration architectures that all do the same thing (and do it badly -- in a lot of cases, it's actually faster NOT to accelerate), and we're shoehorning all of this into a windowing system that was badly-designed when it was written 30 or so years ago, nevermind today. (Never try to write raw Xlib code, BTW. It really, really sucks.) We have the PulseAudio, ALSA and GStreamer religions, in which everyone is having a bad case of Not-Invented-Here syndrome, loudly arguing back and forth while the whole multimedia stack suffers. Even Qt itself has now sprouted multiple multimedia frameworks that do almost the same thing.

Moving even further down, the kernel itself is rock-solid. I have very few complaints, other than to ask the kernel developers to make sure they support the desktop people as well as they can. Linux is damn good at the "bread-and-butter" of the server room -- networking, storing data, and hardcore computing (peg those CPUs, baby!). I've always relied, and will continue to rely on Linux for safely storing my shit. XFS (and soon, btrfs) just kicks the pants off of HFS+ in terms of scalability (and probably reliability, though I don't know).

Linux is also a much better development environment, for the simple reason that its UIs (well, except for GNOME, but why the hell would anyone use that?) are customizable to a fault. Want focus-follows-mouse with a key-press to raise and lower windows? No problem. Or maybe a text editor (Vim) so powerful it was ported to Mac and Windows? Sure. Want to peg the CPU and fill up your RAM *without* your system falling over? Linux does better at that than Mac has so far (for me, at least).

In the OSS world, there is no such thing as an "undocumented" protocol or API -- even if the documentation is inadequate, you can read the source. (Yes, I've actually done this. No, it's not nearly as hard as it sounds. If you can't read other people's reasonably-structured code, you shouldn't be writing it in the first place. =P) And BECAUSE you can read the source, you have the built-in assurance that your data won't be locked away in some proprietary format that's impossible to read because it depends on some implementation-specific detail hidden away in Microsoft Excel 5.0.427-6b for the Mac. (Well, it might be, but you can still figure out what the hell is going on.) In the OSS world, it's to the developer's ADVANTAGE to make their formats and protocols open and easy to read -- it encourages people to use and work on their project.

So to the extent that I'm concerned about keeping my data safe, I'm not going to trust the Mac. It will be synced frequently with the Linux box, and the Linux box still gets to do backups and be the authoritative storage point. I'm still a KDE user--particularly at work--and while I'll be happy to see Mac ports of KDE apps, I'm still planning on using some of them, even on my old machine. I can't live without KMyMoney, which is almost exactly what I want in a finance program, even if the UI's a bit awkward. Digikam also does an excellent job at managing my images, and I'm not sure I'd trust iPhoto with the task.

But the reality is, KDE is diverging from what I need in an "everyday" (web, IM, Mail, etc.) desktop environment, and OSX is getting closer. I don't have the time, the energy, or the muscles and tendons (in my hands :P) required to fix the problem, and there's a lot more work than one man can do, anyway. I really, really hope this gets fixed soon, but we're up to KDE 4.3 and it doesn't look like it will be.

Don't get me wrong -- I still like KDE and I want to see it succeed. I'm still going to follow trunk and help out where and when I can. (Maybe I can help test KDE/Mac. :D) But right now, for a laptop that primarily does everyday kinds of things, a Mac suits my needs better.

-- Des

Tags: , ,
Current Location: Work: San Francisco
Current Mood: embarrassed embarrassed

12CommentReplyShare

rjoseph
Ryan Joseph
Wed, Sep. 9th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
What if the right tool is closed-platform?

For example, even before I started working here, I realized that the iPhone was the right tool for the jobs I do, regardless of the platforms openness or lack thereof. I'm definitely interested to hear your thoughts, because I can't say I categorically disagree, regardless of my employment status.

Either way, congrats on the stellar purchase: you won't regret it, that I promise you!


ReplyThread
deskitty
deskitty
Des
Wed, Sep. 9th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
Re: What if the right tool is closed-platform?

It never is, by definition.

One of my paramount requirements is for the platform to not lose data. Aside from what that typically implies (don't delete/corrupt things, make backups, etc.), it also means that if the app breaks -- i.e. it's discontinued, the company takes it in a different direction that doesn't meet my needs, etc. -- I should still be able to get my data out, and I shouldn't have to rely on a proprietary "Export" function to do it (if the app is broken, the Export function might be too).

This implies a certain freedom of choice -- I should be able to choose what app I use to work with my data, and being able to exercise that choice in any meaningful way requires the data be stored in an open, published format -- a format that anyone can code to. (The same also applies to network protocols.)

This freedom is something I DO take a moral stance on -- I believe I should be free to choose whatever solution--proprietary or open source--meets my needs, and free to change my mind if another competing solution turns out later to be better.

The iPhone does not give me that choice. Apple has outright refused to allow me to install any apps they haven't "blessed", and I think that's wrong. There is no reason why I should not be able to tether my phone to my computer, to install and use Google Voice, or whatever. I should be able to install my own applications, or even my own operating system, if I've determined that some other competing product meets my needs better than what Apple has chosen for me.

So basically, I view the iPhone as being counter to the interests of a free market, and counter to my interest as a consumer in (a) protecting my data, and (b) my long-term ability to choose the solution that's best for me.

(The iPod and iTunes don't meet my requirements because they won't play Ogg and FLAC, but that's a separate discussion.)

The MacBook is different, however, because if I decide I really don't like OS X, I still have a reasonable computer -- I can just wipe the disk and put Linux or Windows on it. If I don't like iTunes, I can install Songbird or Amarok. If I don't like Mail or Safari, I can run Thunderbird or Firefox. And most importantly, I don't need Apple's blessing (or questionable hacks a la jail-breaking) to do any of this.


ReplyThread Parent
darkone238
darkone238
Darkenwolf
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
Re: What if the right tool is closed-platform?

Well jailbreaking isn't really all that questionable. My jailbroken ipod worked pretty well and I could put whatever apps I wanted on it.

I'd venture to guess that most iphones (at least pre "App" iphones) were jailbroken to no issue. Unlocked on the other hand...

But yes, you shouldn't have to hack a system to open it up.

That having been said, your DS is closed =P


ReplyThread Parent
deskitty
deskitty
Des
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
Re: What if the right tool is closed-platform?

I'd venture to guess that most iphones (at least pre "App" iphones) were jailbroken to no issue. Unlocked on the other hand...

Well, yeah -- unlocked is a separate issue. I think all phones should be unlocked by default, as well. If carriers want to offer a subsidized option, that's fine, but I don't think it should be the rule.

That having been said, your DS is closed =P

And so is my 360, but I don't care because I don't (and wouldn't) store anything on there that I care about anyway. ;) If either of those devices stop working permanently tomorrow, it doesn't matter. (Well, other than I'd be out $x00, but that's the risk you run...)


ReplyThread Parent
kion
kion
Kevin Kress
Wed, Sep. 9th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)

Welcome to the club. Personally I'm waiting for a MBP refresh to replace mine, but I've used this thing every day for 4 years and I have no regrets.

And hell I use iTunes. Re-ripped all my CDs years ago and never looked back. Ogg is ok, but the lack of any real support for anything but Linux makes it virtually unusable in today's multi-device world.


ReplyThread
deskitty
deskitty
Des
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)

*nods* Makes sense. I wouldn't expect a new one out for a while, though, anyway, so it didn't really make sense for ME to wait. (Particularly if I don't care about having an uber-fast, up-to-date machine.)

I've actually started ripping to FLAC -- disks are big enough nowadays there's no reason for me not to, and also no reason for me to ever re-rip if I want higher quality. But iTunes still doesn't support it, and I don't want my music stored in a proprietary format, so. :p

If I ever want to put music on a portable device, I'll encode it to MP3 on the fly or something.


ReplyThread Parent
fairyspell
fairyspell
Fairyspell
Wed, Sep. 9th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)

I never would have thought of you with a Mac. ~~'Times they are a changin'~~

Enjoy it!


ReplyThread
deskitty
deskitty
Des
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC)

I know, me neither. :p

But, well, yeah. And I still feel fairly confident in my data being secure on the Linux box, at least.


ReplyThread Parent

deskitty
deskitty
Des
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC)

hehehe, thanks. I like kitty stickers. :3


ReplyThread Parent
thenewac
thenewac
Alex Cross
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 05:19 am (UTC)

Macs are great computers -- and I love Snow Leopard, but I'm stuck in the PC world due to convenience and budget constraints.

Mac has better ease of use than Linux and KDE. KDE has a ways to go before it's completely functional and convenient.


ReplyThread
deskitty
deskitty
Des
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 07:35 am (UTC)

"Ease of use" is in the eye of the beholder. There are some use cases for which KDE kicks OSX's ass, and there are some cases for which OSX kicks KDE's (and Linux's) ass.

You're already familiar with OSX, so I'll mention a few ways in which I prefer KDE:

I still think KMail is more useful -- and easier to use -- than Mail.app. There are some overriding reasons (better Exchange support :p) why I'm sticking with Mail.app for now, but just in terms of the day-to-day UI, I prefer KMail.

OSX's file manager is pretty close to Dolphin. But Dolphin has better previews (it will preview folder contents for you), and it does a better job of presenting view settings. Settings are all collected together in one place, and it's clearer exactly what you're changing (just this folder? folders that didn't previously have settings? all folders, everywhere?).

Plasma is IMO superior to Dashboard, if only because Plasma widgets can go right on the desktop -- you can have a separate dashboard if you want it, but you don't have to. (The widgets also generally seem more configurable, so it's easier to get them to do what you want.) Plasma also supports more widgets than Dashboard -- it has its own, but it can also run Google Gadgets or Dashboard widgets themselves.

KOrganizer can keep to-do lists, notes, etc. I have yet to figure out how to make that work with iCal (supposedly it does) -- though iCal syncs with Exchange and Google.

Konqueror has ad-blocking support out of the box. Safari doesn't.

KDE does a better Expose than Apple. In KDE's take on Expose, you can start typing the title of a window, and it will select that window for you. You can also see all windows, on all desktops -- Apple limits you to just one desktop.

KDE does multiple desktops better, too. You can configure KDE to switch desktops when your mouse bumps the edge of the screen. You can also use that to drag windows between desktops, and (unlike Apple) when you drag to, say, the desktop to the right, your mouse and the window get positioned on the left of that desktop, so the spatial relationship is maintained. You can also, if you choose, have a different set of widgets on each desktop.

I prefer KDE's Alt+Tab, which is per-window instead of per-application. In OSX, this is implemented as two different shortcuts -- Cmd+Tab switches applications, and Cmd+` switches windows within an application. Also, Cmd+` gives you very little visual feedback (other than the normal titlebar/window color changes) that you've switched windows.

In KDE, you can Alt+click anywhere in a window to move and resize it. You can change the focus policy to better-suit your working style (programmers <3 focus-follows-mouse).

I haven't seriously looked at iPhoto or iTunes, so I can't compare them. (I'm happy with Digikam, so I have no reason to use iPhoto, and as I mentioned in another comment, iTunes doesn't play Ogg or FLAC, so I can't use it.)

Anyway, the point is, you can't talk about "ease of use" before you define what "use" means.

[Edited to fix typo.]

Edited at 2009-09-10 07:38 am (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
thenewac
thenewac
Alex Cross
Thu, Sep. 10th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)

We have our own preferences. I do like KDE's Konqueror and Plasma, but I'm comfortable using Mail.app and the OSX dashboard. It doesn't bother me.


ReplyThread Parent