Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gibbon takes Leopard

My lovefest for OS X is over. I'm switching back to Linux. It isn't a total loss, but it is a complete burnout for a software developer like me. Some things I liked, some things I hated. . .

What's OK:

- Printing is pretty cool. I really liked that printers were so easy to install. OTOH, Ubuntu's printing stuff is almost as good; the only thing missing might be the icon that shows you what your currently-in-use printer actually looks like. Printers seem to be self-healing in OS X as well, which means that they keep working even when they change IP addresses (something that happens with my printer at home).

- FileVault. Encryption is done well up to a point. They succeeded in making it usable for the masses. Then they halfway-blow it! The screen saver and restart-from-suspend/hibernate do NOT require a password by default. So if you do what most people do and just shut the laptop when you're done using it, all that encryption is useless because your filesystem is always sitting around in plain text. FileVault should require you to password-protect those ways in.

- OmniGraffle. If they made a Linux version, I'd pay for it, and this is coming from someone who actually likes Inkscape already.

- iTunes + iPod is pretty damn awesome. Banshee is quite competitive, but to get the same package that OS X has on Ubuntu you need Banshee and gpodder. I like both of them, but they're not integrated, they don't work well with m4a feeds, so this is a clear Mac win, and no surprise.

- VMWare fusion. I love Unity mode for Windows. I don't really use it enough to keep it around, though. VirtualBox is a more-than-adequate replacement. It lacks snapshots but makes up in overall speed.

- Overall attractiveness. Yep, it's pretty. Ubuntu is about 90% of the way there.

- Um... the hardware? I really like the hardware. I just would rather have something else installed on it. OS X certainly comes with all the necessary MBP drivers, and all that hardware Just Works, so that's good. But it's not as if somebody couldn't do the same with a MBP-targetted Ubuntu distribution.

What's broken:

- Terminal. The tabs are horrible.. they won't display icons, they won't display the label of the terminal settings, they don't even obey the settings of itself. The terminal emulation is frequently broken. Readline is frequently broken. ANSI colors are broken. Terminal, you suck. By all accounts, the alternatives are worse.

- Python. For FUCK's sake Apple, this is an embarrassment. Either get it right or stop putting it on there by default. Why do I have to install MacPorts Python every time to work around missing extensions like _bsddb? Why do I get bus errors running simple things that work in Linux?

- Instant Messaging. Adium is the only decent multi-protocol option, and it doesn't support IRC and hides important options. Adium actually is pretty damn close, but it's not all the way there. XChat on the Mac is pretty crappy, and the other IRC alternatives were slow and worse.

- Graphics software. I refuse to pay for and use Photoshop. Aperture is shipped on Leopard as crippleware, I say no to that guerilla tactic as well. Gimp is a terrific piece of software, but it's unusable on a Mac. Yes, you can run it in X11, and if you tried to, you would know what I mean by "unusable".

- OpenOffice. See previous post. Oh my GOD this is terrible. I refuse to pay for and use standards-raping MS Office, which is NOT an improvement over OpenOffice in functionality or performance anyway, even in the best of cases (running on Windows XP, for example). works beautifully on Linux and on Windows; on OS X it vomits.

- Media playback and use. Linux just wins here. Apple has nothing to offer over, say, VLC, which is why I installed VLC on the Mac. It actually runs a treat there, BTW. Apple's software respects region coding and all that other DRM and related rights-restriction bullshit, and I refuse to play that game. VLC is able to redeem Apple here--I think. It remains to be seen whether I can do something fair-use-y like rip my DVDs to the hard drive and play them with VLC, or use VLC to play out-of-region DVDs, but I'm beyond the point of wanting to give OS X a fair shake on this one.

What changes to the OS X ecosystem would be required to win me back?

- Fix

- Fix Python. This is an absolute dealbreaker for me.

I can put up with the rest of the problems, but those two are insufferable.

Friday, January 18, 2008 on the Mac is shit

  1. X11 version:
    1. Requires X11
    2. Actually launches an xterm with a shell session when it runs
    3. Makes you wait a minute before doing anything, then displays a useless "Command timed out" error message
    4. Then runs some Java stuff before finally starting up
    5. Doesn't take X11 with it when you shut it down
    6. Draws menus as window decorations instead of at the top of the Desktop where it belongs in OS X (well, that's an X11 app for you)
  2. NeoOffice:
    1. Utterly broken in Spaces. Won't let you assign it to a particular Space, it just launches wherever you are. Then, sometimes it won't even let you switch away from it, following you around like one of those web popups that just reopens every time it closes.
    2. Doesn't adopt OS X keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Alt+Backspace doesn't erase a word)
    3. Useless Aqua menu: just the NeoOffice menu item itself, not even so much as a "New > Spreadsheet" menu.
  3. Aqua version:
    1. All the icons are upside-down and pink
    2. The clipboard doesn't work, even though the last update said the clipboard was finally fixed
    3. By the way, the last update was July 2007.
Then, just to kick you in the teeth a little, all three of these use different directory structures under ~/Library for storing your settings, so if you're persistent enough, like me, to try all three for due diligence, you have to reinstall your settings each time.

And all three are slow.

I don't get it. is AWESOME on Windows. It blazes in Ubuntu. Why, despite THREE attempts, is it a steaming pile of shit on a Mac?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My one and only political post

This is my "techie" blog, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time doing politics on here. In fact, I'm only doing one, this one, and I'm only doing it because I want to use this space to advertise my voter registration button. There it is, over to the left, go ahead and click it if you aren't registered, or if you've moved, or if you are currently registered as the wrong party.

I've been a registered Green for years, but I'm switching my affiliation to the Decline to State party for this election season. In California I'm required to either vote in the primary of my party affiliation, or if I have Declined to State, I may vote in any. I intend to remain a Green after this election, but I want to vote for Barack Obama.

The button is there for you guys. If you read this blog and don't consider yourself well-enough educated to get involved in politics, you might think you aren't up to the responsibility of voting. I think this is one of the biggest reasons people don't vote in this country; they are aware that it is an important responsibility, and they don't want to screw it up. (Witness Stephen Colbert's election coverage series, titled "Don't Fuck This Up, America".)

An informed electorate is important to democracy. However, I put it to you that, if you do register right now, you are far more likely to get informed. No matter how ignorant of the issues you are right now, if you take the 2 minutes to get registered, I know you will be more informed in a month, and even better informed still in November. You won't be able to help yourself. You'll start conversations with people about how you just registered, and they'll start talking to you about issues. Thus, the act of registration itself catalyzes a better quality of democracy.

Almost half of the primary elections are being held on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, including California's primary. If you aren't sure, check this PDF calendar. Register, vote.