Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Becoming One with the Borg

No, not Microsoft. Apple. My wife purchased a new Macbook over the weekend. You know, the 'low end' model, 13" screen, white only, 2.1 GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB DRAM, 120GB hard drive. With the exception of me spending five minutes turning it on and setting it up for her, it's been her machine and she's loved every minute of it.

Judy's purchase of the Macbook marks the second Mac in the household. The first, a 20" iMac, was purchased Christmas 2006 for my youngest daughter, who subsequently took it with her up to F.S.U. It's been rock solid and, with the Mac version of Microsoft Office installed, it's done everything she's needed for school and then some. And of course I don't need to mention that wife and both daughters have their very on iPods; youngest daughter with a second generation Nano and wife and oldest daughter with a third generation.

This leaves my oldest daughter with her Toshiba running Vista SP1 and me with my motley collection of systems running Windows XP SP2 and Mandriva Linux. The Oldest will probably stick with Vista because it provides features and capabilities not supported on the Mac or Linux, and me... well, the Wife says I can purchase a new computer come Christmas, so we'll see if I don't succumb to the Jobs Reality Distortion Field and give even more cash to the Apple Machine.

Why Apple?

The flippant answer is because it isn't Windows and it isn't Linux. Buried in there is the germ of truth, so let's sort out why Apple for me.
  • It's Unix. Mac OS X really, really is Unix under the shiney cover. And the particular Unix variant it's based on is BSD. My wife and daughter don't care that it's Unix, and would probably run screaming away from Mac OS X if the Unix part was the only part exposed. But I care. I've used BSD and its variants since the mid-80's, starting with DEC's Ultrix and continuing with real BSD on Vaxen through Sun OS up until Sun switched from BSD to SVR4 and Solaris. The shell is bash. And for me it's easy to reach (Apps | Utilities | Terminal), while buried deep enough not to snare the unwary.
  • It's not Windows. I've used Windows and developed for Windows since Windows 1.0.3. I still have the SDK in its original box complete with 5.25" 360K floppies. Call it what you will now, and damn Microsoft for its business practices (I certainly have), when Microsoft was leaner and hungrier they produced a competitive product that was fun to work with, without the hassles of ownership imposed by the current Microsoft regime. But that time has long since passed; Microsoft reached it's peak with Windows 2000. Since then it's been one technical snafu after another while they've tightened their grip with Windows Genuine Advantage. I'm genuinely tired of Windows.
  • It's not Linux. Frankly, I've grown quite tired of Linux. Mac OS X is actually a finished shipping product, with a U.I. design that all other Linux desktop environments are envious of and copy poorly. And if Mark Shuttleworth thinks that it's so good that Linux should "shoot beyond the Mac" then who am I to argue? The only question is why should I have to wait an interminable period of time (usually measured in years) for Linux to try and catch up with what I can have right now with a Mac? And by the way, everything really does Just Work on the Mac. And when problems occur, Apple listens and actually provides a release that addresses those problems, fixing bugs and reasonably addressing the complaints. And as I've watched over the years, OS X has marched from success to success in a manner that makes both Linux and Windows look like rank amateurs at best.
The Mac isn't perfect; no platform ever is. But from personal experience and the considerable experience of many other peers in my field it meets and beats Windows and Linux hands down. The keys are a GUI that is "a work of user-interface designer art" coupled with features such as full multimedia support that surpass both platforms, especially Linux. Add to that the Unix underpinnings and the fact I can use all my open-source tools (Perl, Python, Ruby, Java (yes, Java), gcc, etc) and I've got what I've always wanted and never found in either Windows or Linux: a powerful graphical desktop coupled with real Unix and powerful open tools that allows me to co-exist with the majority of users who still use Windows.

I can't wait until Christmas.

Update 9/4/2008

Octo said:
Until you start discovering that many of the traditional open-source community oriented projects seem to support both Windows and Linux quite well, while not giving a flying %@$%@! about the Mac. Of course they're improving gradually, but the stigma is still there.
Well, I can only speak from experience (and you of all people can corroborate it), but when I built the Subversion system the first time in late 2005, I built Apache 2, Berkeley DB, Subversion 1.4, and PHP 5 on the OS X server we had in the back room. And it worked pretty well until you updated to the latest versions in January of this year, at which point we switched over to the up-to-date Apple versions. I've also built up-to-date versions of Perl and Python as well as finally getting a chance to build and use Qt 4.4. My experience so far has been limited, but nothing I've tried has had any problems building or executing.
Oh, and in the area of multimedia support? You've gotta be kidding, at least if you're thinking of video playback. Quicktime (the built-in video player) has piss-poor codec support out-of-the-box, and has a tradition of wanting you to pay extra for the "Pro" version for some important features (i.e. full-screen playback). The best media player on OSX? Its actually VLC (http://www.videolan.org), which has a much slicker UI on OSX than on Linux.
Well, so far it's played every DVD I own flawlessly, and it plays 480p and 720p QuickTime material equally flawlessly. I can even play back all the movies I ripped under Linux using K3b without any issues. As for other content such as WMV I don't know if or how well it plays; but then I have no need to see it. But the bottom line is it all plays out-of-the-box. As for the interface on the DVD player, it may be simple, but it's more than adequate for my needs and my wife's needs. Thanks for the tip about VLC. And I find it interesting that it has a "much slicker UI on OSX than on Linux." I think you can say that about Linux vs OSX in general.

3 comments:

  1. Until you start discovering that many of the traditional open-source community oriented projects seem to support both Windows and Linux quite well, while not giving a flying %@$%@! about the Mac. Of course they're improving gradually, but the stigma is still there.

    There are good reasons why I still don't have a single Mac on my desk at home. Mac OSX can do about 50% of what I'd want Windows for, and perhaps 75-85% of what I'd want Linux for. But it can't be a 100% replacement for either, so I continue to have Windows and Linux desktops on a KVM.

    Oh, and in the area of multimedia support? You've gotta be kidding, at least if you're thinking of video playback. Quicktime (the built-in video player) has piss-poor codec support out-of-the-box, and has a tradition of wanting you to pay extra for the "Pro" version for some important features (i.e. full-screen playback). The best media player on OSX? Its actually VLC (http://www.videolan.org/), which has a much slicker UI on OSX than on Linux.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So what codecs do you desire that Quicktime doesn't support? I assume you have an answer other than "Windows Media"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. For extra codec support within Quicktime itself, check out Perian.

    http://perian.org/

    ReplyDelete

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