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Karls OS X Manifesto

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Why Apple OS X sucks ... and why it is that great

Why Apple OS X sucks ... and why it is that great

I am using Apple hardware since 2002 where I tested OS X 10.3 Panther for a couple of weeks (iBook G3 600). Back then, there were many issues that puzzled me. Therefore I reinstalled the iBook with Debian PPC unstable and I used it as my mobile solution in addition to my desktop linux on AMD K7-2 450.

In 2005 I bought a Mac Mini G4 1.42 (BT, WLAN, 1GB) with OS X 10.4 Tiger and I had different requirements. My thoughts back then: lets have a Linux server with huge hard disk space and all those neat GNU tools I was used to use in the console. On the desktop, I want to have a multimedia station where all those fancy stuff like playing movies, watching TV, starting Terminal.app g and Firefox works without having to spend much time on system maintenance.

Well this worked out almost perfectly.

So I have to admit, that I am using the Mac slightly different from Apple point of view: I am not an user of all Apple software products. From the so called iApps I am only using iTunes.

All comments here are related to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

Applications

Apple Mail

Way less features compared to mutt and Co.

Safari

No plugin-concept like Firefox and important extensions to get basic functionality costs money. Compare to this blog entry.

iPhoto

I still want to have my photos in the filesystem as described here.

No metadata in proprietary databases besides the files and the filesystem.

iTunes

Well there are still data stored in iTunes-databases but they are XML-files which means that there is a chance to get the data out of it. iTunes does the job very well: it stores every information mp3 id3 can store right in the mp3-files and this is important to me. Exception: with cover flow integrated into iTunes, all covers fetched by coverflow gets into a special CoverFlow-directory and not into the mp3 files. I guess this is because of legal issues or because of saving space (10 mp3 songs per album means 10 times the cover on the harddisk).

iTunes does also a great Job on storing the files in the filesystem. Once you get used to "Artist > Album > Song" it is quite handy and renaming e.g. the titles results in renaming the files. There are many great plugins for iTunes on http://dougscripts.com/itunes/ which are very handy. Besides that I still use tools like lltag on linux in order to get clean tags before importing into iTunes.

The interface of iTunes with the smart lists and so on are great! I can also sync my mp3-player (iRiver iFP-799) using SyncTunes.

It took some time that I loved iTunes - I have to admit. But it seems to be the perfect solution for me in terms of trade-off between my philosophy and convenient usage.

After a time, I found many applications that helped me doint the things I want to do on OS X. You can take a view on it on this page.

Not yet

There are many things that are not solved the way I would like to see it: (no special order here)

Finder

I hate the /Finder/! I really do. This is the worst implementation of a file management software ever used so far. Even the Windows Explorer is more usable in my mind. I do not like the philospophy of Apple-o (open) instead of Enter. I am used to zsh, (seldom) midnight commander, Total Commander (Windows), or FreeCommander (Windows) and they are MUCH better. On OS X I tested some of the alternative solutions like X-Folders, PathFinder and so on but they are all crap. At this moment, I am using muCommander which is slow but usable. It is not as good as lets say FreeCommander but it is the best of the worst applications ;-) If you have a hint here, do not hesitate and write me an email.

Keyboard

My keyboard is Happy Hacking Keyboard: PgUp, PgDn, POS1/Home, End are not always doing what I intend to do. But this is an Apple philosophy issue again I guess.

Also missing to me is still a global keyboard shortcut for things like "go one word forward/backward", "mark next/previous word", ...

Terminal.app

Terminal.app is broken. Colors are different here, some text is blinking only here, the charset is not correct many times, no copy-on-mark or paste-with-mouse, double-click-selecting for words has funny ideas about borders, ... I also tried iTerm but this sucks too. Other issues are lacking here but same poor "quality".

I also think, that my focus problems mentioned here is caused by Terminal.app but I could not prove this.

EyeTV

Because of my desktop being also my TV set, I am depending on solutions provided by EyeTV. I had the version 1 and I also bought the version 2 - bouth crap. I know that many people do not have problems with this software but I do have. Lots. I can forget the scheduler whenever I have to record an important movie. It is not 100% trustworthy: mostly it records (since v2 and a certain OS X update) the things but there are too many cases where there were only a couple of seconds recorded, the computer did not wake up and so nothing was recorded, it recorded over the programmed end time until the disk was full, it recorded on the wrong day but scheduling was correct. Sorry but EyeTV is really one of the worst piece of software I ever had to use. Not because of the features - it would be a great solution IF it would work like expected. And yes, I also changed the external TV grabber hardware too - no improvement on stability of EyeTV.

SMB/CIFS

The SMB/Cifs integration is not working very good: I am using a linux server as a file server where all my data is located on. Therefore I am using SMB to connect my OS X to that server. Every time I put my Apple to sleep mode, I have to manually unmount the SMB-share. When I forget to do so, the next time I want to connect to my files I have to wait until an error message comes up. OS X had lost the connection. Then when I reconnect after that, the mountpoint got this "-1" added and all my links are broken (muCommander, symlinks, ...). It's a shame. And no, I do not want to switch to AFS because I am using symlinks/hardlinks on my filer and I want to stick with that.

GUI Speed

Generally, the GUI/Application-speed on my Mini is poor compared to Windows or Linux on comparable or even much slower hardware. When I switch applications using Alt-TAB, when I try to use Expose, then I use some keyboard shortcuts consecutively, the feeling is clumsy and sometime it ends up in a wrong behaviour because of that. Probably my Mini is to slow or just my graphics adapter but I bought the system as it is and I even have much more RAM than suggested.

Java

Whenever a Java applications needs to be interpreted, the Java VM performance shows its worst: TV-Browser and NeoOffice and stuff are awful slow on the G4 CPU!

Spotlight

Spotlight could be a very handy tool for me but on a SMB-share it just does not work (yet?).

Virtual desktops

Things like Virtual desktops are missing but thanks to my 24" LCD I did not install a third-party solution for that yet. Expose is really small and not good to be controlled using the keyboard. YMMV.

This issue seems to be fixed with OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Packet Management

No central packet manager like apt/dpkg in Debian: only Apple Applications get this feature but for all the rest I have to choose from i-Installer, fink, darwinports, or even worse: no management system at all. There are some workarounds like the application update widget but the are only fighting symptoms, not the problem.

iCal

Well ... just ... not ... enough ;-) No categories like my Palm PDA offers, not handy with that many entries I use to have (tasks as well as appointments), please try again.

Cool things

There are many things that are solved very cool: (no special order here)

Growl

I love Growl (notifications). I am using it also from my linux server to send notification messages using the perl-script that connects to growl on my Mini. Very handy. Every operating system should develop such a system wide notificationservice in order to modify its behaviour generally and not on per-software-product basis.

Adium X

Adium X (instant messenger) is a perfect example of how integration should be accomplished: when I enter an ICQ-number in Address Book, the contact gets added to my Adium X. Whenever I drag a photo on this contact in Address Book, Adium X changes the corresponding icon too (if you wish). It is using Growl and you can configure almost anything you want.

Address Book

Address Book is great for my purposes. Although I had to run some tests until I found out which fields were synced with my Palm PDA and my cellphone. After that, I sticked to those fields and never used the other ones. So I sync my contacts with Outlook (at work), Palm PDA, OS X Address Book, and my cellphone. It basically works and thats great ;-)

iSync+Palm-PDA

As mentioned above, I am syncing my PDA with Address Book (only, no iCal).

iSync+SE-Cellphone

Works. Unfortunately, my SE cellphone does not sync the pictures of the contacts but the basic informations gets synced.

Textexpander

Textexpander is a very great tool. I am using GNU screen keybindings and HotStrings (Windows, ac'tivAid) too and such an application has to be installed on a powerusers machine.

Salling Clicker

With Salling Clicker on OS X and my Palm PDA or even my cellphone, I can remotely control my Mac. i use it especially for iTunes and seldom for presenting slideshows or control video playback. I had to pay for that but I love my iTunes remote control that - thanks Bluetooth - even does not have to have a direct visible contact with an infra-red sensor or such ;-)

pearlyrics

pearlyrics (Dashboard widget): I love this thing in order to get lyrics of currently played songs. It even can write them into the ID3-tags of the mp3-files. great!

Attachment handling

From: http://karl-voit.at/blog.shtml#id20070807-20070807-Attachmen:

With an open reverse tunnel, I can modify the mailcap-file in the home directory:

vk@server ~ % cat .mailcap
application/*; scp -P 4242 %s vk@localhost:desktop/
image/*; scp -P 4242 %s vk@localhost:desktop/
vk@server ~ %	  

Add a line for each document type. Whenever you get an email in mutt, you can see the list of attachments by pressing 'v'. When you select an attachment, whose document type is found in your mailcap-file as above, the file gets copied right onto your OS X desktop (in this example).

Of course, you can write a script that opens up the file by invoking open() but for me I'd like to keep the power of choosing an alternative application to open the file. YMMV.

With this trick, I can easily manage my emails with mutt on a remote server but I also can open attachments locally on my Mac. It improved my personal OS X experience a lot!

URL handling

See my remote URL opening method.

Like in the issue above, I manage to open URLs shown in a remote ssh session window right in my local Firefox browser. I LOVE it!

Bluetooth

Just simply works as expected! My crucial experience was, when I thought of my newly bought bluetooth headset (for my cellphone) during a Skype-session. /During/ the very same skype session I paired the headset with my Mac and took over the sound to the headset without having to interrupt the call. Every bluetooth device is handled properly. When I paired my cellphone I noticed a BT icon in Addressbook and I found out that I can send SMS right out of Address Book. I can dial right out from Address Book and my Mac even tells me that I missed a call, when my BT cellphone was ringing whenever I was not infront of them.

Network settings

Changing your network quite often? Well with OS X it is very easily to switch network configuration lets say between work, home, and a public hotspot. Easily.

renaming files

Interface style like when renaming files in some applications, the extension does not get marked/overwritten. Very tiny aspect but great improvement. Just like hundreds of other little things I cannot recall right now. They just do not attract attention and that is how it should be done.

Summary

When there is a regular user with basic requirements that can be solved by almost out-of-the-box Apple products, then this guy might be the luckiest IT-using guy in the current universe: everything looks great, Apple is solving his problems and managing his software, he has nothing to worry about except for the content he wants to be processed. Sure for certain things you still need third-party software here and there but with a couple of things, you get your perfect operating system with all those neat applications you need.

As an example: Photos will be synced with his digicam and iPhoto and with the iPhoto-release from august 2007, I got very easy to share pictures and movies on the web with friends (using .Mac). Everything is great, and if you stick to Apple products whenever you need an mp3-player or a cellphone or stuff like that, you don't have to learn much or worry a lot on integration.

So it works damn well good this way.

/But/ if you are a poweruser and you want to do things differently from Apple way of thinking, you might notice that modifying your system can be a harder job than with alternative systems like Linux. When you do not use e.g. Address Book you can forget integration of /your/ address book (whatever solution you chose) into Apple-applications. The more you neglect from Apple, the more advantages you loose with OS X. It's OK but you have to know and accept this.

So it depends on your personal requirements and your personal ability to adapt to Apple way-of-thinking. That's it.

Am I changing back to a Linux Desktop software? Well let's have a look on grml-PPC ;-)

Also worth reading: http://daringfireball.net/2006/06/and\_oranges and http://diveintomark.org/archives/2006/06/16/juggling-oranges I share their opinions almost completely.

Note: this blog entry was originally authored using Serendipity and converted to Org-mode format for publicvoit via a dumb script. This may result in bad format or even lost content. Please write a comment if you want to get in touch with me so that I can try to fix things.


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