Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One year on Mac

I always admired Mac as computers, cool designs, functionality in the OS, *nix in the core, everything just works. Many years ago I wished to have my own Mac, unfortunately I never had the income to buy one (Mac are even more expensive in the third-world).

Twelve months ago I started to use a Mac for my everyday coding/writing work. Before this, I used Linux principally for the same tasks, so the migration was painless. My Mac is a iMac with a nice large screen (I love it!), 2GB RAM, 300 GB HD, Intel Core 2 Duo, very stylish. The exception in the design is the damn mouse, why one button? Many applications require the missing button, forcing to use the Control key, besides the scroll button is failing and failing. When I find a nice and cheap white 3-button mouse I change it.

Put the terminal in the bar as access was the first thing I did, I discovered that is a common pattern for coding people like me. I was not impressed with the desktop effects, after being a regular user of Compiz/Beryl/Matisse you can said: "I saw better useless effects in Linux".

My regular coding work is based in Perl, so I did not have any problems, but in other tools I can say the same. Mac updates release are good, but they aren't the last stable version in some cases, Java is a nightmare. I found some interesting programs to use/test based in Java, when I tried to run, many required the 1.6 release, Mac Leopard has the 1.5 version and update is not an option. Frustration!

Other bad point is the software update, after some time you install more and more programs, and keeping update is a waste of time, you can use some tool like AppFresh, but this are miles away from the versatility and utility of Linux application managers like dpkg, apt-get, urpmi, yum, ... which with a single and simple command can update (or upgrade) a full system.

I use a lot the shell for my work, from running programs to parse files, the mac has the typical bash shell and many of the *nix tools, but not everything, so I use Darwin Ports to install the missing commands (wget, imagemagik, ...).

My final claim is for iTunes, I commonly work hearing music (my nirvana state includes music/coffee/food), I have a large collection of music accumulated over the years (legally acquired, I own the CDs, stored in a big box in my home in Mexico). I obviously transfer my music to iTunes, and iTunes fails to recognize the MP3 tags, many of the MP3s are in wrong categories, the albums are split or files has a bad annotation. OGG files are not recognized and you need a special codec to use it and you need to convert the files to ACC before to transfer to iPod. Why does iTunes update need a system reboot? More frustrations!

After this time, I recognize the value of a Mac as workstation, specially because I used mine with really complex and heavy genomic/image analysis. And many tools/programs prepared for the Mac installs/works perfectly without problems. Now I'm using Mac specific programs and after 75% of disk usage I can't switch. I'm still asking me how this Mac looks/works with Mandriva.

I'm still believing the perfect system does not exist (at least for me).


  1. We are far from the perfect system. I hate itunes, and Mac is getting more greedy like the special earbuds for the latest ipod shuffle (the one that talks) than virtually blocks you to use generic earbuds 'cause there is a proprietary license on you are force to use specific Apple product.

    I hate to have an ipod (nano 4th) and find out that there is no support in linux until 6 months later when I got it, 'cause Apple do not release any driver and is the normal delay for reverse engineering for the guys who develop libgpod.

    I stay with the big U or Mandriva, and even them are far from perfect ;)

    At least you are enjoying the sexy image manipulation capabilities of Mac software ;)

  2. I agree, the iPod is more evil, damned sexy and only works perfectly on Mac/iTunes but the earbuds are crappy (I use Sony).