OS/X Survival

OS/X self-experiment

Friday, June 27th, 2008 11:06am

when my company decided to buy macs instead of the good old thinkpads i decided to give OS/X a try. just to collect ammo against it or to get addicted.

The days before delivery

Friday, June 27th, 2008 3:52pm

i am a “low level developer” which does not mean i do assembler programming but someone who uses a vi for c, python, java or whatever programming. i work mostly with two screens which often show two borderless full screen windows. my windowmanager uses a minimalistic theme with borders above and below the windows but none at the left and right to save space. most important commands like start a terminal, maximize window and more are bound to keystrokes. i think antialiasing in terminals sucks and like big fonts. i use rxvt as a terminal because its fast and mailreader mutt for the same reason.


Friday, July 04th, 2008 12:38am

Today the Mac for my seven-day-torture…

…finally it arrived. And the first i saw was:

eye-candy! Even before I switched it on! Amazing!

Switching it on gave ear-candy: A loud sound greeted to enter the OS/X world. Sitting in a office with several colleges i tried a lot of keystrokes to terminate the marketing shit but with no success.

When i started using the mac i encountered another strange behavior: The backlight intensity changed all the time. I already thought that this must be a hardware defect until i noticed that it only changed when i was typing. After some research i got it: My hands are too large, they cover the sensors for ambient light. Which stupid designer puts these sensors near the keyboard?!?

After a full striptease (I had to give my full name, address and phone number) several dialogs ask me to buy more stuff from Apple (like Music, a magazine called .Mac and the like). This first activation really takes long time…

Next step would be to get my backup from usb-harddrive into my home dir. All the guys tell me with OS/X there is no tampering around, no install drivers, all software is already there. So i plugged in the drive. All the good OS/X had to say to my backup disk was that the disk could not be read and could be initialized (all data lost…). i admit there was a ext3 filesystem on it but whats easier than putting a open source filesystem driver into a system like a bsd driven OS/X?

After that bad luck with my backup (and rsyncing that over network (yes! rsync is already installed like zsh, vim and python!)) i tried my favoured gadget: the neo!

The dual screen experiments went quite well, my beamer was detected immediatly right and could be used after some gui fighting. The dvd player could not scale the good old 4:3 movie to the (y-)max so we had black borders on left and right and top and bottom.

A terminal with a shell is the most important program for me so i tried (as a college suggested) iTerm. When playing around and listing files i noiced that files with german umlauts where shown wrong - looks like OS/X stores filenames in utf8 but the term does not…. ah, lets check with the terminal program original bundled with OS/X. It shows umlauts correct so i never started iTerm again (dont know how to disinstall software for now).

I18n is solved in a strange way. While i saw files with umlauts in German language i found files in English language in my home-dir. Using OS/X’s file browser these where translated to German! And I always here OS/X is consistent…

Apropos consistency (in GUI design) - i admit, its strange to see that the x-button on the title bar does not finally terminate the programm. In OS/X programs run further only windows close, mostly they just minimize. But using OS/X longer i git screwed up completly: Some programs terminate, some not, some have minimized icons some not… maybe i understand that behavior soon.

Checking usability

Monday, July 07th, 2008 8:54am

OS/X feels like driving with applied handbrake after using a thoughtful configured linux system. While the hardware is really nice (despite the display which has a quite limited viewing angel) the system really does not help. As i described in a earlier post the automatic keyboard lights do not work for me so i switched off that behavior. But OS/X seems to switch it on from time to time. I had the same effect of forgotten settings with Fn-less functions on the functionkeys, display backlight, transparency setting in iTerm. It seems it’s not that easy to develop with cocoa as many people say.

After setting auto-kbd-light off i can change the light with Fn-F5/F6. Most of the time, not always. Sometimes the keys just do not light the kbd and a no parking sign apear without note why.

Yesterday evening i started the mac while my girlfriend already went to bed. Don’t know why but the mac played a sound. Loud! I hate such sick shit.

All the OS/X lovers always tell me that this tampering around with settings to get something to work stops with OS/X. I can’t follow that argumentation. When i wanted to use my usb-gadget-ethernet i had to install a driver. When i wanted pgup/down keys work in Terminal (i gave up with iTerm because it has so many bugs like not supporting utf8 correctly as used in OS/X) i had to enter keycode-sequences like “33OS” manually. Dont know where those rumours come from.

While search for keycodes and the right terminal i encountered another funny behavior. Someone told me that OS/X brings X11 and with that the good old xterm. As a good OS/X user i just clicked the magnifier symbol top right, entered “xterm” and hit enter. Works all the time. Not with xterm. TextEdit starts and opens xterm as text…

But my favorite terminal is rxvt. Using fink this should be easy to get. After installing fink and rxvt i also installed my favorite mail read mutt which does not work because of a dependency on old shared libs (a symlink solves that). “git” is not avaiable at all.

I love to hear musik in the office because colleges sometimes discuss things loudly. I have around 6000 songs in mp3 and startet iTunes and it asked if it should search for music in my home folder. I liked that idea and agreed and iTunes startet to copy (!) the songs. When it was done i wanted to hear my favorite band but it wasn’t there. When i checked around (in a good old unix shell!) i noticed that from 5877 files only 3838 where imported. The next useless application: iTunes.

When playing around with the cam (which makes excelent pictures) i notcied that i couldn’t read the text on the posters behind me - the image was mirrored! Why that? Found no setting for that.

Designer machine

Monday, July 07th, 2008 11:13am

The history of Mac is artist and designer so I wonder why the “M” on the keyboard looks like a top-down “W” in that font. Strange that nobody feels that similar. While the “Z” has its place on top right beneeth the “T” other keys where not localized at all. So the good old Control-key (which should be names “Strg” as “Steuerung”) is still labeled “ctrl”, same with “cmd”. Anyway this is about OS/X software and not the fine hardware.

Did you know that you can have 2 files with same name in one folder? OS/X’s finder can do so. The i18n is done by mapping a directory name to the language replacement. So in German “Pictures” becomes “Bilder”. If you already have a directory (or file) called “Bilder” you’re doomed.

I dont know about this one: Sometimes you need to click twice… it apears that if you move windows or you click a link that the first click just gets lost.

I dont jump on the “maximize window discussion” for OS/X. It just sucks to not have it. Not to be able to make a decision on how your system behaves. Under my old operating system I just installed the app that does things the way I need and that’s it.

Switching applications and windows it seperated. A program will be started only once and will open several windows. Switching between those windows is different to switching to a window from another application. Even worse: You can switch to another application without even seeing it’s windows! You notice you switched by the menu bar only.

One cool thing for a terminal user is the “open” command. A friend of mine gave me the hint to use it to start the right program for varios files - even directories are shown. So i started `open 3RBKTo5K14M.flv` to see a flash video and got “No application knows how to open /Users/…/Video/3RBKTo5K14M.flv.”

Another strange behavior: When using two monitors i was used to switch one windows on one monitor to full screen to, say, watch a video and have mail and chat windows open on the other monitor. If you give one of those windows the focus, full screen mode will terminate - why that?!?

Finally i get confused by all the modifier keys: Fn, Ctrl, Alt, Cmd. Was “copy” Fn-C? Cmd-C? Four such keys are to much. Ctrl and Alt are okay, Fn is needed for small keyboard like in desktops. What the hell is the Cmd for?

More and more OS/X looks for me like a Suse Linux. Mainstream works, cornercases do not. Make 80% of the people happy with 20% of the work.

Giving up…

Tuesday, July 08th, 2008 9:03am

Let’s start with a short hardware glidge today too: The position of kensington lock hole. It is in front of the usb-plug on the right side. If you put in a lock and have a usb plugged in also the rope lays on top of the plug…

When i have a text selections in the Terminal programm and the text scrolls, the selections stays in the line, does not follow the scrolling and in the end the content changes. What is this feature for?

Just comparing usability of the gui: A cut&paste operation takes 6 hits on keyboard or mouse with OS/X (select, cmd, c, change focus, cmd, v) and 2 with X11 (select, paste).

Funny behavior shows the settings gui when using multi monitor. If you used it with a second monitor attached, it saves screen position there and if you start it the next time without a second monitor its outside your screen. Wonderful.

Using manuall network configuration has some surprise also: All values are lost when switching the device off and back on again. All values but the dns server.

Just saw the two-finger-mousepad action to draw things. It’s shown in the settings gui for pictures but i just had a safari around and wanted to turn the page around: does not work. Okay, lets start a video… no. Not even zoom, that immediatly maxmizes the video… (wow to the wrong monitor - why is that?) TextEdit? No turn around but the font scales on zoom.

A friend of mine always talks about the hibernate capabilities of OS/X but mine froze once when i woke it up. So he send me this: http://www.windley.com/archives/2007/10/fixing_macbook_pro_sleep_problems.shtml . I think this is characterictic for what my experiences with OS/X: in the end you can solve problems on the command line only and with some luck the gui does not kill you changes.

Lots of people says, he or she switched to OS/X because they could not stand tampering around with their Linux. Installing software, doing settings on the command line, searching for support for their hardware and so on. So I connecting my Samsum Z540 via bluetooth. It worked fine but exchanging data failed (with an error message “invalid request”). No way around, no help, no nothing. If your hardware does not work on OS/X you’re lost.

Because there isn’t much useful software most OS/X users start getting oss: Via fink or ports or both they install all the usefull tools from the GNU world that makes Linux great. It’s the same hussle as with linux: Someone tells you a package and you install it. Why don’t i use Linux?

So why using OS/X at all? At this point i burned a Debian install CD and waved goodbye. Sorry, Steve.