Kevin McAllister on 24 Jul 2009 06:42:15 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] New Macbooks

On Jul 22, 2009, at 4:03 PM, JP Vossen wrote:

> I am always surprised to see the number of "F/OSS" folks who use Apple
> stuff.  Sure the hardware is gorgeous, but it's priced to match.
> And personally, I just don't "get" the Mac interface.  For me, it's  
> not
> easier and it doesn't Just Work.  Ubuntu makes sense to me.  Mac just
> doesn't.

Often I see people using software, supporting products or politicians,  
or taking many other actions that I can't understand and sometimes it  
is people whose judgement I respect, so I'll ask in case I am missing  
a fundamental fact that could be useful to me.  Unfortunately it's  
often made worse when I ask them "why" and they can't give me clear  

So given that I'll see if I can provide some useful data to JP and  
other interested parties with the reasons I prefer my macbook and iMac  
at work to the many linux desktops/laptops I've used.

I don't intend any of this as a knock against linux, I use it for all  
of my servers, if I didn't have a mac I'd use a linux desktop.  Linux  
on the desktop especially ubuntu are excellent and a great value.  I  
don't talk about that value here because, well, you all know it.  I  
wanted to explain, to those generally interested, the reasons that I  
prefer my mac desktop.

1. There are software/hardware functions on a computer I want to use  
but don't want to become an expert in every detail.

Almost every laptop I've had and installed linux there was some kind  
of video driver stuff I had to deal with, some kind of wifi stuff I  
had to deal with.  Much of this has become increasingly easy under  
linux, especially with things like ndiswrapper.  But even so I've had  
many a time when I unthinkingly just said, oh sure upgrade the kernel  
package to turn and find that, damn, I can't start X any longer.   
While I can usually get around this nonsense easily, and when I first  
started in the Linux world I derived considerable pleasure doing and  
learning about the OS and the hardware.  I'm not too interested in  
surprise driver puzzles any more, so I've paid extra to have someone  
else do this for me.

This also applies to basic software like Mail, iTunes, Address Book,  
iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie.  Are these the best most customizable apps in  
the world?  Not by a long shot.  Do they provide the basic  
functionality that I need without requiring me to learn every nuance  
of how they were designed and programmed?  Absolutely.  Sure  
occasionally but I've learned these are the things I've found I don't  
do often or at all.  Actually I've found some of the constraints  
freeing.  It is easy to get lost in the world of trying to find the  
perfect way to solve some one-off problem especially when every  
software package is available to you at a CLI command.  You can  
overlook the very real cost of configuring this seemingly simple  
solution.  Of course there are times when I really really need  
additional flexibility and I am stymied by the Mac, but these are  
either very rare or not too important because I can't think of any  

2. There is software that is unmatched in features, stability and ease  
of use on Mac.

There are some really really good independent software vendors who  
target Mac with beautiful simple applications.  One of my favorites is  
the OmniGroup.  OmniGraffle makes me forget I ever used Visio (Don't  
tell me about dia or some other comparable F/OSS tool, it's not even  
in the same ballpark.)  OmniOutliner is a great brainstorming list  
making tool, and I have my whole life inside OmniFocus.

3. When I launch a terminal I'm at a bash prompt.

This is critical.  The app I use most is Terminal.  Because I have  
this and emacs I am pretty much set.  Sure there are times I need  
linux to do prototypes or other programming that can't be done easily  
in my bash terminal but I keep a separate lab computer (or virtual  
machine in parallels) for such purposes.

4. Basic software integration.

As a die hard GTDer I need a way to track tasks independent of email.   
Every time I tried to use Evolution for this I failed miserably at  
some critical point.  Every time I tried to set up some franken-system  
using stuff like todo.txt or some magical mode in emacs for this, I  
found it to be too brittle and therefore abandoned when the going got  

Using, and OmniFocus syncing it all between my two  
machines and phone has been setup and forgot.  It works well I can at  
a single click (or keystroke) bring up the email that led to the  
creation of a task in OF or a meeting in iCal.

Also spotlight searching and app launching is superb.  I know ubuntu  
has it's search and launch facility but when last I played with it  
(last winter) it was still way clunkier than spotlight.

5. Personal reason: I went to Drexel in 1994 and purchased and used a  
PowerMac 7100/66

It was easy to get on the mac because my fingers were programmed for  
the command key shortcuts in college.  I've come to be quite fond of  
the mac way of doing things and even though OS 7 is a far cry from OS  
X, much of the fundamental ideas from their human interface guidelines  
remain intact.

6. Linux runs on anything.

So when you have to convince your boss to buy you a new computer,  
he'll pay the least amount for the crappiest workstation he can find.   
Because you can run linux on anything.  For Mac there are only a few  
choices.  All I need to do is spec out a $3000+ Mac Pro and a 24" iMac  
as the choices for my boss, and he takes it as self evident that I  
should have a beautiful 24" monitor for my workspace and feels he is  
saving money spending $1500.  Where-as if we were using linux desktops  
he'd be buying a $500 Dell and leaving me to do things like this: to get my mouse working.

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