Working on a Mac, Day 4

The Good:

  • The screen on the MacBook Pro is bright and the dot pitch is low enough that it doesn’t bother me at all.

  • Text is very, very pretty.

  • Most of the software I’m used to on my Ubuntu machine works on the Mac, too.

  • The whole Disk Image (.dmg file) concept is brilliant. Dragging apps into the Applications folder to install them is truly awesome. I miss Synaptic for app discovery, but you can’t beat the Mac install process.

  • iTunes on Mac is wicked faster than iTunes on Windows.

  • Once you get used to the multi-touch and gesture support on the touchpad, it’s not half bad. By default the touchpad is set to be braindead, but once you turn on the right-click functionality and some of the gestures, it’s just as fast. (I do miss the nipple mouse from PC laptops, though.)

  • Battery life on the MacBook Pro is decent, and certainly better than an equivalent PC laptop. It’s maybe a little better than my Ubuntu laptop, but not by much.

  • Inter-app communication seems to be much more advanced than on Windows or Linux. You did something in Rick’s Music App that iTunes should probably know about—I’ll just let iTunes know for you. (Quicksilver, of course, being the ultimate example of this.)

The Bad:

  • Busted keymaps: Home and End don’t go to the start and end of a line. (They want to go to the start and end of a document.) This makes them useless for single-line text fields, where they do exactly nothing. You can remap them with customized keybindings, but applications have to be coded to specifically pay attention to that, so support is spotty. There’s a Command-Arrow combination for each, but that’s still slow.

  • Busted keymaps, part 2: There doesn’t seem to be any logical distinction between Control, Option, and Command. In Windows, Alt is shorthand for start this task while Ctrl is shorthand for apply this setting. Mac accelerators seem to be willy-nilly chaos.

  • Busted keymaps, part 3: Delete and Backspace are not reliable. Like maybe some applications are overriding them? I need to do more research here to figure out what the deal is.

  • Mac, Vista, and XP all follow the same set the default options for the idiot user and let the gurus dig to find a way to change it mentality. (Reference above: you have to dig to find the setting to turn checkboxes into tab stops.) Linux apps these days seem to get this, offering a single simple/advanced mode toggle that unhides all the interesting stuff.

  • Command-Tab is somewhat broken: it seems that I can’t use it to switch between windows, just between applications? I’m sure there must be a setting somewhere for this, right? (Update: Command-~ cycles between widows with an app. I’m not sure if I love it, but it’s better than nothing.)

The Ugly:

  • Far too many applications, I’d say almost all of them, are coded to assume that you want to use the mouse to get around. Many are downright unusable from the keyboard alone. I get that Macs are mouse-centric, but it’s still annoying. I never realized how much I should appreciate that nearly everything on Windows is a tab stop, because almost nothing on a Mac is.

  • There seems to be a dearth of utility software. If an official Apple product performs a function, no matter how bad it does it the consensus seems to be just use iTunes/Pages/Time Machine/this AppleScript. (Linux also suffers from the here’s a shell script dysfunction, but in its defense that’s part of its underlying philosophy.)

I’m still not completely sold on the whole Mac suite, and some of it makes me want to throw the laptop across he room, but I have to admit that it does a whole lot of things right.

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Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.