Mac Love

Volume 10, Issue 84; 19 Aug 2007; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Still learning, and the experience gets better.

I suspect that my last post came across a good deal more negative than I actually felt. There were unquestionably a number of surprises in my out-of-the box experience, but that was to be expected. I brought ten years of Unix/X11 tweaking baggage to the party.

Had I waited twenty-four hours before posting it, I probably would have rewritten it. C'est la vie. I'm going to write it off as an addreneline fueled rant following my accidental destruction, but ultimate recovery, of /usr/bin/head.

With another couple of days under my belt (and a whole lot of helpful suggestions, thanks everyone!), I'm quite taken with my new Mac. To start with, it's gorgeous. Not only is it an aesthetically pleasing object (honking big tray table that it is), its 1920x1200 display is a thing of real delight.

The UI is pleasing as well. That I would have made different choices in various places (the trackpad vs. the pointing stick, focus-follows-mouse vs. click-to-focus) isn't really important. There's a inviting consistency across the whole system. I'm sure there are idiosyncratic apps (I bet Emacs is one of them, but I'm too close to Emacs to ever notice), but they aren't obvious. This is in contrast to my Linux experience where I ran a random mixture of Gnome and KDE applications. Gnome and KDE represent two quite visually different UIs.

Some aspects of the UI aren't immediately obvious to me (the +/- icons for adding or removing items from a list were a little subtle and the notion of “direct manipulation” of the UI isn't the first thing that occurs to me), but once I figure them out, they're the same everywhere. Nice.

The aesthetics extend to the way it operates as well.

The Mac recovers so fast from suspend that you can almost literally start working before the lid is fully open. I'm not the first to make this observation. In fact, when I read Tim’s piece, I thought he was overestimating how important it was. I don't think so anymore. It also restores wireless connections amazingly fast, even when you've switched networks.

On the subject of small features that may sound overestimated, the one that's been tickling me for the last day or so is related to multiple screens. Ubuntu had no trouble driving two screens from my Thinkpad, but adding or removing the external screen always required a little xrandr dance and some dragging and dropping of windows. On the Mac, dual screens just worked, of course. When I unplugged the external monitor, the Mac flickered briefly and moved all the windows onto my laptop display. Good. I thought it might be smart enough to do that. When I plugged it back in, I expected it to flicker and restore dual screen mode. Which it did. Then “pop” it also moved all my windows back where they had been last time I had dual screens. Sweet!

On reflection, I actually agree with David Magda about the merits of a case-preserving but case-insensitive filesystem. In fact, when I first encountered that (in OS/2, maybe?), I thought it was the bees knees. Years of Unix experience with case-sensitive file systems just made me assume that OS X, because it's Unix underneath, would behave the same way. I don't believe I've ever intentionally relied on case to distinguish two files with otherwise identical names without feeling some reservations.

Installing MacPorts made installing otherwise fairly complex applications (like the GIMP) completely straightforward.

I made the switch because I wanted to be able to run Lightroom and Photoshop. It'll be a while before I've retrained my fingers and gotten used to some of the differences (I still brush my palms across the trackpad with annoying frequency and I'm not really content with the virtual desktop software I've tried so far), but I don't think I'll regret the switch.


Have you tried the "Ignore accidental trackpad input" option under System Preferences | Trackpad? When I need a pointer I usually use a mouse and turn off the trackpad, so I don't have direct experience with it. (I now see that Robert Hahn suggested this in the comments on your previous piece.)

Also, speaking of case sensitivity, your link to your last post is broken, s/iMac/IMac.

—Posted by Michael C. Harris on 19 Aug 2007 @ 11:16 UTC #

Well, I have had some things to say about the so-called consistency of OS X. But I guess that's sort of personal nitpicking.

Oh, and a quick aside note: the link to your previous post on your Mac experience is broken: it ought to be "IMac", not "iMac".

—Posted by Giulio Piancastelli on 19 Aug 2007 @ 11:43 UTC #

The broken link is fixed. That it should have been dependent on case is pretty amusing.

And yes, I've turned on the "ignore accidental input" setting. I'll get used to it, I expect. Which isn't to say that Guilio doesn't make some very good points.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 20 Aug 2007 @ 11:59 UTC #

Oh, you like emacs, eh? *checks previous post* oh, yeah. You might be interested in this little fact: Applications that have been compiled in the Cocoa environment have emacs keybindings. Some relevant search results. But this is an excellent article to work with if you want to set up your own keybindings.

—Posted by Robert Hahn on 23 Aug 2007 @ 11:38 UTC #