Six months in Mac

This is my response to Seven Minutes in Ubuntu.

I started using Linux as my alternative desktop in 2003. I finally ditched the pre-loaded Windows XP with Gentoo Linux in a new Dell 700M around 2005. I preferred KDE3 over GNOME for its integrated user experience, and the killer application KDEPIM. However, the performance of i855GM kept degrading with the kernel rolling upgrade, and the migration to KDE4 is so painful that I began to explore the lightweight desktop environment, such as Xfce, E17, variousboxes. And eventually settled in FVWM with OSX_Milky theme. It is really fun, and time-consuming to fine-tune the script/configuration for personal preferences.

In Microsoft, I had one dedicated Windows 7 machine for Outlook, two Windows 2008 R2 development boxes, and several Hyper-V VMs running Windows 2003, Vista, Windows 2000 and NT4 for regression testing.

In Skytap, I am using a brand new MacBook Pro, Snow Leopard as other developers. Thanks to the apple’s flatland aesthetic, the transition for a new user is pretty smooth with only few bumps:

  • The fish-eye dock is no stranger.
  • So it is with Exposé
  • The traffic lights in the top-left corner is less informational, but looks pretty.
  • It is hard to reach the top menu bar, especially when I tried to use the 30’ HP ZR30w as my main monitor.

The Good

Everything just works. The desktop environment is well polished, sleek and aesthetic. Lots of handy tools, like bash, openssh, grep, find

The Bad

I am really frustrated by the window management in Mac: when you click the docked icon or use the application switcher(which appears when you hit Command-Tab), the whole group of applications are brought into the front while I just want to switch back to the last window I am working on. You have to either right click or click-n-hold the docked icon to select the specific window which incurs too many clicks. How about a fan of snapshots when mouse hovers just like Windows 7 does?

I also dislikes the space. I have been using the similar feature called virtual desktop comprehensively to declutter my workspace, but I failed to get the space working as expected. The space is supposed to be an isolated desktop, if the application instance is not launched in this space, it should not show in the dock or the application switcher, period. The notification from other space may use bouncing dock icon effect or growl to attract your attention.

I can live with the odd behavior of maximize button, but why the window has to be resized from the down right corner? This is particularly tedious if you try to tile and adjust several windows horizontally/vertically.

The default Terminal.app is half-baked. What a shame that it does not support 256 colors capability!

I also miss the Cut/Paste feature in explorer.exe. I have to open multiple Finder windows if I want to move files to various destinations. Using bash seems easier.

The built-in Chinese IME is very primitive, the Microsoft Pinyin IME bundle with Windows 7 is much more useful.

.Trashes is very annoying, especially for a USB drive. I once tried to delete some documents to make more rooms in my Kindle, and surprisingly found the free space does not change at all. As I telneted to the Kindle via USBNetwork, I found the hidden .Trashes folder which held every bits I tried to erase. Finder should allow .Trashes to be opt-out.

Bonus

Here is the list of most frequent used applications:

No single Mac-exclusive application in the above list.

Conclusion

The power of Mac is the synergy of beautifully-crafted hardware and intuitive software. No other PC manufacturers has such fine-grained control on user experience. Linux desktop has a edge on customization, but stumbled upon the lack of hardware support, ramification of user experience(GNOME3 vs KDE4 vs Unity) and unpolished design.

Update

Thanks to masklinn’s comment, window resizing, native 256 colors terminal, cut/paste in Finder have been fixed in Lion.