Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fruit and coffea? I don't think so...

Last year, a guy named Marc Fleury ranted about how Macintosh was not a suited platform for software development. At the time I thought he just hated it because he is French, and French people hate everything. Let me quote him:

"a mac is like a bimbo". It looks good and shiny from a distance, you think you really want to try it. But once you do, after 2 weeks of "doing it" you are bored, bored to tears. Tired of everything, the pretty animation stuff, the big tatas, the transparent look and feel, the big tatas, the genie bullshit animation, the big tatas, the stuff that is different from windows "just to be different", the big tatas and the empty brains.

Nowadays, I am the one who daily (hourly) complain about how clunky and inappropriate is Mac OS X for Java developers. People around me roll their eyes and probably assume I just hate it because I am French too, and French people hate everything.

But, boy, since I started to use this platform professionally, how much do I find Mac to be a hindrance to my development activities! How often the OS gets in my way and pulls me out of the state of flow I am in...

Here is a non-exhaustive list of my grievances, so you can decide if it is mere ranting or if there are some valid reasons for my grumbling:
  • Bitter Java: official JDK support is way behind other OSes. For example, the Apple JDK 6 was beta when I was on Tiger and disappeared on Leopard. Sure I could follow the great work of Landon Fuller with Open JDK, but I honestly do not have time to invest in such endeavors.
  • Keyboard support is a joke: even if I am using QuickSilver, I constantly have to grab the mouse to click this, highlight that or dismiss a pop-up. The last one really drives me nuts: why is it that the escape key does not always cancel a pop-up dialog?
  • Focus messy: there is always an application that steals the focus out of my working window. Maybe this is the fault of badly behaving applications, but it is the first OS where this happens to me so often that I get annoyed by it. Is this OS making it easier for applications to become focus-rude?
  • Prompt to freeze: the UI freezes very easily, to the point I can not even switch applications or invoke the task killer. It seems that a badly behaving application can very easily mess-up the whole user interface, hence the whole OS.
  • Hidden BSD: it is hard to say this but as far as the overall stability is concerned, OS X reminds me of Windows ME sans Blue Screen of Death. I have to do hard reboot at least once a week, whether the screen saver locks me out for ever or the UI freezes to the point I can not do anything except sitting on the power button. I have not seen this in any OS for almost a decade. And having this kind of behavior on an almost newly re-installed machine, with minimal applications running, is a plain disappointment.
  • Finder sucks big time: for an OS that is supposed to be all about user experience, I find the Finder to be a complete disgrace. Try to create a new directory: it never ends up where you want it. Try to shift-select files with the keyboard: going up and down performs some counter-intuitive file selections. Then use the mouse to drag the selected files: they might end-up where you drop them, or not. Instead of adding a new view in Leopard (cover flow), if only Apple could have fixed the existing ones so they become really usable (who uses the insane column view?).
  • Flaky AirPort: I am constantly losing connectivity with my Wifi router. Maybe my cheap D-Link router is the issue, but then why my other non-Mac machines have no problem maintaining their connections up and running for hours?

I will not mention Eclipse that dies unexpectedly on Leopard while it was stable on Tiger (yes I have configured the JVM memory parameters, thank you). I will not mention the disgrace that is Entourage, because it is a Microsoft product and Apple can not be blamed for it. And I will not mention that my MacBook Pro hard drive fried just after a year (bye-bye guarantee), which is the first time something like this happened to me for the past ten years that I have been working on laptops.

Nuf' said! So what are my platforms of choice for Java development? In order of preference: Kubuntu, Windows XP and... Mac OS X. But at home, I am very happy with the little white Mac Book we use for browsing, e-mailing and managing photos. For this kind of home activity, having an OS that shows off is acceptable. For professional usage, the less the OS gets in your face, the best it is.


Perrine said...

The worst is when you check java implementation from *bsd projects ( no, I don't talk about windows ), which are good. Apple X share a lot with these projects, but not the java implementation.

Operating system and software builds are too serious to be managed by private companies ?

Microsoft is good for mouse, joysticks and keyborad, Apple for Iphone and Ipod, but concerning operating systems ...

Last thing, I'm French ... ;-)

David Dossot said...

Well, that's the deal: running Linux on Mac.

A colleague has just started to run Ubuntu 8 beta on his MacBook Pro and, excuse the understatement, it is freaking awesome.

Then you have a great looking bimbo (the MacBook) who has some brains (Linux).

Tan said...

I hate most things too but mostly because I'm a jerk, and not so much because of my French sympathies. As much as I agree with most of your grievances, I still miss my MacBook. I have to use a Windows laptop now and it really drives me insane how little control I have over the OS. I like compiling from the command line, and having to do it in DOS instead of a BSD shell just makes me feel so dirty.

True, Finder does suck, and more in so much that it never actually finds anything, but instead just takes a long time pretending to do so. I've disabled many of the useless features of the Mac OS, such as Spotlight and I don't use Quicksilver because its mostly for noobs. But I like dropping into a shell and running "find / | grep "my sanity" which strangely, always ends up being found in the Trash.

Eclipse is generally a resource hog on any operating system you use. And to dismiss dialogs on a Mac, tab and enter will generally do the trick.

You didn't mention the nipple on the Mighty Mouse always gets "stuck". And since its a BlueTooth mouse, with all the workstations around me, I generally end up hijacking my neighbour's pointer and wreak havoc on his work.

I'll admit, Ubuntu these days has pretty much all you need, except for the neat (but fairly useless) Dashboard. I wouldn't mind switching to Linux and saving the $3000 donation to the Steve Jobs Foundation.

David Dossot said...

Mmmh, I quite like QuickSilver. So I guess I am a n00b, hence all my troubles with OS X ;-) Just don't tell me I have to use the Dock to start an application...

Try PowerShell on Windows, you might get back some sense of control over the OS.

And I did not mention the mouse nipple because I tried to stay focused on the OS and not the hardware. Moreover, I thought the nipple was getting clogged only because of my dirty French hands!

Anonymous said...

A FEW YEARS AGO? Dude, the post you are linking to is dated Feb. 1st 2007 !

David Dossot said...

You are right, point taken and correction applied.