Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Mac

My Uber-cool employer decided to get us developers shiny new MacBook Pros, so I'm in this environment more than a few minutes for the first time.  Here are my impressions so far.

It feels sort of like having a well-configured Linux laptop with a slightly idiosyncratic distro.  Everything works out of the box without a lot of effort e.g. installing drivers or working through things not quite working right on some particular hardware.

This hardware appears to have 'Optimus' graphics.  That's a slower Intel graphics processor plus a faster Nvidia processor with software to switch back and forth.  Of course that all works smoothly out of the box, compared with the ordeal I went through last year getting this working in Linux.  On the other hand, the last Mint 17 distro I installed on that hardware handled the Optimus setup effortlessly, so Linux does eventually catch up.

The 'spaces' (virtual desktops) feature seems cool at first, but after using it for a while I'm starting to feel like it's slowing me down.  So far I typically have about 6 'spaces' (virtual desktops) but that will probably grow as I settle into this environment and start really using it.

I feel like I'm wasting a lot of time hitting the F3 button ('Mission Control'), as opposed to just having the Workspace Switcher visible and available all the time.

I briefly researched focus follows mouse (sloppy) with autoraise, but this looks like way too much trouble, if it's even possible.

I like the way things are more consistent in the Mac world when it comes to the keystrokes.  I feel like I'm able to avoid using the mouse and keep my hands on the keyboard more.  It's not impossible to do this in Linux but each application has different keystrokes so it's more of a memory challenge.  The downside of this is I find myself focusing a lot on hitting the right fn, ctrl, option, command key, and it doesn't help that they switched ctrl and fn.

The keyboard is really pretty spartan... no number pad, no home/end/pg up/pg down.  This seems odd for what is in a lot of other ways a premium hardware product.  But hey, the keys that are there are backlit... ohhh shiny...

When it comes to installing software, so far I've been able to load everything I need, but it's kind of hit or miss.  Brew has some things, the Apple store has some things, and for many packages you just google 'macos package name'  and download some one-of-a-kind thing.  I'm used to working with a package manager like apt or yum so this seems kind of haphazard and irregular, like going back 15 years to the days of SLS Linux, except I don't have to actually compile the software.

I was looking forward to finally using TextMate after years of watching the presenters at NFJS and Uberconf use this cool tool.  I eagerly went to download it and to my horror discovered it is NOT FREE.  This is a big problem with the Mac.  There was some tool that claimed to solve the focus-follows-mouse problem but it was like $20-- I didn't want it that bad.  Information wants to be free.

One thing that really sets this apart from, say, Windows, is being able to get a Unix shell.  That is a real comfort factor for me.  Though the MacOS file system is weird compared to Linux and other Unix versions I'm used to.  Obviously they tried to make it more user-friendly (to newbies, that is).

One of my co-workers' new Macs died on him. It was less than 2 weeks old and this is one out of 5 we bought brand new.  He's a Mac guy and was already doing backups with Time Machine, so happily he didn't lose much.  But I find this rather shocking, given how expensive this hardware is.  I dropped everything when he told us and configured backups on an external drive.

There's a lot of possibilities I haven't explored yet, notably Boot Camp, but my impression so far is, cool, but I wouldn't quite spend my own money on one of these.  Which has always been a big issue since I drooled over the first Macs 30 years ago.