One week with MacOS X Leopard
I’ve just bought a second-hand Mac Mini (Pentium 1.5 GHz, 512 MB) to build KompoZer on MacOS X. I’ve spent a week with it and I must say I’m pretty impressed.
My first impression is plain and simple: MacOS X is way better than Windows.
- it’s ready to use out of the box. All necessary softwares are there, including a Jabber client (iChat), a decent terminal emulator, Vim 7.2, the MacOS SDK, SSH / VNC servers…
- the Mac mini is by far the smallest and most silent computer I’ve used. It includes a pretty good media player and comes with a remote command, so I’ll probably use it to replace my old Linux-powered Xbox under my TV screen.
- the desktop rocks! Exposé, virtual desktops, application dock, application switcher — the whole desktop is a pleasure to use, it includes all necessary features — no more, no less. It’s nice and efficient. Besides, it’s pretty responsive, despite the low-end CPU and the full-HD screen.
- I love the overall ergonomics of this OS: tweaking the prefs doesn't require to open dozens of dialog boxes, an app is installed by a simple drag’n’drop in the “Applications” folder, the password is required for any operation that could affect the system (when the f*** will Windows include this ?). It’s simple and reliable.
I’ve had to install a few third-party applications:
- MacPorts is neat. Installing the whole build system for Mozilla has been a snap.
- MacVim is the best GUI I know for Vim.
- Quicksilver rocks! That’s a must-have for all Mac users.
- Safari is okay, but Firefox is much better. ;-)
However, there are a few blockers to me:
- no official Apple software repositories for MacOS. Fink is interesting but it kinda conflicts with the way most apps are installed. I think MacOS X would be much better with an official package manager.
- corollary: the update mechanism sucks. I’ve had to run it five times and to reboot twice before Leopard was up-to-date. The worst part is that my Mac mini was unusable during the process.
- the window manager has some irritating limitations: no magnetic borders, no way to move/resize windows without a mouse. As a result, I spend more time rearranging the windows, compared to xfwm4 for instance.
- the performances/cost ratio is much better with Linux. For the price of a second-hand Mac Mini you can buy a brand new dual-core PC with a lot of RAM and plenty of disk space, i.e. a perfect Linux box.
I have to admit I’m a true Linux fanboy: this post is nowhere near an objective test. I hate having to browse the web to install an application, using a package manager is much easier. I prefer to use the keyboard whenever possible, nothing will come close to tiling window managers like dwm or wmii in terms of efficiency. I want to be able to tweak everything on my system. To paraphrase Linus Torvalds, a good OS is like sex: it’s better when it’s free.
Anyway, I love my new toy. I still work on Linux but I’ve plugged the Mac Mini to my second monitor source so I can switch from Linux to MacOS easily (thanks to synergy, available through MacPorts). I’ll finally be able to improve the Mac version of KompoZer. And if Apple ever produces a netbook, I might even buy one. ^^