Monday, November 12, 2007

The Reasons are Fading

There is a whole process I go through when I install a new OS X system. I thought I'd run through some of the programs I install or tweaks I make to make the system serve me. Many of these things are much easier on Linux... it kinda makes me wonder.

office suite - OS X does not come with an office suite. For the most part I can get away with Google Docs, but sometimes you just need a rich client. For years I've been praying for Aqua port of OpenOffice, which someday will exist. Until then, I can run X11. iWork may or may not be good enough - don't know. MS Office is still a PPC app, so my Intel mac uses rosetta to run it (slow with a memory bloat bonus).

media management - iTunes is great for music. I love coverflow and smart playlists. It still angers me though. iTunes breaks DAAP sharing - ensuring that only iTunes can share with iTunes. Yet another dirty little lock-in. Podcast management sorta stinks - but I can mostly solve this with smart playlists. Movie and TV show management doesn't work well. I either need special applescripts and mov reference files to make iTunes somewhat of a usable movie tool for my existing media, or just buy everything fresh and new from the iTunes store. I'll never use iTunes music store because it's expensive and DRM laden. On Linux - I can use Magnatune and Jamendo on Rhythmbox or Banshee. Oh, and DAAP works in both Rhythmbox and Banshee as well.

instant messaging - The A/V features of iChat are top notch, but mostly I chat with text. I want a single client that does Yahoo, GTalk, and AIM and puts them in a single buddy list - iChat doesn't do that - so I'd use Adium anyway. Pidgin, the built-in IM client on Ubuntu does.

browsing - I use Firefox over Safari. I love my plugins, like Adblock plus and FoxyProxy. Safari is fast, but that doesn't matter much - the Firefox addons almost guarantee that I can browse how I want.

media playback - Quicktime is okay I guess. The interface is a bit bulky for me and of course to make it work with most media I have or find I need to install the Perian codec pack. I then use a program called NicePlayer because the interface is cleaner. MPlayerOSX is quite a bit better if you want to go away from the Quicktime backend - hmm, isn't MPlayer called "the movie player for Linux".

address book - Stacey and I both use a mac and since I'm too cheap to pay $100/year for .mac just for Address Book syncing I use a ghetto fabulous rsync script to the same end. I tried syncing with Plaxo, and that was a let down. Address book is quite cool with smart contact lists - and it ties in with and iChat quite well... its just too bad I don't use either of those applications anymore. On Linux rumor has it that Evolution can be used with Conduit to sync contacts and calendars all over the place.

mail - Like the rest of the tech savvy world, I've moved to gmail. I battled with and my own IMAP server for years. I still have the IMAP server and, although for the life of me I can't figure out why I would want to use them. On OS X I go to Google and install their notifier application so I know when new mail arrives. On Linux the Mail Notification program that is built right in can notify me of new mail in my gmail inbox. Hmm.

calendar - I loved iCal like no other app... that is before Google Calendar came out. Come on - it'll SMS notify me of events and I never have to sync? Add to that private URLs and easy sharing of the same calendar. Game, set, match. On Linux Evolution has just about feature parity with iCal, but the cool thing is that when I click on the little clock in the toolbar I can get a quick glance of what is going on today, cool. Evolution also can connect to my Exchange server at work so I can keep both my work and home life in one calendar. Oh, and I can share that back with Google calendar.

vpn - I have to install the Cisco VPN client on OS X to connect to work. I can use vpnc right from the application repositories in Ubuntu. It's pretty easy to set up right through Network Manager... sometimes.

sync - Another thing I loved about the mac was its ability to sync my calendars and contacts with my mobile phone. Well I have a crappy Windows Mobile phone now, so I'm kinda out of luck. I paid for Missing Sync to solve this problem. Now I moved to Leopard and I am screwed. I'm not paying again.

photo management - Each time a new version of iLife comes out I obtain (through questionable sources) this new must-have version. Most folks use Flickr, PicassaWeb, Smugmug or the like - I'm no exception. Of course that's not built in... but if you pay for .mac you can do photocasting. I am a Flickr Pro user. I paid for a plugin for iPhoto that lets me export to Flickr. The latest version of iPhoto was just plain broken for me under Tiger. Actually not just broken, it caused my machine to be quite crashy. Now it seems fine with Leopard, but in any case its a slow memory hog. Hmm, F-Spot is less flashy but has export to flickr, picassaweb, smugmug, and 23hq (whatever that is) built right in - loopy. Oh, and it doesn't crash my computer.

advanced photo editing - I normally secure a version of Adobe CS3. These are great programs chock full of features that I have no idea how to use. Photoshop CS3 is $400 or more. I'm not sure the price of the whole suite, but I'm sure words line-of-credit would come into play if I were to obtain an legitimate copy. The Gimp and Inkscape do much more than I'll ever be able to figure out, but they are a little more rough around the edges. I can run these on OS X, but of course need to install X11. What a kludge.

mouse - To keep my setup all maclike and pretty I bought a bluetooth mighty mouse. Of course, Apple has a different idea of mouse acceleration than any other manufacturer - so I had to seek out third party tweak tools to make me happy with the mouse. Hmm, the mouse works in Ubuntu without too much trouble and with familiar acceleration curves.

dorky stuff - The new Leopard tabbed terminal is great, but under Tiger I used iTerm because it was just better. I'm not sure why they disable anti-aliasing by default. Gnome-terminal is pretty solid as well.

I was super excited when MacFuse came out - a port of the FUSE userspace file system implementation for OS X. It lets me use things like sshfs to mount up my server. Oh, I can do this right out of the box with GnomeVFS and Nautilus - don't even need FUSE. If I do need FUSE though, there it is, built right into my Linux distro.

application integration - I've tried going with an all Apple solution for a long time (everything but .mac) because when you drink the kool aid, life can be good. The tables are starting to turn though. Yes, iChat ties into Address Book contact details, ties into Calendar with the birthdays, ties into email addresses ties back into iChat. That's great. I don't use iChat,, and just use iCal a little. Apple is falling on its face when it comes to innovative ways of tying their OS into web apps. In Gnome pidgin ties into evolution (contacts) ties into evolution (calendar) ties into evolution (mail) ties into system clock. I'd say Linux is just slightly better for me, since I actually use Evolution at work. I'd need a doctorate to figure out how to sync my Windows Mobile piece of shit.

I don't really find setting these things up to be particularly enjoyable. I'd like a system that I can install, fill in a username and password, and be done with it. If I can then "just work" I'm a happy camper. I'm just noticing that over the years I am doing more and more to make OS X work how I want to. In that time Ubuntu, Gnome, and Linux in general has pressed forward. I can see a move to all Linux in the not too distant future for me.