Why I Might Switch Back...
I've been using Macs almost exclusively now for about 7 months - since just after I joined Yahoo! and got my PowerBook to go with my mini at home. Now that I've been using Macs for a while, I'm wondering if they're all that special. The hardware is nice, but OS X can be as slow, buggy, non-standard, frustrating and annoying as any other operating system. Also, I don't really use most of the included apps, so most of what makes OSX so special doesn't really apply to me.
Let me be more specific about what I see as non-plusses, I'll just list them out in no special order, but conveniently numbered so the zealots can refer to each number directly while defending their beloved macs:
- Anyone who says that Macs are more stable than Windows are smoking dope. I have two brand new Macs and they regularly go wacky and need reboots.
- My mini and PowerBook are 1.42Ghz and 1.5Ghz, with 1GB and 512MB respectively. They are both sloooooow. Though the PowerBook is a bit better, neither is as snappy as my two year old Celeron, and not anywhere near the cutting edge x86 laptops.
- Also, the graphics power suck. ATI Radeon 9200 is anemic in 2005. Playing Halo on either computer is a drastically reduced experience than on my Celeron 2Ghz Toshiba.
- I don't like Mail or Safari. I much prefer Thunderbird and Firefox, both of which don't get much attention on the Mac platform.
- I really dislike iPhoto. I much prefer the Windows thumbnails.
- I hate the Finder. I thought the Windows Explorer was bad and wacky, but I had no idea. Finder makes me want to hurt someone. I especially love when folders don't merge, but replace.
- Trillian is so much better than Adium or Fire, and iChat is non-starter.
- I'm not a musician, GarageBand to me isn't particularly compelling.
- Like it or not, it's a Windows world, and interop has to be a priority. If I take a few screen shots, paste them into a PowerPoint For Mac presentation and send them off, and no one can see them because the images have defaulted to some wacky Quicktime tiff? That's bad.
- Keynote and Pages are both interesting, but non-standard. I wouldn't do any real work with them because I'd be afraid of trying to send documents to my coworkers.
- Yahoo! Products work better on Windows: Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Music Engine are awesome on the PC. Yes Y! could concentrate more on Mac products, but they're hardly alone here.
- In fact, most stuff is available on Windows first, sadly. And I'm a bleeding edge junkie.
- I like UltraEdit 32 over TextWrangler or TextEdit
- You know, .Mac is interesting, but way too expensive.
- The widescreen on the Powerbook is completely overrated. Web pages and documents are tall, not wide. Because the wide screen lowers the viewing center of the screen, I end up getting a crik in my neck looking "down" at the wide screen, rather than more straight ahead on PC based laptops.
- Having to remember my DVI to VGA adapter to hook up my PowerBook to an overhead is a pain in the ass. The wide-screen to 800x600 presentation view is also jarring and painful.
- What is the friggin' deal with the .dmg files? The install process is so broken. Unzip .dmg.gz, mount .dmg, copy to Applications, unmount .dmg, delete .dmg, delete dmg.gz. Bleh.
- Do you know how long it took me to get the idea that I had to empty the trash before I disconnected any external drives, memory cards, etc. otherwise the files just stayed whereever they were. And those fucking .DS_Store files...
- I don't use iMovie. It'd be nice if I did, but it's not a plus as I don't have a DVD burner, and if I wanted to buy one, it'd cost me a ton.
- Everything for Macs cost more. From my $50 Mighty Mouse to my $150 iSight camera.
- I thought having "Unix" underneath would be an advantage. But it's not Linux. Linux is what I know, the wackiness that is OSX confuses the hell out of me. I can barely figure out what's running and not running. I installed some HP Printer software drivers months ago and the control panel starts up automatically every day and sits in the Dock, despite my best efforts to track down where the HELL it's started from.
- I thought Expose was cool at first, but then realized I was going blind trying to find the right window. Spatial memory, what? Expose just randomly throws the windows around the screen, it's nuts.
- I hate the Dock too. Each app responds differently. So some apps you can click on and the window appears at the top, others it ignores. And if you Minimize the window, well, it never pops up. WHY?!?! Urgh. Thank god I discovered Command+~ to swap between windows of the same app... I was losing my mind for a while trying to find things.
- The hardware support isn't great. I've got several devices which just are completely ignored by the Mac, including a WebCam and several USB devices. And my iSight doesn't play nice with anything but iChat. WTF? Why isn't it just a DV device?
- iSync is only marginally better than nothing. I thought it was a holy grail... it's really not. In fact, I tried to sync my wife's phone and wasn't being careful and it defaulted to a destructive sync and blanked out my wife's phone. ARRRGGGH. WHY!?!?
- I really don't like the fact that some apps close when their window goes away (like System preferences, and Windows Video for the Mac) and other apps stay there in memory forever until you notice them by accident...
- Spotlight isn't great. It's slow and doesn't seem to find what I'm looking for.
- Dashboard is pretty useless as well. I've installed Yahoo! Widgets (Konfabulator) and that's much more what Dashboard should've worked like.
- Does anyone use Sherlock any more?
- Windows Anti-aliasing for LCDs is more refined than OS X. You'd think it'd be opposite, but to me Macs seem fuzzy.
- OSX mouse tracking isn't great. Why is that? Didn't they invent it? Why do I have to go get separate mouse drivers for my Microsoft, Logitech and MightyMouse mice? That's insane.
- Rendezvous/Bonjour works as advertised... but since no one around me uses a Mac, it really doesn't matter except for iTunes, and the Windows version supports that functionality any ways.
- Hitting F11 by accident is a wonderful way to lose your mind. "AHHH!"
Okay, that said. There are benefits. The command line is sooooo much nicer than the SSH client I was using on my PC. The Windows Networking is actually better than real Windows. The Bluetooth stack is decent as well (doesn't seem to crash as much) and my PowerBook sleeps and comes out of sleep cleanly. Quicksilver is amazing as well. Real's media player is so much nicer - with no weird pop-ups. Keeping applications as folders is a neat idea (though in reality so much settings stuff is stored in your Library, it's not *that* cool.) User switching is good and the ability to one click and have an SSH or Apache Server up and running is pretty neato.
But after all this, I don't think I would give a Mac to my Mom and expect any magic, for example. I think Apple has sacrificed their vaunted simplicity, usability and consistency in the face of sloppy Windows competition. They've settled for "good enough" I think, and if that's the case, then I might as well stick with the more popular OS, which ends up being the easier OS to deal with becuase of its popularity. Much of the ability to even function at a basic level is by the Grace of Microsoft for supporting the Mac with Office and Windows Media, otherwise I'd be blind to tons of online media and and all of the enterprise.
Also, all this makes me wonder if Linux will ever get to a decent position on the desktop. Mac has all the advantages Linux doesn't have in terms of a fanatical fan base, developer support, etc. and I still feel daily pain by using it. And Linux shares the same disadvantage as the Mac in that it's simply Not Windows. Which religiously may be a good thing, but I'm thinking about the mass market. Or, I guess you could look at it the other way - if people are willing to move to the Mac, then hell, why not Linux? But I'm thinking neither is bound to happen any time soon.
I also think that the move to x86 for OSX isn't going to do much for them. Though one of my main bitches is the speed of the Macs I'm using, I'm more concerned with the fact that the OSX platform is such a pain in the ass to deal with. An expensive pain in the ass to boot. I really don't think isn't going to change once Apple is using Intel hardware. What's really needed is a next rev to do that. A Mac OS 11 to clean up all the weird bits and get back to basics with usability and cleanliness, based on a world where most people use Windows.
Anyways, I probably need to swap back to Windows for a bit to realize how good I have it. Or better yet, move to Linux for a few days to make me really appreciate a Desktop OS with popular support. Or I guess I could swallow the Blue Pill and start using Mail, Safari, iChat, etc. etc.