DISCLAIMER: If you’re not ready for yet another OSX rant, you can safely skip this blog post 🙂
OK so yesterday I did The Right Thing(tm) and I went out to buy an OSX box. I’m actually typing this blog post on it right now.
The goal of the purchase was to fix a number of long-standing GUI issues in Pentaho Data Integration. As I’m familiar with nearly all versions of Windows (except Vista) and Linux I was expecting some un-ease with the platform.
Boy, was I ever right about that. I guess if I would use it exclusively for the next couple of months, I would eventually get used to the quirks. However, as a Java development platform, it’s less than useless to me.
I did like the funky hardware. The (1.83Ghz/1GB RAM/80GB HD) mini fits nicely on any desktop as it is so small. It’s also virtually silent in operation. The keyboard is a bit heavy and a bit too rubbery for my taste, but I could get used to it.
The #1 problem on OSX is the horrible keyboard layout. When you develope code in Eclipse or when you write shell scripts, you want access to keys like these:
- Pipe (I would type a vertical line, but I can’t)
- Tilde (I would type it, but I can’t)
Unfortunately, it is not possible to use these keys. They are simply not on my Belgian keyboard. (Note that it’s virtually impossible to find a store that sells a US keyboard over here). The pain doesn’t end there. The Terminal supplied with OSX doesn’t support anything but US7-ASCII. Any character out of the ordinary is converted to escape codes.
Can you imagine writing code without a pipe symbol? You need it in every other “if” statement and it’s used in SWT development a lot to combine options for widgets.
It gets worse: I found no solution. I found a few rants in the blogosphrere about people that had the same problems. I found vendors selling “improved” keyboards for OSX. I found plenty of reference pages at apple.com for all kinds of funky keyboard shortcuts. Tilde and Pipe are still eluding me though. I saw some proposals on various blogs: none of them worked. I even looked for some sort of Character Map tool like you have in Windows and Linux: nothing there. Then I tried to type all Alt-Gr+Key combinations on the keyboard. Nothing. Then all CTRL-AltGr+Key combinations, SHIFT-AltGR+Key,… you get the point. Still … absolutely… nothing. One has to wonder what kind of idiot would hide the pipe symbol under such a key combination, but hey, I could probably live with it over time.
As such fixing the issues by copy-pasting Pipe symbols from other places in the code, laborously manouvering through the code without home and end, took me hours instead of minutes.
Not all is bad though. Installing software on OSX was not as clean as it was on my Kubuntu machine, but I managed to install these in less than an hour:
However, let’s get one other myth out of the way here: in order to install those software packages, I **DID** most certainly use a terminal to copy ant and subversion stuff to the correct location. At least on Linux they moved beyond the copy-zip-file-contents-to-/usr/local/bin nonsense. I did have to change /etc/profile to include /usr/local/bin in the path too.
On the positive side, the Java JDK version 1.5 was installed by default on the box. That’s a good thing because I wouldn’t have known where to turn if it was missing or if it had 1.4 instead of the 1.5 version I need.
So then I tried to get my webcam to work on the Mini-Mac. Tried to see if the older Creative Labs NX Pro worked on Tiger. Well, fanboys, you can shove the “It just works” attitude as well since it doesn’t. No drivers available. Tried the open source “macam” project that supposidly has it working. Nothing. Zip. This was once the weak point of Linux too, however the NX Pro works without a problem on my Kubuntu box.
Chat client “iChat”: needs a €99/year .mac account it seems. The alternative, my AIM account, didn’t take. Can’t log in for some reason. Not even Microsoft is that stupid. WTF??
I actually had been looking forward to working with the Mac, but unil now it turned out to be one big disapointment. Pretty soon I’ll be looking for instructions to put Linux on the box. The problem is then that it would no longer serve its purpose as a testing box. Over time it will propbably suffer the same fate as my Windows machine by gathering dust 99% of the time.
Until next time,