Recently I made the somewhat unprecedented move of consolidating everything I do onto one computer — my late-2003 15″ PowerBook G4. I was getting tired of things going out of sync, of having to switch between various computers to find what I needed, of having my music in one place and my photos in another and absolutely nothing on my work computer. I’ll talk about my thoughts on consolidation, and some of the cool new utilities I’m now using, at a later time. Right now, I’m thinking about an unintended side effect of the move, which is my complete loss of confidence in Mac OS X.
In short, some of the more fatal flaws of OS X have been masked to me up until now because by jumping between various Mac and Linux computers, I would never leave applications open on the Mac for long periods of time and wouldn’t necessarily use the Mac for some activities. Now I’m running a bunch of different programs all the time on several virtual desktop screens, and the amount of instability I’m experiencing is quite unacceptable. Programs are *constantly* crashing — and these are Apple programs, not third party ones — and occasionally my entire machine becomes unresponsive for brief periods or, when resuming from sleep, just doesn’t even come back up for at least thirty seconds.
What I most love about the Mac is how everything is so nicely integrated into a good UI with global features that make me more productive. But in order to get a lot of this integration, one must use the Apple-provided apps.
Rui Carmo over at The Tao of Mac really nails it with his article Is Mac OS X Becoming Crufty?, which covers most of the issues I’ve been having with Tiger. What I most love about the Mac is how everything is so nicely integrated into a good UI with global features that make me more productive. My chat client and my mail client tie into my address book. All of my passwords for everything are stored securely in my Keychain. Spotlight search lets me find anything anywhere. But in order to get a lot of this integration, or simply because there are no viable market alternatives (as they have been driven out of business by Apple), one must use the Apple-provided apps. iPhoto, which used to stop working after you added more than a few hundred photos, has at last received a much-needed update that causes it to suck less. But Safari gets angry when you have too many windows open and starts behaving strangely. Apple Mail is just an abomination, and Spotlight’s search behavior, not to mention its UI, leaves a lot to be desired.
If I can get a cute little laptop with twice the battery life and twice the power at half the price, and run Ubuntu on it, and have a rock-solid experience, even if its not quite as shiny, maybe there is something to be said for that.
Paul has been leaning on me heavily to ditch the Mac platform with all of its flaws and move over to Linux full time, as that platform (and Ubuntu in particular), is really starting to reach some sort of desktop maturity, finally. On the one hand I really don’t want to leave behind some of the great apps and utilities I use on the Mac, and I really want the slick integration of everything that I theoretically get on the Mac. On the other hand, if I can get a cute little laptop with twice the battery life and twice the power at half the price, and run Ubuntu on it, and have a rock-solid experience, even if its not quite as shiny, maybe there is something to be said for that. My first computer was a Macintosh II. I’ve been a loyal Mac user for *years*. But I’m worried I might be reaching the end of my rope, and it might be time for a change.
Thoughts? Advice? Similar experiences?