Armin Ronacher's Thoughts and Writings

Use OS X you Git!

written on Thursday, April 3, 2008

So rails is ditching trac and subversion in favour of git and lighthouse. Additionally they won't host git themselves but rely on github. Keeping in mind that the preferred development environment called OS X + TextMate, rails is now kneedeep in closed source land. Something I could care less about as I'm thankfully not using rails or any rails powered application. But what hit me was the discussion attached to that blog post. Apparently there are quite a few pissed of Windows users left. Gosh, they still exist!

David "Fuck You" Hansson could really care less as he stated in the past "that he would have a hard time hiring a programmer who was still on Windows". Skimming through the blog you can see enough mac users telling the windows crowd to switch and I think you can nowhere find as many mac users as in the rails community. He really did a great job converting proprietary windows developers into even more proprietary Mac users. There are some really great quotes in that blog:

The proper move is to stop using Windows for development of RoR apps.

or

Windows users, please stop complaining about others using the right tool for their jobs and just start doing the same.

You can get rid of this shit and use something serious. Really. Others are doing it and nobody ever looks back. So you can do it, too.

Yeah stupid folks. Why in god's name are you still using windows, that proprietary crap from redmond. DDH your F├╝hrer already told you to use OS X, do so and don't ask questions. Interestingly though is that Linus himself is not that happy of OS X (the link goes to another post, I was refering to the reply, but that one is good too) as their filesystem handling is beyond broken, at least for git's requirements.

So I'm asking. What exactly makes OS X better than Windows? Nicer hardware? I would count that as a major disadvantage of OS X as you're bound to vendor. The Apple support here is very weak (where weakhere is Austria) as far as I've noticed. Sending a notebook in for two weeks for a single broken key on the keyboard is ridiculous. Additionally you're paying a lot of money for it. I know that the design is the selling point of Apple computers but that doesn't mean all PCs are looking bad. A Thinkpad or one of the more expensive Sony Notebook next to an Macbook Pro and it's pretty hard to decide what looks better. Especially in terms of quality. My Macbook Pro is a bit more than half a year old and on the silver plastic you can spot where the palms of my hands are as the color is chipping off there. But even if the hardware was the selling point you could use other operating systems on it.

There is TextMate (which was the main reason why I personally bought one) but as it turns out, it looks better in the screencasts than in real world. If you're used to a different editor it's hard to switch. I tried multiple times and every once in a while i was cursing why :vs didn't work out. Together with the braindead keyboard layout on the apple computers (probably an issue you only have on German macs) gives you a ridiculous feeling. When I switch between Windows and OS X (which happens quite a lot recently) I permanently mix things up. Windows after OS X locks me out every once in a while while writing mails (as alt+l is windows+l on a windows pc, which apparently is equivalent to "lock workstation"). The other way round I close my mailer as alt gr + q (which on a German layout gives you the at symbol) is command + q on a mac, which means "close application". Can't count the times I killed my vim/thunderbird that way.

One point where OS X shines is font rendering. I think for artists OS X is a reasonable good choice as operating system. The system itself has a good understanding of fonts and all that but for me as developer the rendering freaks me out. In a regular gvim with bright fonts on dark backgrounds it's especially anonying as everything looks bold and there is no visible difference between bold and nobold. I know that Windows was flamed in the past dozens of times for aligning the fonts on the pixel raster but quite frankly, I prefer that over the OS X way. It might be true that Windows will block the 300dpi screen era for another ten years or so, but so will Linux and OS X. Most of the websites or applications still depend on pixel values, and even if web designers will switch to the SVG or better vector formats, you can't ignore the old websites. So the problems with high resolution screens are clearly not the windows font rendering. Beside that I want to point out recent ubuntu releases have got real good font rendering thanks to the turner patches for subpixel rendering and with some additional configuration and better fonts you get everything from the OS X to Windows ClearType like rendering.

But the real problem with OS X is that it tries to be Windows and Linux at the same time and fails miserably. For me as linux user the most important detail of linux is missing: the package manager. But at the same time the beloved setup.exes are missing. Dmgs with application bundles are a nice thing in theory but they don't work out that well. There are neither uninstallation tools norr do they provide a user experience that makes sense. The OS X mouse behavior is ridiculous and installing applications via drag/drop is just crazy. The first thing I did when I got my Mac was dragging the Firefox out of the DMG into the Dock. Then I noticed that I want to have it in the applications too and draged it there. What happened? I deleted it. The same way I managed to delete a file when moving from my harddrive to a network share. I lost the wireless connection and the file was lost. That's ridiculous and must never ever happen on an operating system. Application management on OS X is stupid anyways. To fully remove an application from your computer you better buy a shareware that is better as that. Seems like most functionallity you want to have on a computer comes as third party application on OS X.

And why in god's name is there no cut/paste of files in the finder? I don't want to start ranting about the finder as I think it's OS X weakest point anyways but that's a stupid limitation. Drag/Drop works but Cut/Paste not? Some 1337 terminal hackery later I got Cut/Paste support in Finder but then I had to notice why it's not enabled by default. Because the Apple implementation of this simple but useful feature is broken. If you cut a file, and cut another, not only the latter is cut. No! The first one is moved to the trash. WTF? Not even Nautilus does that wrong, and Nautilus does tons of things wrong right now.

Then OS X is inconsistent. ":" in the Finder is "/" in the terminal and the other way round. Fortunately you don't see location bars anywhere otherwise you would notice that. Unfortunately there are no location bars so you end up using the mouse all the time. Speaking of the broken mouse: mousing on OS X files like mousing through meter deep mud. Just google for "OS X mouse" and the first hit is "mouse acceleration problem" :-/. Oh and yes, you can fix that. Either buy a shareware or hack together an application that uses a deprecated interface in the IOkit. After one week of OS X mousing my hand hurt, something I don't have on any other operating system, no matter how hard I try. I ended up using the touchpad of my Macbook as the mouse acceleration is better there.

But back to application management for a second as that goes back to the original topic: development environment. On ubuntu you have that cool GNU userland I'm used to. Not only that, you also have a kick-ass package manager that keeps my whole system up to date. On OS X you have a BSD userland which is irritating if you're used to GNU tools. Many applications that seems to work out of the box on ubuntu and with a cygwin installation on windows too, work completely different on OS X. Like python. Why? Because of OS X bundles, frameworks and all that fancy stuff that you have to face when developing on OS X. For example on Tiger the python executable is in "/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.3/bin/python2.3" and the standard library in "/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.3/lib/python2.3/site-packages". A non-framework Python comes via port which is installed to "/opt/local/bin/python2.3". The cool thing: it's a regular python executable like you know it from Linux or Windows. The problem? It's not in a framework, so no wxPython for you. What frameworks do? No clue man. It's a bundle, that's what I know. Quite frankly I don't want to know what's the fucking difference, it's just annoying. Teeworlds for example has a broken mouse behavior when started from a bundle. Why? No clue. But outside of a bundle it works. I won't argue that it's broken, it probably comes from the old Next times. But as windows or Linux user it's irritating. Windows is easy to understand, linux is not much more complicated once you groked where the stuff is located, OS X is just irritating.

And the biggest problem of all for me: It's slow. Freaking slow. Slower than ubuntu on my old notebook which was a 2GHz dothan with only 512 MB RAM. And GTK is slow, very slow. All kinds of gvims I tried on OS X are so slow that you can see the refreshing while scrolling, especially if more complex highlighting is activated. My python interpreter does something 0.3 seconds every startup, so does ruby. The network is slower here too. I don't know if it's the Wireless LAN chip or OS X in general, but if I start up my old notebook and the OS X one, transfering files is a lot faster. And by lot I mean I haven't benchmarked it, but I can see the difference.

Then let's come to security. Quite frankly I have no idea how secure the system really is, but the number of security updates is annoying. While I think it's cool that they are patched, you're downloading something like 300MB security updates per month I think and most of them require a reboot. Feels a lot like windows, just that I don't have to reboot windows when a Windows Media Player update is installed.

But what's the conclusion? It's certainly not that OS X sucks. If you like it, feel free to use it. But telling other people that they are stupid because they can't see the ingeniousness of all Apple products is just ignorant. OS X is just another proprietary operating system, and not the solution for all of your problems. It has it's problems too and it doesn't have any real advantages over Windows beside a nicer design and nicer application design and the fact that it has such a low userbase that you're not the target of malware authors. At least not currently, let's see if that changes the next four years. With such a homogeneous environment it will become a nice target for attacks at least.

Oh. And I don't think that linux on the desktop will be the solution either. As long as patents exist or the kernel doesn't allow binary drivers and KDE and GNOME people can't settle on one architecture and HIG linux on the desktop is on the best way to become the most sucking operating system on the desktop for the regular user. But for developers? A good choice!

So let's conclude: every OS sucks. And OS X is no exception. So don't judge users by their prefered operating system / desktop environment. And don't tell them to use something else just because you're too lazy to adapt.