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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Me and OS X (Part one)

In the upcoming series of Me and OS X posts, I will writing on my thoughts and experiences about me moving from Debian GNU/Linux to Mac OS X. Okay, time for a few facts:
  • I neither owned nor used a Mac before in my whole life.
  • I have been using Debian exclusively on my home machine since two years (well, and now at work :)). So any comparisons will be that of Mac OS X versus GNU/Linux. There is no mention of a single MS Windows-based application nor will be.
  • What I have done is by no means "a once and for all switch" from GNU/Linux to Mac OS X. I still use and love GNU/Linux (both at work and on my old laptop at home). And I am not going to ditch GNU/Linux anytime in the foreseen future.

I have broke things down according to what I usually do on my machine. This includes Instant messaging, emails, playing movies/music, word processing (mainly Latex), importing photos from my camera, BASH scripting, using the GNU toolchain (make, gcc...etc) and some occasional Java programming.

In Debian, The mail client I have been using was kMail (yeah..I am a KDE diehard). kMail, simply put, rocks. It did everything I wanted and expected from a mail client. You can control about everything including mailing lists, spam filters, GPG...etc.
In OS X, there is the infamous mail.app. Mail is apple's mail client which comes pre-installed. I start setting up my mail accounts (POP3 et al.), start downloading my emails, everything looks fine. I decide to reply to one of the emails (To make sure SMTP is working) and BANG. Mail defaults to top posting. That is when replying to a message, your reply goes above the original message you are replying to.
Okay, no problem, I can change this, right?. The answer was no. I couldn't find any option/setting in the preferences to switch the reply format from top posting to bottom posting. For me, that was a show-stopper and I discarded Mail.app right away.
Since my brother was already using Mozilla's Thunderbird on his Debian machine and was happy with it, I decided to give it a shot. Thunderbird (for OS X) was able to handle everything I threw at it although I needed to install two additional packages (Enigmail extension for GPG intergration and the crossover theme ). kudos for the mozilla team for saving the day.

Quick time comes pre-installed in OS X. Quick time doesn't play all movie formats neither can give you a full screen view of what it is playing. You need to purchase Quicktime Pro to get such a feature (what a rip off!). I still can't believe it that we are living in the year 2005 and Apple tells me that I need to purschase a separte license to watch my movies in full screen.
On the other hand, the legendary mplayer is already ported to OS X. I used to use it on Debian and it can play about every movie format, this includes divx, wmv and rm. VLC as well exists for OS X. Oh, and both are free of course.

For my music needs, iTunes comes to the rescue. iTunes is not just a music player. It takes as well on the task of managing my music library, playlists and interacting with my iPod. Its interface is very very intuitive and easy to use.
I had only a few problems with iTunes. One of problems was the album artwork. iTunes has an option to display the album artwork of the current playing song. However, it doesn't provide any option/tool to fetch them from the internet. It took me really a lot of time to find a free and reliable software that does the job (I use Fetch art for that).
I used to use amaroK in Debian and it had such a feature built-in already. I think amaroK is one of those music players that has a lot of potential. It is improving at a very fast pace and have some really cool features. For me, amaroK's main problem is usability and the GUI design. Now KDE teaming up with the folks from openusability, I am pretty sure those issues will be resolved. Keep an eye on that project.

Installing GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) for OS X was a breeze. I downloaded GPG for mac and got it installed in a few minutes. I then exported both my GPG Public and private keys from my Debian machine using:

gpg -a --export "keyname" > export.gpg.asc
gpg -a --export-secret-keys "keyname" > export.gpg.asc

These commands essentially exports both my private and public keys to the file export.gpg.asc. I then copied the file to the Mac machine (using ftp), then imported them using

gpg --import export.gpg.asc

In part two, I will be writing about Instant messaging, X11 and the "where is apt-get?" dilemma. stay tuned....


Blogger Iyas said...

Cool stuff dude! I nearly understood nothing... did english really change that much! bottom line:
WE at microsoft ... don't like you!

04 July, 2005 18:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did a similar switch back in January, and it sounds like I use computers for pretty much the same way as you do. I've gone from running postfix / mutt / fetchmail / procmail on my iBook to just using Mail.app.

In pretty much any measurable way I now have an inferior way of handling mail. HOWEVER, I think the thing that it takes us switchers some time to get used to is that you gain more by doing things the "Mac way" than you lose. Want to find emails in spotlight? Good luck if you're not using Mail.app (at least in my experience). Want birthdays of your contacts to show up in your planner without fuss? Good luck if you're not using Address Book & iCal. Want iCal to email you alerts about things? Best of luck if you only want to have one Mail application configured. I could go on, and I imagine the list of things you lose by overriding software that Apple intends you to use will only grow. I'll admit to finding no reason to use Safari instead of Firefox, so for me it's still Firefox right now.

I still bottom-post, but it takes a mouse click before I start typing.

With X11, the X11 that comes with OS X is quite functional, but the defaults aren't set quite the way a person would want and you need to set up your shell environment to be able to start X11 applications directly out of Terminal.app (it is possible to get things so that you can type "emacs file.cpp" in Terminal.app and have an X11 emacs window pop up).

For apt-get, there is fink, and it takes about half a day to get all the packages you're used to having around in my experience. Be prepared to have to compile a lot of them because of the 10.4 switchover.

One thing I can't get the hang of (even after 7 months) is remembering that Meta-w in Emacs is "Copy", while Meta-w anywhere else is "Close window". Doh! Annoying while doing work. Hasn't yet thrust me into the arms of a native OS X editor, though.

06 July, 2005 17:15  

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