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Article:
  Switching Back to Desktop Linux
Subject:   Thoughts on some of the points...
Date:   2006-06-01 16:34:52
From:   M.Elfstrand


  • Icons on the desktop:
    Finder > Preferences > Show these items on the Desktop
    (Uncheck all)
    This is the first thing I do when setting up my user account on a new OS X system. I too like my desktop clean, and it's quite simple.


  • Virtual desktops:
    I use Virtue. Probably didn't exist at the time you were making up your mind, though, from the sound of the article. Even if you were to try it today, it may not meet your expectations depending on what you're used to in Linux; I find it does exactly what I need.


  • Focus follows mouse:
    Can't help you there. I personally hate focus follows mouse, so I've never gone looking for a way to implement it.


  • Package manager:
    I use DarwinPorts. Works great for me. YMMV.


  • First-class package manager:
    Though I use DarwinPorts for UNIX-based apps, I don't get how having a package manager put things in its own hardcoded locations (which vary from distro to distro) is supposed to be more flexible and user-adapting than letting me drag the app icon wherever I want. The most annoying apps on OS X to me are the ones that force a location on me. It seems strangely out of place with your philosophy of customization.


  • Downloading files to the Desktop:
    The location for downloadable files can be set in the web browser, same as web browsers on any platform.


  • Application logs:
    Most apps log errors/status to the console.log file. You can view this from the command line if you like, but /Applications/Console will show the log files on the system and has a rather handy filter box. As for more detailed information on what the app is doing, Apple includes tools like Shark and Spin Control that will provide that in a nice way.


  • Lack of freedom:
    I don't see how you having to adapt to the system follows from being able to see the source code for Mail.app. I find Linux to require far more adapting than OS X (the old "...it's just picky about it's friends" line). Guess it just depends on what you're used to.


  • Case-insensitive filesystem:
    Because having two files named Readme and README is just plain stupid. Still, a case-sensitive variant of HFS+ is now included in OS X as an option (but was probably added after you made up your mind). I have never run into a need for it, though, and I use quite a bit of open-source software.


  • Classic UNIX utilities and resource forks:
    They do as of 10.4, which sounds like it came out after you'd already decided to switch back to Linux.


  • OS upgrades:
    I don't mind paying people for work. Sometimes the open source apps are good enough, but I've seen many projects abandoned because people have to make a living somehow, and I don't have the time to write code for every single project that's useful to me. I do use Spotlight, and things like the Kerberos integration in 10.4 make it well worth paying someone to do for me. I'm not sure how GarageBand fits in here as it's not part of the OS.


I think your main valid points here are:


  1. you like the fuzzy feeling of having access to the source code, even if you never use it

  2. you don't have any need for software that OS X does really well (e.g. media apps)

  3. you're used to the way Linux works and don't want to change


These are all perfectly fair points, and valid reasons for you to use Linux instead of OS X. But I didn't find the rest of the article to be as informative. Some of it's due to advances that have been made since you switched back, so I can hardly fault you for those, but some of your complaints about lack of customization are simply due to not even looking (e.g. Desktop icons). I'm not sure I agree that you gave it a fair trial. But as I said, I still think you have valid reasons for switching back.

Full Threads Newest First

Showing messages 1 through 5 of 5.

  • Sorry about the formatting
    2006-06-01 16:39:40  M.Elfstrand [View]

    Blech...That got rather mangled. The interpretation of HTML in these comments is...unusual...
    • Sorry about the formatting
      2006-06-05 08:15:06  fak3r.com [View]

      unusual, inconsistant, etc -- but all could be at least avoided with a 'preview' button.
  • Focus Follows Mouse...possible where most useful
    2006-06-02 11:34:03  Krioni [View]

    I don't use it myself, but you can enable this for Terminal windows and for X11. Read details at:<br/>
    http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20031029203936659
  • An answer to thoughts
    2006-06-06 22:25:42  kms-werk [View]

    Icons on the desktop:

    Mostly works. If you've enabled show hidden files, you'll
    still get .DS_Store and occasionally another system file there. Also
    for some reason PDFs and a few other browser downloads (Firefox) though
    I've told it to use ~/MozDownloads.



    Virtual desktops: Virtue

    I've got Virtue running. I'm finding I use it less and less with
    time. Not because I no longer need virtual desktops, but because it's a
    really, really bad virtual desktop. Other than transition effects.

    Virtue's faults?

    It's slow. Particularly when the system's swapped out. My Linux
    desktops don't behave like this, even under stress.

    The OS X desktop really isn't designed for multiple workstations (or
    monitors). That "Infinite height" menu starts to get inconvenient when
    it's two monitors over from where I'm at. And neither application
    dragging nor app/windows circulation apply particularly well to Virtue.
    Plus its own hotkey combo (alt-tab) steals what's a highly ingrained
    shortcut to me.


    Focus follows mouse

    For those of us who want it, it sucks not to have it.

    I suspect it would suck just as much if it was on and you couldn't turn
    it off. The point here isn't the setting, it's choice.

    Throw in a number of other window management gripes...

    Max vertical. For a text term, the one thing I want to be able to do,
    really, really quickly, and really, really easily, is max
    just the vertical aspect of my
    terminal window. On Linux, I'll bind alt-space to this. No-can-do
    under OS X.

    Resize widget. There's just the nub on the lower right of a window.
    Look, we're grownups. Just let me grab any border and resize, OK?

    Edges-off-screen-now-what fallback. Under most Linux WMs, alt+left
    mouse allows you to grab and move a window that's got sized or
    positioned largely off-screen so you can reach its controls. Not
    possible on OS X, though selecting "Window -> Maximize" seems to be a
    general rescue move. Shouldn't happen, but does.

    Raise/lower windows. OS X, like Windows, operates on a raise-only
    model. I can't tell a window to drop to the bottom of the
    window stack (alt-downarrow generally on my Linux desktop). Plays along
    with focus-follows-mouse. While Expose is almost neat enough
    on its own, the lack of a lower-window capability really sucks.

    Window shading. Third-party, paid-for add-on, haven't shelled out for
    it.

    Inconsistent maximization. In some apps, the maximize button goes full
    screen, in others it just says "get pleasently plump". If I want a
    window larger but not full size, I'll just drag it. If I want it to
    fill the damned window, Just Do It[tm]. And be consistent.

    I could continue. The point isn't any specific list, it's that there
    are capabilities not presented in Aqua, for which any number of users
    have working habits honed over years, for which OS X denies any
    choice
    .

    The irony: my preferred desktop environment is a (slightly tweaked)
    WindowMaker configuration. That's right, the NeXT desktop. Not
    unghodly sexy to look at, but a breeze to use.


    Package manager: I use DarwinPorts. Works great for
    me. YMMV.


    I think you're missing the point of single-point-of-control management
    of all system packages, including config files, dependencies,
    and the rest of it. Sure, I've got fink and Darwin Ports. And within
    their own limited universes, they rule (but provide just over a quarter
    the 20,000 package choices of my Debian system). OS X very clearly
    lacks that. I've bumped into limits of packages not ported to OS X, or
    not running smoothly (the X11 Mozilla port, urlview, and mutt, to name
    three). If I want Debian ... well, I know where to find it.
    Duplicating that effort on a proprietary base seems ... silly.

    And yes, while it's possible to add proprietary apps under Liinux,
    experience suggests that it's not frequently done and there are some
    pretty compelling reasons to avoid doing so, ranging from quality of
    Free Software alternatives to maintenance and security headaches.
    Software under management is pretty painlessly managed.

    There's some fairly compelling reasons to suggest that such package
    management addressing proprietary packages on a proprietary OS is highly
    unlikely (http://linuxmafia.com/~karsten/Rants/spyware.html) .

    First-class package manager: Though I use
    DarwinPorts for UNIX-based apps, I don't get how having a package
    manager put things in its own hardcoded locations (which vary from
    distro to distro) is supposed to be more flexible and user-adapting than
    letting me drag the app icon wherever I want.


    Those who fail to
    understand Debian policy are doomed to repeat it...poorly (http://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/) . See also
    Manoj's
    musings (http://people.debian.org/~srivasta/talks/why_debian/talk.html) .

    Note that package management doesn't constrain you, the administrator.
    You're more than welcome to muck up your system any way you want to,
    and in general, suffer the consequences. Rather, package management is
    a constraint on what a package maintainer can to your system.

    Downloading files to the Desktop: The location for
    downloadable files can be set in the web browser


    Despite having done this, I end up with files on desktop.

    Additionally, limitations in file browsers / download management (some
    directories stay hidden regardless of settings) mean that a simple punt
    is to save or drag the item to my desktop, then deal with it.
    Seriously, wget -O filename URL is preferable, particularly
    with X copy/paste symantics (also lacking in OS X).

    Application logs: Most apps log errors/status to the
    console.log file. You can view this from the command line if you like,
    but /Applications/Console will show the log files on the system and has
    a rather handy filter box.


    Thanks, but less, grep, tail -f, etc., are my friends. Much faster than
    a GUI-heavy, idiosyncratic tool. Microsoft's log viewer sucks too
    (though granted OS X's manages to avoid several of the worse blunders).

    Lack of freedom: I don't see how you having to
    adapt to the system follows from being able to see the source code for
    Mail.app.


    Strawman. Among the first things I noted on OS X was the lack of /proc.
    Not crucially useful, but very, very useful when needed. Even for the
    nontechnical user, it's pretty straightforward to create a script to
    reap /proc for useful debugging information for use in technical
    support. A script I'd written first for my own use and later shared
    on a number of user groups was integrated in a prior employers'
    professional services support process.

    Later, buying OS X for Unix Geeks, there were the sections marked
    simply "undocumented". While there may be lacking
    documentation for bits of Linux, there are very few areas which are
    intentionally left obscured.

    I find Linux to require far more adapting than OS X (the old
    "...it's just picky about it's friends" line). Guess it just depends on
    what you're used to.


    As has been noted: Linux gives you the choice. I find my own tweakage
    for new systems tends to get accomplished pretty quickly (having the
    config files to port around helps a lot). I'm still trying to get my
    MacBook Pro to work as I'd like it too.

    Case-insensitive filesystem: Because having two
    files named Readme and README is just plain stupid.


    Like it or not it's 1). Unix (and Linux) standard, and can result in
    incorrect or undesireable behavior. I find it annoying much the way DOS
    / CPM's swap of '\' for '/' is.

    Classic UNIX utilities and resource forks:

    Resource forks and other metadata strike me as a really poor idea on
    multiuser or distributed (remote filesystme) systems. Rather than
    dumping user-specific data all over the system, it should be managed in
    a per-user, user-controled, database.

    OS upgrades: I don't mind paying people for work.
    Sometimes the open source apps are good enough, but I've seen many
    projects abandoned because people have to make a living somehow, and I
    don't have the time to write code for every single project that's useful
    to me.


    And I don't mind being paid for mine. SW economics are strange, most FS
    development is compensated one way or another, and I've seen any number
    of proprietary apps (and OSs) die, either for lack of market interest or
    anticompetitive behavior. BeOS, Netscape, WordStar, VMS, Wang,
    Ashton-Tate, Lotus... Even where still extant, most of these are mere
    shadows of their former selves.

    Main Points

    You like the fuzzy feeling of having access to the source code, even
    if you never use it


    There's a very strong dynamic to free software, and GPL'd free software
    in particular. Yes, other licenses have their place, and I'm quite
    familiar with strategic licensing. But a sufficiently established
    [L]GPL base is powerful stuff. I think they understand this in
    Redmond...

    you don't have any need for software that OS X does really well (e.g.
    media apps


    Multimedia is a special case for free software. Because of legal
    encumberances (many would say illegitimate encumberances), patent and
    copyright laws restrict what would appear to be reasonable uses of
    software. Panic and megolomania in the film and music industries have
    been particularly toxic, and I'm hoping we'll be able to look back on
    the present in the not too distant future with mild bemusement. That
    said, yes, iTunes and its ilk are well-done. But I can skip through the
    FBI blipvert using mplayer ;-)


    you're used to the way Linux works and don't want to change

    ... and this is a problem why?

    Think Different(ly).
    • Preview?
      2006-06-07 13:01:35  kms-werk [View]

      Really, it would be nice to have here.

      Feh.