Religous OS wars are so tired. Yet, there are still OS warriors crusading against the heathens out there. But they generally don’t know what they are talking about; they just repeat the party line.
Recently, my wife’s (Windows XP) laptop finally gave up; it simply couldn’t keep up with her digital photos or movies anymore. It barely wanted to get off the couch to download her email. It was out of gas.
We started looking into replacements. I couldn’t convince her to try Linux, but she fell in love with Panther. We went out and got an iBook G4 with the cute, snow-and-ice case and its cute blinking light on the panel and its user-friendly interface and its rock-solid BSD chassis and all that goodness. I’ll admit that I am hooked by Apple’s sense of style and even started to believe the hype about the software and hardware just being better.
Fast forward…no, wait, no need. I get the thing home from the Apple store and install the Airport card. When I carefully replace the keyboard, SNAP. F12, F11, esc and ~ are now irrevocably cockeyed and the whole keyboard casing is tilted. We trudge back to Apple. Now, this I have to admit, was nice: no questions asked, they just went in the back and got me another one.
Now, fast forward. Its about two weeks later. Lisa loves her Mac. It is so easy to work with photos and movies and burn cd’s and maintain her multiple email accounts and everything else. She’s in heaven. She logs in and gets an innocuous message: Software Update available. OSX 10.3.3. Just click here! Press the jolly, candy-like button!
This manages to bring the Mac to its knees. Long story short, the following results occur:
1) Printing is broken. CUPS is fouled up because of a bad inode corresponding to the CUPS folder.
2) CD Burning is hosed. Regardless of whether I allow the verification step to proceed, discs come out unusable and the OS spins its wheels post-eject.
3) Permissions to some system folders are irretrievably damaged.
I learn, over the course of three days, that the built-in disk repair utility is essentially useless. I learn to log into single-user mode, where I can work in a more familiar environment (ahh, a Mac that can boot to the command line. Near-heaven.) I learn that even fsck is helpless in the face of my disk problem.
I go buy DiskWarrior. I do not understand why this is not bundled with every Mac. I run it. It fixes about half of our problems. But not all. And I am out $109.
I take the iBook to the “Genius” bar. When our “genius” comes out, I begin to tell him our problem. He scratches his chin and looks thoughtful. Meanwhile, I’m booting into single-user mode to show him the output from fsck. When I flip the notebook around so he can see the screen, his face kind of scrunches uncomfortably, and he says “what is that? I have no idea what you are showing me.” He’d never seen a command line.
In the end, I borrowed an external firewire drive, copied off what I could, and reinstalled the original version of Panther. All is well now, and my wife has agreed not to allow her computer to update itself from the software update dialog.
What’s the point of all this, you may ask? Is this some kind of random rant against Apple? No, and far from it. I love Panther, and as I said earlier, I think Apple is as close to perfect in styling as possible. No, this is a rant against Mac zealots (and Linux zealots, and Windows zealots) who keep finding me in the hallway and telling me that I need to switch to the Mac because it is “so much more stable” or “just all around more solid”. Don’t bring that weak stuff. Give me something concrete, or quit talking about it. Give me technical reasons, not propaganda.
Every OS has its place, its uses, and most importantly, its quirks. The same for the companies/communities that make them.