A short linux user's review of OS X.

I've always been sort of a computer geek, and have used a whole variety of different operating systems for work, school, and just general entertainment. I've used pretty much the whole microsoft family (dos, windows 3.1/95/98/me/2000/XP/2003), a smackload of different unix-es (openbsd, freebsd, solaris, linux, etc), some oddball oses (beos, QNX, Nextstep), and the OLD Mac OS (think Mac Classic and older) but up until recently, I had never tried OS X.

I started with Linux back in the days of 486's. I ran slackware on my blazing fast 486 DX/2 50mhz. I spent hours and hours trying to get XFree configured (and succeeded!) I toyed around with it on and off for years, trying all sorts of different flavors. I was stuck on Mandrake for a while, then for a year or so, I went back to XP. For the last couple years, I've been using Ubuntu on my home machine exclusively. Compared to the old days, this distro is almost unbelievably easy. On my machine, everything just worked from the live CD. No configuring necessary. Automatic updates, Openoffice, Firefox, a variety of video players, and even some video games - it's a pretty tough act to beat.

Last week, I bought a Mac iBook. Honestly, I really intended to install Yellow Dog linux or maybe Xubuntu for Mac on it. But then I started playing around with OS X, in this case version 10.3 which came installed on my iBook. Here are some brief thoughts:

  • The GUI took only a few seconds to figure out. Still working on learning the key combinations. It's basically very similar to the old Mac OS interface, almost anyone can learn it. Everything has a very clean and crisp look and feel.

  • The wireless connections are unbelievably easy. I was able to get onto my school's network with virtually no effort. In stark contrast, the instructions on connecting for Windows XP from the school IT department are 14 steps long.

  • The terminal made me feel right at home. The file structure is different, but otherwise it feels very unix-ey.

  • The built in applications were nice, especially the preview app that opens PDF files. I'm not a huge fan of the Safari browswer - it had a lot of popups and crashed a few different times on me. Solution: Install Opera 9.02 for Mac.

  • Samba seems to work about 200% better than on my Linux box, which is very hit and miss. I was able to easily connect to a XP machine on my home network.

  • Microsoft Office 2004 is pretty damned slick. I picked up the student edition, and I like it very much. Very different from 2003 (which can be used in Linux via Codeweavers CrossOver Linux) and is in many ways better. Again, I haven't learned all the quick key combinations, and some are very different - but the learning curve isn't too steep.

  • Quicktime sucks. Seeing a message pop up about quicktime pro evertyime I want to use it is just downright sickening. It's slow, it's awkward, the interface is poor. I really dislike it. Windows Media Player is very superior to this garbage. I will probably end up installing the very excellent VLC media player for Mac.

    Overall, OS X is pretty sweet. It's easier to use than Ubuntu, and has more commercial apps. However, it also lacks a lot of features and noncommercial apps. Given the choice between OS X and Windows, the choice is obvious. Given the choice between OS X and Ubuntu, I'd probably still have to choose Ubuntu for the higher cool factor.

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