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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief


pack and deliver like UPS trucks

in the past two days i've used all four of the preeminent desktop OS platforms for casual home tasks - browsing, email, IM, basic image editing, listening to music, reviewing webserver logs, downloading podcasts, blogging... it wasn't really intentional, but i ended up with an opportunity to investigate what it is i'm looking for in a desktop experience. i hadn't evaluated it in such a qualitative manner, and yet i talk all the time with friends and co-workers about which environment i prefer and why...

i used XP and OS X 10.4 on my macbook, and ubuntu 7.10 and vista on a dell D600. some disjointed thoughts about the experience:

- i've spoken quite a bit about OS X and where i feel it's lacking, and i figured out where it shines for me: web browsing. browsing works great with just single left clicks and directional scrolling... i spend a decent amount of time just sitting on the couch surfing, and because OS X's drivers for the macbook trackpad are better tuned than XP's, if all i'm going to do is hang out in firefox, i'll often do so in OS X, simply because of the noticeably better response i get out of the device in that OS. plus browsing doesn't require a lot of keyboard navigation (besides shortcuts in email and searching through a page)... which is where OS X chokes. browsing in vista, XP and ubuntu all feel just about the same.

- i also like OS X's sleep function - simply closing the lid sticks it into a virtual coma with very little power usage. i haven't seen another OS match it; but then again most OS vendors don't also make the hardware that it runs on.

- email is easy anywhere - gmail looks the same in every OS. wasn't that way ten (even five) years ago - i wonder what other complex, critical apps could become simple in that manner with just a platform adjustment. blogging is much the same.

- since no native google talk client exists for OS X, i use adium, which is missing a few features from the windows client. pidgin on ubuntu is worse. i prefer the native windows version.

- since photoshop is stupid expensive, i use free image editors - and paint.net for windows knocks the gimp (for OS X and ubuntu) out of the water with its ease of use, just the right featureset, and great mix of simplicity and style in the interface.

- despite years of apple's attempts to condition me to itunes, it remains a bloated, clumsy, buggy, inconsistent media app that i simply wish i didn't have to use. windows media player uses a fifth of the RAM (itunes topped out at 120MB yesterday) but also doesn't do me much good since i have an apple media player (the last one i will ever own - i'm going zune when this guy dies). i still prefer winamp (for windows, duh) and i am growing on the v5.5 interface changes; XMMS on ubuntu imitates an older version of winamp but does just as good a job. side note - now that amazon's mp3 store has the support of all of the major labels, we need a competitor to itunes that'll integrate w/amazon's store and work with all major media player device platforms.

- itunes isn't too bad with podcasts (aside from the earlier problems i mentioned); my problem is more with the ipod. i find that if i'm listening to a podcast, and i pause playback and pick it up a few hours later, it'll start playback about thirty seconds after where i left it. and what's worse - when i try to rewind to get back to the place i left off, i have to go back two minutes or so, and then i overshoot the right spot... so annoying.

- ssh clients exist on every platform; ubuntu's standard gterm + ssh wins out for a keyboard jockey like me. OS X's terminal would be a viable alternative if it auto-closed the window i was in after logging out - and i didn't have to hit apple-Q to close the app once i was done. putty on windows, the defacto free standard, is a bit clumsy and slow, but port-forwarding support in the GUI is much easier than the CLI alternative in the other two.

so if i spent all my time in a web browser, i'd probably be fine with OS X; however since much of the time i'm doing these other tasks that it doesn't handle as well, i ultimately prefer XP - stable, consistent, tons of app support, and unmatched driver support.

i have given up once again on linux on the desktop - ubuntu can't recognize a simple wireless driver without requiring a ton of conf files, apt-get installs, and twenty pages of digging through incomprehensible forum posts. everything else about ubuntu was fantastic - i love how customizable the GUI is, especially with compiz-fusion enabled by default in 7.10. i can make gnome look twenty times as slick as the other three with a couple of themes downloaded freely from the web.

i'd only used the vista RC's and betas and never installed the retail version. the install process was indeed uncomplicated, and once inside the OS i was surprised at how fast it reacted considering the d600 hardware (pentium-4 mobile 1.8ghz, 512M RAM). unfortunately that means aero wouldn't run and the default light-blue color scheme is fugly.

deep down it wasn't all that different from XP, especially once i changed the start menu to classic mode. UAC was ridiculous and got turned off; and once i got it configured how i wanted, it stayed on its leash. that took a while, sadly, running into application incompatibilities and struggling to find where vista put all of my old control panel options and where on the hard disk my profile-specific items (documents, pictures, music, etc) were. i found no compelling reason to upgrade and a whole lot of reasons not to.

so XP still wins and will likely be my OS of choice until ubuntu fixes the driver incompatibilities. plus it's free, and while i can't remember the last time i paid more than $5 for a copy of windows (thanks OEM, technet and student pricing), it beats $130 for OS X upgrades i don't want. who would have thought back in 2001, when this flashy windows 2000 challenger was released, that i'd be trumpeting XP's praise seven years later?


for this post

Blogger Artie Says:

There are some great little graphics apps coming out for the Mac using the built-in core graphics. Way easier to use that Photoshop and light-years ahead of the Gimp's rip-off interface. I could rustle up a list if you're interested.

Blogger ryanham Says:

Paint.NET == Way less expensive for those of us who just use Photoshop for non-business related activities.

I will say this though, Photoshop is still the most fun game you can play on a Mac, hands down.

Blogger The Gooch Says:

Sometimes your posts are way over my head and I wish I could contribute. I can't but I did want to comment.

Go Reds!

Blogger Nickolini Says:

I feel you Ed....I pretty much stop reading when I see the letters OS.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

i think if photoshop triples their ram gigs and backloads the jpegs through the motherboard while at the same time increasing their internet speed, they can lower their prices. its computer 101 people

Blogger Darren Says:

I don't know Ian. I think once Photoshop triples their ram gigs then you have to interface binary, C++, and java script before backloading the jpegs through the motherboard while at the same time increasing the internet speed. Then and only then can they lower their prices. I don't mean to call you out, but there you go.

Blogger MikeE Says:

On your MacBook Pro does your wireless suck? Dara's doesn't load half the pages. It's a little better plugged in but still have issues. Can't check her GMail on it with any browser. Just curious.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

that was showstopper #1 out of 7 that i've had on my macbook - out of the box, the wireless driver in OS X just dropped my connection every few minutes. windows worked just fine. tons and tons of people complained and eventually apple acknowledged the bug and fixed it; since then my wireless has been fine.

Blogger Artie Says:

Great review of some Photoshop alternatives (sorry, Mac only PC suckers).


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