Skip to main content


Posted by herkules on November 28, 2009 at 10:59 AM PST

Do you know that feeling? Something annoys you and you have to tell somebody? This is the bare reason for this blog entry. Don't read it. It is just for me to make me feel better.

When I joined my new company in January, they let my choose my weapons freely. For I've heard so much about these Apple machines and how cool they are and so far ahead of the Windows world, I was curious and ordered one for myself. MacBook Pro 17". Very new, very expensive. Must be great.

As my grandma used to say (or was it Forrest Gump?): if you say something, try to say something kind.

The display, the battery and the touchpad are great. Outstanding, excellent.

The rest was quite disappointing. First, besides the lack of some keys (PgUp/Dn....), many very important key labels are just missing (at least on the German keyboard). []{}~|\ ... try to find them. Very annoying on a coders machine. And why? My old, cheap discounter notebook had them.

The aluminium case looks very stylish but unfortunately is quite thin-skinned and soon had a first bump which no longer looks so cool. But worse, the bottom edge is very sharp and tries to shave my wrist. Which might be part of the plan, for it often gets quite hot on the lower left side which might be easier to bear with if your skin is properly shaved.

Software ... well. The darkest part maybe (I'm an UI guy, so maybe I'm too sensitive here). Try to find a svn client. You have to buy it or go back to the commandline which always gives me that nice feeling of the 80th ... spooky. The Finder needs to go back to usability lab. Even Mac-enthusiasts do say that. Explorer is far ahead! The basic desktop handling is clearty motivated by technical reasoning instead of by a users perspective. Use cmd-tab to switch process, than use cmd-shift-' (German keyboard) to switch applications windows ... what the f**k? Users deal with windows, they don't care for processes.
What is the difference between closing, hiding and minimizing an applications window? Very subtle. I never found out....
And so on and so on ...

Anyway, often it is very hard to get that far. Instead, I admire the spinning beach ball of death. This always seems to happen if MacOS runs out of physical memory. Which is ... always. Or the camera doesn't work any more. For that, Apple very frequently publishes system updates that require a reboot. I assume this is a trick...

Finally, Java applications are somewhat different than they used to be on windows. They feel sluggish and less responsive. I use VirtualBox with Windows if I want to work with NetBeans e.g. (not a joke!).

I don't say its a bad thing overall, it's ok, some things are really nice. The blog just emphasizes on the annoying parts. But next time I'll save my companies money, and will buy a common notebook for less than half. I have no idea where Macs reputation comes from but I suspect it is kind of reality distortion and wishful thinking. It's a linux for the rich.

Did I mention that I also ordered an iPhone? :)

Related Topics >>



"important key labels are just missing (at least on the German keyboard). []{}~|\ ... try to find them" Easy. Use "Tastaturübersicht einblenden" (in German) in the keyboard layout menu. "Try to find a svn client" Easy. There are several of them. E. g. SvnX, useEclipse, Versions, SCPlugin, etc. etc. Just go to MacUpdates or MacTracker or use Google .. " the commandline which always gives me that nice feeling of the 80th ... spooky" As a developer, you desperately should get used to the command line (your only excuse not using it is the horrible Windows cmd) (actually, I wouldn't like to have people in a development team that cannot use a command shell properly and do at least some basic scripting). "The Finder needs to go back to usability lab." Windows Explorer (and some Windows users, too) need to go back to the usability lab. All in all: Don't use a Mac like a PC. It's not the same thing. So don't pretend things are unusable if they are just different than you're used to .. "Even Mac-enthusiasts do say that. " No. Some Windows converts say that (before they started to learn how to do work in the Mac). "Explorer is far ahead!" I use both Windows and Mac on a daily basis. Explorer far ahead? You're joking. This bastard between a (bad) web browser and a file browser from the 90ths? I would be very sad if those ugly Windows Explorer annoyances pop up on OS X just to make some switchers happy: E. g. - ENTER to rename is way better than F2 (Why the hell F2? What's the logic?) - I don't like to use F5 all the time (again, this shouldn't be necessary at all) - I don't want that duplicated files are added - out of order - at the bottom of an alphabetically ordered list till you make some actions that restores the order (totally annoying) - Finders naming behaviour for multiple copies or aliases is way better - CMD+ARROW DOWN to open a file is a consisten behaviour - it also opens folders and is easy to learn together with all the other CMD + ARROW shortcuts - I don't like the silly UP behavior of Explorer, that sometimes goes to the parent folder - but somtimes not - I do like a trash that behaves like a trash no matter if you use a lokal or a server file system (a bug that should have been squashed in Windows a long time ago!) - I don't like the Windows start menu - a usability nightmare since Windows95. WTF do I need a folder for every App in there having totally useless links in it. All I need is the app. - I do like when Finder tells me that a file is to large to copy to a destination before it starts - I do like that Finder is always able to put a file into the trash even if it is locked by a process - unlike Windows, you don't have to search for the process that lockes the file to put it on the hit list to nirvana - I absolutly don't like Explorers "merge" behaviour when copying/pasting folders (you never know what will be merged in deeper levels of that folder hierarchy and it get's really ugly, if the copy job suddenly stops because it hits a locked file or a disk full or ..) - Default settings for the Windows desktop are a joke - worst choice usability wise one can choose! - etc. etc. (I could go on and on - no wonder people in our company largely use Total Commander or switched to Linux ..) "cmd-tab to switch process, than use cmd-shift-' (German keyboard) to switch applications windows ... what the f**k? " If you can't deal with that use Witch. Or get used to Exposé and Spaces. Much better anyway (as a Java developer, you should know how unusable switching Java apps under Windows is ..) "This always seems to happen if MacOS runs out of physical memory." If you run always out of memory, you obviously don't have enough memory installed for the apps you use or you don't care how much apps you open at a time. The exactly same thing happens to you under any OS (including Windows). Just try to use IBM RAD / WID / etc. (any of them) with less than 2 GB and Windows feels like a snail. Either buy more memory if you don't have enough or close some apps from time to time (clueless Windows converts are often totally puzzled that document centric apps are still running under Mac OS even if the closed the last document). "Finally, Java applications are somewhat different than they used to be on windows." Congrats. It's another OS. What did you expect? "I use VirtualBox with Windows if I want to work with NetBeans e.g. (not a joke!)." That does not speak for the quality of NetBeans and has less to do with the OS (e. g. I don't see much of a difference with Eclipse between Windows and Mac). " I have no idea where Macs reputation comes from but I suspect it is kind of reality distortion and wishful thinking" Thank you. As a Mac (and PC) user, I'm always glad when some Windows users tries to tell me I'm an idiot using a more powerful OS than Windows just because they have a very limited software horizon and expect everything to work like on Windows. (since you mentioned that you don't know how to properly use a command line shell, I guess you're software horizon never touched the border of anything else than Windows, anyway). I guess Windows is the right choice for you, then ..


Thanks for calling me an idiot and involuntarily prooving me right the same time.
Did you notice that you provided cumbersome workarounds for nearly every single issue? :)

Apple downward-politics sucks

I did not understand, why so many people love Mac`s.
In my opinion, Mac`s are status symbols and no programmer-machines (reasons are listed on top).

Furthermore i hate Apple`s downward-politics, for example "java-versions":
  • for java5, i need an OS-update
  • for os-update i need a new mac :-/ (<= apple get lots of money)

Another Example is "Ipod"
  • new Ipod needs an ITunes-Update
  • new ITunes needs an OS-update
  • an OS-update needs a new mac :-/ (<=apple get lots of money)
This downward-politics again and again ... (e.g. new BootCamp-Version)

I made the switch to a Mac

I made the switch to a Mac when the Intel processor was adopted. I have some of the same observations, and some suggestions for you. Living life as a coder, I found the keyboard mapping to be my biggest hurdle: the command key usually functions the way I an alt key works in Window... except when it functions the way the control key works in Windows. I hate to leave the keyboard, and the fact that I couldn't tab to a drop-down list in most applications (especially a browser form) was very frustrating. Fortunately, it's configurable in the system preferences. Page Up/Down needing two keys (fn+up/down) is a joke especially since there is room for two more keys with the arrow keys. The sharp edge hurt my wrist until I adjusted my hand position a little. I'll defend Apple by saying that a laptop keyboard is a poor choice for full time work. You can plug-in a PC keyboard or use Apple's external keyboard (Bluetooth or USB). I'm not sure about your German specific hangups, but I can imagine that would be frustrating. Your application switching experience is very different from mine. Command-Tab on a Mac is suppose to work like Alt-Tab in Windows -- it does on mine. The case is not that thin. It takes more of a bump to dent it than I want to subject any laptop to. I took a spill on an escalator and used my 17" to break my fall. It took a serious hit, and was glad for the aluminum. It has a heavy dent, but didn't shatter like plastic would have. The lack of a SVN client is annoying, but as a keyboard jockey and NetBeans user, you should be comfortable on the command line for what NetBeans doesn't support. As a coder, we (myself included) could contribute to an open source client. If it were really that important to serious coder's, don't you think someone would've started an open source SVN GUI? Finder is simply a different way to think about how you work. There were things that took me a while to warm up to, but I'm far more comfortable with the Finder now than I am with Windows Explorer. My non-technical wife, children and mother would disagree with your usability opinions. They were all Windows users until two years ago. They hate to use Windows now. Hide makes all windows and the menu disappear for the active application. Minimize hides the active window. Close ...well... closes the window (not the application). VirtualBox is my preferred virtual solution for Windows, but I don't run it very often... only to test web apps in IE. It's not speedy, but it's not suppose to be. If you are running Windows full time in VBox, I suggest you check your VM configuration Windows is a huge memory hog, VBox is additional overhead. I think your performance problem may be related, at least in part, to this. I would NEVER want to run NetBeans in VBox. It runs just fine on the Mac (6.7+ has been a disappointment on both environments). Spinning beach ball of death, huh? I've not seen that. My machine is very responsive, and I only have 2 GB on this machine. Right now I'm running MySQL Admin, X11, Dictionary, 2 Terminal sessions, iPhoto, iTunes, Preview, iCal, Address Book, VPN Tracker (because SonicWALL sucks), iChat, Firefox, Safari, Mail, TextEdit and TextWrangler. I have no spinning ball of death, and I've totally blown the 2 GB physical boundary. Camera not working? Also very strange, and this makes me think that you have something else going on. You may have a defective machine, or maybe you added some junk after-market memory. Even if your machine is solid, I do think that you need to reconsider the way you are using it. You also need to give it some time. It's a different piece of equipment, and needs to be used accordingly. A Corvette is fast and handles well. A Porsche is also fast and handles well. If you have driven both, you surely know they require very different driving techniques. It takes time to adjust to the differences. Check your equipment, and drive it the way it was meant to be driven. Both products have short-comings, but I've fallen into the popular camp: the Mac has far fewer defects and astonishingly better stability, fewer security problems, blah, blah, blah. However, it took some practice for me to figure out how a Porsche likes to be driven. That doesn't mean I like everything about my Porsche, but it sure is more refined and sophisticated than the Corvette. YMMV. :-)

The lack of menu mnemonics was a deal-breaker for me

When I tried switching to the Mac as my development machine, I had the same experience that you did. I was willing to forgive the spinning beach ball, the stylish but dysfunctional casing, the horribly borked driver for my HP printer/scanner, and even those dainty cursor keys. What I couldn't take was the lack of the menu mnemonics. My fingers know dozens of shortcuts (such as Alt +S , F in Eclipse to reformat code, Alt+F, L in Thunderbird to send a message later, Alt+E,G,R to record changes in OpenOffice, etc. etc.) You know, those things with the underlined letters.

On the Mac, this doesn't work. The best you can do is install a key mapper program. You then get to laboriously map those dozens of shortcuts to unintuitive combinations such as Shift+Command+Cokebottle+L. It's not the same.

Why do I care, when there are reams of research showing that keyboard shortcuts are an illusionary gain? I think the researchers miss the point. It's not about 1 second faster or slower here or there, it is about the flow. When I keep my hands on the keyboard and my eyes on the screen, I stay in the flow. Once I move the mouse, I lose the flow. For a coder, that matters.

yo ... forgot about mnemonics


Mac needs mouse...