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Bye bye, Mac OS X?

Posted by fabriziogiudici on September 14, 2008 at 4:26 PM PDT

If you follow my blog, you know that I've a bad attitude towards Apple's gear, even though (or just because?) I've been an Apple user for three years now. I've been frustrated by a) lack of support for Java updates, b) Mac OS X not performing as I need (Linux on the same hardware box is faster) and c) the scarce quality of my MacBook Pro (first generation).

So, this week I can officially say that - at the moment - Mac OS X is no more my primary operating system. My primary operating system is where I more often work and read the email, so since I've switched from Apple Mail to Thunderbird now I  mostly work on Linux. As I could measure many times, Linux is much faster when developing, while Mac OS X often becomes unresponsive with the infamous beach ball. In these days I'm working with NetBeans 6.5 build 200809111401 and it's damned fast, both the autocompletion and the new background compilation feature (it was the only feature that I missed since the times of the switch from Eclipse).

Does this mean that I'm no more an Apple user? I'd like not to be, but I can't - for professional reasons I need to develop and test in all the three major operating systems and Apple gear is the only legitimate stuff to run Mac OS X on. And Mac OS X is still the best general purpose operating system, not counting its multimedia versatility. So, I still think I'll have to switch frequently and get more involved in the virtualization thing, even considering that since my MacBook Pro is literally falling apart, I'll have to purchase a new laptop in a matter of weeks, being able to mount 4GB for the first time. This time no more MacBook Pro, a MacBook will be enough (plus a 500GB hard disk). Unfortunately, it seems that the next batch of MBs will switch to aluminum, which is indeed the worse thing to build a laptop with.

Given that, I'm working to have a completely new setup on my disk: the work area is a separate partition and should be formatted in such a way to be accessible from both Linux, Mac OS X, Windows. So far, the only feasible solution I've found is NTFS, with the Paragon driver for Mac OS X (a bit faster than MacFuse) and the Fuse driver for Linux. The problem is the slowness of the Fuse driver, so larger projects such as blueMarine must live in a copy on the native ext3 filesystem, or things get too slow. The next thing to try will be ZFS, that is usable by Mac OS X (even though it is beta, I have positive tests for several months) and again supported by Fuse on Linux; who knows - maybe it's faster.

One of the still broken dreams is to be able to do all the most mundane things from all the three operating systems; for instance I've tried to move the Thunderbird stuff to the shared partition, but the application just crashes at startup in Mac OS X. Too bad.

I'd like to know if somebody else tried a setup similar to mine and what are his experiences.


My UBUNTU install crashed to tadya and it was nto the first time. After that my monitor could not be detected and UBUNTU forces me to work to 640x480 resolution. I tried pretty much anything , UBUNTU refuses to work and the boot has slowed down. The only easy solution is to unistall UBUNTU and install it again. I happen to own an imac for about 2 years now. It created me 0 problems . By far the best computer I have worked in my life and I am working with computers for 20 years. Macs are the best money can buy. Apple is an amazing company that drives innovation for a very long time. MACOSX is simply amazing. Ubuntu has alot of catching up to do , but at least it is free so I wont expect it to work as well as a commercial product. But taking into account that it is free it is an amazing product too. "Why apple updates the JDK so slow ??? " . I think you asking the wrong question. The right question is "Why the hell Java is not updating its MACOSX JDK and leaves it to Apple ???? " . Sun has been notorious for extremely slow updates, it happens in Windows and Linux. Lack of JAVA support on MAC is Java fault and not Apple's. At the moment this is the main reason I epxeriment alot with python , if I find out that python works really well in MACOSX then it is a matter of time before I abandon JAVA for Python. I already call JAVA from inside Python using JYTHON. So the jump should be easy for me. SORRY SUN but you really need to fix they way you support your own products.

Why apple updates the JDK so slow????

"As a side note, you can choose which filesystem to use with Linux. You can use ZFS, even in the kernel, in Linux. The only thing you can't do is distribute it. So as a user, you still have complete freedom, but as a distributor you don't." Well, this sounds like somebody gives me the pieces to build a Ferrari, gives me the freedom to build it, but prevents anybody else from building it for me. Whoa, what a freedom if I'm not an expert in mechanics :-)

Yes, it's a GPL problem, but not a Linux community problem. The Linux community didn't choose GPLv2 for the kernel, Linus did, and there not a whole lot the community (or even Linus for that matter) can do to change that. The Linux community is very excited about ZFS, but unfortunately the only entity that can easily make a change to allow ZFS in the Linux kernel today is Sun. Yes, CDDL is an OSI license, and yes there is no difference in spirit between CDDL and GPL, but that's not enough to make it okay. These are both legal licenses, and if either side purposely neglected to enforce the terms of their license in this one case, they could lose the ability to enforce them in all cases. Sun has the ability to sub-license ZFS, Linus doesn't have the ability to sub-license the kernel. Yeah it sucks, and yeah it's not Sun's fault, but Sun is still the only one with the ability to improve this particular situation. If they choose not to I won't blame them, they have no obligation to cater to Linux, but let's not blame the Linux community, or even Linus, for things beyond their control. As a side note, you can choose which filesystem to use with Linux. You can use ZFS, even in the kernel, in Linux. The only thing you can't do is distribute it. So as a user, you still have complete freedom, but as a distributor you don't.

"The Linux kernel can only include GPLv2 code" This is the fanaticism I was referring to, indeed. The problem is not with CDDL (the license of ZFS) since it is OSI approved and can be mixed with other things. It's GPL that can't be mixed with half of the world, and it's a GPL problem. Of course it's a problem of the Linux community if they choose that license. Trying to bring the things down from the religious sphere, the meaning of open licenses and GPL is to prevent the user from being "trapped", right? Well, I don't see how ZFS could trap me: as soon as Sun does a bad move, I could just reformat into EXT3 (ZFS could be implemented as a module and dropped from distros at every moment). BTW, open licenses are also about users' freedom, but I'm a user and I can't enjoy the freedom of choosing the best filesystem for my Linux. Fortunately distributors such as Ubuntu are smarter with "restricted drivers", otherwise I couldn't even decently run X11 on my laptop. This is just as irritating as Steve Jobs's arrogance.

It isn't "fanaticism" that is preventing kernel-space ZFS, it's purely a licensing issue. The Linux kernel can only include GPLv2 code, and ZFS isn't GPLv2. Short of changing the license of one or the other, there isn't much to be done by distributors of either.

winfriedmaus is right, and the quote about the applications focus, not the operating system, is right on the nail. It's the pragmatic approach that I like when I have to evaluate a tool objectively. Add to this the fanaticism of the Linux communities that is preventing us from having such great stuff as ZFS and you get some more problems. In the end, my sad conclusion is that for my needs I cannot rely on a single operating system. That's why I'll keep on using Mac OS X, even if it could be no longer my primary operating system, and why I have some hopes on virtualisation. I could give you my current evaluation about how things are (and thus get hated by 99% of IT guys): Microsoft can't make things work reliably, Apple treats customers as puppets (thanks to the large percentage of fanboys who like to be treated like that) and it's getting too fashion oriented, and the Linux community is too fanatic, so they miss some interesting technology and disperse their energy in countless and useless distributions instead of focusing better on a small set. That's life. But for sure I don't want to be locked to non portable software, for this reason Firefox is better than Safari and Thunderbird is better than Mail: I want to be able to easily switch from an o.s. to another without losing anything. But, right, today there's no substitute for Lightroom or iMovie (maybe blueMarine in future for some functions, if planets align and some other things happen).

> I couldn't disagree more. I've been using Ubuntu as my primary OS for over a year and I can do everything (and more) that I was ever able to do with a Windows machine. Yes, I keep hearing this from Linux users, and it's great for you that the platform works for you. It doesn't for me and I've lost count of how many times I've really tried to switch because I was seduced by the scent of software freedom. But when Linux for once was not incompatible with my current hardware setup, then it was usually the lack of software for --my-- needs that held me back, and I need more than a compiler, an IDE and a web browser in my every day life. I also like FreeBSD much more than Linux (mostly for performance and consistency reasons), but I've had the same show stopping problems there that I've been experiencing with Linux since the 90s. For example, Lightzone is the only software for Linux that could potentially substitute Aperture, but it's MUCH slower than Aperture on the same hardware (which already is a killer argument against it when you process hundreds of pictures at a time) and its library features are nowhere near Aperture's. Then there's nothing like Scrivener (OS X only), Montage (OS X only) or StoryMill for Linux on the market; OpenOffice might one day become a substitute for Microsoft Office, but for creative writing, both of those 'suites' plainly suck. Back in the 90s, Steve Jobs said about OS/2 that 'people don't use operating systems, they use applications'. Bingo! Each system is only as good as the apps that exist for it that can fill your needs. In my experience as a sys admin at the United Nations and other corporations, Linux still is a server OS and only works as a desktop system when a surf board is all that you need and Firefox and Thunderbird are the only applications on your requirements list. The moment you add Adobe Flash player to the list, depending on your distribution, your problems already begin. I am neither a friend of Microsoft's nor of Apple's business attitude, although I really like OS X and Apple's hardware and -never- had any issues with my PowerBooks, iMacs and Mac Pro. But whether we like it or not, both of the two companies have platforms that really work for USERS. And users are a million times more relevant than developers on the large picture. OS X virtualization: Only OS X Leopard Server can be virtualized (on Apple hardware) without violating the EULA, but the server edition costs 500 bucks. Both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion 2 support virtualizing OS X Server.

carcour, I'm not worried about the lack of a dedicated video card, as it is not a critical part of the worfklow for me and I have very positive feedbacks about developing with the MB. In any case, let's see what Apple offers with the next update. For what concerns the drive, one of the good things of the MB non pro is that you can easily replace the hard disk by opening a compartment that doesn't invalidate the warranty. So you can fit a 7200 RPM drive. Unfortunately, I always had the need for more bytes, so my option will be to drop a 5200RPM, 500GB disk. uhilger, yes, VirtualBox is very good. By 'not supported' I think that they refer to legal stuff: I believe that Mac OS X's license forbirds virtualization. This doesn't mean that trying it, it doesn't work.... In a way or another, if you need to support Mac OS X, I think that you should test for it. There are many things that can fail in a desktop application from an o.s. to another. This is the main reason why I'm still buying an Apple gear, even in the case Mac OS X is not my primary operating system.

I do not like the restrictive environment of Mac OS. From a user perspective it might be great because it is easy to use and looks good. But from a developer perspective it is crap. I use an Intel Quad Core workstation and an Intel Dual Core notebook. Recently I installed OpenSolaris 2008.05 64-bit along with VirtualBox on the workstation. If it continues to work well I am thinking about replacing XP on the notebook with OpenSolaris too. I am most delighted with VirtualBox. I use it to run Adobe Lightroom under a virtualized WinXP on OpenSolaris. Works like a charm. VirtualBox would be ideal for testing purposes for Mac OS but the Mac OS is not supported as a guest os on VirtualBox. So I continue to do Java development without testing for Mac and hoping that my Java software runs on Macs too. If not, well, then it does not. See if I care.

"I hope the rumors of aluminum are wrong" Unfortunately, they seem true this time :-( it's another proof of the fact that Apple and I have different feelings. In any case, I'm waiting for the new MacBooks to come out. Should they have some pretty neat advancement in the hardware, I'll try to survive with the aluminum for some years again. In the other case, I hope to enjoy a price drop for the plastic ones (for sure, crowds of Apple fanboys will get anxious for the upgrade).

Congratulations on saying bye to Mac OS/X.. It may be a wonderful operating system, but Apples business practices and customer support are horrendous, especially when it comes to Java. I'm using OpenSuse 11 on a Dell notebook and couldn't be happier.

Hey... I feel your pain. I've been "trying" to get used to OSX for a couple years now. I just can't get used to some of the differences. Primarily, what seems to work in windows and linux often has differences in OSX. Especially as a developer, working in Eclipse or Netbeans... various keyboard shortcuts just aren't the same, and since Mac doesn't come with a natural keyboard, I am stuck using the MS Pro 4000 with Mac, trying to make the various non-apple keys work like an apple keyboard. I just recently wiped my MacBook Pro clean, putting Ubuntu 8.04 on there, and soon 8.10. For the most part, it works. The wifi driver didn't.. and there was a good blog on using an open-source project for that, which worked. I never really used the built-in cam, although there is a blog out there to get that working as well. Overall I am pleased. The nvidia drivers work great. Oh, the other big hurdle was dual monitor support. Got it working, but was a little bit of a chore. If Ubuntu (and other linux variations) can work out these kinks (bluetooth as well), then frankly, it works as a great desktop alternative to OSX. I find the GUI as good as Windows/OSX for just about everything. But.. that said, Macs are way overpriced. You get Windows hardware with OSX. Yes, they look slick, but you can find windows laptops for a lot less that have the same overall hardware, and some even look very good. So, unless you really want OSX, I wouldn't spend the money on the Mac hardware. I just don't care for the OS. I have to agree on the software side to an extent. I am an avid gamer and I also like video and audio programs.. namely as a hobby I enjoy working with midi/audio editing packages, my midi USB keyboard, and pretending I can write music. It's especially fun with the kids, but sadly it seems Linux is severely lacking in this department. It does have some stuff, but the kernel level low latency drivers I have yet to find that will give me instant response (aka, sound from a software synth) when I press notes on my midi keyboard. Audicity is a decent audio editor, and there are a couple others. As for video editing, it seems there are some, but I doubt anything is nearly as good as Premiere or even Pinnacle Studio for editing videos, FX, transitions, etc. Being that a $600 DV cam can now record directly to SD cards, it's incredibly easy to work on HD video, and I don't think the tools are there for Linux. I particularly like playing games, but mostly I use my 360 or soon, PS3 for that. However, there are some games on PC (Windows/OSX) that are just not going to show up on consoles and frankly, some games are better with mouse/keyboard anyway. I have found that I can use the latest WINE with some old favorites like Warcraft 3, even World of Warcraft (although I gave that up due to too much addiction to it). But, the latest and greatest video/FX heavy games and DirectSound 3D and stuff just aren't there or even close. Games seem to be a few years behind even with ports. But honestly I could live without this feature. We always have at least one windows box in the house somewhere. If the music/video software was comparable, I'd probably be on Linux pretty much all the time with Windows only being for some games. Here's to hoping! I remember there was a "push" for Linux on the desktop for years. Now that it's a viable solution for most daily things like email, word processing, internet, even some basic gaming and video editing, watching movies, etc.. it seem's the "hardcore" stuff hasn't really been pushed. Low level drivers, better audio/video card support, better wifi/bluetooth... it seems lackluster for the most part and when it's there, usually requires quite a bit of hacking to get it working.. something most people wouldn't think of doing.

I may like Macs, but I really dislike Apple's pro laptops, and I think your decision to eventually move to the consumer MacBook is a good one. I've found the metal-encased laptops to have hideous wifi reception. I hope the rumors of aluminum are wrong; if not, grab last-generation plastic while you can.

Ciao Fabrizio, if it works with ext2 you should have no problem with ext3 partitions; the only drawback is that this way it behaves like an ext2 partition so you don't have any journaling: in the case something goes really wrong you may loose data (but I bet that everything important is also on a cvs/svn right?). I made some research and actually mac os support seems not so good (particularly on leopard); if you manage to get it working and reliable I will be grateful if you share your experience on our loved mac os italian forum :-) Bye, Riccardo

Ciao Riccardo. I didn't know that there was an option for EXT3 on Windows (BTW, it's EXT2 but I've read that it has a smart approach about this limitation, so it should not be a problem). I will give it a try, but I really don't know about Mac OS X support. Thanks.

"Prove it." Ok, maybe I should have said "many". However, every company I've worked at for the last 8 years was using sql server in the data center--small medical device startup, mid size insurance company, fortune 500 tech company. From my perspective, it seems that alot of companies are using SQL Server (not that I agree with that decision).

"""we (like most) companies have standardized on in our data center.""" Prove it... I keep hearing that from microsofties, but I never see any evidence, while I see a lot of evidence to the contrary. SQL Server is still mainly a departmental server, and does not have a lot of presence in the data center of most large companies. Oracle still dominates, and DB2 has quite a significant market share.

Hello, Oddly enough my experience seems to be the complete opposite. My Mac is great for development, but so is the current Linux desktop I use at work. The build quality of Mac's seems to be hit or miss, my experiences are great and I get about 3-4 years of useful work out of my laptops. If only Apple would stop delaying Java on Apple and stop creating artificial barriers (like only releasing a 64 bit version of 1.6) and I would be a happy camper As for handling email, I just use webmail which has the tendency to work predictably on every platform.

Hello Fabrizio. I'm a recent Apple customer too, though I bought an iMac and find its hardware simply stunning, I'm completely satisfied about it; I can't tell the same about the software because I replaced many built-in applications with open source counterparts too. As for the shared partition, did you ever consider ext3? I know it works well with windows (with the appropriate fs driver of course - but I never tried it under Mac Os; I used it when I had to share an Eclipse workspace between linux and windows, because I thought it was the best way to do it - I didn't trust ntfs3g and fat simply didn't work because of the problem with the files and directory whose name is completely in capital letters. As for the "viable desktop platform" I'm probably one of those which in the future may replace its leopard with Ubuntu, given the latter is the one I use at work :-)

chudak, it largely depends on what you have to do. I agree that Linux is fine for most of the things I need. But, as I said, as soon as you need some multimedia workflow, things change. For instance, at the latest J1 I had to prepare a short video out of a screencast and to add a soundtrack. I had never done that and I had a little time before my presentation. With iMovie it was really really easy, just the matter of a couple of drag and drops. I'm not aware of anything under Linux that is so easy to use.

"The only viable desktop platforms for every day use are Windows and Mac OS X." I couldn't disagree more. I've been using Ubuntu as my primary OS for over a year and I can do everything (and more) that I was ever able to do with a Windows machine. I do run a Windows XP VM but that is ONLY to have a local sql server instance running since that is what we (like most) companies have standardized on in our data center. Ironically, all of our application servers are Redhat. I won't ever be going back to windows for my main operating system...

I've been trying to go multi-platform for years, but the reality is that it's just a nice dream that does not work out in reality. The only viable desktop platforms for every day use are Windows and Mac OS X. Linux does not have the software that I need and also does not have acceptable substitutes for -any- of them. In my opinion and for my needs, nothing beats Aperture; it is beautifully compatible with -me- and thus -the- killer application for OS X for me. I've tried to use Thunderbird to share Mails between OS X and Windows as well, and failed exactly as you described it. I don't know why the mail databases are incompatible between platforms, but that obviously is how they designed it. Lucky me, I never had unsolvable issues with Mail, but it -did- crash on me too in the past. My girl friend is quite happy with Entourage. If you're becoming more interested in virtualization, try Ritlabs The Bat! on a USB stick. It's Windows only, but IMHO still the very best Email program on the planet. From what I've heard, it's written in Delphi, so unfortunately there's only little chance for a port to another platform. I use MacDrive on Vista to access my OS X partitions, and it works very well. Read-only access to Vista from OS X is enough for me. I don't use Windows much these days, and only my web server runs Linux. If I had to share files between all platforms, I'd probably use an OS X partition for that: Linux can read and write it out of the box and for Windows there is MacDrive, as mentioned above.

But just saying it's less free isn't going to change any of the legal basis of either CDDL or GPL. It's not that people won't want ZFS in the kernel, and it's not that people don't think CDDL is as open as the GPL, they're just incompatible legally. All I'm saying is, don't blame people for things they don't have the power to change. You can blame the GPL for keeping ZFS out of Linux, but don't blame the community who didn't choose it, or Linus who can't change it.

I partially accept the point, so I could rephrase and blame Linus or choosing GPL (somebody has ever chosen it, I suspect); "partially" because most of discussions I did on this topic (and similar ones) on Linux forums turned out with people neither informed nor open minded like you, that instead jumped on asserting "it's Sun's fault", everything that is not GPL is poo-poo, and similar things. Of course, after a while I understood that they didn't have the minimal knowledge of what licensing is and what GPL is about, Mostly they are not developers, but users, nevertheless they are part of the community as well. Sometimes they are developers, so there are no excuses. Obviously this is not a Linux thing: similar attitudes, with different topics, are easily found in Mac OS X forums (I suspect even in Windows forums, but I don't attend any of them). PS Of course, you're right, Sun is the only entity that can change things, and I hope Sun will consider something like dual-licensing ZFS, so the problem will be over.

Fabrizio don't you think the performance will be low with the integrated video card and the slow hard drive? I've never had any Mac but I'm always reluctant to buy a machine without a dedicated video card. What do you guys think is the MacBook viable for Java Dev especially that it has a 5400 RPM drive?