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Switcher Stories Follow Up
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Bill Gerrard tells why he switched from Linux. In addition to the hassle factor of too much tinkering, he cites the attitude of some Linux advocates as a turnoff:

I switched last month. Unix was my first OS, back in the early 80s, maybe even earlier. I was just starting my career with the feds, from whom I am now happily retired. When I started buying my own hardware, I followed the usual DOS/Windows route (although I was a heavy MKS Toolkit user) until the mid-90s, when I moved to Linux, primarily because it is Unix, not for theological reasons. There was also a B&W Mac Classic in there for a bit, too.

Why did I switch? Well . . .

  1. OS X looks much better. That's important. KDE and GNOME are making progress, but why should I wait? Many in the Linux community seem to dwell deep inside their server farms, and apparently begrudge the time and effort spent on improving what actually shows up on the user's screen. Developers can put the most amazing kind of functionality in an OS or an application, but if its visual appearance is amateurish, that's a turnoff. I grew tired of the indifference and hostility exhibited in segments of the Linux community about design and interface issues. Besides, I spent way too much time as a Linux user tweaking X and friends just to stop the eye-ache.

  2. Too much tweaking/too much temptation to tweak with Linux. I know how to edit config files; I know how to compile source files, etc. I also know how to cook, but I'd rather go to a nice restaurant.

  3. My printer works. Echoing the other "Stuff just works" comments, it is very nice not to jump through hoops trying to get a piece of hardware to work, and then only "work" in a compromised fashion.

  4. The Linux community became too obnoxious. There's a bit of hyperbole in that, but I just got fed up with the adolescent and uncivil attitudes exhibited by so many in that community. (See Slashdot on any given day.) Reminds me of the nasty old OS/2 crowd.

O'Reilly software engineer Tim Allwine writes about how sweet the switch is.

Some of you know that I've made the switch from an IBM running RedHat Linux 6.2 to a PowerBook G4. I am liking it more and more. Right now, I've got a tunnel forwarding port 25 and 110 to [one server]. In another terminal, I have an SSH connection to [another server] working on code for the single sign-on project. iTunes is running, playing music from my hard disk as well as copying songs off a different CD that's in the drive, all at the same time. Oh yes, Netscape, mail, and the calendar program are running. All this is over my wireless network at home. And when I stick the CD in the drive, I fetch the title/artist/album, etc. from CDDB. After years of fighting with Linux, this is sweet.

Randy Rush is a dual switcher--or should I say a triple switcher, from Windows 98, NT, and Linux. He repeats many of the arguments for Mac OS X that we've previously seen.

I am sure that your article has elicited a better statistical sampling.

I am a first-time Mac owner. I switched at home from a Windows 98 box and a dual boot Windows NT 4.0 and Debian Linux box. I needed a new laptop for school and decided that, with the power of Darwin and the Unix tools available, Mac OS X was the only way to go. I am still forced to use Windows 2K at work.

I consider myself an above average computer user (some formal education in programming in C and Perl, and the Unix operating system), but I am in no way a developer or guru. I dabbled in Linux and spent more hours frustrated than in pleasure while using it for my home OS.

With a sleek, sexy interface, incredibly cool case (I love the glowing apple on my iBook) and the power and stability of Unix, what choice did I really have?

David Meyer is only as geeky as he wants to be.

My first "real" computer was an Amiga. Eventually Commodore sank and orphaned me. I was contracting at a Mac shop at the time, running their Unix-based email system, and was able to buy a Quadra at a good price. I've since learned way too much about Windows and am happy luck ran my way that year. (The Quadra is still running, but not for me.) Before OS X I had a Mac on one side of my desk and an ex-Windows Linux box called Labrat on the other side. One I used all the time for my own interests, the other I used to expand my technical skills. Not long after OS X visited my desktop, Labrat went away--never to be missed. It was just too hard! Mac, with OS X, is everything my Amiga was--except better.

I've managed to woo my mal-adept wife to a G4 iMac with little fuss. Her Windows machine stands ready for a call that never seems to come. Her Mac-hating Web developer came over a while back to do some work and tried to use the iMac. She was about to throw up her hands, her lunch, and my wife's iMac when I asked:

"What do you want?"
"A terminal window. PLEASE."
"That little icon up there?"
"Right! Oh, yes! Go away, now. Yum!"

She is not yet a convert, but she no longer hates the Mac (or any GUI) interface. Maybe not all things for all people, but something good for most people.

The people you found who were *nix folk prior to switching might have more to do with who you asked than anything else. If most of those you asked were already *nix users, you can expect the responders to follow that pattern. OS X is really the first *nix that works well as a desktop system. I can be as geeky as I need to be with it, but don't have to be geeky at all if I don't want to be. Just like an Amiga. But even better.

Dan Barthel explains why he's about to become an ex-switcher: digital photography. He feels that Apple's support for some of his software and equipment isn't as good as it is on the PC.

I have two Win2K systems at home and a shiny new iMac. I bought the iMac for several reasons:

  1. I wanted a Unix box to fool around with, but mainly,
  2. I've moved heavily into digital photography, and I thought the Mac would be a better bet than Win2K.

I've had lots of experience with the prior Mac operating systems (mainly 6 and 7) as president and CTO of The Font Company, and knew from the outset that I want nothing to do with the old systems. OS X was clearly the attraction for me.

I was right on point 1: the Mac is now a wonderful Unix box. But I find the Mac is useless by itself for digital photography. None of my vendors support OS X at this point, and I'm talking serious equipment (Canon D60, and Minolta Dimage Scan Elite image capture, and Epson 2200 printer with all options). If it's supported at all on the Mac, my stuff either requires a complete restart under OS 9, or a crippled app running under OS 9. In the case of third party image-capture programs for the D60, they aren't even available.

So, instead of killing Windows at home, I'm sadly thinking about selling my Mac and buying a big Dull box, simply because it does my job. Never would I have imagined that this would be the situation. It was also disappointing to find out that Adobe has no cross platform licensing options for the one user, multiple box situation, thus really running up the $$ for software. Which reminds me, it's also not nice to have to pay $129 for Jaguar after owning the iMac for less than 6 months.

Feel free to pass this on to Jobs. It's my guess that anyone doing serious photography is at least a dual platform user, or if not, only a Windows user. Shame on Canon and Minolta, and for that matter Adobe, for taking so long to support OS X. Apple has serious problems with the pro digital photography market. Unlike their seamless support for DV, photography is a mess.

My response, which I passed on to Dan:

I don't have a direct line to Jobs. But I did pass on your comments to the developer support group at Apple, and got back some comments, which I'll summarize below. This is not an official Apple response, just my digest of what I understood from the discussion:

  • Both the Canon D60 and the EPSON 2200 are supported on Jaguar. The Canon D60 support is built in to Image Capture (and iPhoto, for that matter). The Canon RAW file format is supported indirectly (Photoshop plug-in required, or Jcrw from The EPSON 2200 driver is included with the default install of Jaguar and is available as a download from EPSON.

  • The Minolta scanner mentioned has been discontinued, and it's not clear if the Photoshop plug-in for the new version (Elite II) will drive the older model. Dan ought to contact Minolta to ask about their support.

  • Professional photographers will find quite a bit of support on Mac OS X, both through the software that ships with the OS and through third-party applications. And the support gets better every day.

  • Apple needs to promote what is already in Jaguar, and to continue to improve the built-in support for imaging devices.

I hope this helps. Your comments do point out something really important: a platform is an ecosystem. Apple can't do it all. It needs support from its vendors. And that takes time, especially when people had written Apple off for so long. So do be sure to tell your vendors that OS X support is important to you! Hang in there, and things will get better and better.

Dan Barthel replied:

Yes the D60 is supported by Jaguar, but not by any of the RAW capture programs. I save all my photographs in Canon RAW format and post process using either Canon's utility or Breeze Browser on the PC. The reasons are: 1) You get the full 12 bit data from the camera, which means that contrast and color balancing is much better with Photoshop; 2) You can adjust the sharpening, saturation, and white balance when post processing. None of this is available under OS X.

I have the latest Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II scanner with both USB and FireWire interfaces. No word from Minolta about when they will support this really nice device.

I also have Colorvision's USB Spyder to calibrate monitors. Again no OS X support.

The Epson 2200 print driver is there but is feature-challenged compared to either OS 9 or the PC, regarding changing inks and papers.

Every heavy hitter I know doing digital photography is a mixed mode shop. This speaks volumes for my frustration. Most of the guys do data capture and raw conversion on a PC, and artistic correction on the Mac. Along with the compatibility issues mentioned above, there is also the nasty problem of raw CPU power. It takes 63 seconds to convert a D60 raw image to 16-bit TIFF on a 900MHz PIII, so all those Intel and AMD cycles look very attractive.

I completely agree with you that a platform is an ecosystem, and that Apple's partners are not climbing on fast enough. The digital photography people need to look hard at the wonderful world of DV support to see what is possible.

In the meantime, the Gateway flatscreen iMac-alike looks very interesting. Ugly, but functional with a 2.5GHz cpu, 6 USB ports, and 2 FireWire ports. Comparison price is about the same as a 17" iMac with a gig of memory and a 120GB hard disk. I'm taking my calibrator up to the store to see how good the LCD screen really is before I decide. I'm also curious to see what happens to 63-second file conversion times.

On an associated topic, since I don't have Jaguar, I don't know how printing support has improved, but ideally the Mac should see and use all of the Windows-networked printers out there and vice versa, not just postscript printers. This certainly was not the case with 10.1 even with Dave, and is another problem for mixed sites.

It also would be nice to plug a PC FireWire drive into the Mac and have it understand Fat-32 and NTFS, but now I'm being greedy. ;-)

What's sad is I really would prefer the Mac to work up to its potential. So please don't stop working, Apple. I really am on your side.

Dan, I hope you hang in there. I'm sure that the support will continue to get better. I know lots of professional photographers, including Derrick Story (author of our upcoming Digital Photography Pocket Guide), who are very happy with Mac OS X, and I'm sure that as the platform matures, the support you're looking for will be there.

Austin Sloat says Canon has an OS X version of its Canon Utilities:

Canon has available an OS X native version of its Canon Utilities. You have to call them and order a CD for $19. I bought it for PhotoStitch, but Image Browser, Remote Capture, and RAW Image Converter are all supported. The interfaces are not completely "Aqua-fied," but as far as I can tell they work fine. I use a PowerShot S30, which I realize is not a D60, but everything on Canon's site indicates that the software is the same. Dan should give it a shot and see if Canon's OS X RAW converter works for him. I have not played with it as my needs are strictly amateur and I have no real need for the RAW format.

Michael Lamoureux writes that what's missing is "focus follows mouse" and hiding windows with one keystroke.

I just have one issue with Mac OS X.

(Disclaimer: I have yet to upgrade to OS X, but plan to finally give it a go in the next day or two. This comment is based on information provided to me by friends who have switched already--all Unix geeks.)

The one missing feature that I believe is most critical to me being happy using Mac OS X on the desktop has everything to do with focus. I always use "focus follows mouse." I hate click to type. I didn't care on the 128K Mac I used back in 1985. When you are only running one app at a time and you have a 9" screen, who cares? But every time I use a "modern" desktop OS, I miss it. I don't want to have to click on the window, I don't want it to raise automagically, and an even bigger issue is the lack of a keystroke to send a window to the back. I hate having to "windowshade" most of the windows under Mac OS 9 just so I can find the window I'm looking for.

My understanding is that you still can't get this under Mac OS X even with Fink or XDarwin. IMHO, I should at least be able to select this behaviour with an option. Tell me they are all wrong and there is some hidden option for this.

I've been using Macs since the 128K Mac. All of the home computers that I have purchased (five) have been Macs. I have used a Sun as my primary desktop at work since 1988 (except one bad month when my office flooded and I was forced to use an HPUX box as a desktop). I've used Sun Windows, Sun View, then switched to X, wherein I've used OLWM, OLVWM, Motif (briefly!), fvwm, CDE (gag!), Enlightenment, SawMill, and sawfish. I don't use KDE or GNOME. I have never had a Windows box on my desk. I really like the Mac interface, but sometimes wish I knew how Mac power users get by without features I take for granted under Unix.

Jacques Brierre wants to know where ktrace went. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for him.

Interesting article (though the "alpha geek" choice leaves me a bit confused).

I've been in the development and operations business for about 20 years. The first Mac I used was the 128K (pre-Plus). Professionally, I work on Suns, Linux servers, anything that networks.

I've taken my Mac and plugged it in at work (no problem there with OS 7, 8, etc.), yet I keep hearing the old stories about how difficult it is to integrate Macs. Mind you, all I had to do was plug in and set DHCP or a fixed address.

Tried NeXT and went to camp. . . . More OS releases than my wallet could handle and my gorgeous 2-headed NeXT Dimension Cube was sold. I've since been looking for a desktop Linux that would first be stable, not have a mind of its own, and not impede me. My Macs have run MkLinux, Suse, LinuxPPC 2000, and I forget what else, while my Dell laptop gave me a consistent Win2K. I really kept going back and forth between Linux and Win2K. Then I decided to try OS X, installed 10.1.1 (not a bad start) and ordered 10.1.4.

The Dell started gathering dust. OS X--finally a nice tool set, standard Unix facilities--but why on earth is ktrace not part of the standard compile? While I'm on this, and this my favorite S. Jobs question, You still don't have the "Point to Select" option (a sore point with the NeXT's UI). Somehow, Apple has decided that you are to click on a window to select it, not merely pass your mouse over it, whereas Solaris, X, etc. do give you the choice.

Well, Windows is no longer necessary. The laptop got so lonely it broke. When I repair it, though, I will not install Windows. I'd have to buy it, and I've already bought OS X. But I have Solaris X86 and that's what I will run on this laptop. Can't wait.

For the "alpha geek" reference, see my article Inventing the Future.

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