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May 04, 2005

Comments

Robert "kebernet" Cooper

Dan: It was almost as fair to say that Mac 95 equalled Mac 89. Although the Mac hardware had advanced (as hardware does independently of software in any event), the company had not exactly maintained its innovative pace of software progress.

I think that is a bit unfair. Apple really was trying, but they had several abortive efforts for their "Next Generation" OS before OSX. The Taligent project with IBM failed to deliver a revolutionary PPC OS across both vendors. The Rhapsody project made it as far as a developer demo or two, but never really got there. Really the thing that got them there was the absorbtion of NeXT. Which brings me to...

Jeff Harrel: And I'm sorry, Simon, but although Mac OS X evolved from Unix, it's got about as much in common with Unix as Windows XP has with VMS. I would sooner chew off my arm than go back to the Bad Old Days of Unix, and that's coming from a former SGI consultant who used an IRIX workstation every day for five years between 1997 and 2002.

As someone who cut his teeth in college on a NeXT machine in 1992-96 and has been in the UNIX world ever since, I can tell you that Mac OSX is so close to NeXTStep is isn't even funny. Hell, most of the Cocoa API never even bothered renaming the NS_* classes. The NetInfo service is upgraded, but still functionally the same as NeXT's.

If by "Not like Unix" you mean "Not based on X11", that is fair, but about as far as you can go. It is certainly very similar to NeXTStep and AIX in terms of operation and configuration. Really the display layer is about the only thing that is really a sea change from any of the other *NIXes. However, a comparison of WindowsXP to VMS is like saying "They both use SMB, so they are the same". In either comparison you are only comparing one service level between two operating systems. OSX is still a BSD in pretty much every way. Yeah, it has some nice user tools, it has a nice distributed configuration manager and it hides a lot of things from the user and in the .app directory structure, but that is about it.

MacSmiley

"They may never reach the level of convenience, simplicity and reliability of an electric toaster, but so long as computers are designed by EEs for maintenance by techies, we'll continue to have a gap between potential and actual value added."

I won't argue with this point, but it's evident you guys haven't bought a toaster in the recent past. The one I bought 6 months ago won't let you pop up the toast with the handle/lever thingee anymore. You've got to push an electronic CANCEL button !!

This does not bode well for computers, toasters, or for the simplicity camp in general.

Robert "kebernet" Cooper

1. What's the Linux equivalent of iCal? It has to support calendar sharing via the Internet, and integrate with an address book utility.

3. Where's the system-wide address book utility? It has to support vCard input and LDAP servers, and it has to work seamlessly with my mail, chat and calendar programs.

And if you want to compare applications, I would point out that there are all kinds of shared address books across Linux. Kontact and the KDE suite, Evolution, GAIM, Beagle, etc all share a common address book, that supported iCal/CalDAV years before Apple.

Simon Pole

Thanks for the response Jeff. You are right about the difficulty of comparisons. Everyone's in their own little silo. In regards to GIMP. You're right. I don't know what Photoshop does. But I think its accurate to say GIMP is good enough for home users. There are those who straddle the border between amateur and professional (common enough these days). That may be a different issue.

I'll give Linux replacements for your list (thanks again for providing it).

1. iCal -- I believe this functionality is now provided by Oracle Calendar for Linux.

2. iChat -- GnomeMeeting

3. System-wide address book -- Evolution

3a. Bluetooth sync -- present in Linux. Requires configuring.

4. Newsreaders -- Akregator -- the KDE newsreader.

5. Blog client -- Blogtk

6. iTunes -- PyMusique

7. Photo organizing -- digiKam

8. Photoshop -- the GIMP

9. inDesign -- Scribus

10. inCopy -- this is almost a part of inDesign, so I'm not really sure if its should be a separate app. Content can be prepared for Scribus with Open Office, Abiword (or from the console with Emacs/Latex)

11. Video Edit - Cinelerra or Kino, otherwise its highend studio-type stuff. (You're right , Linux needs better video editing for home consumers).

12. iDVD - dvdstyler

13. movie encoder -- MPlayer

Thanks again for giving me the chance to respond. I think the only place you can say Linux legitimately falls down in regards to home-use apps is possibly in video editing. Even then, the app exists, it just might not be that easy to use.

Robert "kebernet" Cooper

3a. Bluetooth sync -- present in Linux. Requires configuring.

Well, (a) Use Fedora and you don't have to configure your OS :P, (b) Personally in addition to using MultiSync I also keep a Sync4J SyncML server up. I can actually remote sync my phone to the office LDAP or my home machines over GPRS without ever even needing the Bluetooth.

6. iTunes -- PyMusique
I much preferr JuK myself.

Wangden Kelsang

To the people who ask what, beyond basic applications, is missing on Linux, I say Professional Graphics and Design applications.

As someone else pointed out, GIMP can't compete with Photoshop for professional work outside the web. And then there are InDesign, Quark Xpress, Illustrator, and Acrobat Pro. Other than Xpress, I rely on all of them for my graphic design work, and there just aren't good enough equivalents on Linux yet.

Keep in mind that this is professional graphics work, not home use. What home user is going to spend $1000 - $1500 on graphics software anyway?

mac


"Microsoft works hardest when it is lagging the competition."

That's because they need to see where to go next. We all know they need to follow the true innovator...

Jeff Harrell

Frankly, Simon, your laundry-list only served to confirm my theory that you're coming at this from a position of profound ignorance. There is nothing wrong with that; ignorance is a natural state of being. But it is a handicap.

Oracle Calendar is a server-based enterprise system that requires vast amounts of time and labor to configure, and oh by the way, it happens to require Oracle, for crying out loud. The only thing it has in common with iCal is that both programs — if you can call a massive client-server solution like Oracle Calendar a "program" — deal with calendars. Beyond that, the two aren't even in the same galaxy.

Here's how I use my Mac for day-to-day contact management (a very important part of my job):

An e-mail from a contact comes in. Maybe it has a business card attached; most of the time it doesn't. I use the "Add sender to address book" command. The sender becomes a card in my address book. As I get more information, I add it to the card. Phone numbers get automatically synced to my phone. Chat addresses automatically show up in iChat. All incoming messages are automatically associated with that card, of course, but so are all file attachments and calendar events. I can find them later with Spotlight by choosing the "Spotlight" action menu item from the Address Book card. My e-mails, chat transcripts, files and calendar events are all relationally linked to my Address Book, with absolutely no configuration or set-up on my part whatsoever.

That's, like, thing one in modern desktop computing. To suggest that the Linux equivalent is a mish-mash of amateurish programs that don't work together tied to a massive enterprise database that costs five figures and takes a certified genius to set up and maintain is … well, I don't mean to be rude, but it's downright laughable.

This is why people who understand both Linux and the Mac see a vast, almost unimaginable difference between them. When somebody comes along and says, "Gee, Linux is just like the Mac now," all it really proves is that the speaker, though well-meaning, lacks some pretty important pieces of the puzzle.

Simon Pole

Okay, remove Oracle calender, put in Evolution. You're the man.

I see your "vast, unimaginable difference" -- and I quake.

Ran Talbott

"You concede Linux is better in the basics (i.e. desktop apps)."

No, what I said is that Linux is a better _system_ than Windoze for people who only need the "core" basic applications like net access and simple document creation. That doesn't necessarily mean that the apps, themselves are better. Some are (e,g,, the Exploder vs almost any browser more sophisticated than lynx), some aren't (e.g., openoffice, which, while far more than merely "sufficient" for the home user, will probably never have the polish and speed of the MS products).

"What else is there?"

Surely you jest. You need to get out less, and spend some time surfing the web to see some of the weird and wonderful things people are doing with their PCs. Everything from geneology to knitting patterns to music composition to astronomical imaging. Sometimes the Linux apps available for those interests are better, sometimes not as good, and sometimes nonexistent. Just as in the days of real OS/2-vs-Windoze competition, users interested in the non-MS choice need to do their homework, to make sure that the hardware or applications they want are supported.

"Point out one area where Linux is not comprable to a proprietary app."

That's easy: "consumer-grade" navigation and mapping. While apps like Roadmap and GPSDrive are remarkable achievements, I'm sure their authors would be among the first to admit that they'd get hammered in head-to-head competition with the Windoze apps in which publishers have invested 10-100 times the effort. There just plain isn't any Linux app that can do either the automated trip routing or turn-by-turn directions available for Windoze. And the apps I've tried so far (with one rather lame exception) won't even install under WINE, much less run.

The same is true of topo maps. Despite the fact that the USGS has elimintated the "proprietary data" problem for Americans by making it freely available. If you want topographic displays on your Linux PC, you have to climb the learning curve of the not-very-user-friendly researcher-oriented GIS tools.

I'm sure you'll find others whose personal interests just aren't supported in the Linux world. As with shopping for the latest USB gadgets, the Windoze user has the luxury of being able to _assume_ that the required software is out there.

Simon Pole

Ran, you make a good point. Linux will only have arrived on the desktop when those types of programs you mention begin to be ported. (As Linux only has about 7% of the desktop, last time I looked, this day is probably a long way off). They will only be ported when Linux is as easy to use as Windows. (Though, I'm willing to bet you could probably find an open source equivalent for each of them in varying states of development).

I suppose this was actually the point of the mention of Linux in the column -- that it is the home, niche software that is not yet viable on Linux. I hadn't actually thought of that, which is probably a geekocentric way of thinking. Food for thought...

Jeff Harrell

Man, I would LOVE to know where you get those "seven percent" figures. Whenever somebody quotes a figure like that, they usually follow it up with something fuzzy like, "Well, since Linux isn't actually SOLD there's no way to track unit shipments, so we have to totally pull a number out of our ear. I know a bunch of guys who use it, so let's say seven percent."

If Linux has more than two percent of the market for general-purpose computers — not servers; companies like Google that deploy vast numbers of disposable Linux computers throw that number completely out of whack — I'll eat my hat.

(Regarding your second-to-last comment, Simon, you are admittedly coming at this discussion from a position of near-perfect naïveté. I would suggest that you tone down the arrogance a bit when dealing with matters of which you are almost entirely ignorant. Important note: There's nothing wrong with ignorance. But there's a problem with the refusal to acknowledge it.)

A fellow Mac user

Said Jeff:

"I would suggest that you tone down the arrogance a bit when dealing with matters of which you are almost entirely ignorant."

You would truly do well to follow your own advice, my friend.

Dan Birchall

Simon was quick to point out that the GIMP is comparable to Photoshop. I'd certainly agree, as someone who stopped using Photoshop around version 4 in favor of GIMP, and didn't get Photoshop again until CS.

But mentioning CS brings up another point: if GIMP is the Photoshop-alike, where are the comparable apps for Illustrator, InDesign, and GoLive? I've seen a couple open-source projects start that intended to compete with Illustrator. I'm not familiar with any open-source page-layout and publishing applications (perhaps a GUI front end to LaTeX?) or click-n-drool open-source web design applications.

I'm an old-school "we didn't HAVE tools back in 1994, sonny!" type, and use "vi" in my PowerBook's Terminal to do my HTML coding, but I don't see someone less geeky being able to get a friendly integrated set of GUI apps for creative design and print/web publishing like the Adobe Creative Suite, on Linux.

Simon Pole

Dan, checkout out Scribus. It goes along way in that regard.

Nollind Whachell

Sometimes too many options can be just as confusing and frustrating as too little options. Technology as a whole needs to start evolving to the state that it disappears and gets out of the way of the person using it. Until that happens, people will still be complaining about technology because it is still in front of their face. When design evolves the use of technology to the point that you forget your are using it, then in effect it has disappeared.

Comparing this to operating systems, I would rate Linux lowest, Windows the middle of the road and OS X the highest (although still not perfect). Linux I find still too much in your face but this could easily be changed with a good designer or group of designers (with FireFox being a great example of this approach). Windows while easier to use, still doesn't get out of your way enough. And finally OS X which has to be the best attempt so far. I'm primarily a Windows user but when I got to try OS X last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and ease of use of it because it just got out of my way and let me focus on my work. It sounds like an easy thing to do but simplicity is often times quite a difficult thing to achieve.

Steve

Just a few comments...

1) I've heard a few references to installing Linux being easier than installing Mac OS (specifically Tiger). While I've tinkered with a few Linux distrobutions in the past, I don't claim to be an expert on all of them. Could someone please explain how installing any OS actually, is easier than installing Tiger? Personally, having installed various Windows, Linux and Mac OS's, I don't understand the basis of this comment.

2) While there are a few rough approximations for Linux apps to Windows/Mac apps, in most cases, they are very weak. OpenOffice is making good strides in terms of file formats, etc. but it's not quite a replacement for MS Office. The Gimp, while an interesting graphics tool is not even remotely the same as Photoshop. Someone said that for home users, it's good enough (or something to that effect). Well, most home users, aren't spending $600 for an app like this. They'll likely stick with something like PS elemements, etc. Even there, the GIMP has basic filters and can possibly satisify some web based usage, but is completely unsuitable for print or really anything professional for that matter.

That said, Linux is a fine OS. If compared to the Mac, it's fine compared to the Mac OS at the Darwin level (and below). However, modern OS's have layers and services above that level and this is where Linux is currently weak. Further, choice is good, but the Linux community really needs to standardize on one desktop GUI and move forward with that one GUI. Developers need this sort of standardization.

Steve

cooper

Photoshop-alike, where are the comparable apps for Illustrator, InDesign, and GoLive

Those would be Inkscape (or Karbon14), Scribus and QuantaPlus respectively.

cooper

Man, I would LOVE to know where you get those "seven percent" figures. Whenever somebody quotes a figure like that, they usually follow it up with something fuzzy like, "Well, since Linux isn't actually SOLD there's no way to track unit shipments, so we have to totally pull a number out of our ear. I know a bunch of guys who use it, so let's say seven percent."

Those are figures from the OEMs! I know people don't realize it, but the number of computers sold at best buy is insignifigant. Sun, Intel and a number of large tech companies, not to mention more and more government offices around the world are moving to Linux desktops. It doesn't take many companies of that scale to change to move a percentage point or to. And as much as I love Mac OSX, Boeing isn't going to be moving to Mac anytime soon.

Stan Krute

There are two things that would greatly
benefit Real Users:

[1] Ability to easily automate anything a user
does in an OS

[2] Ability to easily synchronize information between different computers.

It was nice to see that the latest Mac OS pays some attention to [1].

Perhaps the MS acquisition of Groove will lead them to do some work on [2].

Unfortunately for MS, Jim Allchin has a bad track record as an OS visionary.

-- stan

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