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Brad Fitzpatrick

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OS X and switching, for awhile? [Apr. 17th, 2005|10:32 am]
Brad Fitzpatrick
I'd really like to switch on my desktop (at least for awhile) but some Apple stuff really annoys me yet.

-- Window management: This is essential: I need to be able to Alt-drag a window to move it, by clicking anywhere in the window. And need to be able to resize a window by Alt-middle dragging a quadrant. I've been doing this since '98 and I'm not going to lose that muscle memory any time soon. Is there some OS X utility to let me do that? I have to imagine there is. If not, that's the first thing I'd have to write.

-- their speed. Can you get a fast machine that's also pretty quiet? The G5s towers aren't that quiet. Especially the disk grinding. Can I do iSCSI over gigabit on root? I know how with Linux, but I don't know OS X or OpenFirmware. I don't know how I'd netboot an "initrd"-like thing to get iSCSI up and running. So I'm not going to go down that route and I'll use a local disk for awhile at least. I hear the Mac Minis are quiet, but I'm concerned about speed. Then again, I'm using a P3 800 on my desktop right now, so I'm accustomed to slow. I'm just concerned that a slow G4 + fruity graphics would be slower than what I'm using now, which is already a little too slow for my tastes.

-- "Optimizing Volume". I know what it's doing technically and I still don't care. Just annoying.

-- Need to use my keyboard and mouse. But that should be no problem. This is an old serial keyboard with a PS2 adapter on it, with a USB adapter atop that, and it works in my old PowerBook.

-- App (well, window) switcher in top-right. OS 9 used to have that, and GNOME has it nowadays, and I love it. Why'd it go away in OS X? I've seen a utility to add that back, though.

-- The OS X shareware culture. Which makes sense, since people already threw a couple grand down for their computers, they're probably willing to buy some $25 bonus apps. But I'm used to Libre, so the shareware thing might irk me too much. We'll see.

Overall I really respect OS X and Apple and I want to like it and use it.

[User Picture]From: ceejayoz
2005-04-17 06:18 pm (UTC)
re: speed - I just switched from P3 1ghz to a Mini 1.47ghz, and the difference is stunning. Everything runs a lot faster, even with all the graphical craziness that is OSX.

So, if you're using a P3 800 right now, any of the currently-selling Macs will be an improvement.
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[User Picture]From: caladri
2005-04-17 06:33 pm (UTC)

just give in to gestures

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[User Picture]From: brad
2005-04-17 06:36 pm (UTC)

Re: just give in to gestures

I have one.

Still want alt-drag. Can't give it up.
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From: joeuser
2005-04-17 06:36 pm (UTC)
You probably know most of this...but just in case...

I don't know about the window management issue.

Tiger (due April 29) supports remote home directories and netboot is available now if you have OS X server:


A friend who is beta-testing Tiger says the optimizing dialog is greatly accelerated in 10.4

There is always Fink (http://fink.sourceforge.net/) under x11 to access a ton of *nix-based software.

Hope some of this helps.



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From: evan
2005-04-17 07:36 pm (UTC)
dude, asking for mac help on lj is useless, 'cause all the mac geeks come out and are all like "fink gives you all the power of linux" and don't answer your question.

the best i've been able to do for alt-drag is a program called "geekbind". it's at sourceforge but the page isn't loading 'cause sourceforge is crap. it lets you bind a key combo to "grab the window under the mouse and move it", and similarly for resizing. if you make it nearby keys like apple-z and apple-x then it's almost like hitting alt. two caveats: (1) some programs freak out when you move their windows this way, (2) the guy wants to make use the mouse button but iirc there's some fundamental design of the input system that makes real alt-drag hard to do.

it's such a shame. you either get systems that integrate well or you get systems that design for extensibility, but never both.

re liking the apple brand: they've the most successful brand in the world even though they tend to just screw their users. i don't really get it. i think having really good marketing helps.
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[User Picture]From: feignedapathy
2005-04-17 07:47 pm (UTC)
In regards to the upper right app menu, ASM does the job well, emulating the old classic menu and adding a few tricks. It is, per your rant, shareware and not free, but there might be a similar utility out there.

I know you don't want to hear this, but I ranted and pissed and moaned about the loss of the switcher menu, using it in Classic and GNOME myself, but I found that I like the Dock a lot more, and eventually dropped ASM because I never used it anymore. I'd like to find a dock like replacement for Linux for when I'm at work. Enlightenment appears to be working on one, but who knows how well it will work.

end rant.
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[User Picture]From: petey_hates_lj
2005-04-17 08:18 pm (UTC)
And there is some key combination that allows you to bring up the active programs in the center of your screen as well...can't remember the combo...

But I, too, love the dock. Oh, and expose is fantastic as well. I use that all the time.

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From: mwabad22
2005-04-17 09:08 pm (UTC)
I find that most Apple machines I've worked with are WAY too slow. And that the majority of Mac usesr I know run older G4's but rave about the G5's. I've had the opportunity to work on both, while working for GAP's digital department (the 2003 and 2004 GAP Fall sale 20 foot store banners for USA, Canada, Japan, and UK were done by me :x). I also did some freelance for Apple before they released the iPod Mini and iPod Shuffle, as well as the Mac Mini.

The G4 Mini is SLOW. It has integrated graphics (it seems most Macs come with either a Radeon 9200 or a GeForce FX5200 standard), which shares the already paltry 256MB of DDR-RAM with the system, further slowing you down. You won't be able to multitask much unless you upgrade to 512MB RAM (which I hear Apple is charging a lot for D:).

The G5's are okay speed, but loud. IMHO, you can get a comparably priced Dell (UGH!) that will have many more features and included memory/hard drive/graphics.

I don't see that much shareware/freeware/opensource culture with the Apples. It seems like everyone is connected by an umbilical cord to Steve Jobs himself, and won't use it unless it's made by Apple. Although, I do know some people who bought Dual G5's for the sole purpose of running a Linux or BeOS machine (kinda pointless to spend that much on Apple-branded hardware/software right?).

Overall, I feel like I'm being treated like an idiot who doesn't know how to use a computer whenever I use a Mac. Even OSX feels condescending. GAH, and the menus will drive you CRAZY. Why can't they have simple shortcuts!! And the shortcuts they do have require impossible presses on the keyboard that will twist your fingers together.

For the same $2000-2,500 you'd need to get a Dual G5, I've been building custom rigs through my own business for gaming, graphics editing, executives that stress performance AND quietness. Common specs we're using is an Athlon64, 1GB of DDR-RAM, a CURRENT GeForce 6600/6800 series or Radeon X700/X800/X850 video card, a 7,200RPM or 10,000RPM hard drive with RAID options, and a nice Silverstone case w/ Seasonic PSU (Seasonics are almost dead silent). If you pair this with a $500 20.1" Widescreen Dell 2005FPW LCD, you'd be set (they usually sell for $800, but their coupon deals are frequent. A 2005FPW is a Dell-branded Samsung which sells for much more).

Compare this with a Mac G5 Dual 2.5GHz: GeForce FX5200 or Radeon 9200 video cards are just rebadged GeForce 2MX and Radeon 7500 cards with a DVI transceiver onboard, both cards' technology was originally released in 1999 /2000 or so, OLD! They also typically have a 7,200RPM drive .. I believe they are using Maxtors or Western Digitals right now. I prefer Samsung or Seagate for quietness. Western Digital is LOUD and prone to break down. Maxtor isn't as bad, but I still am leery with them since their drives used to suck, and they bought Quantum, who's drives used to REALLY suck. The case on a Dual G5 is beautiful, but the PSU is a bit loud. I really admire the cooling ducts and airflow model inside though it doesn't apply anymore (it's in dire need of an update) since the G5 processors are very hot now. I don't believe the G5's come with a Studio display, but yeah :x

Anyhow, just my short (err, long) thoughts on this subject. I still think you will be better served on an x86 machine. Honestly there is no difference between Mac and x86 besides OS and few OS-centric apps really. Apple touts the G4/G5 as a powerful RISC processor, but this is a Post-RISC/CISC world. AMD and Intel processors (especially) are essentially mega-RISC processors with a CISC emulation layer. So that argument is moot. Also, technically the PCI and AGP cards are interoperable, but Apple won't have it, for obvious reasons :) The hard drives and RAM are interoperable. So what's the distinction now? There is none.

I'd personally go with whichever gives you a better bang for your buck.
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[User Picture]From: ckd
2005-04-17 10:26 pm (UTC)
The Mac mini's video RAM is a separate 32MB, not shared with the main RAM.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2005-04-17 10:10 pm (UTC)
You think those are the only two options, do you?

Step into the open source world and try to leave. You get really used to both the free and the freedom pretty quick.
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[User Picture]From: j7xz49br3m93xrr
2005-04-17 10:20 pm (UTC)
This might not be what you want to hear, but I found my days of dragging windows around a lot and doing lots of resizing came to a reasonably rapid end once I "switched." For a start, OS X is a bitch when it comes to resizing windows. It's just not as smooth as Windows, even though nearly every other UI element is. You also find yourself using things like Expose instead of moving things, or setting up virtual desktops (with Desktop Manager).

I had trepiditions about making the leap, and a whole bunch of "I'll do it if .. [x] .." but it turned out that nearly all the X's were things I'd just gotten used to on Windows or Linux that really made no sense on the Mac, and that the Mac didn't require them.

To make a Mac Mini fly, make sure it has 1GB memory (512 is definitely the minimum, but will crawl if you have more than 10 apps or so open), and see if you can get along with using an external disk.. if only for swap and application purposes. The Mac Mini disk is sloooow. It'll be fine for the OS itself, but if you really need speed, look into a fast Firewire or USB2 drive (or mount stuff over a gigabit network).

The other thing is.. just get one and play with it. I really didn't think I was going to switch when I bought my iBook, but I knew I needed a cheap laptop with 5 hours battery life. It turns out the iBook won me over, and led me into my other Apple purchases. If you buy a Mac Mini or iBook/whatever, and end up not wanting to use it as your main desktop, there's no big loss.

And I wouldn't worry about the Mini's graphics unless you plan on using it as a game machine (in which case, don't.. and buy a GameXPS2BoxCube).
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[User Picture]From: ckd
2005-04-17 10:28 pm (UTC)
If you have a spare mouse button (3 or more, since the second one is for contextual menus), bind one or more of them to Exposé functions. That's an insanely fast way to get at the windows you want.
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[User Picture]From: scosol
2005-04-17 10:31 pm (UTC)
why exactly do you want to switch?
( know why i did, but i'm curious)
with the ability to run an X session in full-screen or noroot alongside OSX I haven't found anything I haven't been able to do-
most (all?) of the tools you use now are X-based right?
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[User Picture]From: krow
2005-04-17 11:56 pm (UTC)
The mac mini in the house we only hear if we run the DVD drive.

You can find open source for OSX, but there isn't that much in arena like GUI (hence notice me writing my own).
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[User Picture]From: jwz
2005-04-18 03:32 am (UTC)

Learn To Love The Defaults

There is something I have learned in my years (for while I am as old as the hills, my brain has not yet fully ossified) and that is, Don't Customize. Learn To Love The Defaults.

Use whatever window manager the machine comes with, and just fuckin' get used to it. You will get used to moving windows around in the Mac way, and it will be faster and less of a pain in the ass than any alternative. I have spent years de-training myself from the customizations I had built up in my environments over time, and it is time well spent.

Really the only significant customization I haven't yet overcome is key mapping. Years ago I changed the [{ and }] keys to be ([ and )], and put { and } on F9 and F10, and this bites me in the ass every time I use someone else's keyboard.
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[User Picture]From: mart
2005-04-18 06:52 am (UTC)

Re: Learn To Love The Defaults

I agree with this to a certain extent. I have a bunch of little apps and customizations on my system which provide little enhancements to window management and other tasks I do all day without really thinking about it. It really gets to me when I use other people's computers.

My solution is different, though. I just avoid using other people's computers.

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[User Picture]From: draxil
2005-04-18 12:35 pm (UTC)
"-- App (well, window) switcher in top-right. OS 9 used to have that, and GNOME has it nowadays, and I love it. Why'd it go away in OS X? I've seen a utility to add that back, though."

Because Exposes F8, F9, F10 options let you switch windows in a far prettier and more intuitive manner?
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