Apples and oranges

I’ve recently switched jobs and my new employer is using iMacs for Perl development. It’s my first contact with Apple and OS X after being a long time Linux user and also running FreeBSD for more than a decade, along with less and less Windows usage. I won’t insist on Windows since it’s not an Unix family OS. Below are my impressions after two weeks of OS X 10.6 usage for software development.

The good: Nice and responsive graphical user interface. The fonts, the graphics and the quality of the display are beautiful, unlike anything I’ve seen so far. When you run CPU and I/O hogging tasks in the background, the GUI is respnsive and doesn’t lag like Windows or X11 does when you fill up the RAM. Best of all, when you open a terminal you’ll find an Unix-type OS underneath with Perl and Java included in the base OS. You cand also install the chain of development tools via Xcode or get just the command line tools if you only need them instead of the whole IDE. The next logical step is to install the open source software Apple didn’t include via Macports or Homebrew or even pkgsrc. As an IDE we use Eclipse and it runs smooth. Otherwise OS X is user friendly and easy to use. If you want to configure something, it’s usually easy and straightforward. Configuration options aren’t obfuscated and hidden under 5+ levels of menus like in Windows 7.

The bad: Some of the open source packages are not very well supported and break or segfault, like mcrypt did. But that’s alright since they aren’t supported by Apple anyway, right? Missed the RPM hell? Try Macports.

The ugly: While there’s nothing ugly about Macs, the whole Apple box is essentially an appliance. If you just want a high quality computer that does the job at the end of the day, that’s fine. When you want to add hardware, be prepared to buy it from Apple at a premium. You can build a more powerful PC for the same amount of money, but you probably won’t do it inside a monitor or a box as small as the Mac mini.

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4 Responses to “Apples and oranges”

  1. Cris Says:

    Wow! Switched jobs, how come?? What do you do apart from assessing Apples full of perls? :-D

  2. ggl Says:

    The building services and installations sector isn’t going very well, so I’m doing Perl development for GPS fleet tracking now.

  3. Cris Says:

    Sounds cool. :-)

  4. ggl Says:

    I’ve had my first OSX kernel panic on Friday 16/11. I haven’t had kernel panics on Linux since I can’t remember when, probably 2.0.something. FreeBSD 8 panicked when I wanted to run 6to4. But on the Mac is was only doing usual work: Perl running in background, Eclipse, Firefox and some iTerm running on the GUI. WTF?

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