Archive for October, 2012

Console scrollback

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Trying out Minix 3 in VirtualBox lead to a very unpleasant surprise: no console scrollback. What a complete waste of time to use an operating system that comes with a console that doesn’t scroll. This reminds me of NetBSD, where you have to recompile the kernel in order to get a scrolling console. Or use window, tmux or screen to achive such basic funtionality. Hello? We are not in 1970 anymore, at the beginning of the Unix epoch. In 2012 this is a bug, not a feature. Today,  you can run Unix on microcontrollers.

Apples and oranges

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

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.