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Bruce Eckel on why he's moving back to Windows from Mac (artima.com)
60 points by johndcook 1425 days ago | hide | past | web | 100 comments | favorite



> Having “fn,” “control,” “alt,” “option,” “command,” and whatever the last one is, I call it “flower” but I think in the past it might have been open-apple

How did this fellow spend six years using a Mac without ever realizing that "command" is that flower-looking thing? And, of course, "alt" and "option" are the same thing.

Sounds like he never really adjusted to the Mac and remained a Windows user at heart, and is now going back to what he knows. Nothing wrong with that! And he presents it as "what I had trouble with", not "what's wrong with the Mac", which is commendable.


> And he presents it as "what I had trouble with", not "what's wrong with the Mac", which is commendable.

I couldn't agree more. Whenever I see a title like this my immediate thought is "here we go again", but I clicked through anyway and was pleasantly surprised.

I've never used Windows 8 (or 7/Vista for more than a few minutes), but his criticisms seemed well considered. Macs can be more expensive for the same amount of CPU. I expected he was going to be talking about the Mac Pros (which are based on what, 2010 hardware?) so I was a little surprised to see he was talking about laptops.

The other thing that caught my attention was his note about trackpads. It seems like every review I read about a non-Mac laptop (which, to be fair, doesn't happen much) seems to mention how they are either terrible or just OK. Considering how important the trackpad is on a laptop, it always surprises me that this seems to continue to be an issue.

I remember years ago when Macs had 3" trackpads and PCs still had tiny 2" models. My MacBook Pro has a 5" pad, but I've seen 17" desktop replacement laptops with 3" pads.

Worse was that while Macs gained two finger scrolling (which was a great step up), may PCs gained "scroll areas", so that you'd lose a large fraction of the trackpad. The fact that part of it was horizontal scrolling (which is far less common) was even worse.

Are trackpads in the non-Mac world really that far behind, or is it just selection bias where the few laptop reviews I read only mention the trackpad because it's bad and the rest don't even discuss it.


Windows laptop trackpads are indeed universally horrible. I've never come across a non-mac laptop i could use all day without an external mouse. Apple kust have some jealously guarded patents on trackpad tech.


Trackpads are universally horrible even on Apple computers. Apple's are far superior to Windows trackpads, but nothing can make using a trackpad a pleasant experience for me.


I find the modern synaptic trackpad on my Thinkpad X1 carbon to be amazing, it worked well under windows and runs very well under Linux (maybe even a bit better as I am more familiar with how to configure it).


I haven't used Mac Touchpads much yet, but every time I do use one the acceleration feels extremely weird.

On my laptop the touchpad does pretty much behave how I expect it to behave.

Also, a Netbook I bought 2008 or so had two-finger scroll. True, many backwards notebook manufacturers were behind the times but most just have been using the standard synaptics hardware I think. The windows drivers have the scroll area preconfigured by default but then the scrolling behaviour with the synaptics tool is pretty bad no matter how you configure it.

On linux synaptics touchpads are just fine (for me).


You need to use one for a bit and fiddle with the settings. Most store models have the speed jacked up and I can understand why you'd feel it's weird. Once you get it adjusted to your liking, I've never used a trackpad that remotely compares... Everything is incredibly smooth. Clicking on the trackpad itself, including right clicking... genius. Gestures are simple and intuitive. Two-finger scroll is just buttery smooth and precise, and to top it off the two-finger back/forward.


As I said, with xf86-input-synaptics I can't complain about my notebooks touchpad. Two finger scroll is ok in both directions. I don't really need the "genius" of mac touchpads as tapping on the touchpad will be a "left click", a two finger tap will be a middle click and a three finger tap will be a middle click.


The acceleration this is just the OS. You get used to it pretty quickly. The only time I even remember it exists is when I boot my Mac into Windows.


Genuine question - What trackpad functionality do you use often on a Mac that you think saves your time compared to using the corresponding keyboard actions? I have used Mac for about 4 months in the last year as my primary machine and although the trackpad actions are quite flashy, I never found them useful.

I know Unity is universally hated, but I am fond of its keyboard support. I rarely have to use my mouse and I using keyboard instead of trackpad in those situations saves my time.


Two finger scroll and two and three finger swiping are awesome. I always try to use them on Windows laptops before realizing they're not there.


Sure. I have a MacBook Pro for personal use, and at work I'm a Java developer using an iMac with a Magic Trackpad.

I don't use all the gestures, just a few of them. But I've been doing it for so long they're second nature to me.

Two finger scroll one of the most important. I remember trying to use friend's PCs before it became common and being frustrated every time.

Two finger click works like a right-click, so I don't need to hold a key or dedicate part of my touchpad to right-clicking.

Three finger swipe left/right is amazing. It functions as a forward/backward gesture. In Safari it moves through history. In IntelliJ (my IDE of choice) it does the same thing, which is invaluable. I don't even know the keyboard shortcut in IntelliJ, it just works. And it works in Chrome. And Xcode. Having a universal gesture is fantastic.

Another favorite is four fingers up, which activates Expose. When you're moving between multiple applications and copying & pasting it makes makes things so much easier. I don't have to move my hand off command-C/V.

Four finger spread shows the desktop, which I use occasionally.

Double-tap with two fingers zooms in iOS style in Safari, which can e useful

Double-tap with three fingers opens the dictionary (& Wikipedia!) anywhere in the os on whatever you tap on. Reading an article and don't know what something is? Just double-tap three fingers and a little pop-up tells you. It's one of those functions that's always been there but it's so easy to get to I actually use it now.

That's what I use. There are a few more. Four fingers together opens Launcher. In Safari the zoom out gesture (pinch two fingers) brings up a tab-list, but I keep forgetting that's there since it's a relatively recent add. Four fingers down is Expose for one application, but I don't have much need for that. Two fingers from the right edge opens the notifications in Mountain Lion (which I don't really use).

If you're a multi-desktop person, four fingers left or right switches between desktops (including Dashboard) and every full screen application. This also works for app switching on iPad 2/3/4s.

Really it's like using command-c/v to copy and paste or command-tab to switch applications. It's quick and easy to do, and you quickly forget it's there and start doing it automatically.

Honestly I hate helping coworkers with a problem in IntellJ because they all use normal mice and I can't easily jump back to the last place I did an edit (even in another file). I'm working on helping them and then all of a sudden there is a brain stall while I realize that I can't just do a swipe and have to think to go click on the tab I want.

I feel handicapped without them; like something is missing. I remember how much I liked getting a button on the side of my MS IntelliMouse I could use to go back when surfing, this is like 100x that.

Edit: It just occurred to me that these aren't default gestures. A few of them changed in Mountain Lion and I set my Macs back to the way Lion had them, so you may have to experiment.


I am a Java developer as well and I use Ubuntu on both my personal and work machine. I think I have equivalent key combinations/mouse gestures for most of the things you listed. e.g.

two finger scroll and two finger right click is almost universal now. When inside a browser, I rarely use the mouse scroll and prefer to use spacebar or up/down keys to scroll for granularity and I know where each action is going to land me (spacebar = page down, up/down key = just one line)

For forward/back I use Alt + right/left arrow. This works in browser, file browser, Eclipse. I suppose this would work in IntelliJ as well. In Eclipse, This doesn't take to the last place you made edit at, but the last place you had focused at (across files). Besides there is a shortcut Ctrl + q to go to the last place of edit (across files) in Eclipse. There are equivalent shortcuts in other editors that I have used.

There is no equivalent of Expose in Ubuntu. But how does it differ from using Alt + tab? When all the windows are exposed do you have to move your mouse pointer to the window you want to focus on and four fingers again? I think that's how I remember it. I love Ubuntu's Alt + tab and Alt + ` to be honest. You can also use left/right arrow keys with these two options. Granted, I do have to take my hand of Ctrl if I am doing copy/paste.

So three finger double click seems to be the only action I see myself to be missing that I would use.

As I programmer, I am typing for most of the time. So honestly, I think keyboard shortcuts work faster as I don't have to move one of my hand everytime. This is specially true if you are working on a desktop as you really have to move your hand to the magic mouse. YMMV though.

One of the things I hated about Mac was there are no equivalent of 'Super' key shortcuts which are present on both Windows and Ubuntu. Like Super + 1 launches the first application in my doc. This is much faster than opening spotlight and launching an application from there using a keyboard. Also, some of the shortcuts are not universal. Chrome used Ctrl + tab to change the tab and Firefox used Cmd + tab (I suppose?). Being from Windows/Ubuntu background, it was really frustrating to get used to the Cmd key at some of the places.

One more mouse gesture related thing I would like to add is that I love FireGestures add-on on Firefox. If I am just reading news/sites and not typing, I use my mouse and FireGestures + mouse works great. Firefox is my primary browser and I didn't find any equally good extension for Chrome.


I use a number of keyboard shortcuts, but I still use the mouse a fair bit, especially when surfing/doing email/etc.

The nice thing about forward/back gesture is that it works almost everywhere, and I don't have to learn a different keyboard shortcut for each program. I accidentally discovered it worked one day and it stuck. It had never occurred to me to go searching for a keyboard shortcut to do it.

Expose is quite nice. In OS X command-tab switches between open applications (not windows, applications). There is no list displayed like Windows XP had. When you trigger Expose, every open window is automatically arranged on screen. You just click it with your mouse and everything moves back into place with the window you clicked now at the top.

I use command-tab when I'm in keyboard mode (such as coding) and Expose when in mouse mode (surfing, browsing email, etc).

I think you're right bout the Super-1 shortcuts. I don't think there is anything like that in the Mac. I usually have every program I'm using open, but when I need something else I just use Spotlight. Command-space opens it (I believe that was the old key combo, which I set Mountain Lion to use), I type a few letters, and hit enter. There are other programs that are faster or more powerful (Quicksliver and Alfred are popular), but Spotlight was good enough.

Tab switching doesn't seem to be standard. I know that in Safari the key commands are Command-[ or Command-], but I don't know if that works in other programs. When I first switched it didn't take too long to learn when to use command. But I also used Macs when I was a kid, maybe that helped.

One pleasant side-effect of the way the Mac has evolved is that the keyboard shortcuts work perfectly with Terminal. Both control and meta ('option' on the keyboard) work exactly as you expect. Control-c quits programs, control-d sends end-of-line, emacs is easy, etc. But the command key isn't used by any unix program I know of.

That means it's free to make life easy. Copy and paste are still command-c and command-v. You can clear the terminal with command-k, and standard window management things (-h for hide, -tab for program switch, -` for window switch) all work without interfering with whatever program you're running.

It's a total accident of history, but it worked out great.


Have you ever tried Opera's Mouse Gestures? Trying to use another browser is a similar experience to you helping your colleagues with IDEA.


I use Firegesture add-on on Firefox and it's awesome with a mouse. Not so much with a trackpad.


Yeah, I was recently handed a new laptop - brand escapes me. Whatever it was had high specs and a big price. Asked what I thought I opened a web page then automatically tried two finger scrolling. The confused owned asked what I was doing then directed me to the little arrows in the corner of the widow. I couldn't happily own a laptop that didn't have this functionality or similar.


I can't believe a recent laptop (on any OS) not supporting two finger scrolling. Some laptops have it disabled by default, but it is there. I haven't seen a laptop without 2 finger scrolling on last 15 (friends') laptops I have used.


Considering how important the trackpad is on a laptop, it always surprises me that this seems to continue to be an issue.

Less important if there is a trackpoint mouse, something near and dear to my heart. I've disabled the trackpad on my latops; they don't suit me and end up getting in the way. I get much better behavior using the trackpoint mouse.


> Are trackpads in the non-Mac world really that far behind

YES. I have a Thinkpad T530 from 2011 and a MacBook Pro from 2009 and the older Mac's trackpad is so much better.


You know, I'm a mac convert through and through, but for a company that favors simplicity so much that they create mice with just one button, I've never quite understood why there are SO many modifier keys on a mac.

I always get a mild migraine trying to remember which combination of shift, function, control, alt/option and command triggers an occasionally used keyboard shortcut.

Anyone know the thinking behind this? Is it for historical reasons? I've googled over the years with no success.


Here's an original Mac keyboard:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Apple_Mac...

It's remarkably simple compared to a modern one, Mac or PC. I believe the smaller key next to the Command key is Option. I think Option would have served as a way to access more obscure keyboard shortcuts and to enter "special" characters, as it is today, although I could easily be wrong going that far back. Note the total lack of a Control key, though, as well as fairly basic amenities like arrow keys.

By the time of the Mac Plus, there was a numeric keypad and arrow keys, but still no Control:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_Macintosh_Plus_Exten...

The Control key showed up with Apple Desktop Bus keyboards:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_ADB_Keyboard.jpg

Note the "proper" placement of Control and Caps Lock, unlike the universal wrongness we see today. I honestly do not know what purpose it served at the time. The main use of Control on the Mac, activating contextual menus in the absence of a right mouse button, didn't show up until about a decade later. My recollection from this period was that Control was very rarely used other than for things like talking to other systems that cared about those sorts of things through terminal emulators.


This was very interesting, thank you. The original Mac keyboard you'd linked to is exactly what I would've expected from Apple.

You're right about the control key. IIRC back in the day it was used to actually activate "control" characters that instructed the computer to do something (I suppose roughly equivalent to the Fn key today). It's a bummer that folks started mapping it to other things and it stayed on, vs. being merged with the Alt/Option key.


Minor corrections/additions:

- option was solely for entering text, not for commands.

- there also was a separate numerical keypad (http://www.inanis.net/cm/index.php/Image:Macplus-p1_front.jp...) that daisy-chained into the original keyboard.

- control was indeed added for terminal emulators, and wasn't to be used for anything else.


No different than Windows (Alt, Control, Shift, Windows Key, and fn on most laptops and modern multimedia keyboards), and on Linux the array of modifier keys can be dizzying (Super, Meta, Hyper, etc. GNU Emacs recognizes 5 modifier keys).


But on Linux, if you carefully select window managers and programs, you'll have an easy answer to GP's questions "Anyone know the thinking behind this? Is it for historical reasons?"

The answer is, "sure, I know the thinking behind this".

I use Awesome WM. And I have configured practically every program I use. So, window management -> Windows (Super) modifer; editors -> Ctrl; Menubar -> Alt (can't change that); Funny chars -> AltGr (US International keyboard); Fn -> configured to whatever icon I see on the keyboard


I agree with you that it's no more difficult that a Windows PC.

It's just that when I moved to the Mac platform years ago, I found the general simplicity quite refreshing (yes, even the lack of a right-mouse button!) and was surprised that they hadn't done anything about the numerous keyboard modifiers.


"⌘" is for menu commands. "option" is a modifier. "control" was originally introduced for contextual menu ("right click"), and also provides EMACS-like shortcuts (Ctrl+A = Home, Ctrl+E = End, etc.).

So in fact, it is simpler because you don't have Home/End/PageUp/PageDown/Insert/Delete keys. It also avoids overloading the same key with commands and editing shortcuts.


> So in fact, it is simpler because you don't have Home/End/PageUp/PageDown/Insert/Delete keys.

It's not simple: it has fewer keys, but that makes it more complex not less, and more prone to causing carpal tunnel syndrome (Command-shift-right arrow to select till the end of the line? Are you kidding me?).

Actually, I purposely lied. It's Ctrl-shift-right arrow for end of line, and Command to go to the end of the file.

Like I said, not simpler


> Actually, I purposely lied. It's Ctrl-shift-right arrow for end of line, and Command to go to the end of the file.

No, Shift-Command-Left/Right selects to the beginning/end of line respectively. It's been that way since at least System 6. So has using option-arrows for moving by words. I don't know what control does—I don't think it's standard. I think you might be thinking of Command-Up/Down which go to start/end of file respectively.

And I frankly don't find Command-shift-arrows hard to chord at all (pinky on shift, thumb on command). I've been doing it for 20+ years and don't have any carpal tunnel problems. Or course, I'm also a long-time Emacs user so I'm used to things like C-M-s.


Perhaps. I really think that the alt/option and control keys can be merged though. In many cases, control is actually used as a modifier.

For example, ⌘ + ⇧ + 3 takes a screenshot and saves it on the desktop. What if you wanted to save it to the clipboard instead? You hold down the Control key, not the Option key, which to me would've been the logical choice here.

BTW I fully realize that it is probably too late to remove any modifiers, but one can always hope :)


You do have Home/End/PageUp/PageDown/Delete on a Mac. Apple just hides the labels these days on their laptop keyboards. The full-size ones have them. And they don't always do the same thing they do on Windows/Linux (I'm looking at you, Home/End!).

And they're overloaded to hell and back on the laptops: delete as backspace/fn-delete as delete, Cmd-up/down arrow + Fn-up/down arrow...

Pretty sure there isn't an Insert, though.


> Pretty sure there isn't an Insert, though.

Ugh, talk about a worthless key. I used to physically remove that key on my full sized keyboards when I used OSes that respected it.


It may be simpler, but it isn't very Apple like. When you consider the enthusiasm Apple has for removing every button it can, it does seem odd.


I think it makes sense. Those keys are for complicated tasks and they're entirely optional. Normal computer users don't ever need to touch those keys—You don't need Command-Left to go to the end of the line when you can just move the mouse and click there. The modifiers are there for you once you've mastered the simple way and want to improve your speed.


Exactly, it just seems out of place for Apple.

During my Windows days, I had never wondered why there were so many keyboard buttons - my MS Intellimouse had 5 buttons all on its own :)


> You know, I'm a mac convert through and through, but for a company that favors simplicity so much that they create mice with just one button, I've never quite understood why there are SO many modifier keys on a mac.

The two are very closely related.

Even though Jobs claimed for years that a secondary click was unnecessary, the market disagreed and very soon, applications started offering a context-sensitive menu, but since you only had one mouse button, you had to use a modifier to simulate that right click.

Jobs never changed his mind, one of the things where he remained wrong until the very end (Macs never shipped with two button mice nor trackpads).


The new mouse detects double touch to show a context menu, though right? At least that's what I heard. I've always immediately discarded the included mice, windows or pc, for a logitech.


The first Apple mouse to support right click was the Mighty Mouse, released all the way back in 2005. I believe it wasn't a double touch, but rather would detect what side of the mouse you were touching at the time. (This required you to lift up your left finger to do a right click, which was pretty dumb.) Not too long after, every Mac portable started shipping with trackpads that interpreted a two-finger click as a right click. The idea that Jobs never changed his mind on this is pretty obviously wrong.


The 2006 era Apple Mighty Mouse had two buttons. It was just designed with a seamless exterior so you couldn't tell from looking at it.


I believe it is also an option that had to be turned on in the OS, and that by default it still worked in one button mode.

The thing I like about the "one button" philosophy is that it meant that you never needed to use the second button to access something. There was always a menu or some other way, the right-click was just a shortcut (so I've heard). There were things in Windows and common applications that couldn't be accessed without a right click. It's also less confusing for new computer users.

Of course today, that's all basically gone. I'm sure some people use one button mice and are happy, but everyone I know ends up with a two button mouse or enabling the right-click function on the mighty mouse/trackpad. And it wouldn't surprise me if there were right-click only functions.


Having both used Windows and Mac - the shortcut keys are an immense jumble of various modifier keys. It is almost like they want you to not use short cut keys and rely on the mouse instead.

I know it is a matter of habit - but I never did consciously make an effort to learn the keys on Windows and I still struggle on the Mac after 3 years.


And not having a maximize mode aggravated me to no end. Thankfully, in their quest to make OS X more ipad-like, they put it back in (after years of arguing why it was not the best UI choice).


And it still doesn't work right. The only application that gets it right is Chrome (shift click on the green button), but they are simulating it. Mac OS still gets it wrong.


This is something that confuses even veteran Mac users, but the green button is not for maximization. Every application defines a "standard state." This could be hard-coded or, in the case of Safari, the standard state can be defined dynamically in terms of the content you're viewing. The green button is supposed to toggle between the standard state and the user state (that is, the state you've manually put the window in).

If you want to just redefine the meaning of that button to be "maximize," you can use something like Right Zoom: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/30591/right-zoom

In my case, I just use Slate and have Shift+Cmd+Enter bound to maximize the window. Then I've got Shift+Cmd+(H,J,K,L,Y,U,B,N) bound to what you'd expect based on the vim keybindings. That's just the absolute beginning of what is possible with Slate; I'm sure there's vast potential I'm not yet tapping into.

Slate: https://github.com/jigish/slate


> If you want to just redefine the meaning of that button to be "maximize,"

Mac OS is doing the redefining, here. To more than 90% of desktop users (Windows users), "maximize" means "take up all the screen".

Mac OS came up with this weird notion that it should mean something different, hence all the complaining.

Microsoft examined this problem in the 90's and reached the conclusion that the "standard" state made little sense: to a user, a window has only two states, "full screen" and "the size they resized it to".


Mac uses the word "zoom", not "maximize". And of course the "zoom" functionality predates Windows entirely.


The Zoom button was introduced in Mac OS X, it didn't exist in any Apple operating system before that.


Kindly identify the box in the upper right corner of the frontmost window in this screenshot from 1988:

http://www.guidebookgallery.org/pics/tutorials/macplus1988/f...

Hint: the name is given at the bottom. Where did you get this crazy idea?


I stand corrected.

I also notice with some humor that back then, "Zoom" enlarged the window to full size :-)


I'm pretty sure that was just an easy description for the tutorial. It always sized to fit the window's contents, but that takes too many words to describe for the context.


It also sounds as though he never discovered common keyboard shortcuts. He complains about command-tab behavior being different from Windows, but I've found that command-tab for switching between applications and command-` for window switching within application windows on that desktop works even better for me. I'm almost never guessing what the order of windows will be.


I do wish that command-` switched back and forth between windows before cylcing through them, like cmd-tab does.


Yep this little inconsistency still annoys me after years of using Mac OS X. Most of the time when I'm toggling windows with the keyboard I want to go back and forth between two windows. With the Mac I have to remember to use Shift with Cmd-` (or not) depending on which window I'm on.


Well, I just learned something new. Didn't know about the shift option.

Though I still prefer the initial back and forth behavior used by default with cmd-tab for programs.


Maybe it's because I use a browser all day but I actually prefer the consistent forward/backward cycling behaviour (with command-shift-` for back).


> I've found that command-tab for switching between applications and command-` for window switching within application windows on that desktop works even better for me

I constantly get frustrated because it's so hard to get windows of different applications side by side. Cmd-tab raises all the windows of an application above everything else, so I can't easily pull windows of two different applications to the top at the same time, unless I carefully apportion screen space so nothing is overlapping. For example, I often like to fill the screen with two terminal windows side-by-side, but then every time I cmd-tab to either terminal window Chrome gets hidden so I can't see what I was researching on the web.


You'd profit a lot from a second screen.


I think the main confusion of hot keys going from windows to Mac (as a developer that tried it) is, "On Mac, command is control and on Windows, control is control" - but then Mac also has a control key... but then if you open up a terminal/iterm to a remote server, Mac control is terminal control so you have to remember which "control" you want depending on application context.

For me, kind of annoying after using windows and Putty for remote servers where control is always control.


On a Mac, Control is always Control. It's just that it does less than it does on Windows.


> How did this fellow spend six years using a Mac without ever realizing that "command" is that flower-looking thing? And, of course, "alt" and "option" are the same thing.

What I always found bizarre (and maybe there's a historical reason for it I don't know about) but on the UK Mac keyboard the "option" key doesn't read "option" -- it just has the option symbol on it. I always imagined this must be very confusing for Mac new-comers in the UK reading advice online to press "option+whatever" and having no idea what key to press.

Image here: http://static.paulboxley.com/mac_keyboard_differences.jpg


Hmm wasn't the "flower thing" called the Apple Key at some point? (I seem to remember being told this sometime in the mid 90s)


There used to be an apple on the key as well as the command symbol. At least on my (very) old PPC iMac.


The Apple II had modifier keys called "open Apple" and "closed Apple", which occupied the same keys used for Command and Option on the Mac respectively. Many Apple keyboards printed both symbols.


The Apple IIe, technically. The original Apple II and Apple II+ [1] did not have them. Interestingly, I believe those keys were tied to the joystick buttons.

[1] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Apple_II...


Yep, definitely equivalent to the joystick buttons. I remember that clearly from my days of gaming on a IIGS.


The Apple logo was a label added to the Mac command key. The official symbol for the command key is a Bowen knot[1] (‘the flower symbol’). The Apple logo label was added in later Macintosh models, meant to aide in conversion from the Apple IIe, but the label remained longer than it should’ve. The original Apple II had none of these keys. Since 2007, Apple has removed the Apple logo label from the command key in its new keyboards.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowen_knot


Ha...good luck. I tired switching my wife and daughters back to Windows after 8 came out. They lasted around six weeks before switching back to Ubuntu. I used it quite a bit during this time as well. The interface is so heavily designed for a tablet, it ends up feeling very forced and clunky as a desktop. Additionally, in that six week period, there were at least three times where I would reboot the machine and get the dreaded "Preparing Automatic Repair" endless loop of death, resulting in a re-install.

I really loved certain things about it...well, at least the design of certain things. For example, the process monitor you accessed via ctrl+alt+delete was beautiful and had some very nice features including cumulative resource usage per app which I found very exciting. However, I quickly found that most of your running apps rarely showed in this panel. Combine this with the fact that when a process went awry and you wanted to kill it, 95% of the time the process monitor wouldn't come up at all, it was next to useless. (I'll mention here that this OS is the first Windows I've had since 98 which wouldn't give you access to kill a process even with the system under heavy load, unless it was completely frozen).

Windows 8 not so bad? Maybe in your experience, but in mine, it was a stinking pile of crap. If Skyrim and certain other games would run reliably on Linux, I'd be completely done with Windows. Come to think of it, games have been the only reason I've kept Windows around for the past decade and it was the driver to give 8 another shot (so my daughter wouldn't have to reboot to get to a few of her favorite games). I suspect various games and Office will keep a lot of folks on the platform, but there are MUCH better experiences to be had. I've tried various Windows, OS X, and various *nixs, and Linux just seems to suit my family (and me personally) the best. I couldn't say this five years ago (at least for my wife and kids), but I'm happy that I can now.


> (I'll mention here that this OS is the first Windows I've had since 98 which wouldn't give you access to kill a process even with the system under heavy load, unless it was completely frozen).

It's because you're using the wrong shortcut, it's Ctrl-Shift-ESC. Ctrl-Alt-Delete takes you to a more general screen that's not always available.


Woah. I'd never heard of this shortcut, seems to work perfectly. Now to see if it still does work when my PC is frozen. Thanks for the tip, though.


> The interface is so heavily designed for a tablet, it ends up feeling very forced and clunky as a desktop

I don't use the tablet interface as a desktop. I use the desktop interface as a desktop.

> there were at least three times where I would reboot the machine and get the dreaded "Preparing Automatic Repair" endless loop of death, resulting in a re-install.

Sounds like a hardware problem. I've never seen this and this is the first I'm reading of it.


Ubuntu for desktop is most likely going to disappear. Seems they are moving to tablets and android clones.

As for gaming they are now starting to release linux versions, well at least Steam and Blizzard are.


As long as you have the ability to install other DEs, like Xfce, "Ubuntu for desktop" will never disappear. That's the difference between Linux and locked down operating systems like Mac OS X.

I've never liked Unity, but that's totally irrelevant to me. I can just keep using Xfce (or any of a dozen other WMs/DEs) with Ubuntu.


That strikes me as an odd prediction.

PCs are disappearing because most people who use them don't actually need them. They don't need a truly general purpose personally controlled computer.

Linux users know they need a personal computer, for software development or some other high-value purpose. These will be the last PCs to be replaced by tablets and smartphones.

Unless of course your position is that Ubunutu is effete and it will be the Mint and Gentoo where the Last of the PCs makes it's stand.


As a developer I don't think I could go back. Unless I was working on a Windows stack. Knowing you have *nix under the hood is just too comforting.


Except... it's not '*nix' as everyone knows it (or more importantly as deployed in production). Even while working on a mac I do all of my linux development on a VM, because the differences are always such a stumbling block for me. Half the utilities do not support long args, no real repos (resulting in broken or missing tools), old versions of utilities... ugh.

I still use one, but I'm seriously considering dual booting centos on the hardware.


And that's the way Unix was before Linux. Solaris, Irix, BSD.. all had different implementations of the basic unix tools. You're actually referring to the GNU tools and not the operating system.

Linux came along and everyone was using distros of Linux + GNU tools installed. You could in theory compile non-GNU tools and run a linux kernel and you'd be just as perplexed as running on a mac.

PROTIP: you can take any modern OS (Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris) and compile/install the GNU utilities and get long arg support and have all the tools behave the same way. In fact, if you were building an OS from scratch your fasted bootstrap would be kernel -> compile the GNU tools -> distribute.


Mac OS X is Unix. Real Unix. Not Linux.


Trademark UNIX is like an expensive country club for vendor-proprietary "extensions" of BSD & SysV sensibilities. I'm suprised Apple wasn't a member sooner!


Expensive? Not at all.

http://www.opensource.apple.com/

They've been (real) Unix since OS X first came out, actually.


Linux is not even UNIX.


Exactly my feeling. If you're a developer, not doing .NET, Windows doesn't offer anything compelling. On a Mac, even if you're not doing IOS or Mac applications development, you have a complete Unix environment available.

Even when I WAS doing .NET work on Windows (v1.1 timeframe) I would write my code in Emacs and compile it with csc. I don't think that's really very practical anymore.


A year or 2 ago I had a consulting gig that used C# and that was my technique--code in Emacs then alt-tab to Visual Studio to compile/run/debug. It worked perfectly fine.

It's the same technique I use with XCode, except I can "M-x compile RET xcodebuild && open build/program.app RET" for most things and rarely even need to switch to XCode.


Except for the one too many bad wrinkles. Like not getting an up-to-date GCC and stdlibc++. Getting a somewhat recent clang is nice but worthless if you have to use a C++98 standard library.


Why would having Unix be more comforting than having the Windows kernel under the hood? I've found the NT kernel well designed.


“Ultimately I needed to use Word, the Windows version, for page layout, indexing, etc. Nothing else does the job (I’ve tried, and keep trying the alternatives). The waterfall model of “first finish the book with one program, then do layout with a different program” just doesn’t work”

The entire publishing industry would beg to differ. While MS Word (but preferably InCopy) is fine for copy, you won’t use it to lay out a cookbook and directly send it to a printer. If you supply a Word file to a printer, they will likely convert it to an InDesign file and charge you for it.

Source: I publish books for a living and have been since 1996.

“an equivalent-horsepower Mac is 3 times the cost of a Windows 8 machine”

I thought OP was trolling, until I read the following passage:

“I also wanted something with at least 4 cores, in order to do more concurrency programming experiments with languages like Scala and Go.”

Not exactly typical use, but if the highest clock frequency and cores is what the author wants, then sure, he can get more bang for his buck with a Windows box than Apple’s offerings. Macs are made for small size, low weight, and power preservation.

Many consumers won’t look at just clock frequency or the number of cores to make their purchasing decision. I bought a new notebook 3 months a go, a MacBook Air. It has a 512GB SSD, a fast CPU, and a decent GPU. I mainly use it for image and video editing, but because of Apple’s choices, I get battery use of 6-8 hours, while it’s not much larger than my tablet. That’s what I care about. Ten years a go, to do the same work, I had to lug around a notebook that weighed twice as much and had half as much battery life. With many Windows notebooks, that’s still the case.


I know HN is a very pro Apple crowd, but I wanted to share that I have had a very similar experience. Windows 8 is actually incredibly solid, fast, and has a ton of great tools available.

SSH on Windows works just as well as OS X, and sleep / resume etc is a solved problem, with the added bonus that you can run any game that comes out. For a developer who wants to focus on getting things done, it isn't that Windows 8 is so much more compelling than OS X, but the price and compatibility make it worth using.


Switched from Windows 8 (early builds) to OSX a few months ago and at the moment I don't see myself even going back to Windows for development. I'm realizing how much I missed the command-line from my Ubuntu days and how much you can develop in pretty much any language quite easily on a mac. It's the perfect development machine.


It sounds like he never really embraced the Mac to begin with. And some of the stuff he sounds is just plain strange:

> But in hindsight I realize there are a lot of things that never felt quite natural. [...] And more sophisticated things like any software installation that doesn’t come as a Mac installer.

Is he really saying that software that doesn't come packaged as an installer is unnatural? Because the ability to simply drag & drop one "file" to install (or delete) an application is generally considered a feature of OS X (and the old Mac OS), not a negative.


Bizarre. He used a mac for 6 years and didn't know about cmd-` to switch windows within the same app?

Finder does suck compared to Windows Explorer (use Pathfinder). No snap behavior for windows (use BetterTouch). Can't think of anything else to like about windows really.

The command line is terrible on Windows. Even with cygwin, the terminal is awful. Copy/Paste is awkward. Resize the window and the text doesn't follow. No clear terminal keyboard shortcut. No searching in the console.

Locked files everywhere, makes dev difficult.

Installing apps is much more painful on windows. The apps spread throughout the system, I love on a mac how you can just drag in an app and run it. No 5 mins to install. Uninstalling is just deleting the app, no horrible uninstall process.

rm -rf type functionality must take 10x as long on windows.

No virus issues on mac.


I'm surprised he's not more of a command-line guy. So many things I would hate to do without: vim, grep, ssh, rsync, git, tab completion, cron, .... I suppose you could install all of those and a lot more on Windows but what a lot of bother.


Interesting. I have a lot of respect for Bruce Eckel, and it's a well considered article.

I'm a pretty avid mac user, and OSX has treated me well since I switched, but I fully support using the best tool for the job - and it seems that is windows, in his case.


Reminds me of the famous line from Steve Martin, "Those French, they have their own word for everything!"

I expect Bruce will get a lot of page views, this sort of story pulls them out, but his story is not very compelling. Basically he liked the Windows experience better before and he has gone back to it. I didn't see a lot of effort to figure out "meme" for MacOS (which is fine I didn't either until circumstances made it my only laptop) and so returning to something more familiar removes friction in his life. Good for him. But it doesn't inform on the different choices between MacOS and Windows, only his comfort level with them.


Cost - yes. Windows laptops cost much less. But they suck much more. I guess if you don't value the touchpad, mag safe, retina, display, thin-ness, long lasting battery, and the aesthetics that much... I mean I use my computer a lot, it's my career. Easily worth an extra grand every 3 years to have the best.


Here's a review on Amazon for a laptop with the same make and model as the one he got from Costco. It's better than the three stars on Costco. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B008482UHG


What's weirdest is the Windows "bit rot" claim, that they finally fixed not having to reboot once every so often by Windows 7. In my experience that was fixed almost 14 years ago with Windows 2000.


Artima is still alive? The owner let the site rot for a long time.


I think that what the main argument is, when one gets a Windowd laptop ,one can get something really powerfull and cheap. Macs are not that powerfull and not cheap at all. I bought my Mac a few years ago, I could have bought a x2 more powerfull Windows laptop at the same price. But i must say ( dont know if it is still the case though) Apple has a better customer service than any other computer brand out there. My keyboard went out of order 4 years after I purchased my laptop ( it was my fault, i dropped it) , and Apple replaced it for free.


I like both operating systems. iCloud on all my Apple devices makes life easier. On the other hand, my Windows 7 and Xbox 360 have no type of integration, but can run certain programs a lot better. They both have their perks, and I will still use both types.


Agree with most of this article, had a Macbook Pro forced on me by a company a few years ago, I tried really hard to switch but ultimately put Windows on it and dual-booted.

I dont agree about Win8, its a disaster of epic proportions, staying with Win7 until Win9. I hear 8.1 is much of the same since Ballmer has his head up his ass.




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