Tagged: apple

Apple’s Continuity

The people at Apple read my old blog post and answered with Continuity. This is a far better approach than Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which attempts to physically merge 2 devices into 1. Apple will let each device do what it’s good at, but integrate those devices where possible. It’s a terrific idea, but it’s likely Apple will not open this feature up to developers, limiting integration to that which Apple deigns to give the masses. Microsoft generally does the opposite, granting developers wide access to do as they please. This usually degenerates into a cacophony of half-assed broken implementations by morons. But at least it would be open. 

Microsoft still has an opportunity to leapfrog Apple with it’s Nokia arm. Imagine a new Windows Phone 9 running on a Surface Phone designed by Nokia. You could have integration between desktop & phone apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, etc. And MS could have deep integration between Office for phone & desktop, something like Tempo. The thing is, MS Research has been working on this stuff for years. For example, take a look at Eric Horvitz’s early publications in HCI. IIRC they had a smarter version of Mac’s Notification Center in the late 90s using similar techniques found in Google Now. They’ve got lots of papers about working seamlessly across devices. They have the know-how, but it’s not making it into their products. 


First time Mac User

The defining characteristic of the Macs I used in the 80s is they always lost my homework. Therefore, I’ve always owned a Windows PC for personal use and used Unix for development. But this year I bought a 13″ Macbook Pro Retina w/ 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. The reason I went Apple is because the PC laptops were underwhelming and cost the same or more than the rMBP. No other laptop gives me 16GB of memory in this small package. The Macbook is a fantastic piece of hardware. Battery life is amazing! The trackpad is better than Windows 8 touchscreens. 

On the other hand, Mac OS X is underwhelming. The big issue is my laptop crashes from a Sleep Wake Failure almost every week. The Apple Genius was clueless, and the forums are filled with people stuck with the same issue. I’ve never had a machine that crashed this much, neither Windows nor Linux. Other recent mac converts have also suffered random crashing for unknown reasons. 

I think a lot of devs get Macs because it’s Unix underneath. Why isn’t there a decent package manager then? Homebrew is ok, but nowhere near apt or rpm. I do all my dev stuff in a Linux VM, which is much much better. Many devs use Vagrant, which is the same thing. In both cases the host OS doesn’t matter. So I think the Unix underpinnings is moot. On the other hand, you need Macs for iOS, just like you need Windows for commercial .NET work. There’s no getting around that. 

Here are some small annoyances I’ve run into:

  • No presentation mode. 
  • Doesn’t automatically change security based on network. On Windows, I can set locations as Home, Work or Public. I use ControlPlane to simulate this, but it’s wonky. I also use it to simulate Presentation mode. 
  • Often when I resume after the screen turns off, it takes a very long time before the windows appear again. The screen remains black  (though I can see my pointer) and the screen turns on briefly when I switch desktops. I have no idea what’s going on here.
  • Clamshell mode turns on when I have power & an external monitor plugged in, but no keyboard. The docs say all 3 are required. The Apple guy had no idea. 
  • The filesystem sucks. Backups require HFS+. It does whole file copy rather than block copy, so VMware tells you to turn off backups of images because it will copy the entire 50GB file when a single bit changes. 
  • Integration with Windows networks hasn’t worked well. Linux does a much better job. Windows has 90% of the PC market, so Apple should make this work smoothly. 
  • External monitor support is wonky. When I’ve given presentations, the OS freaked out a few times. I lost access to the projector and couldn’t click on anything. Had to reboot in the middle of a talk. 
  • If I close all the windows for an app, why doesn’t the app shutdown? I have to hit Command-Q. 
  • I can’t Cmd-Tab between windows in an app, only between apps. Cmd-` works sometimes. 
  • Activity Monitor is not as good as Win8’s Task Manager. 
  • I use BetterTouchTool to get Windows 7’s Snap feature. 
  • Virtual desktops aren’t handled as well as Linux desktops. 
  • Copy & paste files is weird. I must be doing it wrong. On Windows I right-click & drag. On Mac I think it’s click, drag and hold Command. It’s like Twister for my fingers.
  • Connecting HDMI to my TV wasn’t easy. I use an old Windows laptop instead. 
  • No fine-grained volume control like Window’s audio mixer. Also, on Windows it will automatically reduce audio when you use a voice app like Skype. I don’t think OSX offers that kind of audio control, else I’d do it with ControlPlane.
  • Is there a way to tweak power use like Windows? I didn’t see anything. Thank goodness the defaults give me great battery life. 
  • Everyone talks about the free apps that come with OSX: Calendar, iPhoto, iMovie, etc. I don’t use these and don’t really care. 
  • I still don’t like the menu bar. On a laptop every vertical pixel is precious. On Windows the task bar can autohide. I hate that Unity and Gnome copied this look. 

If a PC manufacturer just copied the rMBP at a good price I’d switch back to PCs. Windows 8 with Classic Shell is fine. I live in VMware anyway. The Mac hardware is so good right now that I can live with these minor inconveniences. The combination of 16GB RAM and PCIe SSD means I can run 3 VMs without any slowdown. Overall, it’s a great machine and an okay OS.