Hard drive failure….

Well, the hard drive in my 5 month old MacBook Pro started developing bad sectors this week. On Tuesday, I tried to reboot and it pretty much refused to come up. Neither Linux nor OSX would boot up. The OSX fsck reported unrepairable volume corruption. A badblocks disk scan from linux revealed several bad blocks. Luckily, enough of the Linux partition was readable and the filesystem was ok enough to copy most of the data off.

Today, I headed to the Apple store to see what they would do. Result: they take my computer for 5-8 days for diagnostics and repair. From my perspective, that really really sucks. Dell is MUCH MUCH better if service and support is important to you. Whenever I bought a Dell, I always paid for the next day, at home service. Use it once and it’s worth it. When my screen developed a “line” in it, a Dell guy was standing on my door step the next morning with a new one. When my dell hard drive failed, DHL delivered a new one by 10am the next day with a return slip for the old one. That is called service.

What Apple provides is an annoyance, not service. In retrospect, probably should have bought a new harddrive from the internet someplace, had it overnighted, and replaced it myself. Would be faster and less annoying.

Luckily, I hadn’t given away my old computer yet so I’m not completely stuck for a week.

Update: Fred Dushin claims it’s due to “bad karma” for installing Linux on the Mac. Not sure I buy that.

Back to Linux

While in the office yesterday (for the first time in almos a month), a couple people noticed I was running KDE/Linux on my MacBook Pro. Yep. I’ll admit it. I’ve given up on OSX and am back using Linux. I feel I gave OSX a pretty fair trial. I used it exclusively for 3 full months, but I could never get myself to feel comfortable with it and definitely feel I’m more productive and less frustrated in Linux.

My main issues with OSX really boiled down to:

  1. Inconsistent and useless keybindings – mostly centering around the End/Home keys. For those that don’t know, the “normal” binding for end/home on OSX is to go to the End/Beginning of the file. Umm… How often does anyone ever need to do that? As a software engineer, I don’t think I EVER need to do that. Very very rare. Why are there dedicated keys to do something I never do? On Linux, End/Home go to end/beginning of the current line, which IS something I do all the time. OSX uses a bizzarre Command-Left/Right to accomplish that for MOST applications. So you need a two key combo to do something that a single key does on linux. What’s worse, the Command-Left/Right DOESN’T do end/beginning of line in one of the major apps I use every day: terminal. That required an even more bizzarre (unless your and emacs person) Ctrl-A/Ctrl-E set of key combos. Anyway, I constantly had to “think” about which application I was in and map that to the correct keys.
  2. Window placement issues – when I work, I have a TON of windows open. Probably 4-6 terminals, 4 or 5 browser windows, Mail applications, rss readers, IRC client, IM client, etc…. I want/demand “single click” access to any of those windows at any given time. (BTW: I hate tabbed browsing/tabbed terminals because that’s a two click access. Once to select the browser window, and another click to select the tab.) I could never really get that to work well on OSX. What’s worse, I seemed to always need to go hunting for windows (use expose) to find thing I was just using. Example: I start writing an email in Mail.app. I switch to a browser or eclipse to copy some data, I click on “Mail” icon on the Dock, but that brings up the main Mail.app window, not the Mail creation window that I was just in. I then need to bring up expose or something to help find the window I really need. I felt I was wasting a ton of time just finding stuff I was just using.
  3. Spaces is a POOR replacement for pretty much any of the Linux pagers. Moving windows from “space to space” is SOO much quicker/easier in Linux. In KDE, the pager in the panel shows all the windows (with their icons) and you can actually drag them from space to space right there. No need to hit F12 or whatever, wait for the spaces to come into view, move them around, etc…. Also, with KDE, the system menu on any window has a “To Desktop -> #” menu to send any window to any desktop. It’s much quicker. (that said, when I’m at home with my dual monitor setup, I don’t really use the multiple desktops/spaces much. I mostly just use it when I’m away from home where I only have the notebook screen.)
  4. Lack of “gnu-isms”. Yes, the command line in OSX is Bash and uses all the normal Unix commands (ls, cp, etc…). That, in itself, is a HUGE HUGE advantage over Windows. However, it doesn’t have any of the “gnu-isms” that I’m kind of used to. “cp -a”, ability to put command flags last on “ls”, etc… Again, minor stuff, but I’m definitely used to them. (I know, install macports and replace the versions in OSX with real versions.)
  5. Likewise, not-so-good integration with some other tools that are necessary such as gnupg. Getting the gpg-agent up and running on OSX sucked. Getting it all working in Mail.app was also not as easy as it should be. Etc….
  6. Mail.app is not as good as KMail – Along with very good gnupg integration, KMail has two other things that are really important to me:
    1. Folder subscriptions – I keep YEARS/GBs of mail up on my imap server in “archive” folders. I just don’t subscribe to those folders so I don’t see them unless I really need them.
    2. The “threaded message list” in Mail.app only has two options: all expanded or all collapsed. I LOVE KMails “all collapsed unless it has a unread message”.

Anyway, I’m back to Linux, which is definitely where I feel I belong. 🙂

Besides, it’s fun to hack Linux kernel drivers to get useless things like light sensors working.

One week with a Mac…..

Yesterday marked a full week as a Mac user. I must admit that right now, I’m still slowly crawling out of the “what did I get myself into?” hole as I’m still struggling with the transition. It’s definitely a learning experience as I adjust.

For the most part, I REALLY like the hardware aspects of the MacBook Pro. Compared to my Dell XPS m1710, the hardware is quite nice. The machine is much faster (CXF builds in about 20 minutes compared with about 30 minutes) but also runs a LOT cooler. I can actually sit and type with it on my lap without burning my legs. Battery life is much better as well. It’s quite a bit lighter. The power brick is a LOT smaller and lighter.

I was quite concerned about the “single button” touchpad as I use context menus a lot. However, after just a couple days, I’ve come to the conclusion that the two finger click method is a TON better and much more comfortable and less straining on the thumb. Instead of curling the thumb under the palm to hit the other button, you put two fingers on the touch pad instead of one and just click. The hand stays in a natural position.

I’ve already blogged about the built in iSight cameral thing. That’s a fun “toy”.

I really have only two complaints on the hardware front:

1) The ambient light sensor – this seems to be in a stupid place under the grill on the sides of the keyboard. Whenever I reached to hit delete or escape, I ended up casting a shadow or something and the screen would dim driving me nuts. I ended up turning that off. IMO, it would be better to have that sensor at the top of the screen with the camera.

2) Lack of dedicated PgUp/PgDwn/End/Home keys. As a programmer, I spend a lot of time navigating around code to find bugs, debug things, etc… Having to use two keystrokes for those actions is a bit strange. Normally, I use an external keyboard (I highly recommend the Kinesis Contoured keyboard) which has the keys, but when traveling, it’s a bit awkward.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the hardware. Software is another story, but that’s for another blog entry and I’ll give myself more time to adjust before bitching about that.


Ryan discovers the camera…..

It didn’t take long for my son to discover the nice shiny new computer sitting on daddy’s desk. So far, his favorite thing is the camera capturing into iMovie:


He doesn’t quite understand the “baby in there”. He touches the baby on the screen and declares “Baby in there”. What’s even more confusing is when he see’s daddy with another baby. So much for no fingerprints on the glossy screen. 🙁

We also did a video chat with grandma tonight. I think that was more entertaining for grandma than anyone else. It was very easy to setup though.

New Computer

Today, my employer purchased me a new computer: a brand new Apple MacBook Pro 17″, 2.6Ghz. This marks a bunch of interesting events:

1) This is the first time in 10 years that I’ve had an employer supplied computer. I’ve pretty much always used a computer that I’ve purchased myself.

2) This also ends my string of Dell’s. I’ve had 5 Dells in those 10 years. I started with the Inspiron 5000, then the 8000, then the 8200, then the XPS Gen 2, and finally the XPS M1710. During that time, I also setup several Dell’s for family members. (mostly 6×00 series Inspirons)

3) During that 10 years, I’ve also pretty much only used Linux on my computers (and prior to that, it was OS/2 primarily). Thus, folks keep asking me if I’ll wipe out OSX and install Linux on it. Well, I don’t know yet. I’m going to give OSX a chance for a few weeks. Check back later.