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OSX. Some musings. Mainly biased.

Those of you who know me know that I’m not a particularly large fan of Apple.

Actually, it’s more complex than that - I massively admire the company for being as successful as they are, and I can help but marvel at the achievement that they’ve single-handedly manage to own the “Unix on the desktop” space.

It’s the other little things, like the mild authoritarian smugness, the fact that I don’t think their hardware is value for money (Aside: A $25 computer is value for money, a $1100 laptop isn’t. If you disagree, that’s fine - we have different value systems), and the corporate attitude synonymous with “we know best” that also means “fucking over your developers”. Ok, that last point was the same as the first point, but it’s worth making twice. I did buy an apple keyboard once - I still have it. It’s nice. Really.

I’m off track. Apple isn’t the point of this ramble, OSX is. You see, for the past few months, I’ve been using OSX pretty regularly, in a variety of contexts - both “work work”, and “not-work work”. As everyone knows, it’s pretty nice. It looks nice, behaves nicely, it is UNIX, which is great. All good stuff.

But it’s not perfect - nothing is. But I’d go as far as saying that it’s not much better than Windows. Compare OSX 10.7.3 (which is what I happen to be using, because it’s the latest, right now) and Windows 7 - they’re both very capable. They both have a wealth of software available for them, some good, some bad. They both functionally do the same sorts of things. They also both have annoying things that make you want to kill people, and they both occasionally do random things with no explanation whatsoever.

The problem I have is this: I use Windows with a reasonably average expectation of it doing what I need it to do. Therefore, when it does something weird, it’s normal, and when it does something useful, it’s amazing. OSX, and the whole ‘Apple experience’ is partially sold on the concept of ‘Just works’, which means that when something goes wrong, no matter how small, it’s infuriating. It lulls you into this false sense of ‘nothing can go wrong’, and then it bites you, and you have to reboot.

This isn’t all Apple’s fault, sometimes these little things are caused by really crappy third party software. But they’re tainted by the promises of the platform, and the expectations it generates. The problem with raising expectations is that you actually have to then meet them.

All of this is leading up to a surprising point. I really like the new Ubuntu release, Precise Pangolin. Many would argue that Linux on the desktop is still horribly broken, obtusely weird and generally not as nice an experience as Win/OSX, and they’re right, but they miss the point. People (me) expects linux on the desktop to be broken. So when it works, even slightly, I’m super-impressed. 12.04 seems to have reached the point where the number of things that don’t work is almost liveable with on a day-to-day basis.

There’s a moral lesson here. Be awesome. But first, be crap. Then you can appreciate just how awesome you are. If you forget, go back to being crap for a bit. The same’s true for happiness as well.