So my goo'ol' tablet-pc hp tx2500 died. Just like that. Turned out it was rather common issue with that model. Repair for $400 plus shipping to US and back and probably also customs taxes etc. So I decided to go for a new laptop. To make it short - I bought mid-2010 MacBook Pro 13".
First I was excited to finally get my hands on that infamous OS X, where almost everyone takes inspiration from. I could finally use THE Dock, those top-screen-menus and all the fancy stuff that OS X brings. It was cool to play with it. But then the wow-effect weared off and I needed to actually do something (work).
First big deal was installing the applications. Coming from Linux land, I had no idea how it works on Mac. I downloaded LibreOffice for some quick Word writing. Everything, LO included, is a dmg image which is mounted just like any other image in Linux. Then you run the app from it. Then you reboot and the app is gone. It is not installed, the image is not mounted anymore, file associations not working etc. So what the heck? Then I found out, that all you need to do to 'install' the app is to drag the app into Applications on Dock. Easy and elegant. But boy it took time to figure this out (Ironically, I think it was Qt4 install that made me understand). The app itself is kind of a package, it looks like one file, but in fact, it has the whole app data in it (and yes, it is browseable).
Managing running apps is then a whole different story. It's weird. Be it switching apps, minimalising them, maximalising them etc. Window management is just weird on OS X (note: I don't say it is bad! It's just different to what I'm used to). Pressing the app-switch combo (alt-tab equivalent) shows bunch of apps, but switching to them does nothing. The famous Exposé also does not show them. They have a bright spot under them on the Dock (which I hope indicates it is running), but clicking on it again does nothing. So...what the heck? I thought this was system for simple users. Pressing the supposedly Maximize button also behaves rather randomly, but never the way I want to. Mostly it just expands the app to all available vertical space, but horizontal dimension stays the same. I could continue this all day, but you get the idea :)
Now don't get me wrong, the system is nice. It has lots of features I'd love to see in KDE/Linux too. Everything seems sooo seamless. You run a game, it all nicely fades in and fades out. No flickering, no screen blinking, just a smooooth transition. Oh and you should see the transition of video to full-screen ;) Now switching back to linux and playing something with mplayer(2)? Any Plasma notification (composite=on) will completely disrupt the playing video (the colors are all random, then green, then the whole screen blinks and all is ok). Imagine you're adjusting volume/screen brightness while the video is playing fullscreen - everytime you touch that key, you experience this two-sec-flickering. So I'm asking - Can we (at KDE) do something about it?
KDE's native compositing system is overall on par with Mac's. I'd say even better. Nice example is the Exposé effect. On Mac, you get all the windows and you can switch between them. On KDE, you can even close them right from the Exposé (and with Compiz you can just zoom-in the window even without switching to that app) or clicking the desktop takes you to desktop. So, great job KWin team! The only thing I miss in KWin is the ability to trigger it with four-fingers touchpad combo like on OS X.
Which brings us to the (awesome!) multi-touch touchpad. It's used everywhere throughout the OS X. Be it zooming, rotating, switching pages, etc etc. Linux can work with no problem with the multi-touch. Thanks to the kcm_touchpad I can set two fingers scrolling, map two finger tap to right click and three thingers to middle click (this I miss on the OS X), so I can easily open new tabs with three fingers, close them the same way and so on. But the missing thing is the gestures support. For once, there's no framework for that by default. Canonical started the uTouch project, so Ubuntu does support the gestures, but AFAIK the patches weren't picked by upstream. So to get a gestures support, I'd have to patch my kernel, X, and then compile the whole uTouch thing. But let's say this works. Are the KDE apps ready for that? Can I for example zoom in Gwenview/Okular/Konqueror using the pinch-to-zoom gesture? Can I rotate images in Gwenview/DigiKam by rotating two fingers? And if not (which I can't test :), Can we (KDE) do something about it?
Next thing is basic applications. Applications themselves are again on par on both systems. But generally, I'd say that although you can see some inspiration taken from OS X into KDE, but we made it better everywhere. We went one more mile. Be it the already mentioned Exposé, or KDE's Dolphin versus Mac's Finder. Dolphin offers almost the same UI as Finder, but offers improved features over Finder. One example - the breadcrumb navigation. You can display that in Finder and you can navigate with it by double-click. Ok, nice. Now Dolphin enables you to navigate with single-click (not much an improvement..) AND it let's you select any folder from any item in the whole breadcrumb line (clicking the arrows) AND it let's you manually rewrite the path AND then turn it into breadcrumbs again. And you can find these small, life-easing betterments all over KDE.
And with that we're getting to the desktop environment itself. With Plasma, you have almost endless possibilities. You can turn the panel into whatever you want however you want. The Mac's panel is...well, just a panel. You can't move it (and if so, I haven't figured it out yet), you can't resize it etc. With Plasma, I can do the panel my way. Mac's systray and it's "applets" are quite limited too (I'm starting getting a feeling, that this is somehow Apple's trademark - do everything limited). For example, you can't set the volume with just mouse-wheeling over the icon. You can't mute the sound by middle-clicking the icon. In fact, you can't mute the sound at all through that control. Bummer. You can configure what time/date things to show, but you won't get a calendar by clicking on it (hey, even windows does that!). So, again, KDE has the same, but little better. On the other hand, in Mac OS X you have all icons in the same style and all monochromatic. With KDE, I currently have bunch of white icons and bunch of color icons. I know this is all in the hands of the apps developers and Plasma can't do anything about it. We can only hope, that someday everyone will ship a mono icons as well :) Oh and how can I miss Klipper? With middle-click-pasting it is the ultimate Linux clipboard tool. Sadly, nothing like that for OS X (at least in basic system).
Both systems seem to be very well integrated as well. Though I miss the KJobs in OS X. Copying files is still with the old-school-dialog. This is great about KDE - all (or most of) the running actions are gathered at one place, so you don't have to look for the small dialogs showing the copy progress, or download progress or whatever. You just click an icon and see them all, you click it again and all of them hides but you can still see the progress on the icon. Just neat :) Also in KDE you can view notifications history, on Mac they just disappear (for example DropBox). But with regards to style - I like the OS X notifications better than our Plasma ones, they feel just too heavy. Nevertheless, Mac deals better with the metadata stuff. We still miss a good Nepomuk integration (or do we?). I can see in the metadata where did I downloaded that file from 14 days ago. Another cool OS X feature is the simple color labeling of files/folders. Here we can only hope and wait for deep Nepomuk integration in KDE (is there some report on the current status somewhere btw? I may be completely wrong about the Nepomuk, so take it with reserve).
Last thing is hardware. Since OS X is optimized (or at least I suppose they've put big effort into it) right for that particular hardware, it is of course better in OS X, be it battery, keyboard or peripheals like integrated mic. The keyboard itself is not that fun when not in OS X (absence of Home/End, Page keys, Delete/Insert, Print Screen, Pause etc), because OS X does everything with key combos. Which, of course, does not work well in Linux. But I was able to make all the keys working with the Pommed project, also backlight works nicely with the Power-management-plasmoid, keyboard light works as well, camera, graphics acceleration, most of it works out-of-the-box, the rest I was able to make work thanks to Alin (bug him at #kde-telepathy :P). The standard external keyboard works kind of weird in OS X. First of all, it won't let you do any config, like layout etc, it just asks you to press a few keys and that's it. Then, Home/End + Shift works rather disasterously - instead of selecting the whole line, it selects all the text from cursor to beginning/end, which can be dangerous if you don't realize that and you start typing right after pressing Shift+Home (you delete all your text).
So as of today, I have fully working Fedora 14 x86_64 install with KDE in dualboot with Mac OS X (don't ask me how I did that, I'm still not sure :D ). Battery holds little less in Fedora than on OS X, but it's not that bad. The touchpad is a bit sensitive, that might get some messing with the config file as kcm_touchpad does not seem to affect that. Otherwise all works just great.
This post might seem a little against OS X. I won't say it isn't, because I'm coming from totaly neat working KDE to a system, about which you can read/hear only praises. So my expectations were rather high. All in all, I got a bit disappointed.
Mac OS X is better in some areas than KDE and likewise, KDE is better in some other areas. My feeling from OS X is that it is an eyecandy, wheter KDE is for work (but both can do the other thing as well). You can of course disagree and I won't beat you up with it nor try to convince you otherwise. It is just my opinion as a long-time KDE user, who found the best way to work with computer and does not want to change that. I'm glad we have a choice. That everyone can choose what suits him best. For me, it is still KDE :)
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