We’ve now had the Mac Mini for over a month. It’s mostly my wife using it, and finding it very easy to use. But here are some random observations:
- Did I hate proprietary software? I thought I did, but I suppose I only hated the Windows world. There is no open-source program that compares to iPhoto, for example. (And do we really care if such programs are not open-source? I increasingly realise that I’m for open standards and interoperability, not necessarily open source as such.)
- Is Mac OS X stable and reliable? Yes. No crashes yet. Perhaps recent versions of Windows are equally good, I don’t know.
- Is the command line still useful? Yes. Example: my wife had over a hundred files in the “Downloads” directory and wanted to move only the JPG photos to the “Photos” directory on the desktop. Pointing and clicking to select them in the graphical file manager was a tedious process. I simply opened a terminal and typed “mv Downloads/*.jpg Desktop/Photos”.
- But is the graphical interface that hides all the Unix complexity good at what it does? Mostly, yes, but there are slip-ups. Example: the default shortcuts for switching “spaces” (“virtual desktops” on Linux, no equivalent on Windows) were shown as “^ left” and “^ right”, and despite some Linux experience, my wife didn’t immediately realise that “^” was shorthand for the “Ctrl” key. (I suppose only power users want virtual desktops anyway, but she knew them from Linux and found them convenient.)
- Is open source software still useful on the Mac? Yes. Case in point: VLC, the media player. Unlike Windows (last I checked), the Mac plays DVDs out-of-the-box — but enforces a region code, which may be changed only five times before it is permanently locked. This is strictly a software restriction, at the behest of the movie industry. VLC disregards the region code so we can happily play DVDs from multiple regions. We have also installed The Gimp and Inkscape: the alternatives were Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, but those are expensive and the free programs are good enough.
- Anything we found we can’t do, or not easily? Yes: save a flash video from YouTube into a separate file. (I suppose there would be plugins for Firefox to do it, but first we’d have to install Firefox.) On linux, look in the /tmp directory for a file whose name begins with “Flash”, and copy it. Supposedly it used to be a similar mechanism (different location) in earlier versions of OS X, but on Snow Leopard we couldn’t find it.
- Do I plan to trade in my Linux laptop for a Mac? No.