June 2010 2 posts

Why I still prefer Linux over OS X

Monday, June 14, 2010

I got a MacBook Pro a week ago and I'm actually surprised at how much I like it overall. Aside from being shiny, since it's Darwin under the hood, I've been getting along quite well with the command line and that makes the system feel familiar even though I haven't used a Mac since elementary school. And with a Skype client that works far better than the joke that is the Skype Linux client, I actually use this laptop quite a bit.

But I still like Linux (and KDE) more. There are just too many issues for me to think that OS X is as great as some people want me to believe.

First, consider the command-tab hotkey. In Windows/Linux, alt-tab will cycle through open windows. In OS X, command-tab cycles through open applications, and for some reason OS X hates tabbed windows so many applications (especially Finder, the file manager) like to open tons of windows. Command-tab only focuses the most recently-used window of any particular app. To switch windows within apps, you have to focus the app then use command-`, but that doesn't show the little popup, so you don't know in advance what you're about to switch to or how many times to hit `.

Linux has a feature called virtual desktops, which lets you spread out your windows so you can reduce the amount of alt-tabbing. Apple recently introduced it as "Spaces," but it's the same thing. The problem is that if I'm on desktop #1, and I push command-tab, I don't want to select an app on desktop #4. To me, and apparently the KDE team, that's the point of having them separated. On the Mac there's no way to make this work the way I want. For example, if I have 4 desktops and 2 windows on each (say browser/terminal, email/chat, etc) I want command-tab to immediately switch me to the only other window on that desktop. Nope, OS X would like to switch me to whatever app I used last, which is usually on some other desktop, so I have to hit tab 6 more times to get to where I want. (Windows doesn't come with this feature at all but I've been using WindowsPager, a free tool that implements behavior similar to that of KDE on Linux.)

What's more, OS X apparently doesn't think some windows are real windows. For example, the Skype call/webcam window. If I use Expose, that window magically disappears. If I use the Spaces feature to zoom out and view all my virtual desktops, that window disappears. Which means it's very difficult to find that window if I lose track of it (command-` doesn't find it either, and the Dock just switches to an app not a window), and also hard to move it from one virtual desktop to another. And there's no hotkey to move a window from one virtual desktop to another. The closest thing I know of is to click and hold a window's title bar, and while holding down the mouse button, hit a hotkey. And it only seems to work most of the time. Retarded.

I would have thought that a company which prides itself so much on its user interface would have gotten these things right. Seriously, if Linux can get these things right, so should OS X.

Unrelated problem — the OS X Mail app for email doesn't work with a SOCKS proxy. Apparently it never has... I found posts from 2001 asking about this. So I can't check my email from work using that. Thunderbird, and even MS Entourage work fine. At least in Linux, if an app doesn't do SOCKS I can use a wrapper like tsocks or proxychains, but for the life of me I can't get either of these to work in OS X 10.6. Seems the only thing that can get the built-in Mail app to work is Proxifier, which is $40, and aside from the money it causes other issues.

Also, the 80-90 C temperature when all I'm doing is Skype webcam is unacceptable. Apparently Apple thinks this is normal.

Tags: apple, linux, osx, sucks | Posted at 16:31 | Comments (0)

Skype fails to start on Fedora 13, nothing displayed and 100% CPU usage

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I upgraded to Fedora 13 (from 12) today and spent an hour figuring out why everything worked fine but Skype wouldn't start... symptoms included:

  • 100% CPU usage and no disk activity immediately after launching Skype
  • No window or any GUI element shows up, no sign that it's doing anything useful
  • No console output

After a while, strace skype gave me a hint. I'm not really sure whose fault this is, but apparently somebody broke something somewhere and the fangsongti font is causing freetype to hang. This also causes the nspluginwrapper for 32-bit Flash to hang.

Fix: yum remove bitmap-fangsongti-fonts

I filed a bug report on Redhat's bugzilla but got denied.

Tags: fedora, linux, skype | Posted at 22:08 | Comments (0)