Daniel Lemire's blog

, 4 min read

My first Mac

Today I finally received an Apple MacPro I ordered several months (!!!) ago. I thought I would quickly review my first impressions.

  • The machine is sexy. There is no other word for it. My Linux box looks like a russian car (not insult intended toward the russian folks) in comparison.
  • The machine is fast, but it takes forever to boot up. It takes longer to boot than a slow Linux box that has 12,000 boot-level services.
  • Took me some time to find out where the console is, but once you have it, you can create a link on your desktop. The console is good, comparable to what you have under Linux. It looks like it uses bash by default. However, I do not seem to have color support in the shell. No hint anywhere how to turn it on. (Update. Will says to check an article on macosxhints for the color support, but says he prefers iTerm.)
  • The on-disk help is pretty good. Clearly, Apple cares about helping you find a solution to your problems. Unlike Microsoft who is happy to confuse you into depression. (And Linux, well… Linux has Google as documentation…)
  • The machine comes with lots of preinstalled software. I don’t know what any of it does so far, but it looks like Apple is not cheap software-wise.
  • The keyboard French Canadian layout sucks. It differs from the established standard found in both Windows and Linux.
  • I could not find the equivalent of the “Home” and “End” keys. I still don’t know where they are. This means that it takes five minutes to select the content of a text box.
  • Having the menu all the way to the top of the screen is really a drag when you have two screens. When my application is on the second screen and I need to go in its menu, I have to go back to the first screen, move up and click on the menu.
  • It took two of us about 15 minutes to even find out if I had a DVD reader. Turns out I do, but it does not appear anywhere. I can open it by pressing one of the keys on the keyboard (the “eject key”).
  • Setting up a ssh server was not too hard. It looks like I can manage my Mac from home just like a Linux box. So far so good. Though I don’t have gcc up and running yet. My main problem is that the connection speed with my lab. is not great, but the sysadmin, Mihai, says it will get better.
  • You can configure the mouse so that you have an actual right button. Very nice. You can even configure it as a 3-button mouse. Excellent! Those of you who don’t know why you need 3 buttons clearly are missing on some great classical software such as xfig.
  • Installing Firefox (first thing I did) created some kind of “mounted disk” that now resides on my desktop. When trying to put this useless icon in the garbage can, the machine complained that it could not unmount the disk. Which disk? I suppose that what I downloaded was some kind of disk image that MacOS mounts as a virtual disk. Fine. But how do I get rid of it now that Firefox is installed? There must be a trick to it.
  • Security seems weak. It appears that I can install everything using my initial account. No root account? (Or maybe I have both a user and root account? I’m confused.)
  • The second thing I installed was Fink. Fink is the MacOS equivalent of “apt-get” (debian) or “portage” (gentoo) or “rpm” (redhat/mandriva). Took me some doing to get it running, and it seems very useful, though, by default, very few packages are available. I tried moving to CVS access which opens up many more packages, but it said, quite rudely, that I needed something called dev-tools. Alas, doing sudo apt-get install dev-tools fails with a comment to the effect that there is no such package. The command sudo fink install dev-tools is more informative as it tells you to go and register as a developer with Apple. You are supposed to guess that dev-tools is “Apple talk” for a package called xcode. I did find it, sold my soul to Apple, and now I’m downloading a huge image of what I hope is the dev-tools thing. This file is really gigantic (1GiB!). By the way, I do this remotely so I had to do sudo apt-get links to use the links browser (links is really a good browser). So far so good. I just hope I’ll be able to mount the disk image I’m downloading through my ssh access. The command hdiutil attach allows one to mount dmg files. It looks like cd /Volumes/Xcode Tools; sudo installer -pkg XcodeTools.mpkg -target / will install Xcode without any need for a GUI. Oh! And fink install python cvs svn gnuplot gnuplot-py xfig kile tetex transfig anacron numeric wine pdftk imagemagick swig koffice kopete looks like a decent way to start. I still don’t know whether it will work, but there is a detailed page on building KDE on Mac.