I want a Unix-y Mac more like Windows

No, seriously. While $dayjob is primarily done on Windows – for convenience with legacy apps – I have a year old MBP that I absolutely love – most of the time. When will we ever have the best of them all?

Once you learn enough of the cryptically arcane symbols that serve as the magic handshake to actually get Unix-like boxes to do something useful, there really is a lot of quickly accessible power in there. All sorts of file, web, data, and network processing is possible from a few short and simple (er, cryptically arcane) lines of text. Even better, with Cygwin and the like, it’s possible to take some of this power all over the place.

Macs are magic – most of the time. 80% of the things you touch, click, or CTRL-click on a Mac just ‘Do The Right Thing’. Not only is it intuitive, it’s also beautiful. Hmmm, I’ll have that one – click – done. Oh, cool – it also buttered my toast while measuring milk for my coffee – delicious and convenient all in one!

The other 20% is the arsenic-laced inner seeds of Macdom. The moment you step off the path of the One True Way, you’re lost. Even worse than being lost, even after scouring the forums and tips and clicking on every pretty button there is, you find out that there just plain isn’t any way to accomplish what you want.

Now in Unix, you get lost plenty. But there you should expect it, ever since you passed by that #!/bin sh echo "Abandon All Hope" line a while back. In Macdom, it’s all the more frustrating when you find yourself adrift, with no obvious or unobvious way to get what you want.

On Windows, it’s reversed: 20% of the things work the way you expect. The other 80% are different, and they’re different between each set of applications you use too boot. But once you learn the arcanely cryptic menu accelerator keys, you get by pretty well. And the great thing about Windows is that if you want to do something unusual, then you can find a way to do it. It may require downloading an unsupported program to hack the underlying data file, and it may not be portable anywhere else, but it will work. You do have options.

So I want just enough of the core power of Unix shells and potentially portable, higher level scripting languages. Then I want the beauty and simplicity of Mac to manage it all for me without too much typing most of the time.

Then when I decide to do one of those aberrant things that the Mac Gods have declared not worthy, I want the breadth of semi-pro hack tools available on Windows to get it to do exactly what I want.

That, or an iPhone that fits in my pocket with a screen that magically expanded when needed. I’d settle for that, I guess.

4 thoughts on “I want a Unix-y Mac more like Windows

  1. An iPod example: trying to listen to Harry Potter. 1000+ mp3 files, all with the same first 40 character name. Does not fit with the forced Artist->Album->Song hierarchy. You can scroll individual titles, but not the whole screen. Impossible to find out where you were. Effectively you can either listen to the whole thing start to stop, and not use your iPod for music until you are done, or spend more time trying to find out where you were than listening to the book.

  2. I've only had casual dealings with Mac. Mostly trying to surf on someone else's machine, or set up their network. I guess these must fall into the 20% bucket but I have never dealt with a more obtuse, ill thought out and badly designed UI as I faced trying to accomplish those tasks.
    To be clear: I hate Windows and Linux too. I've not met an operating system yet that couldn't have been done much better. The only bright spot on the horizon is Ubuntu. It's not there yet, but it's going in the right direction.
    To be double clear: I hate all (post Apple ][) Apple UI. From the iPod to the iPhone I find them annoying and irritating to work with. They make it easy to do things their way, but in general their way has not met up with what I want to do. And, as you point out, not doing things their way is an unholy headache.

  3. “The moment you step off the path of the One True Way, you’re lost.”

    Could you be any more cryptic? I mean, common, what does this mean?

    BTW, what about installing VirtualBox so you can run Windows or some *nix flavoured OS inside OSX? Won't that help you when you want to step of the path? (whatever it may be)

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