Ragioni per fare il grande salto

During the vacation, we stopped in small bookstore in Verona which was selling computer software as well. At the entrance, there was a poster showing smiling Finder’s face, Apple logo and announcing reasons why you would want to make the big jump – il grande salto – to Mac platform. That is to explain the title 🙂

Grande Salto is exactly what I did. Without too much preparation or notice. Since Tuesday evening I am happy owner of the beautiful piece of hardware (17 inch 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro with 250 GB HDD and 4 GB of RAM) that is greatly complemented by the amazing software collection (OS X 10.5, iLife 08, iWork 08 and many others) running on it. I spent Wednesday playing with it and between ‘Wows’ and ‘Ahhs’ managed to setup the core applications I need for work: several configurations of Eclipse (with and without MyEclipseIDE), Netbeans with Ruby, couple of gems and of course THE editor. Then transferred the sources, installed Ant, Spring, Tomcat and couple of opensource packages (e.g. Jakarta Commons). And on Thursday, I jumped right into the field, to the client continuing in development of my current Java project in the place where I left it on Monday with Fujitsu N5100 running XP-ProSP2. As a plan B, I had my old notebook also with me – but did not have to resort to using it.

The switch was not easy and for few hours I had to fight old habits and muscle memory. As many years TotalCommander addict, I had created really fast and efficient workflows and habits how to move around. None of them was of course applicable. It is really hard to overcome these unconscious finger movements burned deep into your brain: F3 is File View, F4 is File Edit, F7 is create directory – when you have been using them for over 20 years since MS-DOS and Norton Commander. But eventually, I learned to appreciate and enjoy the New Ways. New Finder is really good and in combination with Spaces and Quicksilver allows at least as efficient ways – sometimes even better – how to accomplish things.

As I was expecting, using bash instead of pretty lame windows command shell is a big relief. I have forgotten 90% of my old shell script and command line edit keystroke skills, but it is still so much better. The file system operations are considerably faster and common tasks can be automated with minimal effort just by using symbolic links, simple scripts and shell variables. What is much better under Leopard is network connectivity – the way how it does browse and connect to Windows machines …

Working in Eclipse is same as under Windows – only it looks better and is faster – but (to make it fair comparison) it MUST run faster on 2.4 GHz Core2 Duo 4GB than on 3.4 GHz P-IV with 1 GB. Ability to use two finger scrolls, quick desktop switches and great screen resolution (1920×1200) makes the Macbook Pro close to perfect developer workstation.

I have still not found replacement for all features and tools I was using in Windows – but I am working on it. Most of them come from 3rd party software, not from OS. Right now, what I miss is (from TotalCommander):

– convenient directory comparison and synchronization with good GUI (with embedded on-demand file diff)

– transparent processing of the packed archives – TC makes them look and behave as directory sub-trees

– opening shell in directory / creating file in directory – aka “I am in the Project/demo/src directory now, please create the empty README.txt file here”. Mac works the other way – open editor with the new file and save the file to Project/demo/src/README.txt. Which is not necessarily worse, but just (still) against my instincts. I was used to get to directory first and press Shift-F4 (bound to start of Notepad++, prompting for name), or to click on TotalCommader toolbar icon “Open command prompt in current directory”

After working two full days, I have not found any real issues and was extremly pleased with the Leopard user experience. It is hard to explain – the differences are subtle but in whole it feels so much better than any other OS. I have been using OS-X for over a year now, but only at home and for mostly hobby-projects or after hour hacks. This is an attempt to make Mac the foundation for work environment as well, and use Windows for .NET development only, running it inside virtual machine. And it is very different experience – in two days I have learned a lot and found out about many more things to discover.

To make the grande salto even more complete (and potentially devastating in case of bad landing ;-)), I have also during last week wiped out my desktop at Thinknostic and instead XP-Pro installed Fedora Linux with KDE desktop. With the Mac available and working mostly out of office I do not get so much time to spend on desktop – but it is good to have same platform on both places. I have already configured first few VMWARE virtual machines – with both Linux and Windows as guest OS. The Vmware player works great under Linux, I cannot wait until final version of the Fusion 1.1 is out to test on on the Mac.

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