I'll compare two system's usability, one Ubuntu Linux on a Dell desktop, the other Mac OS X on an iMac.
System 1 - Juggernaut
It's running Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx riding on a dual core 3Ghz desktop with overpowered quad sli Nvidia 7950 GTX. The big double video card setup was to make the 30" apple cinema display fly for video games which I no longer have as much time to explore (came with Vista, yuck). I resubbed to World of Warcraft and it feels the same with a talent overhaul running on WINE with occasional game freezes.
The Lucid Lynx X server is pretty sharp, and responds quickly for native compiled applications. I've accepted that most of the JVM tools are somewhat sluggish on any system I use. Added bonus, I easily customized my own windows theme with partially transparent frames with a gradient color boundary.
System 2 - Mark's iMac
Yeah, I know, this system needs a better name. It's a stock 27" iMac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 and packing an ATI 5670 with 512 Mbytes of video ram.
The GUI to the OS feels well polished and supports the type of snappy unix terminal I've grown accustomed to on Ubuntu over the past 8 months. The .bash_profile worked for any customizations I needed, as I didn't spot a .bashrc or .cshrc nor did they autoload with a new terminal (might have had to fully relog).
Setting Up the Dev Environment
Ubuntu leverages apt-get or your choice of other package manager for grabbing and automatically updating libraries and applications. If there aren't any tricks about the name of dependent packages or libs it just works. If there are you have to roll up your sleeves and do a little searching.
First thing to do on a Mac is to grab the latest version of XCode. I had the 3 GByte zipped file on my portable passbook drive. I came across Home Brew for Mac OSX while installing Ruby Version Manager and Rails 3 yesterday morning. I prefer a single smooth command line installation of packages to the standard Mac way:
- open new web browser (File, new window is getting old quick)
- search for Mac app
- download zipped package
- double click
- drag new icon to application folder to install now
- glare at installation impatiently
I presume there's a one line solution for this flow as long as the package URL is known.
Snags on Mac OS X
I've only had a couple of hick ups on the iMac so far. The Skype .dmg package failed to install so I tried again and it worked. I noted that as an oddity. Graphically, the continually upgraded but aging World of Warcraft game caused stuttering in a heavily populated city. As to the physical interface the default blue tooth mouse and keyboard are way too small and flat respectively. I swapped them both out for USB equivalents.
The back story
I was in the market for a mobile system last week. Last weekend I picked up a MacBook pro 13", then opted to return it to give the latest MacBook Air a chance. I switched up at the store, broke down and selected a 27" iMac. It's a much bigger canvas to paint on for code editing, and TextMate is the kind of project editor I always wanted, the perfect blend of interface simplicity with high utility. The bad news, it's way too big to lug around safely or easily, so I'll still be SOL when the next great hack event in Manhattan happens.