It Just Works

MacI’ve had a smidge of blogger’s block lately, and from experience, I know nothing gets people talking like a discussion about operating systems.

With Windows 7 RC on the horizon, Snow Leopard due later this year, and Jaunty already in RC and ready to drop any day, the next year or so will be full of head-to-heads, feature posts and chest-thumping. Nothing stirs the pot like swearing your allegiance to an O/S and calling the others names, just ask friend of the ‘Lab Michael Krigsman.

Earlier this week, Paul and I were chatting about ZFS for no particular reason, its inclusion in Snow Leopard (Server version) and how getting a new O/S used to be like getting a brand new computer.

Interesting observation and totally true. The last time I got that feeling was when I actually bought a new computer, my Macbook, despite the fact that I’ve gone through several O/S upgrades with Ubuntu and OS X, and dumped Windows entirely.

I’m not an Apple fanboi by any means, keep that in mind.

The most common thing you hear from people who switch to Macs from Windows is that everything just works.

Sure, the UI is pretty and the corners are rounded, but the lasting takeaway is the just works bit.

Just works means different things to different people, but for me, it’s most recently been about the native features that OS X includes that, on Windows, require additional software.

Like a lot of Mac users, I run Windows VMs because I have no choice. If you need a stark reminder of how bare-bones Windows is (XP anyway), install a VM from scratch and try to do basic things like open a pdf file or take a screen shot.

This was the case yesterday, when during a conference call, I wanted to open a pdf from my XP VM.

Oops, Windows XP didn’t come with Acrobat Reader or any other application to view pdf files.

OS X does, Preview. When I first got my Mac, I installed Acrobat Reader (conditioned by years of Windows use) before using Preview. A friend asked why and told me I’d never use it because Preview was fine. He was right, and it is.

Not just fine, but much faster to open and compatible with many types of files, not just pdfs.

Oh, and Preview can combine pdf pages and files by dragging and dropping.


To do that on XP, I had to buy the Acrobat full license, and it definitely wasn’t that easy. While we’re on the subject of pdfs, OS X also includes the ability to create a pdf version of *any* file using the Print-PDF dialog. Another feature that required Acrobat on Windows and only worked from Microsoft Office.

But wait, there’s more.

OS X has several built-in screenshot capabilities. Windows XP has Print Screen and active window capture, but no capability to capture a custom area and no way to create image files automagically from a capture.

This is the basis for more software purchases like HyperSnap. There are tools like Jing and Skitch that offer network capabilities, but from a native O/S perspective, the OS X commands are the way to go. Once you learn them, they just work.

I know there are other Easter Egg features out there, or maybe they’re documented somewhere. I’m not much of a manual reader so I find these by happy accident and throw searching.

I’ve changed my behavior over the last year or so. Now, I expect that OS X does things like merge pdfs, whereas in the past, I would search for software to install instead.

For me, just working boils down to what’s included.

Ever had to switch computers? Maybe yours died or you got a hardware upgrade. One of the first things you do if you’re a Windows user is list all the software you’ll need to install to get functional again. I went through that many times with Windows, inventorying what I needed, finding license emails and install packages. What a pain.

I’m not saying there’s none of this with Macs, but it’s much less.

Maybe things have changed with Vista and Windows 7. I honestly don’t know, since I haven’t run either of those.

What do you think? Like Macs, hate Macs? What does just works mean to you?

Flame on in the comments.




  1. First!

    They shouldn't be including things like PDF readers because that would put Adobe out of business or something. What about SnagIt? Now they can't sell software to Mac users? WTF? I smell an anti-trust lawsuit brewing!


    I haven't had a chance to use a Mac yet. I do know this, they are absolutely gorgeous. I would buy one if I could afford one and if all of the latest Oracle software ran on it (didn't 10gR2 get release for OS/X?).

  2. Now that pdf is an open standard, Adobe can't do anything, but OS X and other software have been manipulating pdfs for years. Prolly had to pay a license fee or something similar before the spec was opened.

    Yes, 10g R2 was just released for OS X Intel. Raimonds has an install guide. I run SQL Developer on my Mac. I thought I saw an item pass through OraNA about installing APEX on top of the OS X 10g R2 release. What else do you need?

  3. 11g? (not really, but it would be nice)…and money? I need to be the cool kid on the block and having a MBP or Mac Air would definitely put me in the cool crowd. Baby steps. I've been fighting with myself over buying an iPhone this week…stupid flap on my $10 phone broke off…what better excuse to drop about $300?

  4. A long time windows user, I hated my Mac for the first 3 or 4 days. Then things changed. Now I prefer it over windows. Things tend to be arranged / designed in a way that closer matches the way I work. I've found it to be easier to manage lots of open programs without feeling crowded – windows was always a nightmare when you had a lot of apps open.

    Finally, having Unix under the hood, with a shell (bash) and terminal that isn't as lame as a scooter drag racing competition really pushes my buttons.

  5. From what Justin's saying, 11g ported to OS X isn't happening soon.

    Yeah, money is an issue with Apple stuff, especially when you pay the early adopter tax. I really like the iMac I bought the wife, but obviously, it's not portable. Still love my OG iPhone and don't plan to upgrade and don't care to either.

  6. A scooter drag racing competition? Is that DOS reference?

    I like all the things you mention. My goal here was to point out that Macs come with more stuff than Windows b/c UI is subjective. You can't argue with Preview's pdf capabilities.

  7. I am not a fan of Windows.

    But my thing about not going to a Mac or Unix is the ability to get whatever software you want for mostly free and you can get a PC for 1/3rd the price of a mac, spend 2 days and get all the utilities you want installed.

  8. Yup, 10gR2 is out for OS X Intel. As Jake mentioned, Alex Gorbachev posted a how-to for installing Apex on Mac. SQLDeveloper works. JDeveloper works. As for the rest of it, Virtualbox or VMware+Oracle Enterprise Linux gets you there.

    Do it. You *know* you want to. 😉 Okay, maybe that was a bit heavy-handed. “*ahem* I encourage you to evaluate a Mac the next time you're looking to rev your workstation.”

    Also, I can't believe I've been using a Mac for this long and didn't know about that Preview drag-n-drop PDF merge trick. Jake, you rock as usual with the interesting/useful tidbits.

  9. I think this is highly dependent on what you use the machine for, e.g. Chet's requirements are pretty heavy-duty, whereas most people won't need much more than a browser and a word processor.

    It's tough to make the argument that Mac and Linux don't have the software you need anymore. In fact, I think there are more open source alternatives for Linux (natch) than for Windows, due to their cultural differences.

    I won't get into cost here. Suffice to say that pricetag != cost of ownership.

  10. To me, I am moderate towards Macs (hardware), as they r not cost-effective to me. While I'll say I like Mac OS X since I started using 10.3 Jaguar.

    I think OS X's philosophy is totally different from Windows. With OS X, people can do most of the daily job with no 3rd party software installed. It looks very simple and straightforward to end-users.

    While Windows makes plenty of room for 3rd party software developers, paid or free:)

    I think OS X will be the excellent OS for 2 kinds of people: 1. non-IT people like my wife and kids. 2. geeks or gurus like OS X (who r *NIX experts and use fink/macports a lot, I don't like ports…).

    So, I prefer Linux simply because it is open source (have full control of the whole system) and I am used to it. I can manage to solve all problems and do almost everything. Of course, I'll use my Mac for peace of mind sometimes. Now mainly with Ubuntu and Gentoo, I'll upgrade to Jaunty in 1 day or two:)

    Regarding Windows 7: I tried build 7068. Nothing fancy. Very average, no big improvements, I reckon what they did is just optimize the kernel. It's just Vista with Windows Kernal 7.0^_^

    So, save our money for Snow Leopard:)

    ZFS is cool, BtrFS for Linux is cool as well. Now that Oracle buys Sun, I am curious to see what is going to happen to these 2 Oracle owned FS.

  11. All I know … I hate Vista with a passion! My wife and sons laptops have it. I just can not face ripping it out to put in the mildly bearable XP … I have lost the will to 're-install'

  12. Though I haven't used a Mac (other than wifey's iPhone), I can still appreciate what they have done, particularly in the usability category. (That might come from reading too much 37signals). There's really no arguing with success.

    I'm too much of a newbie to debate the differences between operating systems, I think they each have their points. PC (windows) for getting into just about every home which then drives more and more people to look or get curious about other operating systems (Linux, OS/X, etc). Here I go blabbing again…

  13. Trusism: Macs suck less.

    They try to push open source at home without users knowing it. OpenGL, objc, X11 etc etc. Objective-C and their API has been a hurdle for me. Macruby looks like a good shortcut (good to have a rapid option) if it matures.

    By no means perfect. Package management! There's a few ways they do it now.
    1) .app special folder (drag and drop) would work great if this was it
    2) mega installer (like Adobe and Microsoft installers), fails
    3) unix installers and .pkg types

    The problem with 2 & 3 is there's no uninstall. System just piles up stuff until you reformat? Gentoo and Debian package management should be emulated or something official in SysPrefs should be developed. Probably too late at this point. Would be best if Adobe/MS just made .app packages and then Debian packages became standard in Snow Leopard. Fat chance, too big of a change.

  14. One gripe I have with OS X is that it hides stuff like root access. I agree with your assessment of the user types, so this makes sense. If a lot of your users are relative n00bs, you should hide stuff that can bork the O/S.

    I love running Ubuntu and wish I had a beefier machine for it.

    Macs are pricey, but they're coming down every year. Remember how much they were before the Intel deal? I'm not jumping into Snow Leopard right away; I just went to Leopard a few months ago.

  15. To your PC in every home point, I think people get caught up with the price tag of a Mac. Most average users in the US will keep a computer at least 5 years. Think about how much extra maintenance comes as you get a fragged disk that probably is part of a bot net.

    Most people don't have IT in the family.

  16. Heh, Apple and open source have a strange relationship.

    I agree that package management could be better. I have a similar piling up problem, but since I have free disk space, I don't really care. Maybe that was their goal, throw disk at the problem 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.