Friday, March 1, 2013

Why I can't use a MacBook Pro (Part 1)

Recently a friend at work, Kevin- another engineer, encouraged me to change my work flow.  Instead of my Levovo x220 Thinkpad I would change both Hardware and OS to use a MacBook Pro 15" running OS X(10.8.2).  The following is my experience since getting the device home and using it to write this blog post.
While I can't promise that I was entirely unbiased in my review, I will say that this is the third time I've attempted to use a Macbook and I've tried to be as fair as possible. 

Kevin and I often have bouts of 'productivity porn', referring to a situation where discussion about the best method to do something overtakes the time it would take to simply perform a task by even the most obtuse of methods.  Recently my own productivity perversions were brought on by my x220 losing wireless connection 2-3 times a day.  The issue is most likely related to the driver Ubuntu is using for my wireless card, and can easily be resolved with a system restart, but I tire quickly of troubleshooting my own equipment during my work day and my mind moves to enticing thoughts of a new workflow.

Kevin is no stranger to a multitude of operating systems, but consistently finds himself at home in OS X.  He is always happy to act as an Apple field guide, and I couldn't ask for a better genius on apple key commands.  On hearing my current plight he grabbed a Macbook off the shelf (we work Ops for a school district and have a few extra on hand) and quickly brought me up to speed.

Things seemed simple enough.  I could right click with a clever two finger touch, getting to a terminal window was pretty easy (although I still miss ctrl+alt+t) and there was a settings icon in my dock to tweak things the way I liked.  I grabbed a stand on my way out the door and after a few minutes at home I'd reconfigured my Ergotron sit/stand desk to work with my new muse.  I pulled out a book on iPhone programming I picked up a while back (before discovering that xcode only ran on OSX) and attempted to hack away.

Within the first few clicks, I was frustrated.  I like a 5 button mouse.  The concept of a single touchpad has always frustrated me.  I was quite happy to see that OS X responded to my Logictech MX518 (my mouse of choice for all around use).  I was befuddled to find that my "Back" button simply changed my pointer into a scroll box while using Chrome.  (I wanted to have a nice photo here demonstrating this, but I couldn't find an equivalent to "Paint" to paste my screenshot into.  I did however search spotlight and inadvertently open Photo Booth)

See my expression upon finding not finding paint:

I want to give the MacBook a fair shake.  
The next few sentences describe the madness that lead to the title of this post. 
Upon my disappointment with back-clicking, I cleared the scroll button and attempted to scroll.  Whats this? Up is Down and Down is Up!  Why is deviation from generally accepted norms considered innovative?  Yes, I understand that the scrolling is an attempting to math the two finger scroll experience on the touchpad - but I'm not using the touchpad.  Was it too much to anticipate the expected behavior of a mouse might differ from the touchpad?  "No matter, I will simply venture into my system preferences and change things." I thought.  'Natural' they call it.  I disagree.  Also killer to my workflow are the suddle but important variations in key shortcut.  CTRL+C and CTRL+V are replaced by command+C and command+V respectively (This is further aggravated by the fact that on my external keyboard the windows key becomes the command key).  Yes, I could probably find a blog post somewhere explaining how to change these defaults (or simply ask Kevin) but then I am no longer part of the shared OS X experience.  Why do I need to overtly custom tweak a device out of the box?  I've worked with computers all my life, and I feel like a concert pianist that has suddenly been handed an accordion.    This is not out of the box user friendliness.  

While in mouse preferences I looked for anything that referred to my 3-5 mouse buttons.  No Joy.  I was able to move my Dock to the side, and even adjust my background colors.  The most upsetting experience so far has been the general "slowness".  Certain tabs within the OS X settings sometimes take 5-8 seconds to load.  We're talking tabs like "Screen Saver" switching from option to option was painful.  How.. WHY does anyone use this?

On the plus side, I did manage to open Chrome and complete the blog post on the MacBook.  Unfortunately, even the experience of blogging was grating as the home button inexplicably acts as "Select All" while the end key acts as expected.  Xcode is now installing... lets see how coding goes tomorrow.

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