Apple I'm currently a Windows dork

Apple (Prelude)

In your circle of co-workers, who do you pay attention to?

For technology trends, I tend to pay attention to the folks who I get along with the least… The architects. You know these guys, they are the curmudgeons who are always telling you that you can’t do it because of this inane reason or that performance concern. It often feels their one job is to take the wind out of our sails when you have that world-changing idea. Problem is, they’re usually right. Other problem is, sometimes you should ignore them, but it’s difficult to decide when. That’s another column.

So, why pay attention to technical trends in these architects? Quite simply put, they usually resist change because they’ve designed a system which works. When change does occur, it’s rationale change, it’s change for a reason, and it’s usually much bigger than you can actually discern because they are smarter than you.

There have been two interesting shifts in my immediate architect community in the past six months. First, the use of the Mozilla browser as a primary browser. Second, the appearance of Apple hardware for use as a development platform.

Apple hardware?

Let me disclose what I do. I manage a group of engineers who primarily work in Java on a hosted web application.

Apple hardware?

This isn’t some web design shop. This is a software development shop which produces heavy weight applications used by really big companies who yell really loud when things break.

Last time.

Apple hardware?

I approached the senior architect as he was merrily typing away on his iBook. I sat next to him and nodded towards the translucent white box. He grinned; knowing exactly what I was asking, have reciting an answer I’m certain he constructed months ago.

“FreeBSD and the best windowing manager around.”

I nodded, getting half of what he was saying. He continued, “FreeBSD, that’s what the Darwin kernel is based on, is Unix and it’s generally viewed as one of the more stable Unix implementations. Add the Macintosh window manager on top of that and you’ve got the power of Unix and the pleasure of the Macintosh.”

I nodded some more.

Think of the pace of change in high tech as a train. This train lives in a world that is constantly changing and reinventing itself and you get to choose where you sit. Seats in the front are frightening, you are rapid fire exposed to new crap constantly. Your definition of the world is constantly in flux and if you blink, you might find yourself in the middle seats.

The middle seats can see the front seats and are aware that something is going, but middle seaters are content to take the lead from the front seats and trust they know what they are doing. I tend to hang somewhere right between the front and middle seats.

The back seats are on the train, but they shouldn’t be. They’re aware of change, but they’ve settled into a comfortable little COBOL world and are happily ignorant of change because what they have works for them. It takes train wrecks to change their world and, even then, they’ll find some way to reconstruct their back seats (Think Visual COBOL).

The sudden appearance of Apple hardware in the building gave me the impression that my seat had moved backwards a couple of spots while I hadn’t been paying attention. This fear was compounded by the fact that when I started asking around outside of the company, I found a good many architect-types who had made the switch to OS X. This concerned me and this is how I’m going to fix it.

First, we’ll consider the Apple business model. We’ll go read their investment information, read their news clippings, and see what we can discern about what their strategy is.

Second, I’ll move my primary development machine over to OS X and tell you about it. Similar weblogs have already covered this experience here, here, and here.

Third, I don’t know what third is, but everything happens is threes, so I’m certain we’ll figure Third out during First and Second.

Off we go.

Update (6/29/02): I did mention there were two interesting technology trends, OS X and Mozilla. I was considering lumping Mozilla into my shift to OS X, but that may be too much of a switch. I’m currently a Windows dork, so it would be difficult to compare and contrast browsers on OS X. I would end up with questions like, “Well, is it better because of OS X or because of the browser?” More later.

11 Responses

  1. toiletstl 14 years ago

    OKAY GOING OUT AND BUYING OS X TO TAKE THE JOURNEY WITH YOU BUT NOT REMEMBERING MY KEYS TO THE CAR SO (SFX: BONG)

  2. Jack William Bell 14 years ago

    As someone with some architectural experience behind the belt I was surprised very much by something in your article: You mentioned two shifts and only focused on one. In my opinion it was the wrong one…

    You see the Mozilla browser may well be a quantum shift in how cross-platform client software is developed. Taking the place of Java and other such technologies, it can provide a powerful UI surface which really does work the same everywhere and really does make the underlying OS quite beside the point.

    Learn about XUL. Look at the API’s and the embedding specs. Read the whitepapers. Mozilla is much more than just a ‘standards complient browser’.

  3. Ooops. Forgot to tie up that loose end. I was intending to explore the Mozilla piece as part of the OS X switch.

    And, yes, I agree it deserves much attention.

  4. Harry 14 years ago

    Hey man,

    I look forward to reading about your experiences with OS X.

    Whilst us Mac users are still stuck with that horrible “not enough software” problem, we do now have a operating system we can be proud of.

  5. i have happily moved to the back of the train, having refused to upgrade to os X (happily using mac os 9.2.1). i’m afraid i’ve gone the way of those cobol users who have found something that works and sees no need to move forward. here’s hoping there are no train wrecks.

  6. julia mallett 14 years ago

    Reading RiR here, at an interesting time. I just discovered the Chimera

    project which is a native web browser for OSX using the Gecko rendering

    engine from Mozilla. I am, infinitely, fucking impressed. I think

    maybe I can explain it somehow to you in a meaningful sense.

    First off, I love OSX. Ever since I’ve been working on UNIX, I’ve learned

    to HATE X11. It just doesn’t do it for me, no matter how many tacky and

    bloated applications and window managers and themes you stick on it, the

    protocol is still shitty and slow, and it relies on a very very inefficient

    form of IPC, and so on. It’s poo from a technical perspective, and I

    really dislike the lack of an integrated feel everywhere except IRIX. On

    IRIX everything uses Indigo Magick widgets via Motif, and it all works

    like I want it to. The Toolchest stays out of my way until I want some

    lovin’, and I can do anything from a Winterm.

    With OSX, I can be talking to my girlfriend via AOL Instant Messenger in

    one window, complete with the lickable GUI elements that have made Aqua

    the “widget-look-of-choice” among so many crowds, and yet I can switch to

    a NeXT-style Terminal.app, work on a YACC grammar for some toy language

    I’m doing a compiler for, and I can double click on any open/close pairs

    of braces/brackets/parens/…, and have the matching part of the set become

    my selected region.

    Secondly, browsers. IE for OSX is fantastic, it’s intuitive, and it is

    pretty. It’s also marginally snappy. Not as much as IE on WinNT 4 on the

    comparable IA32 hardware, but this is life. And IE comes with Mac OS X,

    and works right out of the box, though HELLO WAY TOO MANY FUCKING TOOLBARS

    BY DEFAULT. Mozilla for OSX is stable. I run nightly builds of it, and

    while the build from two days ago would frequently die in its ass, the

    one from today seems good.

    But I never liked Mozilla that much on OSX, because it’s dog slow, it doesn’t

    follow Apple’s HCI guidelines *at all*, and generally is still the same poorly

    designed Win 3.11 application that Netscape 2 was. When will these people

    learn that HELLO THE CONFIGURATION PANEL SUCKS.

    But the Gecko rendering engine? I love it. I pondered doing a small frontend

    for it, using native Cocoa elements and Aqua widgets. It’s a fast engine, it

    renders things nicely, and it’s relatively friendly in terms of license. It

    has many clueful people working on it and debugging the hell out of it. There

    are hundreds upon hundreds of people who run nightly builds of various bits of

    Mozilla like I do, and end up testing Gecko just as much as they test the

    particular frontend.

    So I saught out looking for soemone who had done a native browser using

    Gecko. And I found it, in Chimera. And Chimera, my friend, is incredibly

    wonderful.

    Animated GIFs (GIF89a) don’t seem to go through frames quite properly, but

    this is just a nightly build, and for all I know, the last release or a

    nightly build from tomorrow might work. But Chimera is native, and it shows.

    The aesthetics of this browser are perfect, I honestly cannot put it any

    better, no matter how I try. I might want to get rid of the textual labels

    for toolbar elements (hello, toolbars are to keep you from having to read,

    they are for visual identification. the way I see it, once something has

    been run 10 times, those labels either NEED to go away, or the people doing

    design of the toolbar need to try a lot harder to make them intuitive.

    most likely they need fired, cause they don’t know their job), but other

    than said elements of superfluous text, it’s just lovely.

    And fast. I can go through strips of Jerkcity MUCH faster than I can with

    the native IE, and at *least* as fast as with native IE on Win32. That’s

    my benchmark. I’m talking about *nothing* but Mozilla or IE running much

    MUCH slower than Chimera running with AIM, ICQ, and Mozilla also open.

    I don’t know if that leads you anywhere you’re interested in going, but I’m

    glad to be able to spread the good word, and let you in on some absolutely

    wonderful insight, or so it has seemed to me today, when I dumped Mozilla.

    Take care,

    juli.

  7. I’m a Computing Student. I wondered if you had tried running an x windows program remotely (via telnet or ssh). An example my be xemacs. See if you can run xemacs locally (if you have it and if you have x windows)

    Be cool if you could try it.

    Cheers

    Eddie

  8. So I worked at Netscape for a while (in the open source Mozilla days of late, not the Pants-era if my unreasonably in-depth cyberstalking is correct) and I think I can pretty objectively tell you that Internet Explorer on the Mac is the way to go at the moment…

    Mozilla in full is nightmarishly slow and bloated on all platforms. Win32 happens to have a compiler that spits out ridiculously fast binaries, but Mac doesn’t, or at least not to that extent. Writing 90% of a large application in XML and hacked-up JavaScript, with only 10% or so of the core stuff in C++ does not smell like a performance win. Chimera attempts to throw out all the crap and write a native app around the rendering engine. A good idea, but OH GOD DROWNING IN THE MOZILLA CODEBASE ANYWAY you might say…

    From Dave Hyatt’s weblog (Dave recently ditched Netscape to work at Apple): “If you use Chimera on the Mac, you’ll see that the textfield widget is easily the most painful part of the entire application. It’s buggy, slow, misbehaves, and doesn’t edit the way you’d expect.” That’s just bad, IMHO.

    This is full of poo: “You see the Mozilla browser may well be a quantum shift in how cross-platform client software is developed.” How’s this for a quantum shift: Microsoft .NET 0wnz Mozilla’s W3C-oriented fuckistry for a number of reasons. Yes, using JS and XML as the platform-independent API for writing web apps is a nice idea, but first of all, those languages aren’t compiled (hence, your apps will get slower and slower), and second of all, W3C effectively controls almost everything that happens in the XML domain, and they have a knack lately of mismanaging the development of all their standards. They’ve been turning out nothing but crap since mid-1999. I know this — I was a member. (Currently working on “W3C Considered Harmful” for some sort of publication or something… Making Geek-Elders Angry since 1998 [tm])

    Point being, hedge your bets. Be proud of your switch to Apple, and be not ashamed of your browser choice.

  9. I’m typing this on a flat-screen iMac I purchased the week it came out. Of course, history will show that it took two months to arrive, but I have dumped Microsoft products completely at home.

    My experience with the browsers is that Mozilla is mostly stable and fast, MSIE chokes on the content at slashdot.org, and Chimera Navigator is truly beautiful in most respects.

    This is the first consumer computer that I have ever bought. I used to build my own Intel-based systems, and I still will. I just wanted a machine with balls, and that’s what MacOS X.2.1 provides to me. It’s by far the easiest to use and also the most useful computer I’ve ever touched.

    My company deals with .NET, and I agree that MS has a habit of 0wning other designs and ideas, but the combination of strong standards-based rendering and other features keep me with Mozilla for the time being. I design my site completely around Mozilla because it comes closest to w3c standards.

    No apologies and no turning back.

    PS, nice to see you running MT, rands…

  10. Nice article (if a bit long)! The nuggets were the description of architects (smart but conservative until they see a strong reason for change) and the architect’s description of OSX (a stable, efficient Unix version as kernel plus the user-friendliness of Mac).

    I’m a fellow Windows dork but you’re tempting me!

    I’m also impressed by the amount of info in the comments (e.g. Mozilla dead slow except with Win32’s very efficient compiler).

    I think I’ll bookmark this site!

  11. I switched to OSX about a month ago. It’s great. As for Mozilla, It’s a dog under any other OS. Konqurer has been making a showing, because it is a lot lighter weight. Safari is built on the Konqurer engine. To be honest, the deciding factor was the ability to get Linux applications to run on OSX through X11. With Fink and X11, you can just use “apt-get install XXX” to get your favorite Linux programs, both for desktop and command line. While X11 through OSX is not perfect, it works quite well