This morning, I switched my default browser from Safari to Firefox. Next, I think I’ll look at moving from Mail.app to Thunderbird. Maybe I’ll go back, but I’m increasingly starting to feel uncomfortable in Apple-land. [Update: lots of people wrote me about good stuff including good Gnome typography, Camino, OmniWeb, and various Safari enhancements. Thanks. Will update.]
Open or Not · My big gripe with Apple, of course, is their cult of hermetic secrecy. We at Sun and our esteemed competitors up in Redmond are engaged in a grand experiment: what happens when you dramatically increase a company’s transparency? Initial results are pretty good for both of us. Apple’s approach is of course, exactly the opposite. They control the message, nothing that’s not part of the message can be said, nobody is allowed to say anything except for Steve, and they’ll sue your ass if you step out of bounds.
That court case is really irritating; the judge cleverly side-stepped the issue of whether free-speech guarantees apply to bloggers by finding on the basis that this wasn’t about free speech, it was about trade secrets. Should Apple win, each and every player in the financial industry who’s trying to do something sleazy or unscrupulous will be able to claim that their accounting practices or transfer pricing or whatever are “trade secrets” and litigate aggressively against anyone, journalist or otherwise, who tries to get at the truth. Enron’s “special-purpose entities”? Trade secrets. Worldcom’s revenue-recognition policy? Trade secret. Write about it and you’re in court.
I don’t know, maybe traditional message management will work for Apple; arguably transparency matters less when you’re selling Kool Toys to Kool Kids is, as opposed to selling long-term infrastructure bets to businesspeople.
Doesn’t mean I have to like it. They’re basically adopting the position that they know everything, and they don’t have to talk to the world except in oracular outbursts, and they don’t need, particularly, to listen to what the world’s saying.
Safari Specifics · There were two things that drove me away from Safari. First, it’s recently started randomly doing intermittent spinning-beachball freeze-ups. I can’t spot a pattern.
Secondly Safari has a horrible bug that bit me one too many times. I end up usually having a lot of tabs; either I’ve run through my RSS feeds and opened a bunch of things but haven’t had time to read them yet, or I have read them but they’re interesting and I’m keeping them around to do something with. If I accidentally hit command-Q instead of command-W to close a tab (so easy), Safari silently checks out without asking me if I want to save or review my unsaved work. No other Apple app—in fact, no other sane app in the universe—does this, and I reported it to Apple way last year sometime. I can’t tolerate an application that silently discards work-in-progress.
Impressions of Firefox so far? Noticeably quicker, but only on some pages. Not quite as smart about filling forms. Controls are square grey ugly Windows-y things, not smooth blue extruded Aqua things. Safari renders JPEGs a little darker which looks a bit better, not sure which is more accurate.
Unswitch? · There are a few reasons I’d consider leaving Mac-land:
I’m mad at them (see above).
The laptop is too slow. I bought it in early 2003 and it’s wearing out and I want something twice as fast and Apple doesn’t have it.
The screen isn’t that great.
I work for Sun, I’d like to run our software.
What would unswitching really cost me that would actually hurt?
The beautiful user interface. When you get used to all the drop-shadowing and anti-aliasing and Exposé and so on, the thought of living in a battleship-grey X Windows world with jaggedy spidery fonts is unappealing.
Fast start. This, to be honest, was the single most crucial feature in bringing me to this computer. I turn it on and it asks me for my password and I’m working right then. I’ve never seen any other operating system do this.
WiFi. You turn it on, if the WiFi is out there OS X finds it and does the housekeeping for you.
PhotoShop Elements; I’ve gotten awfully used to it.
I suspect that if I went to JDS/Solaris or some other GNU/Linux (Windows? Are you kidding?), I’d have all sorts of little convenience problems (basically, you plug pretty well anything into the USB or FireWire on a Mac and It Just Works), but the ones above are the real gating issues.
On the other hand, maybe Apple will dial back the infofascism and figure out how to ship a fast laptop with a good screen.