I recently upgraded my main work machine (rather I wanted to or not) to a Mac Book Pro.  The following are a few thoughts and tips for new Mac users comming from linux. 

Isn’t it the same?
Yes and no. Yes it’s basically the same under the hood. Its BSD (a posix compliant OS) wrapped up in some pretty candy. The transition should be very smooth for any linux user. The real reason I upgraded was because of the hardware. Not the software. The laptops I had bought in the past, were failing every 6 months. That was causing some down time for me and that is never good. I figured that if I needed to I could install linux on the Mac Book Pro and be done with bad hardware. 

All that being said there are a few differences. Mostly some subtle things about commands and of course the UI.

What’s Missing
I know a lot of mac people will disagree, but there are a few things missing from OS X that just should be there. 

  • Package Management. Yes there brew, yes theres ports. Both of them suck. If your a linux user you will really miss apt-get install stuff. 
  • gcc. Thats right theres no compiler. And to get one, you have to download xcode. It’s easy to do, but really, its something that should just be there.
  • A working file manager (more on this later)
  • FTP client. There are options out there but a basic FTP client is something that every OS should have. Even windows has ftp integration with explorer.

Some good included thing

  • X11. It’s there. It’s a bit rough to use, but it’s there.
  • TextEdit. Think notepad plus
  • Time Machine. This thing is awesome. Think back in time with a fancy interface.
  • Terminal. Again a bit basic but once you round off a few corners it does the job.

Rounding Corners?
Ok, so Mac is nice and shiny but there are a few things that make a disaster out of something that should be simple. We will take a look at “fixing” some of the problems.

Refresh the page
First, if you use multiple operating systems, lets remove that silly ⌘R short cut for reloading a page and map it to F5 (this is done in the keyboard short cuts preferences panel)

Whats that short cut again?
Next up, and I am not at all sure why Apple didn’t do this in the first place. Lets map some keys so we can “type” shortcuts (⌘⎇⌃⇧). This will be invaluable when asking for help or when trying to give it. To add keys for these “letters” just create the file ~/Library/KeyBindings/DefaultKeyBinding.dict in it place the code:

/* insert unicode characteres with Option down /
“~o” = (“insertText:”, “\U2318”); /  ⌘ /
“~c” = (“insertText:”, “\U2303”); /
⌃ /
“~s” = (“insertText:”, “\U21E7”); /
⇧ /
“~a” = (“insertText:”, “\U2387”); /
⎇ */

This maps ⎇o, ⎇c, ⎇s, and ⎇a to ⌘, ⌃, ⇧, and ⎇ respectively. 


Closing finder

You can’t close finder. I really wish you could. When I hit ⌘Q anywhere else it immediately exits the app. Finder just doesn’t want to do that. So we do the next best thing. Again in the keyboard short cuts preferences map finders close window to ⌘Q. That will at least make it feel like it’s doing what you ask. 


What an UGLY prompt in terminal.

Yeah I guess they never thought we would use it. Just modify your ~/.bashrc and ~/.bash_profile to use what ever style prompt you like. I am quite fond of:


‘${debian_chroot:+($debian_chroot)}[\033[01;32m]\u@\h[\033[00m]:[\033[01;34m]\w[\033[00m]$(__git_ps1 “[[\e[0;32m]%s[\e[0m][\e[0;33m]$(parse_git_dirty)[\e[0m]]”)$ ’

Yep thats right I yanked it off my ubuntu box.
Application Time
This really isn’t a nock against OS X as much as it is a list of apps that need finding and getting.  These help a lot, but there not all free.
  • TextMate - A decent code editor
  • CyberDuck - A good Transfer program supporting lots of protocols
  • Unison - NewsReader
  • Chrome - Of course
  • Adium - Chat program with much better support and look then iChat
  • BetterTouchTool - Mouse configuration - mostly allows actual window management (like making a window take up the whole screen)
  • Clyppan - Clipboard history (think klipper)
  • CocoaDialog - think kdialog.
  • GitNub - git browser
  • Handbreak - video transcoder
  • iWork - A very nice office replacement. 
  • Monolingual - Clean all that universal binary crap off the hard drive
  • Pandora - Duh
  • Quicksilver - the only way to launch applications. 
  • VLC - Thats right your mac can’t play any of your videos. Just get VLC and you will be fine. 
  • Clementine - Amarok for mac
  • Transmission - bittorrent client

Things that still drive me batty!

  • Why is there a close button if it doesn’t close the app. That is so very annoying. 
  • Why can’t I maximize a window. I can only zoom it. Again very annoying. 
  • Finder, really. I think windows 3 had a better file manager. And I am not just being rude, its true.
  • Keyboard shortcuts that are just amazingly long like ⌘⎇⌃8 thats a real shortcut try it.
  • Dirt, man this thing can get dirty fast. 
  • Why can’t i just change the font size globally?

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