Happy New Year! Happy New Mac?

by Carla Schroder

Last Christmas I finally broke down and treated myself to a nice digital camera. A Panasonic Lumix, and let me tell you this is one nice camera. Rechargeable battery pack, real honest-to-gosh glass lens by Leica, sensible controls, and fake shutter clicky sounds. Yes, that's right, sound effects to help ease the transition from film cameras. Very thoughtful.

Well that was just the beginning of a rather involved drama. It's easy to be a hardcore Linux user when you run servers and do basic desktop stuff. But venturing into the digital media realm gave me a different perspective.

The software bundled with the camera requires Windows, of course, and my multi-function printer does not multi-function on Linux. I keep a few windows boxes on my test network, so I commandeered a Windows XP Pro box to serve as my image storage and editing workstation. That was my first mistake. Y'all hardcore Linux users need to futz with a Windows PC once in awhile just to keep your appreciation of Linux's stability fresh. Poor ole Windows kept leaking memory and crashing, plus all the auto-notifications about drove me insane. My favorite is the one for the Sun JRE: "Do you want to register now? Remind me in 1 hour, 1 day, 3 days." No option to eff off forever.

Someone recommended that I try Picasa, the free image cataloguing and editing program by Google. It sure sounds nice- but it requires Internet Explorer with Active X enabled. Hello? Are not the Google brainiacs aware of the hundreds of security bulletins that say DON'T DO ACTIVE X? So, thanks, but no thanks.

Of course there zillions of Windows programs that do what I want. But it finally dawned on me that I was putting an awful lot of time and effort into the "easy" way, and not getting anywhere.

So my mission this week is to see if I can set up my Linux workstation to do everything- download from the camera, scan, and print. The Gimp can't be beat for image editing, and Image Magick and Album are the best for creating Web photo galleries.

I just discovered TurboPrint, which has excellent drivers for my Canon Pixma, which is a great little photo printer. If I can get the Epson Stylus CX4800 to scan my old photos, I'll have it all, even if it won't print on Linux. I can always copy images to a Samba share for Windows printing, if necessary, because even though the Epson is an ink-sucking hog, it sure does print beautifully.

I've also been looking at Macs. They look so easy- are they really that good at doing these things? (Kinda funny how hardware vendors supply OSX scanner and printer drivers, but not Linux, when they're so similar.) But then, Macs are closed software and hardware. But Apple is not as evil as Microsoft. But they would be if they could be, wouldn't they?

At any rate, it's time to harness Kubuntu and the Lumix together. Hopefully harmony will result. Watch this spot to see what happens.


2006-01-11 05:27:34
Extra Software
One of the things I dislike about Windows is the frequent necessity for installing extra software or drivers for external devices. And usually one has to remove something from startup later, because every Windows developer feels entitled to put something in there.

What's nice about OS X - or iPhoto rather - is that it recognizes most cameras and will download the images via firewire with no problem. iPhoto will even recognize a Kodak Picture CD - IIRC, if you put one of those in a Windows 98/Me machine without holding the shift key down that darn autorun function will have installed extra software without asking in the twinkling of an eye.

2006-01-11 06:33:52
don't give up on linux
I am quite happy with my experiences with both fedora core 4 and ubuntu and digital cameras out of the box. gthumb is good, gimp is great and raw support is pretty good. bibblepro is pretty good, but it costs.it is most convient to have a usb card reader, then it just mounts as a drive. i also have experience with macs and am currently switching off because of the lack of OpenSource programs. Sure there is fink (of which not all the packages will install, try amarok), but other than the obvious ones like emacs etc, there is no tradition for apple to support OSS. compare available free software on mac to a repository of ubuntu or fedora.
2006-01-11 06:59:05
Yes, Macs can be that good.
As a SysAdmin (Granted I'm Solaris so my aversion to closed systems isn't accute) I must say... yes. Macs are as easy as they say they are, more so. I made the switch back at the dawn of OS X in 2001 and haven't looked back.

There's really something to be said for an OS that gets out of your way and lets you work with the barest minimum of tweaking and cajoling to get it to do what you want. Oh... and migration to a new machine. Buttah.

2006-01-11 09:39:47
Taste the Kool-Aid
Carla, take your camera to an Apple Store and ask to try it out. The experience may give you more to think about.
Also, Derrick Story on MacDevCenter (right next virtual door) has written volumes on Apple's professional and amateur photo tools. Highly recommended.
2006-01-11 12:52:23
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
and they work great together. (It is a nice camera, BTW; the image stabilization does have its limits when there are focus issues, but it has given me some great photos.) iPhoto even stores my short video clips.

As for evil, I personally don't like discussing things using that term, because it's totally subjective. Person A could say Apple is 'evil' because they want to make money, while person B could say Microsoft is 'good' because they brought computers into millions of homes. So asking if Apple is 'evil' or not (or would 'turn evil') is something you'd have to answer for yourself. But to help you make the decision about whether or not Apple is worth investing in, I'll mention my own experiences with Apple and how they operate. Specifically:

- Apple often provides opt-out, and makes such options easily accessible. I've never gotten 'spammed' by them because there was some hidden opt-out option somewhere that I couldn't find.

- Apple cared about security *before* millions of their computers got infected and billions of dollars were lost. They take security issues seriously, and they regularly provide security updates for free as well.

- They care about the user experience. In my experience, Microsoft cares about making the sale. After that, well, good luck to you. Most Windows 'support' comes from geek friends and family, not Microsoft. Apple's support has been easily accessible and excellent. Never frustrating or annoying. (They frequently get Consumer Reports' top ratings for computer satisfaction and support, not to mention hardware reliability, which would seem odd for an 'evil' company.)

- They work hard to make both the 'geeks' and the 'newbies' happy by providing sophisticated tools alongside extremely easy to use software. You can choose which path you want to take.

- They give back to the open source community. Some people say (and will always say) they could do more, but they do a lot more than other companies do, and they do need to turn a profit. When the community asked them to do more, however, they stepped up to the plate and open-sourced all of WebKit. That's what I call responsiveness. Now Nokia already has a GTK browser based around the open-sourced WebKit.

They do use DRM (though with very flexible terms) but we all know they could never have gotten the major content labels to sign up without it. What's important, in my mind, is that they pressed hard to get the labels to make concessions that gave users more flexibility than the labels initially wanted to give.

As far as companies go, I think they are one of the few that actually still cares about consumers. If you're going to support *any* company by buying a PC, would you rather support one that farms out its support and uses cheap components, or a vendor who is focused on giving you a quality product for your money and providing support for that product?

Just my $0.02 cents. :-)

2006-01-11 19:40:33
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
Actually, I don't think Apple is evil. (Microsoft, yes- their record speaks for itself.) Being a for-profit entity is not evil. Apple has always been the real innovator.

From a user's and sysadmin's perspective, Apple has been just as irritating as Microsoft when it comes to interoperability. Have you ever tried to integrate Macs into a LAN? Here we have perfectly nice TCP/IP and other nice open networking protocols for everyone to use, yet both MS and Apple play stupid bork-that-protocol games in the name of lock-in. And silly closed data formats too.

But the times they are a' changing. I can live with closed platforms if they do not hold my data hostage, and don't put up interoperability roadblocks. DRM is a whole separate problem, IMO more serious than all the others put together.

2006-01-12 04:44:25
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
We integrate Linux, OS X and Windows on multiple LANs across our backbone. Via SAMBA, all three platforms can exchange files. We also use SSH/SFTP which makes Windows the odd OS out without additional software. What about OS X's networking implementation bothers you? I certainly have some performance gripes, but it's getting better.
2006-01-12 09:20:38
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
OSX is easy, since 10.2 anyway, sorry I wasn't more clear. Classic Mac was a royal pain, we had to fork over money for Thursby's Dave to network with anything but other Macs. 10.2 has SMB support built-in and CUPS, so we can finally retire faithful old Dave.

Which still leaves the issue of closed software and hardware, and DRM nonsense, which is an issue that looms larger since the Sony rootkit fiasco. It might interest you to know that the big security vendors- Symantec, McAfee, and Trend Micro- all have remarkably casual attitudes towards corporate malware:


Fave quote from Trend Micro:

"This hacking tool is a valid Digital Rights Management (DRM) software package developed by First 4 Internet Ltd. This software package is included as a copy protection mechanism for certain audio compact discs distributed by Sony BMG.
This tool works by applying a relatively new technology called rootkit technology. Rootkits are used to hide system information, such as running processes, files, or registry entries.
As a standalone application, it is non-malicious."

So here we are back at the core problem- who do you trust? At least with open source code it's completely exposed and auditable, and you won't find too many apologists for corporate malfeasance in the FOSS world. OSX is a lovely system, no doubt about it. It's these other issues that keep me wary.

2006-01-12 09:37:25
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
Although my network is a home network, alongside my Macs I do have 2 Win boxes that I regularly use for software development purposes, and I run a couple distros and older Win versions through VMWare. (I develop cross-platform software.) As the other poster stated, I am able to share files between all the systems using SAMBA, and it works pretty smoothly, IMHO. Of course, I do understand that a home network isn't as complex as a larger network, but I don't see that you'll have any less troubles setting up Win file sharing on a Mac box than on a *nix box, since they use the same toolset for sharing.

The old Macs, which were tied to AppleTalk, were indeed a mess to get networked with Windows machines, but these days I don't have any problems using my Mac in a 'heterogeneous' environment.

I don't really have any problems with closed data formats; any program I work with will save to standard data formats (i.e. RTF, HTML, PDF, MPEG4) so I don't find that to be a problem, either.

2006-01-12 22:42:38
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
Well, that's your call. But, if you can't trust Apple even in the absence of any argument that they can't be trusted, then why bother asking about Mac at all? The answer, in that case, is clear: everything must be completely open for you, and Mac doesn't meet those standards.

Still, if you do really wonder about Apple, it's worth pointing out that the problems you raise above don't deal with Apple at all. Suspecting that Apple will do things just becuase other companies do them is effectively a guilt by association argument. Lots of other software vendors (open and closed) put out software that crashes frequently, has a horrible interface, and/or may cause you to lose data. Does that mean Apple does, or will, too, because it is also a software vendor?

All I can say is that Apple has consistently met my expectations and provided quality products, support, and not tried to 'screw me over', as it were. Will they 'turn evil' tomorrow? I don't know. But if they do, they'll lose my money, and I know my data will be safe as I can just move it over to *nix. I'll burn my iTunes music to CDs then import it into a *nix music program. MPEG videos, etc. will all just play. Moving would be nothing but a small hassle (though I'd miss some of the great OS X software). And I know that if Apple were to try something fishy, the number of techies using the platform will sound the alerts loud and clear. But I've been using Apples for a few years now and I haven't seen them behave this way once. I wouldn't bet on them changing their spots tomorrow. :-)

2006-02-18 18:25:57
I own a Mac and a Lumix...
I've been using Linux for more than four years, and Mac OS X for more than three, and actually find them quite similar once you get past the GUI.

Apple's apps for digital media (iTunes, iPhoto, etc.) are better than you'll find anywhere else - you won't be disappointed.

As far as Apple and Open Source, Mac OS X has tons of open source already. For example, it comes with X11, the GCC compiler, Apache, SSH, PHP, bash, perl, python, the list goes on and on. No, it is not immediately obvious to the GUI user that all of that is there. Don't forget that the OS X kernel, Darwin, is Open Source as well.

The differences between Linux and OS X are primarily because of their different heritages - OS X comes from BSD, which uses somewhat different standards. But that is not much different from switching from an RPM-based Linux distro to something like Ubunto or Debian ;-)

I will agree that there is not a unified package manager or repository for Open Source software on the Mac. I use a combination of fink, various binaries, and compiling from source. For example, tonight I'm compiling Emacs from source - as a rabid (X)Emacs fan, I like to have the latest version of Emacs on all my machines/platforms.

I use a dual-monitor (Xinerama) Mandriva desktop PC and a Powerbook running OS X, and the synergy package to share a single keyboard/mouse between systems. Other than the different key layouts (alt versus Command) I find I can run mostly the same Open Source software on both.

In OS X, things are either very, very easy...or impossible. Linux is a mixed bag due to the wide variety of standards (such as KDE and GNOME).

OS X is prettier. Linux is faster. But not that much different. I'm very happy using both.


J Williams
2006-04-22 12:58:38
I loved my Lumix--but made the mistake of using the case that came with it. If you store the camera with the screen facing the clip side of the case, you WILL crack the screen long-ways down the middle.
Do yourself a favor--either get a better case, or never store the screen facing the belt clip.