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Mac OS X growing on developers?

38 replies on 3 pages. Most recent reply: Sep 6, 2003 1:43 PM by Wouter Zelle

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Ernie Varitimos

Posts: 38
Nickname: erntheburn
Registered: May, 2003

Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 14, 2003 11:15 PM
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I've been a Macintosh user since its introduction back in 1984, bought one 2 days after the infamous SuperBowl ad and have owned at least 25 Macs over the years. I've converted untold numbers of graphic and communications professionals, scientists and home PC users to the virtues of the Mac. But since Mac OS X hit the scene there is another significant category of potential convert emerging, the hard core developer.

Seems even the father of Java, James Gosling, has embraced the Mac as his preferred development platform, along with the majority of his research and development team. I feel like a pioneer, after leaving Sun 2 years ago I did a little promo for Apple extoling the ultimate laptop. Check out the following stories:

http://www.apple.com/pro/science/gosling/
http://www.apple.com/business/stories/skyserver/

Is this the catalyst that will breath new life into corporate Mac? And I'm curious, how many of you have seriously considerred the Mac for enterprise development, or have already bounded forward? Apple seems pretty serious, their next release of OS X Server will be bundled with JBoss, Tomcat, Apache, etc, along with some cool management tools.

-ernie
javachief.org


Van Simmons

Posts: 7
Nickname: rvsrvs
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 16, 2003 10:11 PM
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Admittedly, I am biased as a NeXT developer from way back, but I have to admit that I was pleased at JavaONE to see the number of PowerBooks in use to be pretty high. As usual the attendees seemed to be divided into two camps - those you would take one look at and say: "Probably reads Artima blogs with a WiFi laptop over his cornflakes in the morning" and those you look at and say: "Suit". The Suits carried enormous Dell's which looked to be 2-3 years old, the Artima types almost without exception were Apple-equipped with brand new AlPBs.

Michael Geisler

Posts: 2
Nickname: goosey
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 1:41 AM
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Of course some us (who do read artima.com at breakfast) toting non-apple laptops were looking on in apple-lust/envy - because they are so expensive outside the US ;-)

Ernie Varitimos

Posts: 38
Nickname: erntheburn
Registered: May, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 6:56 AM
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One of the great features of the Titanium laptop is the instant startup of the OS. I can close up my laptop and put it away for up to a week, and be assured that when I go to use it, it will start up instantly with plenty of juice left for at least a couple hours of hard core hacking before I have to worry about plugging in the power adaptor.

Tim Bray, is founder of Open text and one of the original authors of XML. He's a PowerBook user too, here's a quote from a recent interview. "When I open up my Windows laptop, whether I’m booting it or resuming it, I’m waiting a long time before it’s ready to do work. On my PowerBook, with Mac OS X, by the time my fingers are on the keyboard it’s not only ready to work, it’s synced up to the network.”

Mac OS X also enabled Bray’s desktop rapprochement with Unix: “The fact that it’s a full-featured Unix system is just icing on the cake." Bray says.

In my experience, this is the most compelling reason to use a PowerBook for development. At its core it is BSD Unix. All the tools are there that you would expect in a professional Unix environment and its stable and fast. My 500 mHz Titanium has never crashed in two and a half years and compiles Java code faster than my client issued 1.6 gHz Dell Latitude, plus the super wide LCD screen is simply awesome. It's a great machine to take on a plane, do some work and watch a movie. The 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen is perfect for wide format DVDs.

I heard through a very reliable source that Apple will soon produce a dual G5 laptop!! Yikes! Can you imagine a laptop with dual 64 bit processors, 8 Gig of Ram, 200 Gig of disk space and a 17 inch screen? Who needs a desktop machine?

-ernie
JavaChief.org

Erik Price

Posts: 39
Nickname: erikprice
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 8:06 AM
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Agreed. I've been a Mac user since about 1985, when I was only about ten years old. I think it's a great development environment for all the same reasons as everyone else (great command line, pre-emptive multitasking, protected memory, blah blah) --

-- but for those of you who are coding in Java on MacOSX, can I just ask what development environment are you using? I've tried NetBeans, IDEA, and even Eclipse but they are all way too slow for speedy, active coding (yes, Eclipse too, plus the MacOSX version didn't have all the features in the Windows version last I checked). For instance, I often found that the NetBeans caret was lagging a few symbols behind my typing! When I code, I type fast and use shortcuts when possible for instant results, and I like my coding environment to keep up with me. I find that I end up just going back to BBEdit or jEdit because the Java GUI libraries just aren't ready for complex applications.

Maybe performance on the G5 will be different, but I really wish someone would write a great IDE for coding in Java on the Mac. And that means using native code, preferrably Cocoa. (ProjectBuilder seems to be a great IDE for Objective-C, but for Java it's not much better than a text editor [and BBEdit and jEdit are more extensible to boot].)

Van Simmons

Posts: 7
Nickname: rvsrvs
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 8:18 AM
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I just got the Panther development code and am running under Jaguar doing EJB development. Not too much experience with it yet, but so far it looks really great. Big thing for me is having it accept my existing development tree something that I just have not been able to get Eclipse or NetBeans to do (they want to copy stuff to their own Workspace rather than coexisting with a big existing one).

Ernie Varitimos

Posts: 38
Nickname: erntheburn
Registered: May, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 8:23 AM
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You must be using an older version of IDEA and possibly JDK 1.3. The new JDK 1.4.1 has SIGNIFICANT performance improvements including Swing integration with the Mac's native GUI rendering engine, Quartz.

I use IDEA 3.04 and JDK 1.4.1 on all my machines from a G3 600mHz iMac, to my G4 500 mHz Titanium laptop and my Dual G4 1.25 gHz desktop. I see no perceptible difference in typing speed, little perceptible difference in GUI performance, and noticible difference in compile time (understandable).

I have also used the latest Eclipse with very good performance. I have adopted a favorite utility that provides me with virtual desktops. It's a real productivity booster by CodeTEK called VirtualDesktop. I typically create 9 virtual screens and hop between them. It even adapts to additional monitors by increasing the desktop size and allowing you to arrange their positioning relative to one another. Very cool.

-ernie

Tiago Antao

Posts: 26
Nickname: tiago
Registered: Feb, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 8:23 AM
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There are here references to Mac, to Win... and what about Linux on the laptop/desktop?

I use Linux (unless I am not alowed to - but even on Win I try to use linux via vmware) and find it to be a very productive development environment.

Multiple X virtual screens, not much need to use the mouse (which is a productivity hurdle most of the times, IMHO) unless I really want to... There is everything I need: Eclipse, lots of application servers, recent JDK, openoffice, ...

I have almost no exposure to Mac OS X, I know its BSD based, and that is it. Can anyone that has experience with both Linux and Mac OS X as development desktop give a brief outlook of the percieved advantages of OS X (if there are any to be found)? My many thanks in advance for any comments...

Van Simmons

Posts: 7
Nickname: rvsrvs
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 8:46 AM
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From a development point of view using Eclipse, etc on OS/X is like using Eclipse on Linux. The entire UI is cleaner and more efficient on OS/X, but that can be a matter of taste. And you can use X windows if you like that better for some reason.

The real reason IMHO to use OS/X is the consumer experience combined with the developer experience. iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD and Safari, plus eclipse and all of the stuff you like about linux makes the whole package very nice indeed.

Erik Price

Posts: 39
Nickname: erikprice
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 9:02 AM
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> I have almost no exposure to Mac OS X, I know its BSD
> based, and that is it. Can anyone that has experience with
> both Linux and Mac OS X as development desktop give a
> brief outlook of the percieved advantages of OS X (if
> there are any to be found)?

There are so many reasons that one simply can't list them all here. However, you clearly must have some reason to like Linux if you choose to use it when you can. So, I would say this -- make a list of all of the reasons you like Linux, including the available tools, a decent shell, robust process handling at the OS level, etc. Nearly anything that can be done on Linux can be done on MacOSX.

Now add to this list: "My grandmother can use this computer right out of the box." The only configuration hassles on MacOSX are the ones that you specifically bring on because you wish to do something advanced, such as tweak Apache HTTPD or install PostgreSQL. You never have to edit a .xinitrc file unless you choose to (if you install X11).

Now add one more thing: "In addition to thousands of great *nix-based open source tools and applications, many companies are actively developing great desktop software such as Macromedia, Omni Group, Adobe, etc."

The only thing you have to take away from your list is "100% open source", since only the lower levels of MacOSX are actually open source, such as the BSD-based Darwin OS and the tools (bash, gcc, python, perl, etc). The Aqua GUI environment is not.

Frank Sommers

Posts: 2642
Nickname: fsommers
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 1:19 PM
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I'm looking into buying a new laptop for development, and I'm still thinking whether to buy an Intel-based laptop to run Linux, or choose a PowerBook. Frankly, I'd love the latter, but I think that in terms of price/performance, the Intel-based machines are better. For instance, I can get a 2.6 Ghz Pentium with a 16' display for about $1,600. I think a comparable Mac would cost a lot more. For me, ease of use is not such a big deal, and I'm more interested in performance (i.e., I'd like to run my unit tests all the time, do very frequent recompiles, etc). What has held me back from buying an Intel-based machine, though, is that I'm worried that not all the peripherals I need would work with Linux. (That was the only aspect I hated in the past running Linux on my laptop - that half the laptop's features were practically not used.)

So, my question is, what's the experience out there in terms of a development laptop when it comes to Intel/Linux vs. the Mac?

Bill Venners

Posts: 2250
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 2:04 PM
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I have used Mac OS X for two years as my development platform, and Linux as my deployment platform. So the page you are looking at was developed on Mac OS X, but served up by Linux. That combination has worked very well for me.

I bought Mac OS X two years ago for the same reason most people buy the operating system they choose -- not because it is easier to use, but because it runs the software they want to run. (This is why most people buy Windows, I would claim.) Because I find myself most productive and happy developing under Unix, I wanted Unix. Because I travel a lot, I do most of my work on a laptop, so I wanted Unix on a laptop.

I had tried installing Linux on my laptops several times going back many years. The first time it worked out of the box was one year ago (RedHat Linux on a Winbook laptop), but I frankly am still afraid to close the laptop without shutting down Linux, and I worry about getting drivers for my peripherals. In previous attempts to install Linux on my laptop, I was never able to get my network card to work, so I couldn't use Linux for much.

But in addition to Unix and all the free open source tools available for Unix, I wanted to install and use several commercial apps on my laptop. And while these apps did exist for the Mac and Windows, they didn't exist for Linux. One app I wanted to buy, for example, was Adobe Framemaker. Adobe did have a trial beta version of Framemaker on Linux for a while, but they decided not to release it back then. If I remember correctly, the business conclusion at Adobe was that Linux users don't like to buy commercial software, so there wasn't a business case to support FrameMaker on Linux. Perhaps that will change when and if more mainstream users use Linux as their desktop OS. Regardless, I was planning to buy a Windows laptop, install Linux, and live with the pain of dual booting (or try VMWare), because the commercial apps existed on Windows and Linux gave me Unix.

Then I saw Ken Arnold running Jini on a PowerBook in about April of 2001. The other main software that I needed at the time was Java, and there was Java running on a Macintosh. I couldn't really believe my eyes. I asked Ken some questions about the Mac, and it quickly dawned on me that Mac OS X might be the best fit for my needs.

I was never a Mac bigot and never had bought a Macintosh in the old days. But I did go ahead and take the leap and get Mac OS X. It ran the software I wanted to run, and as I started using it I discovered that there was some truth to what all those Mac bigots had been saying over the years. My experience as a user of this Mac OS X machine is much more pleasant than my user experience with Windows. So I felt lucky that I could get a system that ran the software I needed and wanted that also had a nice user experience.

As far as cost goes, I'm sure a Linux/Intel laptop would be cheaper up front, but you must also factor in the total cost of ownership, whether you are buying one box for your self or 1000 boxes for your developers. When I opened up my Mac, it worked. When I plugged my network card in, it worked. I didn't have to spend hours or days searching for drivers for my particular network card, reading HOW-TOs, rebuilding the kernel, etc... That kind of stuff may be fun if your into that kind of stuff, but it does have a cost. Perhaps in the long run Linux might be cheaper, I don't know, but that's the cost I think you should consider -- the total cost of ownership.

And by the way, although I'd say 98% of the time I use a computer these days, it is either Mac OS X or Linux, I still have to use Windows for some things. Messing around with .NET, offloading recordings of interviews from my mini-disk player, using QuickBooks (though I believe Intuit has released a new version of QuickBooks for Mac OS X, but I haven't bought it), testing Java apps and web pages to see how they look on Windows, etc... So I also have Windows machines lying about for those purposes. I have never tried the virtual PC software for the Mac. Ernie V. (who posted this topic) seems to be happy with it. If you get Linux, you can have a dual boot Windows/Linux system and get at Windows that way when you need it.

Guillaume Taglang

Posts: 18
Nickname: gouyou
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 17, 2003 4:28 PM
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> Can anyone that has experience with both Linux and Mac OS X
> as development desktop give a brief outlook of the percieved
> advantages of OS X (if there are any to be found)?

I've bought one year and a half a nice small iBook, it provided everything I wanted from a laptop point of view with the nice batterv life, a robust case, really portable, and so on ...

After 3-4 month I installed Linux on it and since them I never got back to Mac OS X for serious development ... It's lacking a lot of things virtual desktop, focus-follows-mouse, a good terminal, bash, all the unix tools. Yes you could get them after installing X + fink, but linux as an extra advantage speed ! and not all linux stuff is yet ported to Mac OS X.

If you are used to linux, Mac OS X is maybe not the best idea, if you like the in-control side of linux ...

Guillaume

Ernie Varitimos

Posts: 38
Nickname: erntheburn
Registered: May, 2003

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 18, 2003 12:58 PM
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Bill Venners wrote:
I have never tried the virtual PC software for the Mac. Ernie V. (who posted this topic) seems to be happy with it. If you get Linux, you can have a dual boot Windows/Linux system and get at Windows that way when you need it.


I run Virtual PC on my Dual G4 1.25 gHz with a Windows 2k virtual OS and it performs well, similar to a 1 gHz Wintel. I have run it on a 1 gHz 17" iMac with acceptable performance, it's somewhat sluggish on my 500 mHz Titanium Powerbook, but usable. I have also installed Linux on my Mac, but put it in a VPC OS partition and that runs well too. You can install as many OS partitions as you want and switch between them instantly. The OS partitions are completely integrated on the network and you can share devices with your Mac.

Microsoft has recently purchased Connectix so it will be interesting to see how they maintain VPC on the Mac. I believe they have grand plans to leverage VPC to claim cross platform nirvana.

I use VPC version 5.x, Connectix claims that VPC v6 has improved performance, but independent testers say it is negligeable. However, v6 it has some cool features such as accessibility of the Start menu from the Mac OS X Dock. I must admit that I only use VPC when necessary, there are very few instances where I can't do everything on OS X -- and do it much better with more pleasure!

-ernie

Matt Gerrans

Posts: 1153
Nickname: matt
Registered: Feb, 2002

Re: Mac OS X growing on developers? Posted: Jul 18, 2003 4:50 PM
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Microsoft has recently purchased Connectix so it will be interesting to see how they maintain VPC on the Mac. I
believe they have grand plans to leverage VPC to claim cross platform nirvana.


Or did they just buy it in order to squelch it?

I wonder how well Longhorn (the next generation of Windows), with its new database-based (SQL Server 2003?) filesystem (WinFS) will work (or not) in multi-partition setups. If it will just run on top of NTFS, it shouldn't be too much of a problem, but if it is some zany new thing that wants to control the whole physical disk, then there could be serious problems.

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