Archive for October 2010

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion reactions

Some of the features of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 Lion were announced today. I am very disappointed in the changes Apple is making to the OS and the UI.

I used to really like Mac OS X, but in recent years I have been liking it less and less. I don’t actually use Mac OS X, except when I visit my mom and use her iMac with version 10.3 on it. Even so, I like to follow its development.

It’s been hard for me to describe, but I think today’s announcement finally made it clear to me. I think the original idea of Mac OS X is wonderful. There is a windowing UI with lots of drag and drop. It has great default settings and appearances. There is pretty much one way to do everything: UI is Aqua, software installation is drag and drop, and so on.

What I mainly don’t like about recent versions of Mac OS X is the “layers”. Apple keeps adding layers and layers to the UI, and it looks like a mess to me. Spotlight adds search to the desktop which should be in the file manager. Dashboard adds a literal extra layer of tiny applications that run on top of your other applications. Time Machine “takes over” your entire desktop with a space theme. That springy thing in the dock is the “answer” to having too many icons down there, and it isn’t even consistent in appearance with itself all the time. Newly announced features include super-fullscreen mode for some applications that breaks the established window model, a new method of cycling through open applications (while leaving the old methods), and a new screen to store and launch applications from. It all looks very nice and flashy and like a load of crap to me. You see this screenshot from the Mac OS X early public beta? It looks fabulous. I wish it still looked like this.
Macosxpb

Another thing I greatly dislike is the tendency for applications to do everything. iTunes, the music player, now plays movies, stores mobile applications, and includes a store. iPhoto, the image viewer, connects to Facebook and can send emails. Garageband, the music writing software, now teaches you how to play an instrument.

Lastly, the “transition” from Aqua to brushed metal is terrible in my opinion. The UI doesn’t look nearly as nice and consistent as it used to.

My general feeling after hearing about the updates was for how grateful I am for Haiku. I started using Haiku because it was free and open source software and it was unified like Mac OS X. Now I’m thinking Haiku is a better Mac OS X than Mac OS X.

Mechanical keyboard

I finally saved up enough money and bought a mechanical keyboard. It arrived yesterday.

I decided to buy the Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless with Cherry MX Brown switches, from elitekeyboards.com. It appears to be extremely popular for first time mechanical keyboard buyers.

My reasons for choosing this keyboard include:

  • The small form factor fits on my desk better. It allows me to reach and use my mouse more easily. I never use the number pad.
  • It has a very high build quality and will last a long time.
  • Mechanical keyboard users say that almost any mechanical keyboard is better than the cheap membrane keyboards that come with most computers. I decided to get the Cherry MX Brown switches because they are very quiet but still tactile, meaning you feel a slight “bump” as you press the key down.
  • It is relatively inexpensive. I paid $125 USD. That’s more expensive than a $70 Unicomp buckling spring keyboard, but less expensive than a $265 Happy Hacking keyboard.
  • I bought replacement keycaps for the Windows keys from Das Keyboard. Although they are made for the Das Keyboard, they work very well on a Majestouch keyboard. They fit perfectly. The size difference is unnoticable. The replacements are a bit more shiny than the other keys. If you use one of the replacements that have lettering, the font is different.
  • It has full n-key rollover. I’m not sure I would ever really need this feature, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
  • I like the key layout. All of the keys are in the right place and are the correct shape. I can’t decide where I prefer the control key, so the bottom left corner is fine for me.

I’ve only had it for one day and have been too busy to use it a lot, so I don’t really feel like I can give it a “review”. But here are my immediate opinions:

  • I really like the size, although it is taking some time to get used to.
  • The build quality does feel great. It’s kind of heavy.
  • The keys are very light and easy to press. I feel as if I can type quicker without having to worry about missing keys.
  • The replacement keycaps for the Windows keys work fine. They don’t look “perfect”, but they work perfectly, were a relatively cheap solution, and were super easy to install.
  • I now understand why mechanical keyboard users describe cheap membrane keyboards as feeling “mushy”. The Cherry MX Brown switches feel sort of “hollow”, as if there’s nothing under the key. Even so, I can easily press every key even if I don’t hit it “straight on”, I feel a nice “bump” as I press it, and it immediately springs back up when I release it.
  • I am happy with my purchase and feel it was worth the money.

Other notes:

  • I am using it with the included PS/2 adapter.
  • I got the (standard) black model.
  • The cord seemed a little short when I unpacked it, but the length is just fine. I think I’m just used to a super long keyboard cord.
  • I don’t think many people would be convinced that a mechanical keyboard is a whole lot better than a cheap membrane keyboard and worth the extra money IF they only try it for a short test. I get the feeling it’s something a person would have to experience for an extended period of time, and then try going back to a cheap keyboard to really feel the difference, and to feel that it’s worth buying. Of course, there will be people that love it from the beginning, and there will be people that never really like it, but that’s the general feeling I get after purchasing and using my first mechanical keyboard.