Monday, September 29, 2008

The Desktop Paradigm

I've realized that I work very different on my work linux machine and my home mac even though they are quite similar. Both offer a frontend file manager (i.e. the Finder in OS X) and both offer a command line interface (i.e. the Terminal in OS X). On linux I spend 95% of my file interaction time in the command line to do even simple things like moving files, creating directories, deleting stuff, etc. All of these things I intuitevly do in OS X's Finder; I only use the Terminal for esoteric things like changing permissions (I know you can do this in the finder, but its faster for me to do in the Terminal).

I'm not entirely sure of the reason(s) behind this. Part of it, I'm sure, is that linux's GUI is just not as polished and as integrated as Apple's. Odd as the two OS's are surprisingly similar.* Another part is habits. I've always kept my Unix and Mac computing pretty separate at least in terms of what I do on them (my mac is for my everyday personal computing. Unix/Linux is for work, or specific hobbies like getting a home theater pc running).

One specific is that anytime I use the actual graphical file browser in linux to trash a file I can help but see that for what it really is: a program moving a file to a special, hidden folder until such time that I "empty" the trash. This is EXACTLY how it works on the mac, yet when I do the same thing there I don't think of it that way (unless I actually think about it). The Mac has just done what I wanted it to: thrown a document in the trash. The illusion on the Mac works for me, but it doesn't in Linux.

* The basic framework is the same. OS X is built on BSD a UNIX implementation much like Linux. Apple made some custom changes to BSD and called the result Darwin which is open source and you can actually download this and install it on pretty much any PC. But what puts the "Mac" in "Mac OS X" is what we all recognize as being the Mac: the graphical user interface. This interface is just a program running in Darwin much like X Windows and a window manager in Linux. There are differences of course, but those are relatively trivial. The idea is the same.

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