OS X Yosemite vs Ubuntu 14.04

Before I dive in I just want to list (in no particular order) the devices I use on a daily basis:

  • iPhone 6 running iOS 8.1
  • Retina Display MacBook Pro running OS X Yosemite
  • 2x Quad Core Workstation running Ubuntu 14.04
  • HP Pavilion dm4 laptop running Ubuntu 14.04

I don’t know the brand of the Workstation because it’s just a black box that work provided for me. I think they are built by SuperMicro, as that is who builds the servers we use in our data centers.

Anyway, I have been a user of Mac OS X since the early 2000’s with a bit of Windows usage and a bunch of different Linux distro’s in-between. My first “smartphone” was a BlackBerry 8870, which I used from 2006-2008 and since then I have always had an iPhone.

I really like Apple technology and I evangelize their products to all of my friends and family. I absolutely agree with their mission statement, which has always been focused around taking the everyday complexities of computing away from the end user. This is a major part of the reason why I recommend Apple to my parents and I can imagine even my Grandad would be more than capable of operating an iOS device.

However, I sometimes feel as though with each iteration of OS X and iOS the “ease of use” mission, while understandable, robs me of the tinkering aspect of computing that I enjoy. Now, I’m sure that for every few thousand people there are just a handful of people out there that like to arrange their files and folders in a particular way and don’t mind spending the time to manage the file system.

I know I am definitely not alone because a neighbor of mine who had always been a Windows person inherited a Mac from a friend of theirs. He was trying to organize iPhoto in the same way that he would manage his Pictures folder on his Windows PC, which was a fine art in terms of file system management! He would have a year folder, then separate folders for Holidays, Birthdays, and other activities in that year, then they would be further organized and divided up within each of those folders. When he imported these photos into iPhoto, it organized them according to its own magical process, which was somewhat impressive (the timestamps of the photo are preserved in the file, so it was able to sort the pictures based on date). However, this didn’t bode well with my neighbor and he looked for alternative applications, but those did not support his style of organization either. In the end, he settled for utilizing folders like he did in Windows, but Preview doesn’t work quite the same way when viewing your photos like this, as Apple assumes you are going to use iPhoto.

It’s this kind of assumption that annoys me. Don’t get me wrong, Apple does a lot of things right, you could say most things right, but there are little pieces here and there that just irk me. I had no solution for my neighbor and he has settled with keeping to his usual mode of organizing his photos, then temporarily importing an album to iPhoto when he needs to showcase them.

I haven’t been a fan of iPhoto for a long time. I use it for importing photos from my iPhone and SD card because the one cool thing about iPhoto is the option to delete all of the photos from said device/media after the import has completed. But, that’s as far as I go with iPhoto, as similarly to my neighbor, I like to organize my photos in folders within corresponding subfolders for each event etc.

Since the issue with my external hard drive I have been using Ubuntu 14.04 more and more on my HP Pavilion dm4 laptop. It started off solely as an interface into my external hard drive, but today I have been using it to peruse the file system of my wife’s and my own iPhone. It’s actually really cool (if you’re included in that handful in a few thousand) to be able to peek into specific folders and pull files, photos, songs, and videos on to your computer in the “traditional” way. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to do things this way.

My wife’s MacBook Pro (Mid-2010) model is still going strong, but iPhoto is absurdly slow. Just to do a basic function like double-click on a photo take 96 seconds to load (yes, I timed it!). So when my wife asks me to offload the photos from her iPhone because she is out of capacity I groan. Even more so when she has to leave the house in 10 minutes, so that she can get to my nephews Halloween show at the school he goes to. I gave iPhoto the benefit of the doubt and began the process of offloading all 1,218 photos. It was a nightmare. I lost a few minutes just opening iPhoto. Then a couple more while it prepared the import, then after another few minutes it was only 10 pics in to the import. “STOP! This can’t go on any longer!” I said. So I plugged my wife’s iPhone into the HP and copied all of the photo’s there instead. It took 5 minutes! I’m sure it could have been the same on the MacBook Pro if Apple would just let me browse the file system the old fashioned way, but it wasn’t to be. Once I had successfully offloaded my wife’s iPhone photos to the HP I then repeated the process to the external hard drive.

I may sound like an old curmudgeon that is stuck in his old ways, but sometimes the simple things work better. With OS X Yosemite there are a lot of hip features like the ever increasing integration between your Mac and iPhone with things like Handoff and Continuity, but a major drawback was iCloud Drive. One would assume it could be used just like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive etc. but nope, it’s used in conjunction with apps that save data to iCloud. That’s not quite the same.

Now that my usage of Ubuntu has extended beyond the office and into things I do with my personal computing life I am starting to appreciate the level of control I have over what I do on my computer. There’s a lot of stuff you take for granted in OS X, but I am really starting to like being able to things my way, on my on my computer.

This also extends to the reason why I want to build my own in-house NAS solution. Time Machine works beautifully as a 1-to-1 backup solution. It’s especially awesome when you have the need to swap out a hard drive or buy an entirely new Mac and restore from a Time Machine backup. However, for sharing files, photos, and videos that we have recorded we need something that is always on that we can both access at any time. Using FreeNAS on a micro ATX computer stuffed with hard drives I can use it for both Time Machine (for the nice restore features) and it can support traditional network file sharing, so I can setup a network folder to mount on mine and my wife’s computer whenever we are connected to the home WiFi. FreeNAS also supports multiple file sharing protocols, so that anybody with a Mac, PC, Linux, iOS, or Android device can upload/download whatever they want to/from the NAS (if I permit them to of course!).

Like I said, there are a lot more people in the world that couldn’t give two hoots about how their file system is managed (if they even care to know what a file system is!), but I do like to tinker with this kind of stuff. I am not going cold turkey on OS X or making any rash decisions to change what I use, but once again I am keeping my mind open to other technologies and hence my plagtech blog continues.

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