Replace the Proprietary with the Free
Posted by notKlaatu , 04 June 2009 · 362 views
I've been doing some Mac related stuff again lately...less by choice than by economic force (ie, I need the money), so I've had to deal with those nasty proprietary apps again.This brings to mind, however, a post I once did that is either lost to time or just not easily found in the archive, concerning what free software was available for the Mac in order to make one's Mac-based computing experience better.Well, first of all, there is Linux. If possible, take the Mac you have been ordered to use, and put Linux onto it. That solves the problem really quickly.Assuming, however, that this is not an option, due to the client's expectations, there is an insidious thing you can do: replace all the userland applications with Free alternatives. If, on a Mac, we go into /Applications and do an "ls -m" on it, here are the results:Address Book.app, AppleScript, Automator.app, Calculator.app, Chess.app, DVD Player.app, Dashboard.app, Dictionary.app, Expose.app, Font Book.app, Front Row.app, Image Capture.app, Mail.app, Photo Booth.app, Preview.app, QuickTime Player.app, Safari.app, Spaces.app, Stickies.app, System Preferences.app, TextEdit.app, Time Machine.app, Utilities, iCal.app, iChat.app, iPhoto.app, iSync.app, iTunes.appMost if not all of these can easily be replaced with a good KDE install, but that's just not realistic, due to the fact that the KDE apps do not integrate with the rest of the computer (no drag-and-drop functionality, non-Mac-like mouse behaviour, etc). Basically, saying something like "Install MacPorts and do a sudo port install foobar" (where foobar is KDE or Gnome or *) is essentially the same as saying "wipe Mac OS and install Linux" -- it's not bad advice, not even a bad idea, and it's even something I'd opt to do for myself...it's just not necessarily something you can do and expect a client looking over your shoulder to approve of.So the real answer for most users is to install Cocoa-ported free applications. Luckily, there are quite a few of these.Address Book & MailReplace with ThunderbirdAppleScriptWhy script in a proprietary, runs-only-on-Mac-OS-X scripting language when you have Python and Ruby? Mac OS even includes Python and Ruby for you, so the only reason one really would want to mess around with AppleScript is because there are certain things that only AppleScript can talk to. Oh well. Automator.appEven in the halls of Apple headquarters, where rigourous QA testing occurs, requiring XXtreme automation...I know of no-one who actually uses Automator. It's a bad GUI frontend for really simple scripting. Oh, there is one powerful thing in it: the plugin that allows you to bypass Automator entirely and paste in a bash shell script.Calculator.appSpeedCrunch is a powerful and robust calculator far superiour to the default calculator in Mac OS X and, well, most Linux distros too. But heck, we're trying to replace it all, so why not?Chess.appJinChess supports chess servers, which, if you're a chess fiend, is essential. I'd go with it before I went with Chess.app....but I admit for some people this is a trivial matter and the truth is, I've never bothered making this change myself, opting instead to simply delete Chess.app to get it out of my way.DVD Player.app & Quicktime PlayerVLCDashboard.appWidgets for Mac OS...I dunno. Google Gadgets? None? Can I just use KDE instead?Dictionary.appSeriously, the Mac OS dictionary is one of the more annoying Dictionaries I've ever used. It pops up everywhere. Any system search you do, it seems, the Dictionary definition of whatever you're searching for is the top hit. Even for applications like Quicktime or iTunes. Yes -- Apple has included definitions of their own applications in their dictionary. (Yes, you can turn these features off, but stupid defaults are as bad as bugs IMHO). Alternatives? How about... Dict OS X or Expose.appThis is the application that allows the user to zoom out of all open windows and see them in a kind of bird's-eye-view...you've seen it in Compiz Fusion and KDE 4. It's really part of Finder, and there's no getting rid of that, for better or for worse. It's Apple's pride and joy and the most hated part of Mac OS.Font Book.appFonty Python looks interesting though I've never tried to install it on a Mac.Front Row.appxbmc - the xbox media center. So much better than Front Row (which is the AppleTV interface for your computer, or the other way around) it is one of the de facto replacements for the AppleTV's interface. Not that anyone uses Front Row on their computer, but if they are going to, xbmc is an absolute must.Image Capture.appA dedicated picture importer for digital cameras, since Finder is so inept at what it does. Once again, Konqueror would solve this issue swiftly and single-handedly...but it's still not a practical option, and won't be until some resourceful soul out there ports Konq to Cocoa. iKonqi, anyone?Photo Booth.appWebcam app. I doubt there's a replacement for it.Preview.appA sorely underfeatured image viewer, again picking up where Finder fails. Konqueror would solve this problem, gwenview would do even better, but neither are realistic drop-in replacements. Don't know of a replacement.Safari.appFirefox - you know it, you love itThere are others, like Camino, Opera, Flock, and so on, but Firefox is just the best.Spaces.appThe Apple version of the virtual desktop concept is horrible and bug-ridden. I myself have filed a number of bugs about it. There used to be some independent virtual desktop implementations out there; I haven't actually tried it on Leopard so I can't guarantee compatibility but you could try them: Desktop Manager or Virtue Once again, though, there's nothing quite like the way it's supposed to work; for that, we have Linux...Stickies.appecho "note to self" > sticky1.txt..ok I'm joking but really I'm not going to bother finding a free replacement for stickies.TextEdit.appcreatextTime Machine.appI love backups, I hate Time Machine. I hate it because any time I plug in a harddrive, it prompts me to use that drive as a Time Machine backup drive. Who do I have to pay off to get rid of that dialog box? I also hate it because it's blingy, wasteful, and overly elaborate for what it is. I also have a hard time picturing myself using it, and in fact, frankly, I rarely see users using it. People backup when their friendly sys admin friend reminds them to...that's been my experience. But...there is probably no free replacement for Time Machine that gives them Time Machine functinoality, thank goodness. Last time someone had to do a system recovery from Time Machine, all their , Utilities, iChat.app, iSync.app, iTunes.appiCalReplace with the Lightning addon for Thunderbird.