Mac a good Java development platform ... NOT!

There is a poll on asking 'Is the Mac a good Java development platform?".  Rather than posting a (lengthy) comment to the poll, I thought a blog entry would be a better way to share my experience.

I am certain to offend many Mac lovers with this blog entry.

I have an Intel 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro w/ 2G of RAM.  Actually my wife bought it for me as a Christmas present.

Perhaps you are thinking, "Wow what a great Christmas present!" ?

Let me tell you about my (user) experience ...

I was quite excited  about the MacBook Pro.  I too had gotten a little caught up in Mac (over) hype.  But, my experience has been much less than what I would call good.  During the first 3 months I had the MacBook Pro, the OS would crash (complete machine reboot) on average about once every 8 hours of usage.  And, it would lock up on average about every 4 times coming out of a hibernate. And, I had several web sites that I visited frequently which would not open with Safari, (I even tried using Opera and FireFox too).   Not what most of you reading this would have expected from Mac?

Don't worry it gets better .... I got an e-mail from a company who was doing a "Give us (Apple) feedback on your MacBook Pro experience".  I had to laugh when I tried to open the URL in the e-mail only to find Safari would not load it.  I contacted the person who sent the e-mail to me.  Actually, that's how I found out that Apple was not the one doing the survey, they (Apple) had outsourced that task to the fella's company I was e-mailing.  Quite honestly the fella I e-mailed was very responsive and I found him quite helpful.  I tried many of the suggestions he gave me.  Unfortunately none of those helped.  He also attempted to get me some help from someone at Apple. But, no one from Apple ever responded.  It was about this same time that I had the '/' '?' key for no apparent reason decide to fall off the keyboard.

You can probably imagine what my attitude towards my MacBook Pro was about this time.

A few weeks went by, I had completely quit trying to use the machine.  For some reason I powered it on, I got a notification of an OS update.  I applied the update (patch).  Don't know what possessed me to try the web sites that would not previously open, but much to my amazement they started to open.  I began to use the MacBook Pro for the next several days in one last attempt to see I could figure out what some people had been telling me was "the Mac experience".
I used the MacBook Pro for the next several days.  The frequent OS crashes seemed to have disappeared and the frequent lock ups after hiberates seemed to have disappeared as well. But, I never did figure out what some people have found to be so wonderful about a Mac. 

The positives for the MacBook Pro are:   wireless connectivity is better than anything else I have used, hibernate (now that it works) is better than anything else I've seen.  On the negative side;  I hate the "menu at the top of the screen".  For someone who has become to use to menus on the main window of a program, I don't think I would ever get used to Mac's approach.  I also hate the fact of not having a right click-able mouse.  The only way I can get a right click-able mouse is via the attached wireless mouse, (of which did not come with my Mac).

The best thing I did with my MacBook Pro was downloading VMWare Fusion and installing OpenSolaris.  Now when I travel I take the MacBook Pro, use it's wireless connectivity and good hibernate support.  But, other than that .. that's it for me.  I always promptly boot up OpenSolaris.  I don't think I will ever be as productive (as a Java Developer) with a Mac as I'll be with Solaris.  My desktop development machine also runs OpenSolaris. I tried for several days to see if my productivity would improve in a MacOS environment but it didn't happen.  It's only when I boot OpenSolaris on it do I feel at home.

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That's a run of some terrible luck that I think would sour anyone when trying a platform/OS. What I think is important is that you've managed to confirm your decision to use OpenSolaris. Sure it was a costly way to do so, but I always say that it matters little what OS you do use; what's important is that it enables you to do what you need to do in a manner that is more comfortable and proficient for you. I've found OS X to be the OS that does it for me. To that end, I've found it a great platform for Java development. Could it be better? Of course. That all said, I'm not sure how your admittedly horrible experience equates to OS X being a bad platform for Java development. It's obviously a personal assessment that I would have been interested in hearing your reasoning for (on a Java development level). Of course, given you had such a terrible time even using the Mac, I guess that made any attempt at doing so that much harder.

Posted by Jesse Wilson on June 03, 2007 at 10:41 AM CDT #

I'm confused. Your whole basis of it being a bad development environment is the menu bar at the top of the screen? Because despite everything you're still using the hardware with VMWare and OpenSolaris.

Posted by David on June 03, 2007 at 11:30 AM CDT #

When I read about Java development on Mac, I couldn't help but relay my experience on working with a Mac. But to be more specific, I don't care to do Java development on the Mac, (or anything else, and that's the point I was making). Not to mention that JDK for Mac is always way behind state of art that I can get on Solaris. Ooh ... almost forgot, I primarily use my desktop OpenSolaris system for 99.9% of my development. And, I wouldn't give that up period!

Posted by @Jesse on June 03, 2007 at 12:47 PM CDT #

@David No ... I could never be as productive doing anything, (other than perhaps taking home movies and cutting DVD from them), on the Mac OS. The mere fact that it has icons that dance and what not does nothing for my productivity. The fact that I can easily find performance bottlenecks with Solaris using the \*stat command along with dtrace makes Solaris the clear winner. Am I still using the hardware ... yes, but only sparingly. I use it when I travel which on average is once every 3 months for about a week. The remainder of the time I'm on my OpenSolaris system getting much more done in much shorter time .... btw, it's not just the menu bar at the top of screen, there's no right click context sensitive menu, unless you hook up an external mouse. So, if you don't know the short cut keys, you're just about screwed. Also, ever try to span that main menu across multiple monitors. Try it some time and try to work from the monitor that doesn't have the (beginning) of the menu on it.

Posted by huntch on June 03, 2007 at 12:54 PM CDT #

"there's no right click context sensitive menu" You really aren't serious are you? Before you continue why don't you try ctrl-mouseclick. Nope 10.4 doesn't have DTrace, however Leopard will.

Posted by David on June 03, 2007 at 02:41 PM CDT #

My enthusiasm for the Mac has waned. One particularly bad experience with Apple "Support" and the fact that I had two motherboards replaced after I bought my Mac. Granted it has been awhile - but the support was pretty awful - I needed my laptop for a presentation 3 weeks away - the motherboard died. They said it would take a week or at most three weeks to return it. The sad reality was that it took a month and one week! (They said they had got in a bad batch of replacement boards) I ended up taking my three year old Toshiba laptop which has \*never\* failed me, even though it has bounced on the floor on more than one occasion, and which today I now run Solaris (Nevada 63) and wireless works flawlessly among other things. One more aspect is the lackluster support for Java on the part of Apple. I am now busy trying to figure out what my next laptop will be - my Apple buddies are trying to sell me on a new MacBook - on the other hand I have started to look at Toshiba and Sony laptops - I just want something I can depend on. The plus side for Apple is some of the nice software for dealing with multimedia - it is easier than alternatives. However, the disasterous support has had me thinking Sony or Toshiba.


Posted by Charles Ditzel on June 03, 2007 at 03:48 PM CDT #

Funny you should say that since I'm saving up for a MacBook Pro and awaiting the next release from Apple :-) Now, if only there would be some certified laptops to run OpenSolaris perfectly... I would love to play with dtrace on java. I'm running Ubuntu on my Dell laptop nowadays but support is flimsy. So a MacBook is still the best Unix laptop one can get (especially in Europe).

Posted by Emilian Bold on June 03, 2007 at 06:55 PM CDT #

Sounds like a combination of bad luck and bad attitude. My macbookpro has performed almost faultlessly since I bought it a year ago. It has only crahsed once in that time and it was a Pro Tools related error. I'm a happy camper with MacBookPro.

Posted by Richard on June 03, 2007 at 06:59 PM CDT #

I'm surprised this blog entry was listed on the NetBeans IDE Welcome page. There's not single thing here related to the title -- regarding Java development. Anyone want to hear about my Toshiba Tecra freezing up? The problems getting Open Solaris to use the wireless interface without my intervention on every bootup? Maybe, but not if I claim it's related to Java development? Blog away, but shame on whoever selected your blog to be in the face of so many thousands of NetBeans users.

Posted by Rob on June 04, 2007 at 12:44 AM CDT #

Yeah, apple is still experimenting with the intel hardware (and it's owners ;) support on it's OS X system so, some more bugs are due to appear. I have a mac mini, I also have a lot of trouble with running applications, almost everything has to be run on rossetta mode (ppc emulation) because only a couple of programs are actually built for the intel chip. @Charles Ditzel, I strongly recommed the new HP pavilion laptops, I have the zd8350 with 17'' screen and it works amazing, I use it as backup because I recently bought a dv2000 series and it's even better, a friend of mine has one and he accidentally dropped it, it was as if nothing have happened, so they are tough as well, and the performance is amazing.

Posted by Raul on June 04, 2007 at 01:47 AM CDT #

I saw this listed on the NetBeans Welcome screen, and after reading all the posts, think that it should be removed immediately. This rant about macbooks has \*nothing\* to do with java development on a mac and is a complete waste of time.

Posted by David Vannucci on June 04, 2007 at 06:24 PM CDT #

@raul: "almost everything has to be run on rossetta mode (ppc emulation) because only a couple of programs are actually built for the intel chip"

Sorry, but that is complete bollocks. Most everything is now available as Universal Binary, and PowerPC support is slowly being dropped by all the major developers. If anything, the current state of affairs is completely reversed to what you state.

I have to agree Charlie about Apple's release times on Java updates - they are currently way behind the ball. That issue aside, you'd have to pry my MacBook Pro from my cold, dead hands.

Posted by Tony Arnold on June 04, 2007 at 07:57 PM CDT #

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