Reading Lukas Mathis’s latest post on ignore the code reminded me of a similar rant I let loose over 2.5 years ago on a LifeHacker.com “Mac Switchers Guide.” The commenting system over at LifeHacker has become needlessly complex (I can’t even link directly to a particular comment), so I’m reposting my comment here. My comment is in response to the common myth that installing programs on a Mac is some kind of Utopian dream, while doing it on Windows is like going through Purgatory. As a Mac-head myself, but one who can think outside the realm of fanboi-isms, I respectfully disagree.

First, here is LifeHacker’s section on “Installing apps” on the Mac, making it sound like it should be common sense to anyone who knows how to use a mouse.

Installing apps

This may seem like somewhat of a no brainer for Mac veterans, but when you switch to a Mac from a PC, you may find the installation process of new applications a bit confusing at first. That’s because, in general, there’s absolutely nothing to it. When you download an application (generally in the form of a compressed .dmg file, which will mount as a drive when you open it), you’re pretty much done with the installation process. You can run an application (marked by the .app extension) from anywhere on your computer, and there’s really no installation to it. Broadly speaking, the installation of a new Mac app generally consists of moving the new application to your Applications folder. Many apps make this very simple, like the mounted Firefox .dmg above.

Unless you have your own system for arranging apps on your Mac, copying new apps to the Applications folder is a good practice. What you don’t want to do is forget to move the app from the .dmg folder to your hard disk.

I responded in the comments, with some info that might actually be helpful to switchers (and a requisite amount of snark):

[U]nfortunately, the issue of application installation needs to be emphasized yet again, in addition to the previous comments. Apple seriously needs to update their guidelines or make actual restrictions on how programs should be installed. Even though it’s supposed to just be drag-and-drop (i.e. drag a .app to the Applications folder), it’s never quite that simple. First of all, the .dmg paradigm is broken. Plain and simple, it just doesn’t make sense to normal people. Why should you have to mount a virtual drive (a completely foreign concept to people who have never mounted an actual drive to begin with), then copy an app from the virutal drive onto their regular drive, unmount, then delete the DMG? If I didn’t know what a DMG actually is, I would be terrified of unmounting/ejecting it (if I even knew I had to do that), much less throwing it away. What happens then? Does the program get thrown away too?

But even if you understand the mounting/unmounting situation, installing a program can still be difficult or confusing. I’d say about 60% of the programs I’ve downloaded/installed are simple .app’s, where I drop them manually into my Apps folder. However, there are some that come in .pkg (package) files. You don’t drag/drop those, you open them, which starts an installer, which will then copy the .app and associated files to Apps for you. But how do you know what is a .app and what is a .pkg? Well, I know from the icon, but many people wouldn’t. I have to wonder, how many people, who have been told time and time again that they just have to drag/drop into the Apps folder, drop those .pkg files into Applications, then run the installer everytime they try to open a program?

Finally, you get a myriad of installers that are somewhere in between simple drag/drop into Applications or a full-blown installer. Those are ones that might pop-up a simple install screen (like the Firefox screenshot above) to help guide you. But those are also confusing. What is that firefox window trying to tell me? Is it instructing me to drag the .app from the mounted disk into my Apps folder? Do I drag the FF icon in the pop-up to Apps? Is that little icon of the Apps folder in the pop-up just an icon, or is it a symbolic link to my actual Apps folder, so that I can just drag the FF icon to the Apps folder icon? Sometimes the mounted disk image has a symbolic link to my Apps folder, so in the mounted disk, I can drag the .app directly to the link. But if I didn’t know what a symbolic link was, I would be completely confused. Why can I see all my Apps from this disc image? What happens if I close and delete this disk image? Do I have to access my Apps folder via this disk to run my new application?

And don’t even get me started on uninstalling applications. Just drag/drop it into the trash? Ha, yeah right. 3rd party applications like Yank! or AppZapper [or AppCleaner] are essential if you actually want to delete programs from OS X.

As much shit as people give to Windows installers and uninstallers, I never had a problem with them. 95% of the time, Windows installers are simple executables that open a wizard where the user rarely has to do anything other than press “Next” a bunch of times. Then hopefully people will get rid of the installers after they’re done, but if they don’t, it’s not a big deal. At least it won’t mount any virtual drives whenever someone starts that program, or present them with many, ambiguous ways to install or copy or move the program. Only a limited number of Windows programs do you download the actual executable instead of an installer, and these are usually reserved for “power user” utilities like PuTTY and DVDShrink, so people using these should know how they work.

Given these problems alone, I have a hard time agreeing with the commonly held conception that Macs are so much more beginner friendly. I shutter at the thought of visiting a “Mac beginners” computer and finding it littered with DMGs that mount and unmount everytime they want to run a program.

My little rant was justified by several follow-up comments by other readers that showed I wasn’t completely off-base:

@joelion: this was a genius comment, i got a macbook last week and this answers (i think) all of my questions …

to folks who think the firefox installation is intuitive, i’d say that while the “installation info box” is cute, it left a good few things unanswered. i still didn’t get why there was this 3d rendering of a white rectangle with a firefox logo on it on my desktop …

Hey joelion -

I just bought a mac and I was going batty trying to install Firefox. Why is it mounted? What the heck do I do now? Dear god I was ready to return the thing and buy a Lenovo. Thanks for the big write up. Very appreciated.

@joelion: Thanks for going a little further into .pkg vs. .dmg installations – I’m sure it’ll be helpful to more than one reader

of course, some readers didn’t get it:

@Joe:
I see your point about .dmg files being weird but I think you’re seeing this as a one sided problem. There are way too many methods in the Windows world to installing an app, it could be

- a plain .exe with no install (if .dmg is confusing then .exe and the rest is too), like uTorrent
- InstallShield (the 3rd party tool)
- .msi (many different versions of MS’s tool that require a lot of developer time)
- InstallAnywhere (and the other 3rd party installers)

Each one of these has a different look & feel (although this might be slight), confusing the user experience. I agree that maybe .dmg files should be auto-ejected or auto-mounted but then I wonder about security and flexibility.

He says there are “way too many methods” to install an app in Windows. Despite his list of 4 “methods”, there are really only 2.

  1. The “plain .exe” with no install, which I covered in my comment. This is where you simply download an .exe and can run it directly. I said this is mostly used for “power user apps” like PuTTY, and I think uTorrent fits this bill too. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s necessarily confusing – it would be akin to downloading a .app directly on the Mac. The only “problem” I have with downloading .exe’s directly in Windows is that you then have to find a place for the .exe to live, usually involving creating a folder in “Program Files”, then manually creating shortcuts in your Quicklaunch bar and Start Menu, etc, etc. On the Mac, even if you download a .app, you can just move it directly to /Applications, which is nice.
  2. InstallShield/.msi/InstallAnyware/3rd Part Installers – these are all basically the same. Different look-and-feels, maybe, but you’re still just pushing “Next” a bunch of times for the most part. They provide basically the functionality as .pkg on Mac, they just don’t look as good.
  3. OK, there are at least 3 ways, if you include .zip files and other ways to package executables and installers. But that’s not the point!

It wasn’t my point to defend Windows’ installers – I don’t give a damn about how good or bad Windows installers are. And if your only defense for what installing on a Mac is like is “yeah, well, look how bad it is on Windows,” then you’ve lost the battle. Mac developers (and Apple) shouldn’t strive to be “better than Windows.” They should strive to be great, and the mess that Mac installers are in now is not great – in fact, it’s downright bad. Apple needs to step up on this issue and take control. It looks like it’s too late for Snow Leopard, so…. maybe in OS X 10.7? Wishful thinking, and anyways, we’ll be mostly done with the next Presidential election by the time that’s out – plenty of time for countless new Mac converts to get frustrated and confused on their shiny new machines.

After a 3+ year blogging hiatus (mostly because nothing as interesting has happened in my life since living in Germany for a year. well, except for the whole “getting laid off” and company going bankrupt thing) I’m reviving this blog to post some random thoughts/comments/essays that I don’t think or expect anyone to find particularly interesting, but mostly for my own safe-keeping. i.e. if I post my thoughts here, they’re much less likely to get lost forever on my hard drive. So… read at your own peril from now on.

For some reason (peer-pressure!) I signed up for the 10km München Stadtlauf (City Run) when I ran this morning. My company, Infineon/Qimonda, is a major sponsor, so they give free entry to all employees and have a courtyard reserved just for us for pre and post race, so I joined several workmates in the run. The plan was to run at least 10km total in the weeks coming up to the event, but I completely botched that, running only about 6km last Tuesday, but nothing else of significance in the past 3 months or so. So as of 8:00 this morning, I was just hoping to start out slow, stay consistent and be able to finish. Well, I did exactly that, running almost perfect 1k splits and ended up with a 50:42…. That’s about 19 minutes slower than my personal best from college, so I’m figuring that’s just under 30 seconds extra for each pound I’ve gained since then, and that way it almost sounds reasonable!

I actually did have a good time though, and unsuriprsingly, the event was excellently run (no pun intended). There were >10,000 people signed up for the 10k, but everything went very smoothly, no waiting in huge lines or getting caught in crowds. It was chip-timed as all the big races are now, and as soon as you finish you give your chip to a dude with a computer, he scans it, and immediately prints out a result and time card for you. And it was also cool because we received our race packets in the mail last week, and they included the race t-shirt that everyone wore, which were bright orange and a nice, light silky material. That way, everyone who paid was wearing the same shirt, so it cuts down on “race bandits”, or those crazy people who like to run for the fun of it, and will enter a race without paying or getting a real result. Plus, it just looks cool to have thousands of people running through the trails in the English Garden wearing the same thing.

Arguably, the highlight of the race morning was walking out of the chute after the race, and being greeted with an ice cold Weissbier! Only in Germany!

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And you gotta’ give it up for this guy, running the 1/2 marathon race, in full lederhosen, while pushing a stroller (but bucking the dress code!).

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Hope everyone had fun – it was a good way to spend my last weekend in Germany. Time to cheer on Deutschland in the upcoming quarter-finals game with Argentina on Friday!

Update: Here I am hanging out with some of my Spanish friends after the race.

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I went over to Hofbräuhaus last month with a couple guys for a going-away party for a colleague who was making a 2 month trip to our office in Portugal. While there, we ran into our work group’s Team Assistant, who happens to be French, with her friends and parents, who were visiting Germany for the first time since she moved here 10 or so years ago. Anyway, we went over to their table for a drink, but most of them were already three sheets to the wind.

Inevitably, the topic of politics, and more specifically, American politics, came up. Hey, this should be fun, I thought – I’m up for a little Bush-bashing with a table full of drunk Frenchies! I was completely taken off guard, then, when the father challenged my positions on American policies and politics more severely than anyone else in Europe has. It’s not that he was an ardent Bush supporter or anything, but he was very hesitant to pass judgement on what was going on in America. He said that since he’s not in America and doesn’t know its people or is involved in its government, he is unwilling to criticize what he doesn’t know enough about. He was confident that Americans are able to take care of our own government by ourselves and democracy in action (or democracy inaction, as Jon Stewart is fond of noting) will prevail for the best solution.

I mentioned this to another French coworker, and he said that’s quite typical for French people. They are very opinionated and vocal about what goes on in France, but are generally very reserved about speaking out about politics in other countries where they are not fully informed of local situations. So mark this up as another typical European stereotype many American have that turns out to be flat wrong (in addition to my assumption that I would always be able to tell a Brit apart from and American, and certainly a German apart from a Brit, given their accents – both of which have been proven false). Remember that next time your Congressman tells you to pour your French wine down the toilet (that you already paid for, mind you) or that we should be eating patriotic Freedom Fries.

Hofbraeuhaus small

À votre santé, mon ami!

Allianz StadiumSo, unless you’ve been living in a cave…. or, uh…. in the USA, you know that the World Cup started today, or the WM, Weltmeister, here in Germany. The month long, 32 country tournament kicked off tonight with the opening ceremony and the first match in Munich’s brand new Allianz Stadium. So since tickets for the games in Munich sold out about 3 years ago, what better way to watch the game than at one of Munich’s largest biergartens!

I took off work a little early and headed to Augustinerbrau Keller with my friend Andrew. It was a bit crowded, but we manged to find a place to stand for the 2 hours and peer over other’s shoulders while Deutschland beat up on Costa Rica, 4 to 2.

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After a nice game of football, it’s time to fill up on some good Chinese food, where, of course, you must take the requisite picture with the enthusiastic group of Asian tourists decked out in native German soccer gear.

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Afterwards, I headed to Marienplatz, Munich Center City, about 3 blocks from my apartment, where the victory celebration was in full swing. What was fun about the celebration though, was that it was more of a welcoming party for all countries and cultures, rather than a victory celebration for Germany on opening night.

Of course we had our German partiers:
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But there were also contingents from Mexico:
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Brazil:
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various European countries:
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and Iran:
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And while wandering through the crowd I heard lots of people speaking English, many of them American English, I didn’t see a single US, England, or Australian flag….

Oh well – check out the rest of the pictures in the gallery, and check back later for more World Cup adventures, including a view from the Dutch perspective, as I visit Amsterdam next weekend!

Grrrr….. All this talk about spring and eating outside and everything must have jinxed the whole city. We woke up Tuesday morning to 5 more inches of snow!! It snowed most of the day, but was very wet and most of it is gone now, at least in the city. This now makes officially 6 months of snow in the 9 months we’ve been in Munich. Actually, though, it has gone by pretty quickly. When I think back, and look back at all the photo albums from last summer, we really crammed in a lot of outdoor-time in the few months of good weather. Here’s to hoping that this is the last snowfall of the year, and maybe we can start enjoying some outdoor biergartens by the end of the month!

This is what it looked like in the city Tuesday morning (I fogot my camera before leaving for work, but ganked this picture off of someone’s Flickr gallery)

Snow in April

But after 9 months of hearning nothing but complaining and excuses about the weather from all sorts of Germans, I finally got a rational and reasonable response yesterday at lunch. I asked a fellow engineer about snow in April, expecting to get the usual “oh no, this is highly unusual”, but instead got: “Well, I suppose there’s always the distinct probability of snow into April. I guess it’s just that most people are tired of the long winter, and wish for Spring to show up to get outdoors.” So, upon hearing that rationale, I decided to suck it up and return to my usual stoic disposition, and quit complaining about the weather myself.

I did get another shock on Tuesday morning, though. Upon seeing the snow outside, I checked my watch to see what the date was and was greeted with an unplesant message. Apparently as I was adjusting my watch last week for daylight savings time, I accidentally changed the day read-out to German abbreviations, instead of English. So on Tuesdays, or known as Dienstage over here, instead of “Tue”, I get this:

Die

DIE!! AAAHH! ;)

Finally, got some major changes done to the site. First, the photo gallery is back up and working. In the process of upgrading, I hope to have made the gallery more attractive and easier and more fun to navigate. One of the reasons it took so long was trying to get all the layout bugs fixed for Internet Explorer. Everything worked swimmingly in FireFox, Safari, Opera, and Camino, but it looked like crap in Internet Explorer!! And according to my blogGet FireFox! statistics, 60-70% of you are still using IE instead of FireFox – so get the with the program, do yourself a favor, and get FireFox! But the 2nd reason for the delay was getting everything transferred to my new domain name – joelion.com. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been automatically redirected from the old URL, thalions.com/blogs/joe. Ideally, all the old links to the thalions.com/blogs/joe site should redirect properly to the new address, but you should probably update your bookmarks or RSS feeds anyway. Also links to pictures are different and pictures embedded in previous posts are mostly broken, for now at least. Since I bought thalions.com a couple years ago, and now Alisha uses alishalion.com for her site, I thought I’d go for the trifecta and snatch up joelion.com before I become big and famous and someone ends up stealing it from me.

Anyway, enough of that boring business. Not much else to report, but I did put up another photo album of my trip to the Starkbierfest last week at the Paulaner bier hall. Now the German’s aren’t going to get any awards for creativity when it comes to naming their beers. I’ve mentioned the most popular beers before – Helles, CIMG1323_smWeiss, and Dunkel. Those words literally mean “light”, “white”, and “dark” in English. Now to add to that list is a special brew made only once a year, Starkbier. Or, AKA known as “Strong beer”. How creative! Starkbierfest is kind of like the Spring version of Oktoberfest, but instead of everyone gathering at the carnival grounds, it’s up to each brewery to stage their own festivities at their own bierhalls. And as I mentioned, starkbier is only brewed once a year for this event, so you can’t get it any other time. That’s probably a good thing too, since it contains a good bit more alcohol that the other normal beers, and it’s drank in 1 Liter size steins of course. A couple/few of those will put you under the table for sure. (more…)

So I spent much of my last post complaining commenting on the weather around here. Well parhaps I spoke too soon because this weekend has been great, hinting that Spring may be around the corner. By great I mean it’s been sunny, at least, and temperatures have been above freezing. So I took advantage and went for a run in the English Garden and found almost all of Munich had the same idea. The park was full of people running, walking, riding, eating, but no nude-sunbathing (not yet, at least). The lakes are still frozen over, so while there is not ice hockey being played as there was last time I visited, there were groups of dogs enjoying the smooth lake to chase ducks and geese across the water!

For a little aside here, I’ll remind anyone who missed all my posts from last summer that when the weather is good here, most dining seems to take place outdoors. Between the time I got here in July and when the weather started going bad in November, probably 80% of my meals were outside, either in a garden or park, or in an outdoor seating area. Most cafes and restaraunts put tables all over the sidewalk or in adjacent squares to their location, and it makes for pleasant dining. Also, as I mentioned in the last post, European’s seem not to mind standing outside in freezing temperatures, as long as they had a group of people, and food and drinks. Well, with temperatures soaring into the low 40’s today, the cafes apparently have collectively decided it is time to break out the outdoor tables and chairs! As evident from this picture of a cafe at the end of our block, the locals seem to be more than happy to once again start eating outdoors again!

Spring Dining
I also have another short video to show. I had the pleasure of joining an Irish friend and his family at a local Irish Pub to watch a rugby game between Ireland and England. As you could imagine, tensions were running high and after 78 minutes of play (i.e. 2 minutes left), and hundreds of pints of Guiness from the bar patrons, Ireland was down by 4 points. Well, Ireland pulled together and marched down the pitch for a clutch touchdown with 1:30 left in play, and I had my camera ready to catch the reaction from a hundred drunk Irish hooligans!

I think I read somewhere that something like 90% of the blogs created in the last 3 years are now considered dead; i.e. having no posts or updates in the past 3 months. If my blog isn’t dead yet, it’s certainly on lifesupport, so the goal of this blog now is simply to keep close friends and family informed and occasionally entertained and to serve as a semi-permanent, online, searchable archive of our travels, experiences, pictures, thoughts, all that jazz.

So anyway, I’ve added a new photo gallery of some recent snow and a very cold and snowy St. Patrick’s Day festival. Also, my brother Todd and his girlfriend Becca spent a week here in Muinch over their Spring Break. They left 70+ degree weather in Raleigh (and returned to 80+ degreesǃ∂.) to spend 8 days in the cold and snow. The first weekend ofIMG_0178.JPG their trip, Southern Germany was slammed with the largest snow storm in 20 years, dumping over 20 inches of snow in downtown Munich. The snow made it a bit difficult to do all the normal tourist stuff, and we even made a foolish attempt at taking the Die Bahn (regional train) for a day trip to the Linderhof castle. I was thinking “what’s a little snow to a 50 ton train?” I failed to account for ice downing trees and debris on the tracks, and we ended up stranded for 6 hours in a Munich suburban train station before finding a cab back to town. By the next day the tracks were cleared, and they managed to escape to Vienna for a few days, where the weather was at least slightly warmer and there was considerably less snow.

The weekend after they left, there was an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration downtown. I kind of overslept though the parade, but did make it to part of the after-parade party. A St Pattycouple days of rain had cleaned out most of the snow, but by Sunday afternoon it was well below freezing again and the snow arrived just in time for the Irish jigs on the main stage. There was still a pretty good crowd, because one thing I’ve noticed about Europeans (taking experience from Munich, Austira and Prague though the past few months) is that they don’t mind standing around outside in freezing temperatures and horrid conditions, as long as they are with a big group of people and have something alcoholic to drink. In this case it was cold beer, but around Christmas the drink of choice was Gluwein, a very tasty heated, spicy red wine drink.

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Well I guess it’s time for what has become my monthly update. To start off with several bits of exciting news. When we came to Munich in July with my company, the plan was to stay for 6 months then return to the US. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed from my blog posts, we have enjoyed our time so much over here that when my company offered us the chance to stay for another six months, we jumped on it – so we will be residents of Munich until mid-summer 2006! This will be a great chance for me to continue working with some great engineers at the Infineon headquarters, but Alisha is also taking full advantage of the opporunity and has gained a spot on a professional cycling team from Austria called Elk Haus. She has lots more info on her blog, so be sure to read up on that. She has quite a schedule already, including a month in Australia, a week in New Zealand, and 3 weeks in California, and that’s just through the end of March!

So for now, instead of recounting ad-nauseum one adventure or another that we’ve had, i’m just going to point out several new photo galleries that I’ve added or updated recently. I’ve written descriptions for each gallery, so I’ll just copy/paste those here too. Speaking of adventures, though, 2 galleries that are still missing are our Paris anniversary trip and a weekend trip I took to Prague last weekend. Beteween those two trips I have about 350 pictures, so I’ll have to figure out which ones I want to put online. So in the meantime, enjoy these!
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