On .dmg and anti-patterns

Thoughts on OSX from an Ubuntu user

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on October 21, 2015

So I’ve been using a MacBook Pro as my work machine for about a month now, and things aren’t going too badly.

I’ve worked out how to use Fn-Left and Fn-Right as mock Home/End keys.

I’ve been told the wonder of brew, and the sanity of being able to install coreutils to remove the argument order limitation of the base BSD version of basic commands (cp, mv, etc)

But one thing that irks me still are .dmg images.

I’ve only had need to install from a .dmg a few times, but the process is a bit weird.

Sure, there are some, like vagrant, that mean that the .dmg is like a .iso: download a compressed widget, open it, then invoke a standard installer, like the Windows installers of old.

But what I really don’t like are the Applications. You literally open a file that pops up a window. That window can be customised with any eye-glaringly ‘fancy’ graphics the developer feeds they want. Two icons appear: one that looks like your Application folder, and one of the developer’s application. The eye-bleeding background oft includes jpeg-artifact-compressed arrow-based instructions to drag the icon onto the folder. ‘Installing is that easy!’, it boasts.

This to me is an anti-pattern.

I’m used to installing applications via apt-get or yum: upstream package vendors of vetted applications that I can install from the command line. Having a popup with glaring graphics inviting me to drag-and-drop to allow whatever-the-heck-is-in-there as an application is so jarring that I have to stop and think if I really want this application on my system.

Maybe that’s the point? I highly doubt it. Drag-and-drop installation is probably second-nature to native OSX-ians, but for a system that straddles the space between being appealing to both the graphically inclined and the system inclined types, it seems like there’s something wrong here. Sure, OSX’s solution to apt-get with brew, downloading and installing things from an arbitrary source-controlled location is no better, but at least I’m not thinking that some dystopian hybrid of Source Forge and Bonzi Buddy who has recently acquired the mouse-controls of Windows 95 is inviting me to elevate the permissions of an obfuscated executable.