My 2022 Mac Setup
Starting its fifth year on my desk, my 2017 iMac 5k is still going strong, but starting to show it’s age. There’s still nothing that I can’t do with it, but after looking at my wife’s M1 MacBook Air I can’t help but be just a little jealous of how fast that little machine is. I’ve yet to come across any computer that offers the same value as the iMac, especially when you factor in how good this 27” retina screen is. I’m tempted by both the current 24” M1 iMac, and the new 16” M1 Max MacBook Pro, but the rumor mill is talking about bigger, master iMacs and colorful M2 MacBook Airs, either of which might actually make the most sense for my desk. I want to see the entire lineup before committing. The good thing is that no matter which machine I choose, it’s going to be a major speed improvement from where I am now.
The Reminders Experiment
Over the past month I’ve been experimenting with cutting down on the number of applications I use on my Mac. One in particular I though was going to stick was moving my task management system over from OmniFocus to Reminders. I enjoyed the everywhere integration of Reminders, like how Siri would include any tasks I had scheduled for the day when I asked my HomePod “What’s my update?”. Unfortunately, when I sat down at the end of the holiday break to think about the projects I had going at work, and how to schedule them out for the upcoming week, I realized I needed to open OmniFocus, and once it was open, I knew the experiment was over.
More on 1Password
1Password 7 was an incremental improvement on 6, and 6 was an incremental improvement on 5, and so on all the way back to the original 1Passwd. But 1Password 8, which is now in Beta is a horse of a different color.
For the Future
It’s been a busy couple weeks in the Mac community. From horrendously serious topics like Apple taking on child sexual abuse material (CSAM) by scanning photos uploaded to iCloud to drastically less serious topics like an upcoming OmniFocus redesign and 1Password switching to Electron. But first, a follow up to Switcher Season 2021.
Delete Previous Word or Path Item in Terminal
Cloud Backup with Arq and B2
I’m a fan of the three-pronged approach to backups. I’ve got two different drives attached to my iMac, one for Time Machine for hourly backups, and the other for SuperDuper! for nightly clones of the internal drive. For many years I’ve also had BackBlaze running for a third off-site backup in case the house goes up in flames. At $6 per month it wasn’t bad, but at the beginning of the year when I did a review of subscriptions and decided what should stay, it didn’t make the cut. Not having an off-site backup bothered me though, and I considered starting it back up again till I heard the guys on ATP talking about Arq and thought I’d give it a shot.
How Long Will macOS Be Unix?
Like many my age, my first introduction to writing code was creating basic web pages, mimicking what I could find by right-clicking on a site and selecting “view source”. HTML was, and continues to be, simple. There are nested elements inside the top and bottom tags, and the styling sheet defines how those elements are presented. But, somewhere along the line we’ve collectively lost our way.
That One Mac Guy
I bought my first Mac in 2004, a white plastic iBook G4. It was slow, the screen resolution was terrible, but wow did I love Mac OS X. After several years of loading every Linux and BSD variant I could find on the PC I bought in ‘99, I finally found a stable Unix-based operating system with a logical and beautiful user interface. The Mac was exactly what I wanted in a computer. I desperately wanted to use it at work, but working in a secure military environment, that wasn’t going to happen.
Merging the Mac and the iPad
It seems undeniable that, given an infinite timescale, Apple will eventually simplify their two most popular systems into a single platform. Merging MacOS and iOS would, theoretically anyway, provide the users with the best of both worlds, and developers would finally have a single platform to target instead of two. This concept seems to run counter to what Apple executives have said in the past about the Mac, specifically that “the Mac keeps going forever”, but the interview that statement comes from is five years old now, which… in silicon valley terms, really is forever ago.
A Dream Jekyll App
I’ve never been 100% happy with this site. On the one hand, Jekyll lets me have full control of my content, and I never have to worry about losing any of it or having anything locked inside a database on a server somewhere. On the other hand, things like adding media is more complicated than I’d like. I’ve written scripts to help, of course, but I’d really rather have the best of both worlds.
Simple File Encryption for macOS
For years now I’ve wanted a simple way to encrypt or decrypt a file in macOS, so this morning I built it. This takes five to ten minutes to setup, and provides the encryption service as a right-click menu item and a pair of folders with folder actions enabled. Here’s what I did.
A New macOS
I’ve heard several people on podcasts or blog posts claim that they’d like to see Apple hold off on new features that nobody wants and just fix the existing bugs in the Mac. This claim is normally followed up with a missive that they can’t imagine what Apple could add to the Mac at this point anyway, since macOS is a stable, mature operating system. Well, I can think of a few things.
What's a Computer?
I’ve been enjoying watching the new iPad commercial of a kid and her iPad roaming around the city. Two things come to mind. First, is this what it’s like for kids in the city? Having never lived in one myself I find it fascinating that she just roams around, takes the bus, hangs out in an alley, whatever. Second, and more important, is what she’s doing with that iPad.
Two Months With iMac Prime
The 27” iMac 5K is unquestionably the best computer I’ve ever owned. After two months of daily use, for twelve to fourteen hours per day, I can say without reservation that this machine is fantastic. Obviously, I’m late to the bandwagon on this, better reviews than what I would write have already been written, and although those reviews are from 2014, they hold up well enough for the 2017 upgrade too. The screen is beautiful, like a massive glossy magazine. The machine is fast enough so I nearly never have to wait. Basically, it’s everything I need from a computer.
Recommending a New Mac
I got an email from my mom the other day asking me for a recommendation on a new Mac. The first question I asked was what her budget was like. She said she’d like to keep it under a grand, which right away narrowed the field quite a bit. Next I asked what she would be using the machine for, to which she replied with the standard home use cases of “income taxes, email, scanning, internet, etc”, as well as printing to a Brother ink jet.
My Next Mac
So, yesterday I cleared off my desk and tried to work with nothing but my MacBook again. No standing desk, no external monitor. It looked great, but honestly, it felt terrible. I wound up hunched over the desk staring down at the screen. After an hour or so of this I decided, yet again, that this style of work is just not appropriate for me.
Install Gems Without sudo in macOS
I came across a neat little command line tool via Rob Griffiths’ Robservatory this morning, a Ruby gem named iStats1. Install is easy enough in Rob’s example,
sudo gem install iStats, except that when you use
sudo to install gems you are using the default macOS Ruby, and installing to system paths.
As Rob points out, this is apparently not associated with iStat Menus. ↩
Daring Fireball - The Mac Pro Lives
Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.
On Computing Tomorrow
I’ve been thinking more about my defense of the Mac as a long-term computing platform, and I’m slowly coming around to understanding that at the base of my ideas is a type of willful ignorance that I should know better than to indulge in. The world is changing, computers are changing, and how we work and interact with them is changing drastically. To get to the root of this, let’s follow the five “whys” of why I need a Mac to work.
Future Viability of the Mac
Despite aspirations of expanding my fields of interest and adopting new hobbies outside of technology, my day-to-day work gets done on a Mac. I’ve got a vested interest in the Macs continued survival, I’m one of those “truck drivers” that uses their machine for all it’s worth, and would have a difficult time transitioning to anything else. In my job I need to run shell scripts and build Docker containers, I need to ssh to Linux servers and RDP into Windows instances. I need to write, edit, and run Python code that connects to a database through a ssh tunnel. I need to do things that are either difficult or simply impossible with iOS, but are dead simple1 with a Mac.
Well, dead simple in the sense of “if you have nearly two decades of Unix experience under your belt”. ↩
What Worked, and What Didn’t in 2016
Part of what’s been great about using Apple products is the feeling of living just a little bit in the future. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad paved a way towards a far less complicated future, where technology was seamlessly integrated into our lives, and enhanced our day to day interactions with our work and with each other. Apple, better than anyone, understands that technology is at it’s best when it’s nearly invisible. But, living in the future comes at a price, namely a sacrifice of stability and accepted norms of what works.
From time to time I wonder if I could get by without any 3rd party software installed on my Mac. What would I have to do to adopt to not using the software I’ve become accustomed to? In no particular order, as of this moment I’ve got:
Files and Folders
I started writing this post talking about how I was using DEVONthink, and, as often happens when you write things down, I started thinking critically about how I interacted with the application. I took a folder full of screenshots, walked through some usage scenarios, and checked and double-checked what I was actually doing with the application. Then I exported everything to the Finder.
Mac Power Tools
My brief experiment with mutt ended mostly how I expected it would. With me turning on my email in Mail.app again and carrying on as normal. I try to understand the draw to using such an archaic tool as mutt, but there’s simply nothing about it that appeals to me. Not at this stage of my life anyway.
I’m not sure if I discovered Daring Fireball through NetNewsWire, or NetNewsWire through Daring Fireball. Either way, in my mind the two are inexorably linked to my introduction to the Mac community. A group of people who value usability and good design, typography, readability, and simple good sense. Before the Mac, my thoughts on software were that it was either written by thousands of contributors across the globe, or thousands of drones in basement cubicles. What I learned through NetNewsWire was that individual craftsmen made the best software, and I could get to know them through their work. I started making it a point to follow the people who made the software I used.
Link Blogging With Quicksilver
I can’t quite make up my mind on how I feel about “link blogging”. On the one hand, there’s already a lot of people out there who do it better than I can. On the other hand, sometimes I want to share something and make a few pithy comments about it. It’s out of that second feeling that this script is born.
Starting a New Post With Automator
Automator is one of my favorite tools on the Mac, and unfortunately one of the most unappreciated. I have several workflows and services that I’ve built up over the years, things that I could have turned to a third-party tool like Keyboard Maestro, Alfred, or even my beloved Quicksilver for, but I like the simplicity of using a built-in application.
The New MacBook
The tech world is once again loosing their grip after Apple has gone, as they see it, too far, too fast with the new MacBook. They can think of a thousand reasons why the Mac’s single USB-C port is a deal-breaker for any sane person. The single port is too restrictive. What if I want to hook up a USB mouse while I’m charging? Why isn’t there a removable battery? Why can’t I expand the storage? Less space than a Nomad. Lame.
The Million Monkeys
Computers, the bicycles for the mind, the idea engines; when we work at a computer we open the door to limitless avenues of creativity. Cracking open the lid of a laptop can be the first step to writing a novel, starting a new career, or getting in touch with long lost friends. But, when the machines misbehave, when they don’t perform as expected or present their interface in ways that are difficult or impossible to decipher, even the most mundane of tasks become a chore. The possibilities for the future melt away under the perception that computers are difficult and unreliable, our untrustworthy opponent to getting things done.
New Mac Essentials - 2014 Edition
It appears I’ll be getting a new Mac soon, which means it’s time to take inventory of what I need. I’ve written about this a couple of times before, and it’s interesting to look back and see what apps stick, and which have gone by the wayside.
For The Fun Of It
I still need an anything bucket, and nothing fills that gap like my old friend Yojimbo. I was an early adopter of Yojimbo, back with version one, and I upgraded faithfully for version 2 and version 3, but I held off for a long time on version 4. In the mean time I tried Evernote, DEVONthink, Pinboard, and just the file system to fill the void that Yojimbo filled so gracefully. No more, I’ve come home, and it feels great to be here.
Command-T Crashing Vim
For some reason today when I opened up MacVim and hit ,t to navigate to a file, MacVim crashed. The terminal spat out an ugly, and unhelpful error about “deadly signal SEGV”, but knowing that I just invoked the Command-T plugin, the error was easy to track down. Command-T is not like other plugins that I have installed with Pathogen, it lives on its own and is not updated as a Git submodule.
Desktop Setup For a Sysadmin
My Mac is a finely tuned machine. I have been using a Mac for Unix systems administration work since 2006, starting with a PowerMac G4, and have developed a smooth and efficient workflow. Most of the important tools are open source, and the ones that are not are very high quality.
Zen, Art, and Tools
I’ve been a Mac user since returning to the states in 2003, but I’ve been a Unix user for a few years longer. Originally, I was drawn to the Mac because it was a fantastic interface on top of a solid BSD Unix core, but as I grew more familiar with the platform, I became more drawn to the level of attention to detail. The Mac is a quality machine, but today I’m writing this on a Dell running FreeBSD.
I’ve noticed a tendency in my Mac setup to veer towards higher levels of complexity. In truth, I’d rather not use anything outside of the Apple provided ecosystem, but for one reason or another I’m constantly drawn to other apps and command line tools. It is a struggle to find balance between applications that actually enhance my productivity, and distractions that pull me away from the task I’m attempting to use my computer for.
Technical Education in K-12
Our small school is nearing the end of the four-year cycle for a one-to-one program that provides all students in grades six through twelve with a white MacBook. Students are free to take the laptop home, and parents must sign an agreement to pay for any damages. Over the course of the past few years I have become strongly, almost vehemently opposed to the program.
Personal Information Architecture
For my computer to be useful to me I need to be able to quickly save information, and then easily retrieve it later. Saving and retrieving information sounds like a simple enough use case, but doing both quickly and easily does not. The more information you have saved on your computer, the more difficult it is to effectively retrieve the information you need the moment you need it. Researchers and developers have been tackling this issue for decades, but so far no one has come up with a single best solution that works for everyone. What we need is a way to store and retrieve information without having to stop and think about the method or means of organization. The organizational method should provide an effective affordance without resorting to decoding the method itself.
iTunes Gets A Bad Rap
I’ve searched high and low for an alternative to iTunes, but I’ve yet to find a suitable replacement. I use iTunes for playing music, mainly over AirPlay in my home office, and it works great. I’ve got smart playlists, star ratings, and an iTunes Match account to keep everything in sync between home, work, and mobile. Given my investment of time and money over the years, it’s possible that I may be suffering from some type of sunk cost fallacy, but honestly I really enjoy iTunes.
iCloud and Core Data
I inadvertently started a bit of a conversation today when I complained about the state of NetNewsWire on Twitter. I’ve been a NetNewsWire user for years, and I was very surprised when it was sold to Black Pixel. My surprise turned to disappointment when the application was not updated, and now NetNewsWire has stopped working for me completely.
Energy Saver Preferences
My MacBook at work sits on my desk all day and all night. When I sit down to work on it, I expect it to be ready for me, and ready to ask how high when I tell it to jump. I get a bit annoyed if I come back after a few minutes or an hour and find that the Mac has gone to sleep while I’ve been gone. So, I spent a few minutes in the Energy Saver preference pane to configure the machine to my schedule.
Forgotten and Beloved
I was given a clean slate of a Mac to work with this past Monday, so I gave some thought to which apps I wanted to use. Looking back at some of my favorites that have fallen behind, I was left with a bit of nostalgia for the apps that once made the Mac experience great. It is easy to tell which developers care about keeping their application up to date, just check the top right corner and look for the full-screen opposing arrows. If they are not present, there is a good chance that the application has been abandoned.
The Computer User I Want To Be
Learning about computers can be a dangerous thing. Breaking though the veneer of graphical interfaces reveals inefficiencies and inaccurate metaphors. For example, rsync copies files faster and uses fewer resources than the Finder. Copying lots of files is what rsync does best, but being a command line power tool there are a few subtleties with using it that are not readily apparent. As your skill grows, so to does the tendency to eschew modern tools in favor of “power tools”. You begin to see the inefficiencies of graphical tools as problems, problems that you need to fix. I’ve been down that road.
New Mac Essentials - MacVim
Investing time learning a text editor is a serious commitment. Over time, you find yourself reaching for the editor’s built-in shortcut keys everywhere you type. In my case, I do almost all of my writing in MacVim. Unfortunately, MacVim comes with a fairly steep learning curve that many are unwilling to tackle. Part of the complexity of Vim, from which MacVim is derived, is the configuration. Over the years I’ve come up with a setup that works for me.
Living In The Technical Past
Mountain Lion Reviews
New Mac Essentials - Quicksilver
Recovering Data From FileVault Full Disk Encryption
Disclaimer: If you do not have your recovery key, or if you have lost your passphrase, this post will not help you. Sorry.
Others have already said so much about Steve Jobs stepping down as the CEO of Apple that I had serious doubts about adding my voice to the existing cacophony. Others have written so much, and surely so much more will be over the next few days. I had doubts, but I have this to say:
A Glimpse of the Future
The Motorola ATRIX 4G is technology released before its time. At first glance, it seems like any other Android phone with impressive technical specs and questionable user interface decisions, but the phone as a phone is not the interesting part of this device.
OS X Lion is a big step forward in personal computing, and, over the next few years, we are going to see a lot of our preconceptions about how computers work begin to melt away. Apple is setting a high bar for themselves and their developers. Lion is an ambitious release with ambitious goals that are going to take some time to actually come to fruition. However, as futuristic as Lion is, Mission Control feels like a step back.
Keyboard Driven Safari Update
Since writing Keyboard Driven Safari I’ve updated my list of extensions that make Safari my browser of choice.
Letter to Lotus Notes Developers
I have some issues with the design of Lotus Notes. I’m a relatively new user, I started using Notes in 2006, and at the time we were using 6.5 on Windows. I’ve since upgraded to 8.5.2 on Mac OS X.
Daring Fireball linked to Paul Thurrott today, citing Paul’s comment that Lion is simply an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary update. John says:
On TermKit - Steven Wittens
I’ve been administering Unix machines for many years now, and frankly, it kinda sucks. It makes me wonder, when sitting in front of a crisp, 2.3 million pixel display (i.e. a laptop) why I’m telling those pixels to draw me a computer terminal from the 80s.
Desktop wallpaper is a cheap trick. It’s only purpose is to make your computer screen look pretty, but I have yet to come across a photo or a work of art that I found to be anything but distracting. There is very little difference between UI elements like windows and objects depicted in a picture behind the windows. If you can see it, your brain needs to identify it.
Brent Simmons recently wrote about his dislike of the iCal interface in the latest developer preview of OS X 10.7. In his article, he says how the torn paper present in the interface of the latest build would eventually force him to find an alternative, because he would always want to finish tearing the paper off. What caught my attention in the article more than iCal was how Brent deals with the Trash in the Dock. He constantly empties the trash, a habit I share.
Principle of Least Software
Use only the software that you need. No more, no less. Choose one application for each task, and become an expert on that application.
Keyboards and Wheels
I have one wish for the next major iOS release: full keyboard support. The iPad works with the bluetooth keyboard, and the original iPad came with a keyboard dock, but support for doing things other than basic text is sparse at best. My wish list is small, but meaningful. I would like to see support for all the keys on the keyboard, the ability to command-tab between running applications, and arrow key navigation for apps that include table views.
Back in Black
Like many who are interested enough in the tech industry to attempt to stay up to date on current happenings, I’ve been struggling with an ever increasing number of interesting sites and feeds. In the past I would categorize the feeds into folders with names like “Blogs”, “News”, “Design”, and “Friends”, but eventually I’d wind up with a folder with a name like “MetaBlogs” or some such ridiculousness. While the multiple folders did help to organize the feeds, they did not help with what I needed; keeping up with what was important.
Keyboard Driven Safari
Word leaked out yesterday that Yahoo has it’s popular Delicious bookmarking service on the chopping block. I don’t personally have an account, not anymore, so the closing won’t affect me. Twitter tells a different story, my stream lit up with people upset about the decision. Yahoo’s leak, coupled with their announcement that the company is laying off 4% of it’s workforce right before Christmas, caused a fairly good sized migration from Delicious to Pinboard. I do have a Pinboard account, and I think I even have a few bookmarks saved, but its been weeks since the last time I visited the site.
As a carpenter has his tools, so do I, as a “knowledge worker” have my computer. I spend many hours a day with my Mac. I have my workflow honed and finely tuned, and I know when something is wrong with my computer, when there is more friction than there needs to be. I am a Systems Administrator, so my knowledge work is to ensure that other people can get their work done. My job is to keep the servers, services, and systems I support up and running 24x7. The tools I use to get this job done mean a lot to me, and over the years I’ve tried many of them with varying levels of success. I know exactly what my ideal setup is, and I’m working towards filling out my toolbox with the very best as I strive to bring my craft to the next level of mastery.
At home, my computer is college, entertainment, finance, photos, blogging, and fun. Mostly fun. There have been times when I’ve walked away from even owning a computer at home, seeing it as a distraction more than anything, but I always come back to wanting one around, if for nothing else than as an outlet for creativity.
In the years that I’ve been using computers, I’ve found that I desire simplicity more than configurability. Favoring fewer options over more. The machine I use needs to be beautiful to look at, because I spend a lot of time looking at it. It needs to be simple to use, because I have work to do, photos to edit, words to write, and I don’t want to have to mess with anti-virus updates or X windows crashing because of some beta driver bug that made its way into the mainstream release. I just want my computer to let me do what needs to be done.
Beautifully designed and crafted, simple to use, powerful… my computer needs to be a Mac. No one else on the market can release a computer that matches a Mac. I’m not sure why, it’s like they don’t know how. They try, but they fail.
Open source operating systems like Ubuntu are not as good because there are far too many cooks in the kitchen. Ubuntu is not an operating system like OS X is an operating system. It’s the Linux kernel, the ext4 filesystem, the Xwindow system, the Gnome desktop, the Firefox browser, and thousands of other open source packages and applications that work loosely together, and are developed by different teams. OS X is developed by Apple.
Windows XP is a suitable operating system to work with at the office, but I am far more productive on a Mac. With tools like Yojimbo, Spotlight, and Quicklook, Macs are far better suited for information management. I hear Windows 7 is nice. My wife has it on her PC, and so far, it is still just a PC.
As much as I love Macs for their design and ease of use, I also see the faults of some business decisions Apple has made in the past few years. The App Store is either a resounding success or a horrible failure, depending on who you talk to. In sheer volume, 200,000 apps is a lot of applications, but like Windows was last decade, most of them are crap. Apple’s decision to approve each app in the store is admirable to a degree, but they are not executing well at all. Some people are philosophically opposed to the app store, saying that the iPod/IPad/iPhone ecosystems should be open for any application to run on them, as is the case on the Mac. I do not care about this aspect, but I do wish that Apple would fix their approval process to make the system much more transparent. There should be clear cut guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not, and those guidelines should be applied across the board. Random app store rejections are the running gag of the current implementation. Its wrong, and it needs to be fixed.
Is the Apple today the same as the Apple so many fell in love with in the ’80s and ’90s? The scrappy underdog that just won’t die? No, and I couldn’t care less. I find it interesting that the era that some romanticize is actually one of the worst in the history of the company. Back when Apple was allowing clones and releasing crap with the Apple logo on it. Good riddance to bad rubbish. OS 9 was not interesting to me. OS X is.
I was using Linux and OpenBSD when I first heard of OS X, my first iBook was a revelation. Finally, someone had put a decent GUI on a Unix box. Apple has only gotten better from there.
I know there are a lot of very smart people who disagree with me. Lets let the next twenty years decide who is right.
Along with the app store debacle, there is Apple’s stance on Flash. My personal feeling is that if Flash were a true open standard, if anyone could create Flash applications without relying on Adobe, it’d be a whole different ball game. As it is, Flash is controlled by Adobe in its entirety, and that seems wrong for the Internet. The Web is the great leveling field, a mechanic in Kansas has the same chance of creating an awesome web site as a multi-billion dollar corporation. All the tools to create amazing web sites are free, and the specs for building the sties are readily available. All you need is a computer, Internet access, and a text editor. With Flash, you need some pretty expensive software. Also, having run a video serving site in the past, I can tell you that HTML 5 would have been a Godsend back then. It would have been so much simpler to just drop a .mov or .ogg file enclosed in video tags than the junk code I had to put in.
I’d like to watch Hulu on my iPad. Netflix already rocks on it. Flash is not a necessity.
Finally, there’s Google. I used to love Google, back when it was a search engine. They could have been happy with just being the best search engine in the world, and making billions, hand over fist, but no… they had to go and get greedy. Eric Schmidt sat on the Apple board of directors and saw what Apple was doing, and thought to himself… Google could do that. So, they “stabbed Apple in the back”, and released Android, and then the Nexus One, a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone. Bad form, old boy, bad form indeed.
Also, I don’t like Google’s business model any more. I used to be fine with it, when they would show ads on the search results. Now though, Google wants to watch everything you do online, and figure out a way to monazite your activity. Your email, calendar, RSS feeds, photographs, friends, chats, videos, music, there’s even Google Health where you can put your medical record in Google. It all goes into the big black box that is Google, to be analyzed for who knows how long. Me, I like to be a little more honesty with my transactions. That’s why I pay for my email service. I give Apple money, they give me an email address, and a few other perks. It’s as simple as it gets.
I think that about does it for the major topics of the day. Of course, in all these things, I might be wrong. However, if I am wrong, and you want to call me out on it, I suggest you do your homework first. I’ve done mine. I have several years of experience, and a finely honed sense of craftsmanship.
I am, after all, strongly opinionated.
MobileMe Mail Revisited
Macs, Netbooks, and Education
What does it mean when an entire community springs up around hacking together a product that is not otherwise available? Apple has been adamant that it is not interested in the netbook market, but according to the many users who are breaking Apple’s EULA and installing OS X on Dell Minis, the market is there, and waiting.
Rumors have been circulating for some time now that Apple is working on a netbook. I wish I had some special insight or access to Apple’s inner-workings so I could confirm or deny those rumors, but all I can say is I hope so. To get everyone on the same page here, let me explain exactly what I mean when I say an Apple netbook. I’m talking about a small device with a ten inch (or smaller) screen, small physical keyboard, reduced hardware specs, running a legal, full copy of OS X. I’m not talking about an iPhone, or some kind of iPhone/MacBook hybrid. While its not clear if Apple would consider such a device or not, what is clear is that people would buy a $500 MacBook Nano (or NetMac?) in droves.
A Work in Progress
A few days ago I decided that I was not going to use anyone else’s theme on my site. It happened after I stumbled across another site using the exact same theme as mine. Unavoidable really, as long as you are using someone else’s theme. So, the decision was to either stop using Wordpress, or to design my own theme. I love Wordpress, so I decided to go with the latter.
Designing a web site is a strange mix of code and graphic design. In my case, I’ve had to go back to php, a language I left a long time ago, and start learning CSS. Since I’ve been fooling around in Cocoa for quite a while, going back to php is just painful. Objective-C is a beautiful programming language. Mixing php and html… well, that’s just plain ugly. However, that being said, it’s familiar territory, so I almost feel like I’m coming home. One concept that I’ve learned with Cocoa is the Modal-View-Controller method, basically separating out the presentation code from the application code (yes, I know there is a lot, lot, lot more to it than that… no I’m not going to get into it here), using CSS kind of reminds me of the MVC method, in your php/xhtml code you define what objects are going to be displayed, and in CSS you define where and how to display them. I like the separation… keeps it clean.
At any rate, I’ve been busy coming up with the overall look and feel of the site. One thing I believe about software is that simplicity always wins. At least where I’m concerned it does, that’s why I use a lot of the apps that I use, because they are simple to use. Think about the Google home page. Simple, and it wins.
I’d appreciate any comments on the design, and please keep in mind this is only a very early mockup. Also, I’m going to be using this as my avatar for everywhere that I’ve got an account online: A friend of mine, who actually is a designer, laughed when I told him about the tools I’ve been using to do the design so far. First, the initial concept was created in OmniGraffle. From OmniGraffle, I’d export it as a Photoshop file and open it in Pixelmator to add the leaves and other touch ups. Right now, that’s as far as I’ve got. I’ll finish the design in the next couple of days, and then move into chopping the file up and getting deep into some code. Hopefully, I’ll have this finished in two or three weeks.
Inspired by Mark Pilgrim’s Essentials post, I thought I’d come up with my own list of essential software.
Development Environments and Software Quality
In OS X, there is a small collection of very high quality software. This is a fact, and there is really no debating it. Mac software that was developed specifically for the Mac is generally well crafted and performs as advertised, every time. In comparison, in Linux, there is a very large collection of freely available software of varying quality. Some of it is outstanding, check my last post on F-Spot for an example, and some of it leaves much to be desired.
My personal browser of choice has almost always been Omniweb. Omniweb and I went through a tough time for a while when it (she?) was crashing frequently and generally having a tough time of it. The Omni Group has once again straightened things out, and she (yea, I’ve decided Omniweb is a she) is once again fast, sleek, and powerful. There is one small item about the browser that bothers me though, and that is the lack of a search function from the browsers contextual menu that pops up when you select a word and right click on it.
Oranges and Oranges
A couple of months ago Linux Magazine published an article written by Scott Granneman comparing Mac OS X Leopard and Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon. I’ve been torn between these two systems, and their respective predecessors for years, so the article was of great interest to me. As a matter of fact, I was wondering how I missed it to begin with. The article is well written, but can be boiled down to this one paragraph:
Linux has come a long way when it comes to ease of use, and it’s definitely getting better all the time, but overall Leopard is still ahead of Ubuntu (and both are way ahead of Vista). Apple makes mistakes, but overall its system is more logical, simple, consistent, and unified than Ubuntu, which still has too many elements that are overly complex, inconsistent, and fractured.