My third attempt to become a Mac user in the last decade is now in full swing, and it appears I've finally done it. As promised, here's the story.
After 12 years of Linux exclusivity, I had a hardware failure and was stressing about researching new hardware. After 12 years of it, I've lost enthusiasm for dicking around trying to get simple shit working. Stuff like: my Wacom tablet, one shared desktop across two monitors, a Wacom tablet and shared desktop across two monitors concurrently, etc. It was at this point that D suggested just buying a PC from Costco, pre-assembled, pre-driver-sorted, and running an OS that might be slightly less likely to break itself every time there's an update. (Slightly.)
So I took the plunge and got a machine running Windows 7. Because so many of the applications I use are either webapps or open source, literally every application I needed to be productive was available to me on Windows 7 without any hassle. Ok, without too much hassle. OK, so it was a hassle. I had to get cygwin installed to make working in a terminal window useful, and then a whole host of things needed installed and configured to make my development environments semi-compatible so I didn't rip out all of my hair trying to adjust.
There was some minor pain, but every time I'd clicked the update button in Ubuntu at new release time I'd experienced more. So I felt pretty good about it.
Then one day, I needed to set up a Mac mini in the office to work on automating some aspects of our iPhone build system. It was like heaven. It already had all the unix tools I needed, making a hack like cygwin unnecessary. I didn't need to do anything to make it work like I expected. I made a mental note of this.
A few months later, the hard drive in my Dell laptop started having issues, which exacerbated some of my Windows 7 problems, resulting in me spending inordinate amounts of time rebooting and trying to get stuff working instead of just working. I got fed up and plugged my mouse, keyboard and monitor into the nearby Mac mini and spent the next couple days happily working with no issues whatsoever.
Then, on Black Friday, D and I ventured to the Apple Store, where I put aside years of anti-Apple sentiment and dropped way too much money on a 13" Macbook Pro.
This time, the switch was even easier. Sure, all my webapps and open source applications were available like they were on Windows 7, but now the operating system actually worked like I expected as well. Plus when I opened the lid it would instantly be usuable, which was a huge improvement over Windows 7.
Now, after several months, I've almost completely adjusted, and have never been happier with a computer. (Save maybe for the Google CR-48 ChromeOS laptop that I'm using to compose this blog post... but that's another story altogether. ) I'm sure I won't feel the same way when an OS upgrade is going to cost me $100 and cause a bunch of upgrade pains, but I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Hey Internet. Sorry to disturb you, but it's been quite a while, hasn't it. Sorry I haven't written, but there's been a lot keeping me busy.
How about a recap by way of quick reviews of a few of the gadgets I've acquired since last we spoke?
HTC EVO: Pretty nice Android phone, but too darn big for my tastes. The 4.3-inch display made for a device that was just too cumbersome to use as a phone, but not quite large enough to be a tablet. If you have big pockets, it's a nice choice.
Samsung Galaxy S Captivate: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Samsung screwed up the software so badly. Android 2.3 is just about out and Samsung still hasn't managed to release Android 2.2 for it yet. (It's a good thing some nice Samsung engineer leaked an early build of 2.2 about 3 months ago, or I'd be having serious 'behind-the-curve' withdrawals.) The 4.0-inch screen is a much nicer size than the HTC EVO's, making for a much more comfortable pocket phone, and easily my favorite of the various phone form factors I've used.
Sony Blu-ray GoogleTV box: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Sony screwed up the software so badly. The Blu-ray player application feels like it was made by a completely different team than the rest of the system, which makes sense, since Google didn't make that part. The one area that this device shines, incidentally, is actually the one everyone made fun of when it was first released: the remote control. People laughed, but I can honestly say it's the single greates remote control I've ever used. I really miss it after returning the whole package to the Sony store. If you don't care about Blu-ray, I say save $100 and get the Logitech.
Logitech GoogleTV box: hardware's cheaper than the Sony, but some of the software is better. The built in Harmony universal remote system is really slick, and being $100 cheaper than the sony is a nice perk. The bundled Bluetooth keyboard is way too big to make for a comfortable control device, but as we've been using a vintage SGI Indy keyboard on our various computer-television-hybrid devices for a number of years (have you ever seen then length of the cord on those SGI Indy keyboards?? Not sure why SGI thought they needed that long of a cord, but I for one am glad they made that decision.) it is a step up. GoogleTV has some pretty neat potential, but it's a real shame Google hasn't released the SDK for it yet, or, at the very least, just allowed access to the existing wealth of Android apps in the Android Market. Apps will be where the platform shines, so it seems kind of crazy that they're trying to sell them prior to that. I guess it has Twitter, so what more could people really want, right? Also, it's a shame all the TV networks have blocked the damn thing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that US carriers have the phone functionality disabled. (The one I've been using is unlocked and has full phone functionality, which is awesome. However, being a prototype, it's also got a really rickety housing that feels very fragile.) Darn fine device; great form factor. Goes great in my cargo pants, and after using it for a few minutes, using an iPad now feels like driving a boat. I'm not, however, completely sold on Android as a tablet OS just yet. This hasn't stopped me from using it all the damn time, I'm suspect that a web-based platform might make for a better experience.
ChromeOS: nice hardware but -- wait. I haven't actually seen hardware yet. But I've been running ChromeOS on one of my netbooks for a few months and really, really like it. I tend to use web-based services unless I absolutely have to use a native application, so a web-based OS is a natural fit for me. Combine that with yesterday's Chrome Webstore launch, and it's now an attractive platform for people who are far, far less nerdy than me. If you're having trouble imagining a web-based OS, take a look at the Chrome Webstore and install a few apps. Then imagine your computer is faster with longer battery life and not encumbered by nonsense like virus checkers and printer drivers; now you can start to imagine what ChromeOS is like.
Apple 13" Macbook Pro: really nice hardware, but it's a shame Apple screwed up the software. OS bitching aside, the Macbook Pro is easily the finest piece of computer hardware I've ever owned, and nearly a year of living with Windows 7 made making the switch to OSX far less painful than it would have been going straight from Linux. I'm not completely sold on OSX, but for my usage, it's pretty shocking how much more productive I am than I was on Windows. Having a real UNIX system under all that shiny bounciness is something I didn't realize I missed until I had it back. I think I may write a post about my (most recent) Mac switch instead of going into detail here, as this quick little post has gotten kind of out of hand.
Hopefully it won't be several months before we speak again. Don't be a stranger.
In an attempt to make my office a little more comfortable, I decided that I needed to somehow raise my laptop by about 4-5 inches. I started looking around for something suitable without much luck until inspiration hit me.
An SGI Indy is the perfect height. I particularly like the irony in the fastest workstation of its time being used only to boost up last year's model Compaq laptop to a more suitable height.