(or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Mac)

I mentioned earlier that there were some "life changes" underway. If you asked most people to list "major life events", they'd probably come up with things like births, deaths, marriage, divorce, moving, changing jobs, etc. Some good, some bad. All of mine were of the "good" kind fortunately. One of mine was changing jobs, and maybe I'll write more about that later. Another major change is one that is missing from that list, one that most people wouldn't think of, but that is pretty major for a guy like me: changing platforms.

I've been a Unix user for a long time, and I'm a fan of (and contributing developer for) NetBSD. If you've heard of Linux, NetBSD is similar (but in my opinion better). It's an open source operating system, so you can customize or enhance it to work exactly the way you want -- if you have time. I've been using NetBSD for servers and as my primary desktop OS for a long time, but earlier this year I switched to the Mac.

I still use NetBSD as my server OS of choice, but I think for a desktop, you can't beat the Mac. OS X is just fantastic... a real Unix OS with an unparalleled GUI. It's the best of both worlds... I get "real" applications like Microsoft Office, multimedia software, etc, on a Unix desktop.

I had been following OS X since its introduction, and around the time of "Tiger" (10.4), I thought it was polished enough that I would consider using it. At the company where I worked at the time there were several Mac users, and after playing with their macs some, I was pretty interested. The key moment was last year, when Apple announced their plans to convert to Intel processors. There are a (very) few Windows applications I can't live without, so my NetBSD desktops have always been set up to dual-boot with Windows. Although at the time Apple announced their switch there was no talk of any ability to run Windows, I was sure someone would figure out a way. If I could buy a Mac and also have the ability to run Windows when need be, and likely even NetBSD (so if I decided I couldn't like with OS X for some reason, I would have a fallback), I was sold. I began waiting excitedly for the new Intel-based Macs.

Meanwhile, sometime earlier my friend and coworker smartin had bought a (PowerPC-based) Mac Mini and began using it as his primary desktop at work. When he went on vacation for a week, he set me up with an account on it and loaned it to me for the week, as a trial run, to see if I could make the switch.

You may notice a theme here, of how very cautious I was about switching, and that perhaps gives you an insight into why I consider this a "major life change". My computer is the item I interact with more than practically anything else. It's like the chair at my desk -- I spend most of my day sitting in it, and if it wasn't comfortable, it would drive me batty in short order. Like The Princess and the Pea, the tiniest detail can be a big comfort impact, too. I still use the same text editor program (MicroEMACS 3.9i) I started using something like 20 years ago. I don't know anyone else who still uses it, but my fingers are wired by now to control it without thinking. Several times I've tried GNU Emacs, but the slight differences (even after rebinding many keys) were too distracting. Likewise when I finally decided to give up on "Ctrl/CapsLock" switching and adapt to the PC-AT era (only about 10 years late!), it took a lot of thought, and a long time to completely adapt.

Anyway, although there was one major annoyance with OS X (like Windows, it requires explicit cut and paste keystrokes, as opposed to X11's highlight and middle-click-to-paste), I decided overall it would be worth making another major, capslock-like effort to get used to. In the meantime, my wife needed a new PC, so I got her a Mini as well. It was amazing to have a computer that on the one hand was so easy to use, as Suzy is not a "computer person", yet that was Unix underneath.

Finally Apple announced the new Intel-based 15" MacBook. I decided to wait until some early-adopter Mac friends had used theirs for a month or so, to make sure all the bugs were shaken out, and then I ordered mine. I needed a new laptop anyway, since my old Dell laptop would mysteriously no longer boot in spite of all the components seeming to be fine. Shortly afterwards, Apple came out with "Boot Camp", which allowed dual-booting Windows, so that gamble paid off.

By now I've been using the Mac about 6 months, and it's great. In my office, I keep it closed and use an external keyboard, mouse, and large LCD, and it makes a fine desktop. I can also take it on the road with me as a very nice laptop -- though I wish Apple had added more mouse buttons. They've finally come around and have a three button/scrollwheel-ish mouse called the Mighty Mouse, but they haven't caved in on more buttons on the built in trackpad yet.

I'll write more in time about my Mac experiences, but I can say that I am a complete convert now. In a way it felt kind of like going over to the Dark Side of The Force, giving up on the Perfect Open Source Unix dream. It isn't perfect, but there is a saying: The Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough. Other Unix desktops have the potential to be "perfect", in that you have the code to make them do whatever you want. Yet, they're really pretty crumby, user-interface wise, because nobody actually has put in all the effort. They aren't Good Enough. Once I decided to accept Good Enough (and the Mac is quite a bit better than that), I found how much easier and more fun my life became. It isn't perfect, the cut and paste still annoys me. Sometimes I have to deal with Microsoft Office documents, but at least now I can easily. But it's Good Enough that I'm really satisfied with it. I know why other OS X users tend to get evangelical about it too... you start wanting everyone to feel as good about their "computing experience" as you do!

The combination of the Mac and Good Enough also led to be relaunching this blog. I found a nice, cheap web site design program with blog capabilities for the Mac called RapidWeaver. Sure, I could make my own custom tools to generate the html and have a "perfect" site, but I'd never get around to it. I think this new one is Good Enough, and has the capabilities to grow in the ways I want it to. I expect to be more active in updating it as well, and in fact I already have several articles queued up, and ideas for more. It's nice for once to just "cheat" and approach making a web site as a consumer, and not try to do The Ultimate Thing, inventing my own "perfect" blogging framework or something.

Now I can worry think about perfect content now content that is perfect making perfect content ...

Ah, forget it. I guess the content will have to just be good enough too.