October 26, 2008

Walking Away

Filed under: digital,future,interfaces,life,linux,losers,toys,vendetta — mhoye @ 11:30 am


Apostasy has never been so shiny.

At FSOSS on Friday, I got to see John “Maddog” Hall compare the OpenMoko phone he was advocating to the old Nokia he had clipped to his belt; he was enthusiastic that he could fit an entire Debian distribution on the 8Gb MicroSD card, and answered my question about its usability by saying that it could be made quite usable, which is presumably true. I was already resolved on the matter, but this certainly did shiv the point home.

And so 24 hours, almost to the minute, after the end of my talk I walked out of the Apple Store with a new Macbook Pro, and I expect that all the presentations I do in the future will be done in Keynote. And 48 hours after that, I’ve got to say it’s pretty great; absolutely solid build, like typing on a metal bar. And the hardware is light and beautiful, by a wide margin the best-made and best-designed piece of hardware I’ve ever owned, not a single creaky hinge or flimsy piece of plastic in sight. The multitouch trackpad that I thought would be a hard adjustment is turning out great; gestures are great, the keyboard is nice and responsive and the webcam works at all, something that was never true on my old Lenovo.

Most of the apps that I spent most of my time in, for the most part free software, they’re all here. Firefox, Pidgin, VLC, Handbrake and so forth, they’re all here and substantially prettier than their Linux counterparts. And there’s other stuff here that wasn’t even on my radar, like Quicksilver, Nocturne, Caffeine and Things, among others, and little things that use to be tedious and manual and occasionally hard aren’t, like syncing my media player and getting my photo manager to not import the same photo twice.

So I’ve installed some software, remapped capslock to command and imported some SSH keys and… that’s pretty much it. I’ll be migrating my data later this evening, and that’ll be pretty much that. On the list of things I haven’t had to do, you’ll find “sudo vi /etc/modprobe/modprobe.d/blacklist”, “sudo vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf” and “runlevel=0”. It makes me a tiny bit sad that it has an nVidia graphics chip in it since the nVidia drivers are largely what killed my presentation the other day, but I suspect that the number of people who are going to lose their jobs if nVidia ships buggy, defective crap with OSX to be quite a bit larger than the number who’d lose their jobs for shipping bug-ridden, defective crap to the Linux community, a number I believe to be zero.

So far my only legitimate complaints are that the settings aren’t quite right by default and that I can only resize windows from the lower right corner. That hasn’t been my only hangup, in truth, but the distressing thing is most of my little hitches have been due to all the little physical habits that I’ve unknowingly cultivated to work around the various indignities that linux-on-a-laptop forces on you. If I move around the house I don’t need to walk around with the laptop half-open so that it doesn’t stumble down the linux-power-management rabbit hole. I can close the lid on this thing and it won’t completely lose its mind and, wow, the novelty of that sure hasn’t worn off yet. The webcam works, so that when my parents call me with Skype and tell me they can’t see me I don’t need to make excuses, and not having to make excuses for your technology is, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, pretty sweet.


  1. Welcome Home.

    Comment by Sean Ross — October 26, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

  2. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I’ve never used an OS with fewer minor and major headaches. The small things really build up.

    Quicksilver is neato!

    Comment by Ken — October 26, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

  3. My only quibble with modern Apples is that you have to 10.5 on them. I’ve been very seriously contemplating formatting the HDD on the dual G5 Mac Pro (aka the Aluminum Trashcan) next to my desk at work and putting 10.4 back on it.

    Comment by Jamie Bowden — October 26, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  4. I must object to Sean Ross’s extreme tackiness.

    Jaime: what do you dislike about 10.5? I wouldn’t run it on a G5, definitely.

    Comment by Ken — October 26, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  5. I believe you are also supposed to hate the Dock, inasmuch as even Apple people profess to hate it.

    Comment by Mike Kozlowski — October 26, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  6. Ken. Object if you will. But Mike is a friend of mine who I’ve watched wander, cursing, through the drenched forest and death-by-a-thousand-cuts brambles for ages now; sheltered by whatever cast-offs and clever (for he can be clever, at times…) arrangements of foliage he could scrounge together; stubbornly scrambling to foster satisfaction in storm. And now he’s finally found his way to a dry, sheltered place with comfy chairs, a crackling fire to warm his toes, and warm cocoa to soothe his belly when he needs it; where contentment is the goal and the norm, not the battle and the anomaly. So it is in that sense, having found an environment offering security and happiness, that I would say he’s found a home. And I’m very glad he’s finally done so.

    Comment by Sean Ross — October 26, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  7. Indeed, I was about to say that Sean Ross’ comment might be a little gauche, but he’s watched me wrestle with this for a decade now having made the call himself many, many moons ago. So he’s entitled to a dose of smug, I think?

    Comment by Mike Hoye — October 26, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  8. hehe. if you remember somebody called wheaties, I got pretty much the same treatment from him when I dumped my debian scar ridden thinkpad and got myself a powerbook.

    its pretty amazing when you suddenly understand just how right everybody else were, for the most part.

    Comment by Oren — October 27, 2008 @ 11:38 am

  9. Power management has always been my only beef with Linux on a laptop. Sad that it’s so much of a hurdle.

    Interestingly, power management running Debian on an iBook was fine.

    Comment by Mike Bruce — October 27, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  10. I’m very happy for you Mike. Sean sums it up nicely, although I can’t profess to have watched as closely. But I think I’m even happier for me because I suspect that, sooner or later, I’m going to learn a few new things about my mac from a new source – one that is always amusing to read. :)

    Comment by Amos — October 27, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  11. I didn’t read it as smug… it just seems weird to me to refer to an OS as home. But whatevs, I get it.

    Comment by Ken — October 27, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  12. Ken:

    Leopard on the G5 is just…slow. That and the Xorg based X server that ships with 10.5 is just broken. Things that worked in 10.4 either don’t work now, are flaky, or aren’t even options (I know why Apple went from XF86 to Xorg, but I’m still annoyed at the implementation). This matters since I have SGI, Sun, FreeBSD, and Linux boxes along side the W2k3 servers in the racks. Of course, going back to Tiger means I no longer get compiler updates and OS level updates are done as well.

    I assume that with Snow Leapord being Intel only, those of us still on perfectly serviceable G4/5 based machines can just go fuck ourselves.

    Comment by Jamie Bowden — October 28, 2008 @ 8:26 am

  13. OpenMoko might go Android:

    Comment by AlexR — October 30, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  14. I think Linux-on-the-desktop was starting to get itself right, but it’s been foiled by the expansion of the laptop as the primary computing device. Getting things right on a laptop is harder, and when your software fails to get those things right, it fails hard. Power management and projector-friendliness are the sort of things that can completely ruin your laptop computing experience, as you have discovered first-hand. I continue to use a Linux desktop machine at home, and it works pretty well these days (Ubuntu 8.04), but I have a MacBook Pro, and my wife has a MacBook, and I can’t imagine using anything else on a laptop these days.

    Comment by Ted Mielczarek — November 3, 2008 @ 10:19 am

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