In preparation for leaving Google, I wanted a new computer in time to make sure I could get all the non-Google stuff (pictures, blogging software, music) moved off my Googlemac. I got a maxed-out MacBook Pro 15" (16G RAM, 1T SSD) thus dumping an estimated $1,000 profit into Apple’s cash hoard. What did I get for it and how did I set it up?
I’ve been using OS X for eleven years now, have learned a few things, and there’s a chance that some of the tricks here could be useful to others.
State of the 2014 Art · I got a Pro rather than an Air because I want the big screen, big memory, and fast CPU, mostly for photo-editing with Lightroom. It’s a pretty wonderful computer, but that’s no more nor less than expected these days. Fast, quiet, and the Retina display as good a solution to a #firstworldproblem as I’ve seen in years. Except for, my Googlemac had a wonderful matte screen, and I didn’t see that option when I ordered this one.
I’ve had to tune the font sizes and line spacing in a bunch of apps; usually not to make them larger but smaller; something in the system is overcompensating for the Retina density and picking too-big sizes.
It’s sort of amusing: I’m looking at a shell command output or an Emacs buffer and thinking “Wow, that looks great”. But bear in mind that I was looking at more or less the same stuff two decades ago in an ASCII terminal and the fact that it was maybe one-tenth the resolution didn’t seem to bother me then.
But really, what can I say? The memory and disk are massive, the CPU is fast, the battery’s pretty good, nothing I’ve done yet has turned the fan on; everything works great.
OS X and its Apps · Eleven years in, and I am down to exactly one Apple app in daily use: Preview. I had been using Keynote a lot, but the cloud competitors (for example from Google) are getting better and better, so I’m easing off and may end up leaving it behind.
I still can’t go to a Chromebook or other cloud-centric device, because of Emacs and Lightroom and Eclipse and so on. I could go to Windows but feel no temptation whatsoever; I’m too old now to not use Unix.
The Checklist · Here are the things that a seasoned OS X-ista who works on pictures and code a lot needs to do to get a machine all tuned up and humming. This is the part that might be helpful for other people.
Keyboard · First thing is, you need to speed up the key-repeat speed to the max, otherwise you’ll feel like either the computer is too slow or you’re getting old.
Second, if you want your writing to appear a little more literate, download
keyboard, described in
Redux, and then you’ll have “, ”, and ’ on option-L,
option-;, and option-'.
You need to drop that file into
~/Library/Keyboard Layouts and
reboot; then it’ll show up as an international keyboard option.
Trackpad · I turn on “Tap to click”, “Secondary click”, and turn off everything else. There was a bad interaction where Lightroom wouldn’t let me resize with the crop tool until I’d turned off everything. Most of that other stuff is really only useful inside one Apple app or another.
Then you go into System Preferences, Accessibility/Trackpad Options, and “Enable dragging”. That lets you tap twice on anything and then drag it around. Which used to be in the main Keypad prefs until Apple decided to hide it.
Fonts · For your monospace needs I recommend Raph Levien’s exquisite Inconsolata.
Emacs · You can build your own of course but I just got the latest binary from Emacs For Mac OS X; it Just Works, and I work mine pretty hard.
Tooling · You’ll need to install XCode and its command-line tools first.
Then you need Homebrew; none of the OSX package managers are perfect, but I find Homebrew the least bad. I used it to install ImageMagick (the only OS X tool I know of where you can resize pictures on the command line) and aspell so far, and I’m sure there’ll be more.
MySQL I got from Larry Ellison in a DMG and it seemed to Just Work, with a little Prefs-screen thingie to control it too.
The built-in Perl and Ruby and are working fine, and I managed to get CPAN to install DBD::mysql with only a little bit of library relocation. Go came in a DMG, no fuss no muss.
... all of which got me to the point where I can write and publish the words you are now reading. Which feels like magic to me the first time it works, because there are many moving parts that have to work together.
The Dock · Put it on either the right or the left; on any modern Mac laptop, vertical space is precious and horizontal space abundant. I don’t leave anything in there permanently unless it’s something I always have running, so my Dock is almost always identical to what’s-live-now.
Moving data · I’ve kind of gone off Migration Assistant because I find OS X installations, like any other tool heavily used by a professional, build up layers of crud and benefit from periodic sanitizing.
So I plugged in a terabyte USB disk and pushed all my non-Google stuff to it with Rsync, because I’ve found that tar is sometimes upset by the super-long filenames in iTunes. Then I Rsync’ed it back onto the new computer. Boy, is it ever faster sucking data off a USB disk onto an SSD than the other way around.
Apple irritatingly discarded the System Prefs screen for controlling
Apache. So, to get things going, I did a
sudo apachectl start to
get it going on a one-time basis and somehow that’s sticky, I’ve rebooted a
couple of times and it comes back up. OK then.
Thanks! · I picked the new box up less than 24 hours ago and here I am doing productive work. Thanks are due to the OS X Morlocks at Apple, and to all the people out there in the OSS world who pull the tools and tricks together, for fun and because it’s The Right Thing To Do.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world!