On Being A Mac User

Mon Nov 9, 2009

I used a Mac in my office at Georgia Tech, and I’ve had one in my office at UL for about a year now. But I’ve only been using Macs exclusively for about a month now after the purchase of a Macbook Pro. Now, it’s important to understand that the Gateway laptop I had been using before, which had come with Vista and improbably enough had a driver incompatibility of some type with Ubuntu that I wasn’t able to fix, was one of the shittiest pieces of hardware that’s ever been manufactured. The hard drive on my previous laptop failed immediately after I returned from an overseas archive, and, when I purchased this latest computer, the one I replaced it with was on the verge of failing again. Windows Update had gotten hopelessly entangled, and it may have even been the case that the computer had become infected with malware. Vista is such an incredible waste of an operating system, that I, who have been using and programming computers for almost twenty-five years now, was actually unable to tell if it was a hardware or software problem, or some pas de deux into planned obsolescence.

Other than one brutal Open Office crash, I’ve had no problems at all with the Mac. It’s powerful and well-designed enough that it seems, as most people notice, like alien technology compared to most PC products. (The effect is even greater than the disparity between the Honda Accord and S-10 of roughly the same model year I both once drove.) Finder is, it’s true, probably not as flexible as the Windows equivalent, but with easy shell access this doesn’t matter. I don’t seem to be able to adjust the sleep/power settings the way the systems preferences seem to claim that you can, but I’m willing to accept this as user error.

I haven’t been able to get Devonthink to do anything useful, and I’m not sure I understand the point of Scrivener, but the Open Office writer is fine for my needs. (I’ve long had a goal of switching to emacs and LaTeX, but that’ll probably have to wait until I write something with many formulae.) I also haven’t tried the ILife suite of products, but I hear good things about the presentation software. I have almost never used presentation software for a conference presentation or for teaching, but I’m thinking about trying it out on a provisional basis. I’m also impressed by the little things; the ITunes visualizer is the best such thing I’ve ever seen, and Stickies works nicely as well.

I really have to work on solving the bibliography generation/database problem. I either need to figure out how to make Zotero work, though I can’t imagine that it’s going to be able to fix all the non-workable files I’ve saved in it (again: if you save current page as new item in zotero in Jstor, for example, it does not, unless I’m missing something, record the bibliographic information. Hundreds of times I did this with nothing to go on but a proxy-bargled URL and title text snapshot.)