The new iMac may be the Ideal platform for XP

by Daniel H. Steinberg

I didn't get it at first. Last month at MacWorld SF the new iMacs were unveiled. Derrick Story got one of the first pictures as he, Terminal guru Chris Stone, and I played with the new machines. Our first impressions were contained in the O'Reilly keynote write up's hardware section. But I still didn't get it. Check out the picture in the article and maybe you'll see what I didn't.

Let's start with the extra USB port. The new iMac has three USB ports where the old iMac had two. Before you make plans to attach your devices to this digital hub, consider plugging in a second keyboard. "Aha, " you say, "I'm beginning to see."You could run the iMac with two keyboards and a pair of matching mice.

That's where the size of the iMac begins to matter. It's tiny. It's been described as the size of half a melon. It's smaller than you think. My brother's first impression of it was "it's nice, does the rest of it go under your desk?" There is no rest of it. That's all of it. Two people sitting together at a desk each with their own keyboards and mice and nothing under the desk to get in their way. You don't have to sit awkwardly to avoid the bulky CPU that's where your knee wants to be.

Oh, and then there's the screen panel. If you want to see how many columnists just copied down everything that Steve Jobs said and reported it as their own impressions, check how many articles reported the screen as "floating". (In a long lost weblog Rene DesCartes asserts "I blog, therefore I digress...") The screen doesn't float but moves to just where you need it. It could even be adjusted to work for two programmers sitting side by side. The one typing can budge the screen easily in one direction and then the other programmer can slide it back the other way when the turns switch.

Those unfamiliar with Extreme Programming may wonder what all of this has to do with XP. First, let's get one thing straight -- long before Microsoft decided to co-opt XP to stand for their operating system, Extreme Programming has been using XP as the short hand for their methodology. Ron Jeffries holds the rights on the XP logo that predates the MS release. I was teaching a seminar on XP at a local University when MS made the announcement of their choice of name. So if a Windows user types XP into a search engine and comes across a headline that leads them to believe their beloved OS runs on a Mac ...

One of the practices of XP is pair programming. The new iMac is made for pair programming. The other thing that Apple did, however, was put a G4 into the new iMacs. This means that iMacs will have the power you need to do your development. You can network several together and perhaps purchase a dual 1 GHz machine as your integration machine and you've got a great XP workshop.

Buy enough memory ,install your favorite IDE and be productive. As for other XP practices, many of the IDEs are beginning to support refactoring. The Mac comes with CVS so you can easily support continuous integration. JUnit works great on the Mac so test first is covered. You can automate your builds with Ant. Now I get it.