OS X Day 1: Enter the iBook

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Nat Torkington
Jul. 13, 2002 09:20 AM

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I still remember when I went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. It was awkward and clumsy, and nothing worked the way I wanted it to. I was grumbling and grizzling the whole time, moaning to my friends "why did they do this? I was perfectly happy the way I was!"

Well, a decade later I'm no longer happy. Windows 2000 was eroding day by day, progressively becoming less stable, and Word was periodically aborting and losing work. Not good. I'm an editor. I need Word. Of course, I could have reinstalled the operating system and applications yet again, but life's too short to deal with degrading software.

Enter the iBook. One sleek and sexy 700MHz iBook with a combo drive arrived on Wednesday. I resolved not to lose time by diddling around installing and configuring and learning how to drive it. I would put that off until the evening. I had chapters to edit!

That lasted fifteen minutes. It was just beckoning to me, full of milky white goodness. I couldn't resist.

I don't read documentation. This is amusing, given that my life right now consists of producing it, but I feel it just reinforces my belief that irony is a basic force in the Universe. So when I opened up the box and found not one but two power cords, only one of which looked like it would in the laptop, I had to ask on IRC. That was the last time I was confused.

I use emacs VM to read my email. I copied my mailboxes over, downloaded precompiled VM binaries, and lo! It just worked. Total pain: 0. I send 60-100 email messages a day, so working email is important.

It didn't take me long to figure out that I really need Office X to deal with the Word and Excel files that are editing and management staples. And another keyboard--no PS/2 plug on this puppy! At Best Buy, the cheapest Mac-compatible USB keyboard was made by ... (drumroll please) ... Microsoft. You can't escape the Microsoft tax, even if you escape Windows.

I copied over all my files from my Windows box. I set up an FTP daemon on the Windows box and used wget (which built out of the box--yay GNU and Apple) to recursively fetch files. Now that I think of it, that was ass-backwards. I should have enabled the FTP server on my iBook and used my Windows FTP client to upload the files. I'm just not used to having a machine where everything just works.

I even burned a CD of the files from my Windows box. The first burn failed because the power saving cut in. D'oh! I changed the power saving options and the next one burnt fine.

I plugged in the digital video camera (editing be damned!) and it Just Worked. I built wget and it Just Worked. I downloaded VM and it Just Worked. I plugged in a three-button mouse and it Just Worked.

I came to realize something: I'd been with Microsoft for so long, who are complacent and hoard their customers, that I'd forgotten what it's like to use an operating system built by people who want it to cooperate with the rest of the world. It's good.


Nat Torkington is conference planner for the Open Source Convention, OSCON Europe, and other O'Reilly conferences. He was project manager for Perl 6, is on the board of The Perl Foundation, and is a frequent speaker on open source topics. He cowrote the bestselling Perl Cookbook.