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Use a computer… FAST!

Text

I’ve been using computers for over three decades now, and about two of those decades have been professionally, you know, as part of my job for work. When using a computer I like to get things done, like, fast.

Back when I used Macs in the pre-OS X era I used BBEdit, which doesn’t suck, and along with the Finder of the day, I could do things really fast. I could edit files fast, and I could manage files fast. It was good.

Eventually I moved to Mac OS X, and found jEdit and things were slow at first. I even mentioned that it seemed like I was using a computer with gloves on. Things got faster.

Sometimes I see people use a computer and I get twitchy watching them try to select some bit of text, not starting at the end, or not double or triple clicking, or even just trying to retype some code instead of copying and pasting it.

I wonder if I could teach a class on using computers quickly, at least for dealing with text…

Of course I’ve also learned how to use find/replace, including regex, and tons of terminal tricks to deal with text and files and the like. And there’s still a ton I don’t know! There’s *nix tools that I could probably add to my toolbox to do things even more efficiently.

Anyway, if you feel like you could use a computer faster, you probably could. Really, in the old days we spent time waiting for computers, but if you’re dealing with text, chances are the computer is sitting around waiting for you.

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*nix is the new *nix

*nix

Hey there… Dan Gillmor moved to Linux and it’s even better than he expected!

As for me, I’ve been using Mac OS X pretty much since it came out, and before that I used System 9, 8, 7, etc… Operating systems created by Apple. I’ve also used FreeBSD in the past (though mainly on servers) and I’ve been using Linux in some form or another for close to 20 years. Along the way I’ve also used Windows, though always for work, never for fun.

I’m going to call out a few things Dan mentions, just so I can comment on them.

…here I am, writing this piece on a laptop computer running the Linux* operating system and LibreOffice Writer, not on a Mac or Windows machine using Microsoft Word. All is well.

Luckily you can use LibreOffice on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. You can also use OpenOffice on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. And hey, you can also run NeoOffice on Mac OS X (sorry Windows and Linux users) which is what I did years ago before OpenOffice ran on Mac OS X.

This brings up a point I’d like to expand on, that even if you run Mac OS X (or Windows) you can almost always lean towards the open alternative that is available. This might mean LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, and it may mean Thunderbird instead of Mail.app, or Firefox instead of Safari.

Other software I use includes jEdit, Arduino, Processing, Fritzing, Inkscape, Audacity, OpenSCAD, and yes… those are all available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. You might also notice that (almost) all of the websites listed end with .org, which is telling.

The applications you use all depend on what you do with a computer, and what you use a computer for. I tend to use computers to make things, and luckily the specific things I like to make fit in well with the software I use.

Some of the applications listed above rely on Java. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Java, but it does help a lot of software run on multiple platforms. One of the applications listed relies on an X11, or more specifically, XQuartz. X11.app used to be distributed by Apple, but they abandoned it, but that’s okay because XQuartz exists.

One application I use that is not available for Linux is Evernote. I should say “not officially available”, since there is Nevernote and Geeknote. Yeah, often you can find an unofficial client for Linux that might work.

Of course if your work demands you use specific software, you may not be able to exclusively run Linux. Oh well…

Now…

No one should ever have to open a command-line window and type “sudo apt-get update” or other such instructions.

I tend to cringe when I see things a computer user should never have to do. I mean, if you want to do X, you may have to learn Y, right? Now, personally, great power comes from being able to open a command line window and type commands. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, though sometimes it is the easier thing to do, if you have the knowledge. If you don’t want to open a command line window and type things, chances are good you won’t have to. (But you should anyway, if you really want to harness the power of your computer. As long as it’s running *nix, I mean. Sorry, Windows users!)

And then…

It’s almost certainly too late for Linux to be a hugely popular desktop/laptop operating system, at least in the developed world.

Maybe, I don’t know… I have seen Linux change over the last two decades, and I’m still excited about what I see.

Dan did say “desktop/laptop operating system”, but let’s look elsewhere. Linux is used on servers, and appliances, and things. What do I mean by “things”? Well, every Raspberry Pi project runs Linux. Here’s 400+ projects running Linux. Here’s a few more projects and some tutorials, all using Linux. I even use Linux computers at work (building exhibits) that just play sounds. Using Linux on a Raspberry Pi makes sense for this, and lots of other things.

Anyway, Dan’s post is good (though it’s strange it’s posted on Medium instead of his own web site, because, freedom and all that) and I’d urge anyone who is not familiar with Linux to take a look at it. It’s pretty awesome. So is open source, and freedom, and the command line.

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Does Not Compute!

Does Not Compute!

“What did the working computer say to the non-working computer?”

“Does Not Compute!”

“That doesn’t make any sense…”

“Who cares!?”

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Three Apples

Three Apples

Milwaukee-based developer Josh Dean wonders what Apple product he should get?

Well, I’ve got two of the Apple product he’s considering, so I thought I’d share my opinion…

iPad
I’ve only had an iPad about two months now, and for me, it’s a consuming device. I do very little creating with it. That said, it’s an amazing consuming device. I use it for reading, mainly with Google Reader, for which there are many good clients. I also use it around the house as it’s often much more convenient to grab it for quick searches than any full-fledged computer. If you took away my iPad, there would be a hole in the way I access information around the house. That “around the house” bit is key to my usage. I rarely take it out of the house, but that’s just me. I could live without an iPad and still get all of my work done. For me, the iPad is much more about enjoyment and fun than it is about work.

MacBook Pro
I have a MacBook Pro, and before that, I had an iBook, and before that, a PowerBook… A laptop, for me, is a supplemental device to get more work done, or be able to work anywhere. I tend to do probably 80% of my work on desktop machines, but having a laptop lets me take the show on the road, and also lets me do two things at once. As a sidenote, the iPad has filled in much of what I used to use the MacBook Pro for around the house. As for work, the MacBook lets me do (almost) any work I need to do away from the office. It’s got FireWire, USB ports, an SD Card reader, video out, etc… The MacBook Pro is a full-fledged computing device for creating anything I need to create.

MacBook Air
I do not have a MacBook Air, and I don’t think I’d get one. It looks like an awesome netbook (though Apple will never call it that.) I used to use an Asus Eee PC 701, the first real netbook to hit the market. I loved the small size and light weight of the device, but it left a lot to be desired (not running Mac OS X was one thing.) The netbook was limited, but I learned to live within those limitations. I think the MacBook Air would be a little limiting for me, but then, I tend to want to do hardware as well as software stuff, and I need FireWire. If was just a developer writing code and didn’t need to worry about interfacing with certain hardware or having an optical drive available, the MacBook Air would probably be fine. Still, I tend to prefer the extra features a MacBook Pro affords, but again… that’s just me.

I don’t know if this will help Josh, or anyone else, make a decision, but I figured I’d share my opinion.

Here’s a few previous blog posts that may also be helpful:

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New Office Setup

New Office Setup

I recently replaced my iMac with a Mac Pro, so I figured it was time to rip the entire desk apart and redo it all. I’m still not at the level of those “ultra-clean keyboard, mouse, display and nothing else” desks, but that’s OK, I don’t really want that… those are too damn clean.

So in the photo above you’ll see the Samsung 22″ display, and to the right an Apple 20″ display. I’m still not sure on the placement, and I may swap them. I’d also like to raise them up just a little bit, as I’m used to my displays being slightly higher. I’ve also moved most of the external drives and cabling underneath the desk. (There is a 7 port USB hub behind the monitors, but it’s fairly unobtrusive.)

Also, if you want to compare, here’s the details of my last desk remodel (2009), and the one before that (2008), and before that was the embarrassing cable nightmare of 2007. I’d say things are improving.