It Won’t Ever Go Away Even After Silver Bullets Are Fired and Stakes Are Driven Through Numerous Hearts
Having far too much experience (ha! get it?! ha!) with the various shortcomings and features that are worse than the problems they attempt to fix Rob Pegoraro's summary of five years of suffering through Windows XP is pretty amusing in a cringing way like watching a YouTube video of someone getting plowed in the groin with a shovel handle: it's funny because the pain is resonant with my own experience.
One of the points that never crossed my mind that Pegoraro brings up is the willingness of users to let updates slide out of fear that WGA will cripple their OEM purchased systems. Ouch. I suppose I'm too accustomed to dealing with site licensed copies of XP to have really thought about what a conundrum this represents for most single license home users. What is the preferable choice here really? You can follow a how-to available online that may or may not work, depending on how your individual machine is set up, or you can opt for the cyclical pattern of simply pulling a back up and reinstalling whenever Windows starts complaining about something being amiss. That is a tremendous time sink although it may be one that Windows users at home (especially those who tend to tinker with their systems above and beyond the usual web browsing and email sending expectations that MSFT has for home users) are accustomed to by this late date. I wonder how many people are now completely unwilling to run Windows Update simply because it now lies to you about the actual content of patches instead of just randomly breaking applications and areas of the operating system. It makes one long for the days of simple self implosion.
One point that Pegoraro brings up that produces nothing but winces and nervous glances around the room is the unavailability of System Restore from the default installation. It is buried a couple of menus deep but I'd prefer if it were sealed in a lead box deep under the surface of the Earth. Nothing in Windows is more accommodating to either spyware or viruses than System Restore. I guess it made a nice window decoration (I kill me) to reassure folks that they could actually extract their useful stuff or files that they needed first thing in the morning for the wreckage of a downed system. The bad part is the malware authors have also been keenly aware of the promise of Windows Restore since it was birthed by a combination of a pentagram chalked on some board room floor in Redmond and the force that truly drives Windows development: inertia. I disable it by default on every machine I set up.
The domination of the registry, if you can call such a Lord of the Flies disorder any kind of systemic organization, has still not ended and there is still no useful versioning system (unless you call date stamps versioning) for DLLs. The registry would be a useful development tool but trusting your asschip to something that doesn't version libraries is a risk I am nowhere near foolhardy enough to make or lazy enough to expect anyone else to do. regedit has unfortunately become a more necessary administrator tool than any of the other management consoles corralled under the actual title "Administrative Tools" and that is bad, bad juju. What I'm really curious about is how this nightmare of hackishness is going to be circumvented in Vista. I have pretty grave doubts about the reality of this promise. This relates to another point made in the article: when will Windows do something like keeping track of what installers install? Trusting this responsibility to individual developers seems like another terrible decision waiting to strike fear into my heart on yet another day and on yet another platform.
Vista really has a lot of bad precedent to overcome and I'm guessing that feature-itis will be the true focus of the release. I imagine that hoping otherwise even if it a calculated self deception aimed at keeping us sane through just one more problem that shouldn't be or one more reinstall that could have been avoided through proper account separation is a false hope and the more we collectively buy into the marketing hype that this will be the BEST WINDOWS EVAR the more slack this gives MSFT in dealing with this and the myriad of other bugs that should be release blocking.
It seems like a whole lot of people are having trouble with the new version of iTunes on both Windows and OS X. I ran software updates the minute they came out and haven't seen any problems other than the first start mysterious quit that most other people have experienced. I'm curious what the hell is going on here and I'm guessing that people minus the iPods and on the Intel architecture are having less problems. Guess but I've yet to see any noticeable glitches. The only one that really bothered me was the kinda lame album artwork tool. I had just disabled it and then when I was showing a coworker what it looked like a good majority of the covers had mysteriously appeared.
I've also been hearing more rumor mongering about the potential for an Apple phone. Although I wouldn't spend what is sure to be a premium for another feature bloated, sexily designed, and utterly fragile cell phone I can certainly see how other people might. How many people do I know that have what seem like disposable Razr phones already? Something that could match the fashion accessory iPod? Please. I'll have to disclaim this to a certain degree because I'm continually surrounded by college students that have less hand-to-mouth problems than most of the fellow students I'm accustomed to being in the midst of. The alleged preview shot of the device looks pretty similar to the crap that sells like crazy now so if the lag between rumor and release isn't eons they might have a passable winner here for a first iteration.
If you've ever installed an older version of Debian (think Potato and earlier though it will pain you to do so) then Joey's bit of humor will strike home with you. The installer really is that much better and does a fair amount of the auto-detection that so many have grown accustomed to with more specified and/or commercial distributions. I managed to get a laptop up and running with a much earlier version of this installer in a matter of thirty minutes. I used to rely on the free version of Libranet to take care of this but it is looking like those days are over. I'm probably going to wipe the install on my Acer laptop at some point in the near future and increasingly I'm thinking that Debian and I might be due for another fling.
Actually the host I use did some kind of upgrade of hardware on the server which, as usual, fucking broke everything in the world for ten hours or so. I only lost like one post so I guess this was a more smooth upgrade than I'm used to. I did manage to fuck up the order of things and their associated numberings by experimentally adding archived posts in an arrangement that made sense when I was half awake this morning but makes little to no sense at the moment.
As aforementioned, there was only one post lost in the process that I did not have a copy of. It was some babble about vi search and how stuff like it related to things like surfraw. You didn't miss much.
I do not particularly understand the terror that most of my fellow tech support folks feel when they are confronted by a Macintosh. Even before I had one that I carried around with me everywhere it was pretty easy to chuck a quick Google search from my Linux desktop at work and read the answer back to people. I'm guessing that a good part of it is just reluctance to taint themselves by touching a machine that doesn't have a registry but the unwillingness to learn simple tasks that are largely delegated to users by the operating system. Adding a printer should not require a whole lot of anxiety but I am routinely consulted for things like this that are executed by pressing a button adorned with a plus symbol and following the bouncing ball afterwards. What makes this more interesting and troublesome is that so many people I've spoken to recently have acquired their first piece of Apple hardware and are baffled that so few people can answer very basic questions.
Suddenly the outright fear displayed by most people that are 'technical' at least by job title when confronted by any Linux desktop that isn't a neutered variety of KDE makes a whole lot of sense. Intuitive interfaces really don't matter in most cases as people seem to see only !Windows and freeze. Pairing this with the inability to use search engines for anything but porn/video games or to read and comprehend simple instructions presented in numbered steps is enough to make me feel like some kind of super genius by simply being able to read and follow simple instructions and to necessarily deviate from them slightly when they are a little out of date. I've overheard so many phone conversations that terminated with an utterance something like this: "You don't see a button on the lower left that says "x?" Well, you're going to have to see desktop support for that then." I don't particularly empathize with this but at least it makes more sense to me now. This also makes the incredibly tedious arguments that come along with any interface seems a little less ridiculous. Again, it's comical but I guess the people I'm surrounded by aren't especially brain damaged and I should be less surprised when people ask questions that could be answered with a minute or two spent trying to learn something new. I don't find this comforting but at least there is some kind of reason behind it. No attempt will be made to properly quantify 'some' because the effort would probably kill me. This may have something to do with a lack of sleep.
I've actually been using OS X pretty exclusively for the last couple of months while plotting what to do with my other laptop that is just sitting there with a pretty ancient and unmaintained installation of Gentoo sitting on it which I'm pretty reluctant to do much with since my time has withered away to almost nothing these days. Anyway, the thing is that I've actually used it enough to start developing tastes for different implementations of software. I'm not a huge of fan of most of the Apple software that comes rolled in with the OS though I appreciate it being there especially since competitor #1 thinks a couple of games and a nearly useless text editor is all they need to include in terms of software.
That said, the following couple of applications feel like they should be part of the OS or at least included in the default install since they're both insanely useful and free as well. The unfortunate fact that we all know is that no one benefits from Apple sucking up some bit of free software and including it in the OS. It's unfortunate but also true. You can read all about that along with the gnashing of developer teeth somewhere else because delving into it is just something I don't have enough depth of experience using the platform to judge with any confidence.
OnyX is nearly fucking magical and saves me so much tedious manual work that I don't think I could use OS X without it. Eventually the cruft and sloppiness would drive me crazy and I would just start reinstalling the whole works every six weeks or something. OnyX will basically take care of those tasks that you don't want to like forcing Spotlight to rebuild its index or deleting kernel cache. There are some tools that do similar tasks but none of them seem as complete or as well thought out as OnyX. I'm also really glad that this is not only a free application but one executed with an obvious degree of skill and commitment to doing things 'the right way.' Any system level utility should be used with a higher than normal level of caution unless your backup regimen is more disciplined than and you think you might live to be three hundred years old. I've yet to see any glitches in OnyX and there is something about that (the appearance of perfect performance thought such a thing cannot exist) slickness that instills much more confidence in me than it probably should.
Server Vault is another free tool that won't save you if you don't know what the hell you're doing but will drastically simplify the task of working with handfuls of different servers and provide a more complete interface than you could ever dream of. The system of organization works well for organizing a bunch of different projects spread out over different servers as each entry allows you setup a website, a database host, an FTP server, a hosting account, and some other essential entries. From there you can go to each with a single button click. It started as an internal tool from a design company but they decided to share the love. If I've done work on one of your sites in the past I made a quick entry or too in this tool myself so asking for help shouldn't mean that you have to send me a user name and password for the millionth time. That elimination of nuisance is a blessing all by itself. It isn't the most sophisticated tool on the planet and doesn't get weighed down by a whole lot of extraneous features. It does a couple of jobs really well and that is more than most pieces of commercial software can reasonably claim.
Somehow I thought there more that needed mentioning but they'll probably occur to me when I'm trying to go to sleep, bother me for a few minutes, and be forgotten forever. I hate that.
I received my sticks of RAM yesterday (2 gigs! woooo!) for the MacBook Pro from Other World and made the mistake of waiting until I was nearly exhausted and out of any remnants of mental energy to attempt the transplant. I'll readily admit that I'm not much for monkeying with hardware whenever I can avoid it. My old job that was unofficially called 'Software Support' was a pretty apt description of what I am best at. I can't back up and restore hardware and it costs too much money. If you're a friend that lives in my vicinity then I've probably wrangled hardware advice out of you at least once in the past. Now comes one that I'm a little stumped by:
So, upgrading RAM in these machines is allegedly really easy. You just remove the battery then remove three screws to access the RAM slots. The trouble with this operation is that removing the screws is nearly impossible. They're 00 screws to begin with which necessitates digging out the cheap little toolkit I bought a long time ago for a similar purpose like installing RAM in one of the less used laptops. They worked wonderfully that time excepting the crazy red marks that remained on my palm for a week afterward. The screws in this machine are infuriating because they are simultaneously tiny (not one but two zeroes for god's sake) and also have incredibly shallow cuts in the head. This effect is enhanced by them being driven in so tightly that I feel like I need to apply a fair degree of body weight just to summon up enough torque to slot the screwdriver head.
Maybe there are other folks richer and more foolhardy than me but I'm really unwilling to lean in to the back of this machine with a screwdriver. As my elbow wobbles all over the place on the first attempt and I notice that I am applying a whole lotta pressure to what might as well be nicks in the top of the screw which is a few spare inches away from the processor. How many pieces of metal do you need between you and your RAM?
The question that I think I'm asking is whether or not there is a good way to approach this problem without:
A) having the screwdriver slip and punching a hole through one of the more delicate surfaces of the machine
B) stripping the screws out entirely which wouldn't be that difficult to do given the depths of the cuts and how disastrous it would be since they're tiny screws that are much stronger than me driven into their paths by satanic emissaries with microscopic power tools.
I'll admit that I didn't do a whole lot of searching around for answers if only because that late hour I had grave doubts about my cheap tool set and I was also a little afraid that I might get some stupid fatigue-fogged idea in my head and skewer my chipset in the process. Anyone have a line on a fission powered 00 screwdriver they want to loan me?
Sigh. I've been enduring short yet continuous outages for the past two days. Translated into less stupid sounding terms this means intermittent connectivity and the madness that comes along with it. I'm generally able to get out long enough for a single page load or maybe forty seconds at a time. I'm hoping to actually get a page with my ISP's phone support (how novel) loaded at some point so I can get someone out to check the lines. That doesn't exactly feel ambitious. The most frustrating part is that I'm trying to use the available online documentation for wxPython and smashing my head into the wall with impatience each time that I'm stuck in unfamiliar territory without documentation and only pyCrust as my guide. I would perhaps try out the old back up dial up connection if I had a modem in any of the machines or even a land line to dial out with. Look for me atop a tree in the near future waiting for the cargo planes to fill the sky again and bring me my fucking packets.
Note to self: Download the entire internet so this doesn't happen again. Set up internal RSS feeds that refresh with gibberish so that the numbers change in the dock icon and I don't feel so freaked out. Will possibly need some more storage to do this right...
I've switched all of my mail accounts around with vague hope of actually receiving mail when it's sent to me. I know that is an idealized and lofty goal but I'm going to take my dream of having something that I pay for work the way it's supposed to and run with it. Actually, that is a total lie as I just moved all accounts to a completely different configuration of forwarding and redirection.
One of the guys I work with mentioned that he's heard many complaints about the mail service Speakeasy offers where clients and the mail sitting on the server 'get out of sync' (I have no fucking idea what that means in terms of POP3 accounts) and more drastic action has to be taken. This drastic action that I speak of consists of logging in to the web mail system and painfully deleting thousands of pieces of mail. The great part about this is that if you actually have a mail client open while doing this you can still see mail flowing into your local inbox. I think the protocol the server uses is 'magic' or 'reallyComplicated3' or possibly just 'brokenSSL.' So, I switched all of my accounts to forwarding to Gmail where I have a larger quota (bad) and there don't seem to be the same kind of issues with clients (either Apple's Mail.app or Thunderbird) where either the server or client is telling lies (bad). The good part is that it has actually inspired me to open a help ticket at the Speakeasy support page when I have done a little research into the matter, namely to figure out where the disconnect between client and server is happening.
Again, if you've sent me some mail that requires response and you haven't heard back from me please give it another shot. Now that I know this is not going to be a one time mail snafu I shouldn't see these sorts of issues again and readily look forward to new problems that will make me swear off email for the foreseeable future. I should probably mention that Speakeasy is in every other aspect a fantastic if expensive ISP. I've heard back on every issue that I've ever raised in minutes rather than hours.
While on my way to another fabulous day of listening to people shout incoherent questions at me through their noses typically from a cell phone that breaks up every couple of seconds I thought it might be appropriate to dole out a few tips on how to deal with support staff on the phone. This is mainly an attempt to help you avoid the curses laid on you by underpaid and often over skilled people dealing with your lack of understanding and empathy for other humans. You'll get your punishment at a later date:
1. History lessons don't necessarily help me help you: While I'm sure you have fond memories of taking that BASIC class in 1979 it really has no bearing on why Outlook is fucked up at the moment. When you start rambling support staff generally stops listening. Unless, of course, it's an otherwise slow day and the person speaking with you periodically mutes the phone to share choice tidbits with his colleagues.
2. Don't make shit up: This works in conjunction with the last one. Don't invent circumstances or regurgitate jargon you read in PC Bullshit this week. No one's needs are served by this. You may feel like you're doing some retaliatory technology cock measuring but you're arbitrarily obfuscating your question and making it more difficult for the person on the telephone to insure that you're actually a human and not one of those automated phone bots set up by a friend as a practical joke.
3. Be more specific: Sacrifice twenty five seconds that would otherwise be invested in a rousing game of solitaire and write down the error you saw. What application were you using? Were you doing something you haven't really done in the past? Maybe you're seeing unexpected results that you're unaccustomed to? The IntarWeb may not be broken. You might just be looking at it wrong. While your agonising tale of lost productivity might be amusing for several seconds at a time the contents of that error message are pretty important.
4. Angrily requesting a supervisor the moment the telephone is picked up will not save you a second of time. Push me and be assured that I will push right back albeit as politely as possible to avoid the wrath that might be incurred by audibly calling you a pig fucker in a room full of people. If you've had previous contact with someone a couple of tiers up from the help desk and they've requested that you contact them directly then ask for that. I love it when people yell things like that at me. Um, I am supervisor. Please choose which landfill you'd prefer as your final resting place. Thank you. Drive through.
5. If you've made a mistake just admit it. You downloaded one of those smiley emoticon packages of spyware and other filth thinking that seeing incredibly annoying animations in your instant messenger client would be cute and distract you from the fact that you're part of a soul numbing bureaucracy that will eventually smash the spirit out of you. Things like that happen, mistakes are made, errors in judgement take place something like every fifth of a second. That's fine unless you work for some secret government cabal agency where they cut fingers off for this sort of thing so don't lie when you need help cleaning it up. Lying might spare you a little ribbing or even a lecture but it won't help diagnose and ultimately fix your problem. Inevitably someone will figure out what you've done so just clear the air, stop trying to make excuses for all of humanity's stupid mistakes and absentmindedness and get things sorted in the beginning.
Okay, that's all I can think of for the moment. I'm actively trying to pry myself out of this job so I can avoid death by a fatal speed ball of stress and boredom. I'm not the right personality type for this sort of work at all and I've done very little of it in the past so hopefully my relative newbie status will provide a tiny bit of clarity. Probably not but venting is also nice.
I'm pretty sure that whichever prodigal marketing genius concocted this handy Vista upgrade chart is pretty much insane. And by 'insane' I don't mean 'brilliant' but the sort of howling at the moon, foaming at the mouth, and picking human gristle from between your teeth before the next meeting crazy. What that little chart really needs are some blink tags or animated graphics to complete the full Space 1999 effect or perhaps replacing the buttons with actual Skittles. Maybe a sound file of that robot booming "Warning! Clean Install Imminent!" or something would really make the whole thing perfect. It is tempting to draw comparisons to Hal but that would attribute too much planning and knowledge to that imaginary malice.
This is probably the only time that folks using the Home edition of XP have ever been pleased with an announcement from MSFT.
A lot of folks have been both criticizing and praising the commitment by someone at Dell to raise the bar of service at Dell to something about 'totally fucking blows.' I've been in the unfortunate position of having to deal with both the alleged support that Dell provides and their equally unfortunate hardware. My work environs are lathered several thick with Dell product and I've seen two fairly new workstations fail catastrophically in the two and a half months that I've been there. I don't use my own workstation for anything other than work which means simply running a pretty basic XP install with a help desk software client, a bunch of SSH terminals, and Firefox running on my desktop at any given time. I've also got the usual handful of configured mail clients (even the dreaded and atrocious Eudora that is so often preferred by retirees) but I don't actually use them for anything other than walking users through settings. If this is indeed a valid initiative instead of a stab for some 2.0 credibility they have a whole lot of work to do.
The problem with announcements is that while they take customer complaints into consideration there is nothing said about what input workers will have in this process. The people who actually have to follow and bear the brunt of Dell's policies ought to have a say in this. Simply saying that customer complaints are being taken seriously will spur a few nods from the entrenched tech pundits but until the folks on the phones and doing direct service have some degree of empowerment to actually help instead of passing the buck along to another person then people are still going to dread using the support. Clarity is also pretty important here as in what exactly is going to happen in terms of policy and making those policies available to the general public in clear terms instead of saddling some outsourced phone grunt in a remote call center with reading the PR speak from a binder and dealing with the anger.
I'm guessing that the only people this is really intended to appease are people teetering between making brand choices and stock holders. The only caveat that I can see here is that people who feel compelled to buy their machines through the largest corporate face available to them aren't the most technically apt or are trying to supply functional mediocrity to large organizations. Can they do better? Oh christ yes. Any movement away from the Brazilesque bureaucracy most often associated with Dell support is going to be a move in the right direction but I'd be willing to bet that they won't take it far enough or stick with it for very long.
I think that i use this is a pretty good idea as the Digg process seems wasted on copy and paste news stories. Preventing people from stuffing the ballot box is probably why they're so strict about being logged in before you can view anything more than the first page. The problem with this is that I'm not very quick on the draw when it comes to new social networking sites (for the obvious reasons) unless they're potentially useful to me. I didn't realize that i use this would actually be useful until after every huge Mac related news site already posted something about it. So, the registration has been pounded until it broke which is understandable when the server is under the strain of a hojillion bored gawkers but the truly genius aspect that makes what could be a simple functionality outage (ie. you can't register for the time being) into a full fledged cluster fuck is the registration requirement.
See, when you click the magic and non-functioning 'register' button and fill out the requested information i use this sets a cookie that marks you as one who has registered but not validated through the next-to-worthless 'click a link in the email you'll never get' method. What this cookie does is prevent you from seeing much of the site at all. Okay, this is mostly my fault. I did some mail server misconfiguration that caused me to lose a couple of days worth of mail. One of the last pieces of mail that I lost was the confirmation/validation mail from i use this. How do you have that mail resent? I have no fucking idea. So, instead of actually participating in what seems like a fun experiment instead I'm looking at it with a secondary browser (Safari) and wishing that people thought all the way through processes like email-based validation which are lame enough without user fuckups and not having a visible way to recover from said fuckups. The worst part is that just browsing the site becomes a pain in the ass after you opt to register. That doesn't seem like powerful incentive to me but then again I may be the only person in the entire universe that has had a registration email eaten by a spam filter or adm-incompetence, right?
It's weird because it seems like a whole lot of hot air is being blown in fifty different directions about data breaches from large organizations via mobile devices most notably laptops and removable storage. Wired has a very superficial look at it that really bothers me. What is frustrating about this sort of sensationalist crap is that the term 'laziness' is bandied around like the desire to work on things away from your crappy cubical in your crappy office where no one will ever shut up for ten seconds to let you actually complete a thought is some kind of conscious effort to shirk the restrictions of data security and dance naked through Dobie Gillis-land handing out social security numbers and home addresses instead of just trying to get shit done. Maybe it's my own experience with being unable to get anything done that doesn't involve whatever popped up on Digg lately that makes me more sympathetic to folks who have been caught up in these sorts of scandals.
One of the most troublesome aspects of cases like this is that more often than not the companies/organizations in question have no secure method for their workers to access confidential information. Lots of places throw out the VPN option and then just pardon themselves from further considering the question. Secure access sucks in almost every organization and making it workable seems to be the very least of things concerning those waving their hands and making grumbling 'Uh-oh's at the situations. To be really blunt, people are going to take work away from their place of work. That is pretty much a given unless you're some CIA spook or something. Upper management types are going to encourage and/or lie about this sort of information leaving an agency because they're more concerned with getting a few more hours of work out of their data mungers than what might happen to the information should they feed it after midnight.
I think some of the ideas in the article are pretty solid thinking but the problem with all of it is that it is just thinking. Encryption is pretty readily broken and doesn't matter a bit if the files are unencrypted or the machine (assuming that, to do along with the image of the worker drone working on reports somewhere without network connectivity, these are Windows machines we're talking about here) isn't locked when not in use. Plain text files is plain text files. In that particular can of worms also lies another problem: if all of this stuff is centralized and kept under the watchful eye (again, where are my goddamned sarcasm tags) of IT security then where are the worker drones accessing it from? Wirelessly in a coffee place? Sounds really fabulous and great. Their own wireless network at home running on a commodity router with no security? Fucked yet again. The whole thing is largely another disaster (with more expense and training this time) waiting to happen.
All of this said and in far too many words, the laziness is really on the part of sites like Wired splashing a little ink over the problem without really exploring what a complex problem it is. I guess those quotes are good enough without any context at all? I sound like a right wing nutcase (first, we kill all of the journalists) but this sort of half assing is pretty annoying regardless of the source.
After continuously reading about WGA again and again it's become pretty obvious that MSFT is insane. Read the comments attached to the story and becomes obvious that even if a fair number of the folks leaving them are cranks there are also a bunch of folks who will eventually either be harassed or intimidated into buying new licenses even though they've got a legitimate OEM copy. The dial up issue is especially annoying as people in countries where net access is doled out in minutes are going to eventually install one of the cracks and be done with it. Paying for MSFT to check in each and every time you login to a machine is not a reasonable expectation. This is made especially ironic by the fact that a good number of the people that have written complaints about the issue were actually trying to the "right" thing by installing the piece of shit to begin with.
The worst part is that all this piece of software really does is open MSFT to yet another lawsuit and this one from angry consumers who've actually purchased the OS instead of legislative moves from states or countries. I can just imagine the people who've tried and failed to resolve this problem installing the patches and feeling justified being 'pirates' for the first time. It just keeps getting worse and worse. If you've actually got investments in MSFT now might be a time to pull that money out. When was the last time you saw a dividend anyhow?
I received the most flattering request ever this morning/afternoon from a fella in West Virginia (he included his mailing address in his email for legitimacy reasons I guess) asking permission to use the style sheet for this site. I felt really great about it until I realized that the design of this site is pure murk designed for my eye that hates and dread contrast. I hadn't looked closely at the way that its set up for a couple of years at least and now I'm serious considering a redesign or, barring the time necessary for that, hunting down another theme I actually like and hacking the hell out of it to make it work the way I want it to. In any case, thanks to Will for making me realize that and for making the alterations I made to Hari Prasad Nadig's theme go a lot further. Now, onward to searching for something new that will likely wound an equivalent number of eyes.
So, I got the new and tremendously expensive machine last night which involved Yoon running me to the local Fed Ex facility to pick it up and then trying to get through all of the all singing, all dancing initial configuration in order to actually use the machine.
My initial impressions: It's godawful fast regardless of whether you're using native applications or the emulated ones intended for the PPC series. In that sense, it's been a pleasure to use. It rips through most simple tasks as quickly as any of my Linux boxes do. I'm pretty pleased with that aspect of it.
The thing gets fucking hot. As many have complained about in various forums, etc, etc, the case is seriously an egg cooking wonder of science. I was ready to box it back up last night and return it but, lo and behold, when I rebooted it this morning the fans actually came on and the surface is not scorch your skin off hot this morning. Again, folks posting their experiences in help forums were pretty much correct: it starts cooling off after a couple of reboots. The only upside is this experience gave me a higher degree of empathy for folks who bought one the earlier versions and are roasting alive. Class action is the sponsored term for the day. not because I think people ought to be suing Apple dry but because Apple especially as the friend to the common men and his creative urges image they've spent their PR dollars cultivating needs to wake up about responding to legitimate complaints from the people who (often faithfully) spend their dollars on Apple stuff. So, mine is still pretty hot but doesn't seem to want to burn me alive or anything.
The screen also makes a lot of noise when running under battery power. This isn't as aggravating for me as it has been for some other people but I would eventually like for it to stop. I've been listening to old This American Life episodes all day so when I've got the plug yanked (trying to keep the battery from turning into a weakling) I don't hear a damned thing. It's pretty strange that it only happens on battery power but, whatever, I'll probably get more ambitious about fixing it when I'm somewhere quiet without access to convenient power and the oscillating whine starts to drive me crazy.
The keyboard sucks and it's taken me a long time to be able to type at any reasonable rate without turning on the Caps Lock key whenever I hit any key on the left side of the keyboard. I would complain about the arrangement of the control keys and such but that would only invite the wrath of the faithful. I'll probably just remap the keyboard at some point so that the control key is where God intended it instead of the totally useless caps lock key. In any case, it still feels like I'm typing on a touch pad or something but I adapted to the slightly strange layout pretty quickly.
Since I practically live in Emacs and OS X is in theory based on *nix, I thought finding a functional version of the GUI editor would be fairly easy and I wouldn't have to look at the ugliness that Emacs under Linux usually is (which I have to say: I don't really spend a whole lotta time just staring at it). Wow. What a colossal pain in the ass it was to find a working version and by working I mean the 'customize' menu doing something other than forking into a million different buffers and a functional ispell because I type pretty fast when provoked. The only version that completely fulfilled my expectations was the Carbon Emacs package which spit out a pretty complete install. Woo hoo. I was a little worried about being able to find all of the applications that I'm comfortable with. I still haven't found an FTP client that works exactly the way I would like it to but I'm not doing a whole lotta remote stuff this weekend anyhow so I'm willing to let that one go for a little while.
It has been a whole lot of fun to mess with an operating system I don't normally have occasion to mess with. I'm going to try to work entirely in the Mac OS for a week or so before I set up Boot Camp and make it a multi-boot machine just for the sake of learning as much as possible.
Okay. I'm going to pose a random question to the void here, specifically for people who spend more time working in a Windows environment and less time simply fixing broken machines: Is there a virtual desktop application that allows switching desktops with the mouse wheel (and here is the really important part) that doesn't fuck with/override the focus of application windows -- I want to be able to use my mouse wheel for scrolling in applications and flipping desktops when the desktop is active. Any clues?
I tried Cool Desktop which does offer mouse wheel switching but was plagued with the above problem even when I set the focus to follow the mouse. When I'm fully installed in the new workplace I might just spend the money to buy Cool Mouse which enables X style copy and paste unless I can find a FOSS solution to that problem. It's funny though because both of the above shortcomings of the Windows shell have always made me wonder how people can live without that functionality. I guess once you ride in a rocket car you want everything to be a rocket car...