Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

New 'puter

So I have a shiny new iMac at work now.

It is very shiny. It's also HUGE. And I realized that the large size is actually a design solution: somebody must have realized that if you make the display big enough, you can fit an entire set of computer components in a slightly thicker case, plus you have enough surface area that your sleek industrial-design aluminum case will work as a heat sink and you don't have to have any fans.

The new machine arrived last week, and I'm still using my old linux box side-by-side with it, because OF COURSE my to-do list is a mile long and it's an incredibly bad time to be trying to make the transition to a new computing environment, because that's just how the universe works. But I'm starting to get there.

The other factor is that you don't really realize how adapted you get to a particular setup until you have to change it.

On the hardware side, I can plug my crazy-ass Kinesis ergonomic keyboard right into it with no problem, ditto my trackball. So that's good. (Although I still want to go back in time and tell Apple designers of yore that CTL and ALT keys are plenty, you do not need swirly also! But I switched my keyboard from PC to Windows mode, and I only occasionally notice.) The huge crisp display is of course lovely (now that I turned the brightness down), but it's 90 dpi instead of 72 dpi so I'm going to have to keep making fonts bigger for a while until I find persistent setting on the apps I used regularly.

The software side transition is not quite as smooth. It's unix underneath, of course, so once I've got myself a command-line, things are 99% familiar for the bulk of what I do, at least. (And these days, most of my CLI interaction isn't even on my local machine.) And I'll finally have a copy of Office that can read .docx files, which is a huge improvement. But the UI differences...

Fundamentally, the big difference is that the Mac UI is application-oriented, and I really am much more used to -- and prefer -- a window-oriented approach. But I can cope. With the Spaces app, I have a virtual desktop that's very like the one I am so used to in fvwm. Slightly different kinesthetics to navigate around them, but I think I'll get used to it pretty quickly.

The really, really big thing? The Mac doesn't have sloppy focus.

And not only does it not have it as a standard option, the related behaviors are wired so deeply into the OS that there's really no way to implement it, even as an add-on.

You guys, I can't even tell you. Yeah, Windows is purely click-to-focus, and I'm totally used to it on my laptop, but it's pretty rare that I'm actually trying to accomplish something with it, and when I do try to get serious work done, I notice it.

Seriously, after a day or so this issue was very nearly turning into a dealbreaker for me.

At this point, you either have no idea what I'm talking about, or you are wincing in deep sympathy. Rather than try to explain, I will just point you toward Steve Yegge's rant on the subject, which says everything I would if he hadn't already. It really is like having an air horn go off every time you switch what you're doing.


The has a sloppy focus setting. Which means that, if you're firing off xterms and emacs windows and suchlike from the command line? All those child windows will have sloppy focus relative to one another! And since almost everything I do (except web browsing) is one of these unix-y programs launched from the command line, the problem is sufficiently solved that I no longer feel like throwing the computer out the window every five minutes.

I would still like to have cut-and-paste with select and middle-click instead of swirly-c swirly-v, but yeah, now that I discovered that trick? I think I can cope.

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