De-Applification Part 1: The Long Road Here

I have come to a difficult decision: I need less  in my life.

I have been using Apple hardware and Software semi-exclusively since around 2007. I was very impressed when I first saw a consultant my company had brought in who used a Macbook Pro. That company I worked at in 2006 was a Windows-only shop, and I had naively assumed that was just what to expect. In my time at Universities, I had fallen in love with the GNU/Linux ecosystem. In 2006, I thought “Well, this is industry I guess” and started the long tedious battle for productivity against my nemesis: Windows XP.

The consultant had shown me some amazing things in a very short time. The first was, yes, this fancy laptop looked impressive. After working with it first hand, I learned it had very respectable hardware, and was running BASH natively. I felt right at home, the sludge and frustration of working in Windows COMMAND.COM world was suddenly lifted. He also set up VMWare Fusion or Parallels running a Windows VM. We hooked a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the Macbook. One of us could be sitting at the Macbook using the built-in display and keyboard/trackpad using Leopard and the other less fortunate person (me) could sit at the external display and keyboard using Windows. The application had to work in IE and so the Windows side would usually just have a browser window while the IDE and application server ran on the host OS.

Within a year of that experience, I had other co-workers who were enthusiastic about Macs and Mac OS X. I had also gone to a couple of conferences where, unsurprisingly, most of the presenters used Macbook Pros. I saved up and bought a used 15” 2006 Macbook Pro. Not only was it lighter and faster than the ugly craptop my company had issued me, it looked fancier. Slowly but surely I moved to doing all my development on the Macbook Pro and let the craptop perform the one function it was fit for; a hot paperweight.

Those were happier times using Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and there was very little to complain about. Expose` seemed like magic to me. I could hit F3 and all of my windows would scale down to properly proportioned versions where all of them were visible. Macports was similar to FreeBSD and enabled most open source packages I wanted. VMWare Fusion wasn’t cheap, but it let me bring up IE as well as Office to open proprietary documents that every company I worked at loved. After buying a replacement battery, the Macbook Pro seemed to run noticeably longer than the craptop did. This, despite having replaced the CDROM with a second battery on the craptop.

All things, especially good things, eventually come to an end. The first signs were subtle little annoyances when I upgraded to 10.6 Snow Leopard. Expose` didn’t work the way it used to. It no longer spaced the windows proportionally across the screen. I may be inaccurately recalling this from memory, but I believe it made all windows the same size (why?). There was a hack that I applied to make it function in the old way, but it just seemed odd to me at the time that Apple did this. Why was I suddenly fighting my old war for productivity against this fancy operating system?

And then there was 10.7 Lion. This was the first time I honestly wondered if I had made the wrong choice in buying into the Apple ecosystem. I stumbled through that steaming pile of skeuomorphism, and 10.8 Mountain Lion was hardly an improvement. None of the changes served any benefit for my uses of the computer, but worse than that, seemed like an increasing set of fancy obstacles. Take your pick; “natural” scrolling, iCloud, Gatekeeper, Mission Control replacing Expose`, Springboard, or Spaces being eradicated. One by one features that I relied on were mutating into less useful variants, or going away completely.

10.9 Mavericks, the first non cat release with a fancy California name, is the last release I have used for any extended period of time. I find the Yosemite look and feel revolting. I realize I can’t run Mavericks forever, as security updates eventually become “upgrade features” for OS vendors. This leads me to the painful conclusion that Apple’s concepts of what an operating system should be is about as far removed as possible from mine. Realistically, I have to choose to either ignore my instincts and just get used to OS X caring about as much for user preference as Gawker cares about privacy or hit the eject button. Instead of fancy OS’s named after fancy California places with new, fancier California fonts, I’m done.

I plan on documenting how I do this in sequential posts because this will not be an overnight thing. Wish me luck!