When much of your life revolves around computers, its complicated to keep everything straight. I have a computer at home with a big screen, a computer at work with two big screens, and a laptop that travels around with me. Two of the machines are Mac, one is Linux. All three have important functions. But keeping them all in sync is a nightmare — bookmarks, preferences, passwords, documents, music libraries, calendars…everything drifts apart.
At the same time, as much as I absolutely love the flexibility and control I get in Linux, I’m finding myself drawn back towards the Mac in almost every instance. There is a really amazing developer community focused around the Mac platform that makes incredibly useful, well-designed little applications that do specific things very well. On Windows, in general the apps are a nightmare to understand and use. On Linux, they’re generally unfinished, unpolished, and loaded with too many useless features. Something about the Mac and Mac users and the Mac development environment encourages power and simplicity.
Some people respond to the annoying of being out of sync by putting components of their life online. They use GMail and Backpack and Yahoo Calendar. I don’t like that approach because I want constant access to my data, but, more importantly, I want constant *ownership* of my data — I want everything associated with me to be with me, accessible to me, manipulable by me, easily transferred by me between people and machines and programs, in open formats, and in only my posession, and no one else’s. I’ll make exceptions for convenience (like having my mail server store copies of my messages), but I’m uncomfortable with big companies owning data that is mine. I’ve talked about these problems, and some of the solutions, before.
So I’ve switched from using Thunderbird, which is probably a better mail client, back to Apple’s mail. I’ve stopped trying to find a better calendaring solution and just gone back to iCal. I’m using the Mac’s built in Address Book. None of these programs are the best at what they do (Mail in particular is bothersome, iCal is slow as molasses), but they all integrate together nicely without being one huge monolithic app storing things in proprietary databases. With all the little Apple apps I get a seperation of function, easy access to my data, everything automatically indexed in Spotlight, and, most importantly, access to a wealth of little apps and utilities that make everything work so much better together.
In a later post, when I’m more settled with my new environment, I’ll elaborate on all of the little apps that help me get through my day, and how darn useful it is to be able to create my own environment and process using all these neat little bits, all working together with the same data. In the meantime, however, my problem still remains of having three different machines (well, four, if you count my MythTV box, which stores my movies and TV shows and runs Linux), and no good way to keeping them in sync. So I think my plan is going to be to centralize everything around my laptop, and, with any luck, get a newer, more powerful laptop at some point in the near future. That will ensure that I always have everything I need at my fingertips and, combined with my new interest in using tools to track my appointments, todos, and the like, will with any luck make me more organized and productive.
I don’t feel completely overwhelmed, I don’t have unnaturally high stress levels, but I do have a heck of a lot of things that I need to do at work, tons of different projects and tasks assigned to me, and lots of commitments. Anything I can do to better organize, prioritize, and schedule those commitments will be helpful, and I think my new computer setup will help with that. I’ve also purchased Getting Things Done because it is so popular in geek circles, but how far I’ll take that system is an open question at this point.