Recently the stars aligned, the Perseid meteors streaked across the skies and I knew it was time to buy a MacBook Pro. I’d flirted with the idea for a long time and combining last weekend’s Massachusetts tax holiday and an IBM employee discount pushed me over the edge. I don’t know if I truly saved a dime though, because I decided to upgrade to the 2.4Ghz MBP, and tossed in a AppleCare plan after watching a friend be thankful to have it when his logic board died. The Cambridge Apple Store was packed with others who had the same idea, and after filling out an unusually high amount of actual paperwork it was mine.

I’m very impressed with OS X and the Apple hardware. Kudos to them for making it trivial to rebind the useless Caps Lock key, but I’m not yet accustomed to “Cmd + ~” to switch windows or the use of Cmd / Ctrl / Alt. I’ll spare the web another OS X review. As a pragmatist, I like using the tool that suits the job (I like Ruby and Java, for different reasons) and tend not to go too crazy over eye candy or it being sufficiently anthropomorphic. Things work well, nice UI with UNIX under the hood. Good stuff.

Still, I’m not a “switcher” in that I’m not planning on annointing any one machine. Moreover, at this stage it feels strange to store data on just one local hard drive. I want access to my data wherever I am. Of course, much of it lives on the web (Gmail, etc.) already but not all of it. The rest I’ve been tackling with:

  • Personal Subversion repo. Easy way to share data between machines, get version history and other SCM goodness. Simple to set up and backup. Good place to store my scripts, typical configs, Eclipse preferences, shell rc files, Emacs settings, etc., so that each new machine feels like home. This is one reason I'm a fan of having an inexpensive VPS like Slicehost.
  • Web bookmarks are my security blanket. Prior to switching to I'd been Perl munging my bookmarks file to prettier HTML and putting that on the web for years. Now I've been using the FireFox bookmark extension that adds a toolbar. (This is the more full featured one than their simpler extension.) I tag links with a specific label and then use the "Bundles" view to add just on those most often used bookmarks to the FireFox toolbar. Others seem to like FoxMarks, but I haven't tried it.
  • I use Password Safe to manage my obscene number of accounts and passwords. It is an open source app that encrypts account info using the Twofish cipher algorithm and has front ends for Windows, OS X and Linux. The data file goes put in my svn repo and I try to keep them in sync since manually merging them is painful.
  • The biggest challenge is my 60+ GB (and growing!) collection of music and photographs. The programs I use, iTunes and Lightroom, are both cross platform, but I haven't got a good flow for sharing the data and metadata. I recently picked up a LaCie 500 GB external hard drive (although it is more fun to say "half a terabyte") for backup and sharing. It is often whisper quiet but from time to time the fan gets rather loud. Other reviewers don't report that, so maybe I'm just unlucky. With iTunes, there are web-based sharing options like Simplify Media or or ways to put the iTunes library on an external drive. Unfortunately Lightroom doesn't support a network filesystem, presumably to avoid corruption of the SQLite database it utilizes. (There does seem to be a Windows "subst" hack to trick LR.) More investigation needed here to find a better solution. </ul>