28 January 2007

Work environment

Lon's in the USA this week, and since I'm working on a Sunday I feel like I've earned the right to use his office today. In doing so I've discovered my ideal work environment, which I will definitely set up when I get my first real job.

  1. A Mac workstation. I'm presently using my Macbook Pro, but I reckon
    one of those silvery Mac pros would be appropriate if I had a fixed
    location, or even a Mac mini. The computer I actually use isn't that
    important, as explained in (2).

  2. An NX connection to a good computing machine running Linux. I've
    finally managed (see previous post) to get the NX  client working completely on my Mac. For
    those of you who don't know, NX is a "thin client" for creating a
    remote desktop on another machine. Through some magic it makes the
    connection to the remote desktop fast enough to use comfortably (on a
    good network anyway; on the network here it is exactly as responsive as
    sitting in front of the machine).

    I've come to realise that,
    while indispensable for actually doing my every day work, Linux
    desktops are still a pain in the ass to use for other things. Firefox
    and Thunderbird work so well on my Mac that even the relatively minor
    annoyances on Ubuntu drive me crazy. So the bigger things (like the
    inability to get the 64 bit version of Firefox for Ubuntu to display
    Flash, or the fact that very few Thunderbird extensions play nicely
    with the Ubuntu version) are really horrible. Plus, even though I hate
    Microsoft Office, it's impossible to get the rest of the world to stop
    sending me Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. Part of my job involves dealing with these horrible formats and Openoffice just doesn't work. It's miles away from being usable, and half the time can't even open Microsoft files, instead spewing out a garbage exception.

  3. The most important ingredient (and the reason I'm in Lon's office) is Apple's overwhelmingly awesome 30" cinema display. It gives you so much space to work in, combined with the hotness that is Exposé, that I can have my NX desktop and all my Mac applications open and not feel cramped at all.

So there you have it: Mac awesomeness for browsing the web, emailing, playing music and video and reading Microsoft crap, Linux for hard core computing and coding. One might ask why I don't just do the latter on a Mac, since they have an elegant Unix back end. Well, I guess you could, but I'm talking about big computing jobs that require fast processors and loads of memory. Why pay through the nose for a beautiful Mac server when it's just going to hide in the server room anyway? I'm happy with some custom-job (what we usually do) running Linux that costs a fraction as much.

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