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October 05, 2008



This is one of the reasons I use a Mac.

The smaller Mac ecosystem has long been counterintuitive in providing (in my opinion) a better experience. I think this is a due to a confluence of factors including Apple's obsessive minimalism and an extremely enthused userbase, but the fact was that if you had a problem it was typically not too difficult to find someone else who had it too.


Couldn't agree more.

In addition to the reasons you gave there is another argument against customization which applies more to software. *You get used to it*. This:

1) Forces you to repeat customization process every time you re-install the software or the machine. If you spent 1 hour on customizing per piece of software on your box this might not seem much if spread over the span of a year or two. But then your box invariably dies, you buy/build another and now you are suddenly facing the prospect of repeating customizations for everything at once. (Yes backups and "transfer my settings" thingies help but not nearly enough).

2) Makes it hard for you to use a machine that doesn't and/or cannot have the customizations for whatever reason. You can usually see this with people who have to fix/maintain/troubleshoot/help with something on other people boxes. Those that customize usually have a very hard time.

I used to laugh at people who used vi as their primary editor since I always installed something much more convenient and powerful on my machines. This was until I had to do lots of work on customer's Unix boxes and discovered that often times vi is the only thing available there.

These days I always buy stock machines, only install software that I absolutely need (and usually make sure I can run it from USB key if needed) and only ever tweak anything if I absolutely cannot live with the default. Saves lots of effort in the long run.

Barry Kelly

I strongly disagree with you. You plumbed one extreme and made a handful of newbie mistakes, and then, burned from that experience, you ran screaming to the safety of true mediocrity :)

On custom hardware: do not, I repeat, do not, use a non-mainstream OS.

Furthermore, think long and hard before using RAID (the boot-up driver issues / repair & reinstall are problematic) and if you do go with RAID, do not choose anything that splits one logical volume over more than one disk; i.e. choose mirroring of some kind.

On pain of random data loss, never choose RAID 0 or JBOD.

If you stick to these two things, pretty much all other problems can be dealt with in isolation. If you have problem X with hardware A, you can search on those parameters. Confounding factors of other pieces of hardware are, frankly, very rare. As long as you don't bring oddball OSes into the mix, you're in good shape.

PS: I was a computer technician for three years, during my last years of secondary school for a year out. I built and upgraded computer systems on a daily basis. I must have installed Windows 95 well over 100 times. PC hardware is very much a commodity, and it is extremely rare that you get two different pieces of hardware from the *same* generation that don't just "plug and play".

Barry Kelly

@Marvin - Re customization issue, I have my own special tree filled with dual-OS custom scripts and executables, so that I have the same environment whether in Linux or in Windows (Cygwin bash in rxvt).

However, in general, there is at most two days or so of pain for the initialization of a new system, and most of it is unavoidable things like installing the latest software packages, like IDEs etc. Actually customizing individual bits of software is generally done in a just-in-time basis, and generally doesn't take more than 10 minutes at most. Amortized, it doesn't add up to much.


And then there's Emacs, configurable to the point of being programmable. However, I still swear by it.


The impending digital transition shouldn't affect you at all. The switchover is for analog transmissions through the airwaves. Analog cable will continue to work fine for as long as your cable provider chooses to support it.


Of course when you and I worked at a certain software company on the other side of the lake, the decision on what hardware was easy, if you understood the prevailing logic. Buy exactly what the OS developers were using for their production machines, regardless of your particular usage (developer environment, home pc, media pc, etc) you were pretty much guaranteed that it would work perfectly out of the box and that all of the drivers would exist and work perfectly :-)

That was my standard operating procedure for years and it seemed to let me have hardware that would be stable and last as long as practical.

Peter H

Tangentially related to your post - As I understand it the digital cutover only affects broadcast TV. If you have cable, what comes over the cable line is up to your cable provider, and is not not at all affected by the government's Feb 17 transition deadline. I have Comcast and so far they have stated they will continue to send analog signals over their cable just like they are doing today.

Michael Zuschlag

Is this where 30 years of personal computers has brought us? Driver weirdness is "inevitable"? Getting new computers to simply work is a "nightmare"? We buy big-name computers, not because they’ve less bugs, but because they have _widely known_ bugs? We live with not-quite-right defaults because anything else could ruin our chances of fixing OEM defects? You’ve identified a new way that users have to adapt to the machine.

A large user community engaged in handling computer failures is not a solution. It’s a sign of a dreadful problem.

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good thing companies are finally starting to release mac backup programs.

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