.zshrc to the rescue – you gotta love a UNIX-based OS 😉
.zshrc to the rescue – you gotta love a UNIX-based OS 😉
At heart, I’m a Linux guy. For many tasks, I use Emacs (a popular editor among some developers due to its extensibility), with Orgmode as my primary means of managing tasks, recording time, jotting down notes and, at times, trying to manage my calendar.
But there were several problems with this. Firstly, the only mobile client to sync Orgmode files with reasonable reliability, was MobileOrg. Sadly, this project has been discontinued for a while, and to my knowledge it hasn’t yet seen a superior successor. In addition, Orgmode is a great calendar within Emacs, but it’s not so strong outside. And while MobileOrg was “ok”, it didn’t present information in a convenient, easily-interpreted way.
In short, having a text-only, Linux/Android-only solution, was awkward.
Part of the appeal of Orgmode and MobileOrg was being able to keep all data within one’s own infrastructure. As one of MobileOrg’s features is to “sync files from an SSH server”, and Emacs has TRAMP for accessing network locations, this made it possible to get each end talking with the other, and the synchronisation was generally reliable.
But in some ways, using Emacs, Orgmode and MobileOrg – to achieve data security and ultimate privacy – is arguably a case of the tail wagging the dog. Was this the only private-data solution? Probably not. Was it the most convenient? Was Orgmode the right tool for many of life’s repeatable, short-lived events? Definitely not.
Despite trying to use only free, libre & open source software to address this requirement, around 2016 it started becoming clear that simpler solutions existed – albeit involving proprietary software of some kind. Certain diehards might scoff that, if some software only exists in proprietary form, it’s inherently evil and you must build a free/libre version. But such ideals are rarely achievable when your needs as a new parent and business owner outweigh most others.
As I pondered my motives, it became clear to me that controlling my data was more important to me than controlling the tools.
For years on Android, I used CalDav and CardDav syncing tools, which were proprietary plugins that presented calendar and contact “providers” to the OS. These worked great, but finding equivalent staples on Linux was somewhat harder. The time had arrived when I needed desktop access to calendar, task and contact management, that wasn’t based in an Office365 tenancy.
The right move here was to set up Nextcloud. On my small personal hosting box at DigitalOcean [discount referral link], I set up a virtual server to run Nextcloud. Nextcloud provides calendar, tasks and contact databases that are conveniently accessible through CardDav & CalDav.
As I had to work on a Mac in order to test websites in Safari (which accounted for at least 9% of traffic, and often more), it was useful to have syncing of this data there too. And this, unlike some of my earlier grumpiness with all things Mac, was actually a pleasant surprise: macOS actually had great support for CalDav and CardDav.
Do I get the solution I need? Yes. Does it sync well? Yes. Am I happier? Yes.
Not only that, but the downside of Orgmode syncing was that it worked best if restricted to two-way communications. If you added a third or fourth client and tried syncing between all of them, it would quickly become a clusterfunk.
Is Apple the enemy? Well, probably. But better the devil you know, sometimes. Due to the ease of synchronisation with tasks, contacts and calendar in macOS, I slowly warmed up to the idea of replacing my ageing Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with an iPhone. So I did. And arguably, for this requirement, it was a good choice.
Does this mean I’m no longer a Linux guy? Oh no, not at all. I still have my ThinkPad T420S, which was a side-grade replacement for my chunky T420. I use it every day in my work as a Senior Systems Administrator, for one of the UK’s top universities. I still use Emacs and Orgmode as a daily driver for tasks and coding.
But at home, my wife and I share a calendar and contact list across Android and iOS, thanks to the support of industry standard protocols.
Controlling where the data is has served us pretty well.
This is why I hit on @apple. From the article:
This situation has some prominent Mac users up in arms. Forum posts have been popping up at various locations since Mojave’s release and last month, a petition that currently has over 2,800 signatures landed on Change.Org urging Apple and Tim Cook to work with NVIDIA.
— Read on www.forbes.com/sites/marcochiappetta/2018/12/11/apple-turns-its-back-on-customers-and-nvidia-with-macos-mojave/
Sadly the macOS reinstall has been brewing for some time.
Losing count with the number of times this flakey operating system decides it’s had enough of life. And it’s not like I have work to do or anything.
This is a confession of a new Mac user, seeking absolution.
I have a Mac. It’s for work. Unfortunately, I finally came to realise that I cannot reasonably develop web apps to work on iOS and macOS without having access to those platforms for testing. I feel I’ve done exceptionally well to avoid this reality for many years and plough on with the Linux desktop, but building a VM Hackintosh without a proper software license is against my morals and, indeed, the law.
Would I have bought a Mac for personal use? Of course not. There’s no need; I have been a (more-or-less) happy GNU/Linux user for 15+ years. The Linux desktop has provided me with everything I need from a computer, and I’ve enjoyed the reliability of open source software. And I will continue to be a GNU/Linux user.
But … one thing about Linux that is, occasionally, frustrating is the complexity of software. I don’t mean that its typical user software is difficult or overwhelming in Linux. Instead, it’s that there is never the ‘best’ way to do things in Linux; there are multiple, ‘reasonable’ ways. It’s this lack of ‘purity’ about the desktop experience which sometimes confounds newbies, and turns some people off.
From my admittedly limited experience, it seems that people prefer to learn one way to do things and to stick to that way. With all the desktop environment options in Linux, there is no ‘one way’. This is why each platform has its advocates and evangelists, whether it’s Windows, macOS or GNU/Linux.
I feel like I have been spoilt with GNU/Linux, and especially with GNOME 3. To me, there is no better desktop environment than GNOME 3, despite having moments of hair-pulling frustration at it, from time to time. But GNOME 3 is a beautiful desktop: it’s clean and minimalist, its default file system application, Nautilus is more functional than the Mac’s Finder, its handling of multiple workspaces (where Linux is constantly superior) and navigation across those workspaces is much more fluid and natural, and so on.
There are political, social and technical issues with GNOME development and the whole GNU/Linux system at large (let’s not mention systemd here), but if you were to ignore those factors and introduce somebody to ‘the Linux desktop’, I would argue that GNOME 3 (and Cinnamon too, for that matter) present a beautiful interface to enjoy and work in. It’s not perfect, and can be problematic too at times, but it’s flexible and open.
That was a very long-winded introduction, but I felt it necessary to establish my position, before I talk about the Mac.
The problem I have is this: I want to love the Mac, but I don’t. Sometimes, especially in business, you feel you need a commercial product simply because it helps you fit into the world around you. And, when a computer costs you a significant amount of hard-earned cash, it’s got to be something you want. Sadly, I didn’t want this. It was simply a necessity for me to continue doing what I do to earn a living. Therefore, it felt ‘forced’ rather than chosen, or desired.
When you identify with a philosophy, such as I have with the guiding principles of free/libre open source software, you develop a mindset. You become attached to the tools and methodology deriving from that philosophy. It becomes incredibly frustrating when things that were easy on Linux become hard on anything else. You wonder why people put up with all these obstructions to productivity…
Let’s look at a few of these. As a software developer, sysadmin, business person and general user (who is used to the layout of a standard UK PC keyboard), I ran into several problems switching over to a Mac:
So, the question remains, is there enough goodness left in macOS to entice me to migrate over for good?
Are you kidding?!
Less productivity, less freedom, some bizarre defaults, some frustrating impediments to productivity and all backed by a ‘can do no wrong’ philosophy mean that Apple’s products will stay strictly off my shopping list commercially and personally for the foreseeable future.
I won’t be selling my ThinkPad T420. No way, José! But at least I can now do iOS and macOS testing for web apps and site layouts. In that vein, Apple makes great test machines!
And I think I have absolved myself 🙂