The Joy of Software

January 21, 2007

A friend of mine at work is on the verge of buying his daughter a laptop for college. A year ago he got his son an Intel machine for college, but this spring he is looking at Macintosh laptops as she is going into graphic arts. In a way I envy him, as he gets to explore a new operating system and a new set of applications. I'll get to vicariously experience his journey as he is already looking to me for advice about software and setup.

I've always liked exploring new software. My Applications folder on this machine has nearly 250 entries; I download new software every week if not every day. A part of my delight with new software is seeing how they did it. What controls did they include on the menu bar? How are the panels and dialogs arranged? I also like playing with the customization features, can I select the font, is there a less obtrusive theme for the interface, et cetera.

My latest "new" software has been the latest version of all the instant message chat clients. For years I have used one or more of the multi-protocol replacement tools, that allowed me access to all the messenger services from one piece of software. The Mac OS X tool in particular, Adium, allows a tremendous amount of customization and setup. Switching back to the native clients has been eye-opening in that I can't control the look and feel of the chat window or the contact list. And I am not at all used to having blinking ads embedded in my software.

In a week I'll be starting a new job. Some of the software I'll use there will be familiar, tools I've used for years. Setting them up will be comfortable and affirming, like putting on favorite old clothes. Some of the tools will be new and I'll get to explore their nooks and crannies. I'm looking forward to both experiences.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.