My style of work changed pretty significantly last semester: I started working almost exclusively on our laptop, even when in my office on campus. While the desktop PC back home is showing its age a bit, it’s still pretty functional, but it’s tucked all the way into the back of the house. Instead of sequestering myself in the study, I prefer to work at the small desk just off the kitchen. At the office, on the other hand, the 350mhz processor of the desktop PC just isn’t cutting it anymore. Really. The laptop lets me tuck into work just about anywhere (something I’ve learned to discipline), and it does so at a still-reasonable speed. With wifi creeping all over town, I can get online at most of the places I spend time (something else I’ve learned to discipline); so why tie myself to a desktop? Working primarily from the laptop reduces my need to sync files all the time, as well.
But all this work on the laptop has side effects, and I’m not talking about my perpetual hunch and aching trackpad thumb: I’m using Windows almost all the time. Having used linux almost exclusively on all three computers, this is quite a change for me; in part, I blame the iPod, because I chose to use iTunes instead of hack my way around firewire support under linux. And in part I blame poor battery management and even poorer support for sleep/hibernate functions—that is, the things that I like the laptop for don’t work very well under the operating system that, at least until recently, was the one I preferred.
The neat thing about most of the applications that I use regularly is that they’re cross-platform. With the exception of version control, which seems to have some problems with the difference between unix- and windows-style carriage returns (are you kidding me? We haven’t figured that out yet?), all the software I use works just right wherever I use it. There’s nothing stopping me from moving back and forth, but there’s also nothing stopping me from settling on a single platform—one that works—with minimal sunk costs. With cygwin, I can even get a usable shell on Windows. And new applications? I can use them without compiling libraries.
There are significant downsides: Windows keeps asking me to install service pack 2, which I understand breaks everything. Because I blinked before reading the latest security advisory from McAffee, some Korean kid named Hiro just told me that my PC is totally pwned. The tfug guys won’t speak to me any longer, and the Apple crowd keeps kicking me in the shins and saying, “Told ya.”
They were probably right; despite my incessant pressure, Heather (who, by the way, wanted an iBook in the beginning, anyway) has imposed a Newfound Sense of Fiscal Discipline and won’t budge in the face of my ogling the merchandise at the Apple Store. “We just paid off the credit cards,” she keeps telling me. “What good is a credit limit if you don’t use it, I ask?” I anticipate that this impasse will last for a while. In the meantime, at least the laptop knows how to power itself down when the battery gets too low.