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November 17, 2004

more geeky thoughts

I'm currently using the Marsedit beta to edit the blog. One of the new features in the beta got me to thinking again about the Unix Way versus the Mac way, and the Windows way for that matter.

In Unix operating systems (Solaris, Aix, Irix, linux and the various BSDs) the single most important application is your text editor. You configure the system, write your apps, do almost all your work in it. The choice of text editor is religious, with flame wars and derision rampant between the partisan user of vi, emacs, nedit, jedit, pico, etc etc. Unix geeks patch together apps quickly out of text files, scripts and command line applications in the terminal. Unixoid operating systesm come with tons of command line applications and scripting languages for free, and more are available for free download. If i were a real geek i'd have written an XML-RPC script to post this blog entry from the command line. Real hackers use ImageMagick to edit their photos on the command line. Unix being Unix, there are also tons of applications to do things in a mac liek like way as well, from the Gimp for image editing to knock offs of the Mac Finder or windows Explorer.

The Mac way is to use custom applications for everything. MarsEdit, Ecto, Archipelago or Radio for blog editing. SubEthaEdit for collaborative editing. Dreamweaver for web page editing. Photoshop for editing images. BBedit for almost everything else. You configure the system with System Preferences and with the Plist editor. Work flow automation is done with scripts or pay to play apps (for instance I use FolderOrgX to automatically move everything i download or drop into a folder to a subfolder named with the date i moved/downloaded the file--you have no idea how much this has helped me keep track of all the stuff on my hard drive). Most pay to play and freeware applications are scriptable. Scripting isn't as common as in Unix, but you have almost all the same choices for scripting languages, plus Applescript. You also have all the command line applications as in unix, as well as the same unix text editors (remember the ads, there is Unix under/next to Aqua). A real OS X geek could in fact write their blog post in the same text editor as the unix geek and post it to her blog with the same script the unix geek wrote for unix. Their just more likely to write it in BBEdit, and post it via an Applescript that uses MarsEdit (this is the new beta feature that got me thinking).

The windows way is similar to the mac way, but with workflow automation being handled mostly by pay to play applications and custom made Visual basic apps. VB is not provided for free, it's a pay to play application. Some VB functionality is built in to M$'s pay to play Office products. You can get some of the free scripting languages, few people do, and they're problematic in usage.

The toy collector in me likes playing with all the neat Mac applications, and looking for what I've taken to call the Holy Left handed wednesday pliers, the perfect application that does one thing perfectly, the way you want. The ideologue in me loves the idea of small parts loosely joined, the Unix Way, not continuously reinventing the wheel. Even though I'm unable to do very much that way not being a programmer. So part of me would like a small little application or script that BBEdit, vi, pico or emacs can call to post to the blog rather then the way I do it now. Just like part of me rally wants a cellphone that is nothing but a little black box in a pocket that has limited functionality but wirelessly interfaces well with my PDA and a wireless head set.

OS X is perfect for this kind of logical inconsistency/hypocriticallness/constant change of philosophy. Windows isn't. Almost no third party shareware or pay to play applications are scriptable, and if they are you are almost always limited to VB or VBscript, or some other proprietary language. (Application development in Windows is a nightmare as well, it's much easier in OS X--much easier then the unixoid OSs--is was able to follow instructions from a web site and write my own html editor on the free dev tools).

As a disclaimer, I'm not a geek though I play one in cafes. I never settled down and learned any unixoid or OS X text editor to any degree with the exception of TextEdit, the text/word processor included in OS X). I can't remember key combos for any of them, and I don't use any one more often the others (with the exception of vi, which i just don't use at all). My machine is littered with the damn things, and I even collect reviews of them. I don't program or write scripts but find most text editors are biased towards people who do, and not toward writers, especially not toward writers who can't type, forget to capitalize words, need to keep a searchable database of text snippets handy, and are easily distracted.

Here's a MacDevCenter article on the various text editors available for OS X.

New version of SubEthaEdit.

Posted by parody at November 17, 2004 02:47 PM

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