Too Many Computers

That title's not meant as a complaint. It's just that I've noticed that over the years I've tended to use fewer and fewer system add-ons and customizations than I once did. And I realize that it's because I use so many different computers. There used to be a time when I would customize the hell out of my Mac. After installing all my apps I'd get to setting up my user account, tricking out all my apps so that they behaved just like I liked, and installing and configuring any number of productivity utilities to make my life easier. It took forever, and it was a huge pain, but once it was done I could navigate my computer quickly and effortlessly.

Those days are pretty much over at this point. I no longer do much to change the default configuration of my home account in any meaningful way. I barely customize the Dock. I may change the Desktop background. On my primary computers I can't live without a pasteboard history, so on those machines I'll install the excellent(!) PTHPasteboard. And there are certain Terminal settings I really enjoy. But that's about it. I don't even install my beloved Butler anymore.

Too Many Computers!

There are certain things that have contributed to this. For one, Leopard's Spotlight is a great application launcher, largely mitigating the need for Butler. (Yes, there are other things that Butler does that I miss, but I can live without most of them — but application launching is a deal-breaker.) Spaces helps a lot with window management, so I don't need the sort of hot corner stuff I used to do. And the newer Mac keyboards have iTunes control built in.

But the main reason for this change (or lack thereof) is the plain fact that I'm simply touching too many computers in the course of the day to ever really consistently customize them. And if it's not consistent, it's not going to be very efficient, because every time you go to a different computer your system breaks. I was getting to the point where I'd go to one of the many computers I have to access on a regular basis — a staff member's machine, or some workstation somewhere — and I'd start frantically hitting the keys for some custom key-command I'd set at home, getting frustrated when nothing happened. At some point I realized that this inconsistency was actually hurting my productivity. So I made the conscious decision to learn a new way.

Over the past year or so I've gotten used to working with the system in as out-of-the-box a configuration as possible. Which ain't half bad, I have to say. Apple has really done a fine job of making the initial user experience good for both new and experienced users alike. It's quite remarkable. And I love not having to set much up beyond installing my apps. It's akin to how I felt when I gave up my car to move to Manhattan. You think you'll miss it, but you end up realizing what a burden it actually was. It's kind of great to have everything I need on any newly installed Mac. And now that I don't rely on that other stuff, I don't miss it at all.

I know as "power users" we like to add to and configure our machines out the wazoo, and I've certainly been no exception. But as a SysAdmin, I have to say, the less of this I do, the better my user experience has been. Surprising, yes. But totally true.