After reading one of my favorite blogs this morning, it got me thinking about the Zen of Mac. In the article that I linked to, Shannon mentioned that one of his hangups is not using OS X because it isn’t Open Source. The topic of smart people with hangups is very interesting actually and I would love to talk even further about it, but I am going to talk specifically about the Zen of Mac in this post.
Back in 2002, I was a systems administrator for the administration building at a Caltech, and I was solely responsible for providing support for Dr. Baltimore. Dr. Baltimore is smart. He received a Nobel Prize in his 30’s, he went to MIT, and he was the President of Caltech at the time. He is a mac guy, and that is partially why I was hired to do that job, as I have been into Mac computers for quite some time.
For those of you that remember, it was a huge deal to switch from OS 9 to OS X. It was my responsibility to design and build his OS X laptop and make sure that it was an easy transition. When the time came for me to actually deliver the laptop, things worked reasonably well and were intuitive as he would expect them to be. The punchline of this story is when I finally decided to show Dr. Baltimore the terminal. I think I mentioned something like, “One of the nice things about OS X is that it has a terminal and you can do nice things like……”.
The look on his face was priceless. I don’t remember the exact specifics of the conversation, but it was roughly, “Why would I use a terminal, it is a mac, that is the whole point!”. That taught me quite a bit, as here was one of the most successful and intelligent people on planet earth and he “got” Mac. He didn’t want to think about his computer as his thinking time was spent in other areas like making sure Caltech continued to be one of the top Science Universities and doing research on curing AIDS.
That is the Zen of Mac. You don’t think, it just works. As software engineers, systems administrators, or people that are very technical, it can be difficult to just not think about your desktop computer. The reality is that you are more productive on solving your other problems when you don’t think about your computer, it just works.
So as far as I am concerned, even though I work literally all day on linux machines from a shell, my desktop experience is OS X because it just works and I don’t have to think, my thinking can be devoted to solving my problems. Finally, for those people that are switching from a Linux desktop to an OS X computer, I would give this advice. Don’t think about how you used to do it on Linux, just forget what you know and try things out. OS X is designed to be intuitive and effortless. Fighting it to make it do what Linux does is not the proper approach. You must submit your will, relax your mind and float downstream on the white glow of the macbook pro monitor. Once you surrender your desires, and realize that desire leads to suffering you will truly appreciate the mac.