New Workstation Trials

Rather than bore you with minutia of my move (eg. shit, I need to get a shower curtain; why is all my toilet paper on the moving truck; I'm getting really sick of sitting on the floor while I wait for the moving truck) I thought I'd talk a little bit about something that seems to occupy a bunch of my thinking these days: how I'm setting up my work-desktop computer. It's trivial, an on going process, and of minimal interest to most other people.

So I think I'll make a series of it. There's this post, and another that I've written, and a few other thoughts that I think fit in. And the truth be told, I've been spending so much time recently packing things, attending to chores and dealing with other crap, that it'll be good to have an excuse to do some writing again.

Here's the setup: I have an iMac of contemporary vintage for a workstation, which is of course running OS X 10.5 Leopard, by default. Here are the challenges I found myself facing:

  • OS X is a great operating system, but I'm not a mac guy anymore, much to my surprise. I installed quicksilver pretty early on, but the truth is that my head isn't shaped that way any more. The mouse frustrates me, and all the things that make OS X great I don't really use.
  • All my other machines and working environments for the past while have been linux based, and I've basically come to the conclusion that having one environment that's shared between a large number of boxes is preferable to having different and unique operating environments.

For a long time, I got the unified operating environment by virtue of only using one portable computer; now I just keep my laptop and desktop the same (more or less) get a very similar result. This is probably worth it's own post, but I was vary wary of having a work machine that was too radically different from what I'm used to and what I use personally.

So if I need to run Linux, there are really only three options:

  1. Level OS X and just run ubuntu/debian/etc.
  2. Set up a dual boot OS X/Linux system, and switch as I need to.
  3. Run Linux in some sort of virtual machine environment like VM Ware or VirtualBox.

Option one is simple, and I liked the thought of it, but it seems like such a waste and what if there was some mac-specific app that I wanted to try? And it removes the option of using OS X as a back up... While I'm no longer a mac guy, I do think that OS X's desktop environment is superior to any non-tiling window manager for X11/Linux.

Option two works, certainly, but I hate rebooting, and in a lot of ways option two would be functionally like option one, except I'd have less accessible hard drive space, and I'd have to reboot somewhat frequently if it turned out I actually needed to use both. Best and worst of both worlds.

Option three is frustrating: virtual machines give some sort of minor performance hit, integration between host and guest is difficult and confusing sometimes, and guest operating stability is largely dependent upon host operating system stability.

Ultimately I chose option three, and as I used the machine, the fact that performance suffers a hit is totally unnoticeable, and though it took a bunch of futzing, I think I've finally settled into something that shows a lot of promise of working. (Ed. note that I've got a bit of a production lag on the blog.)

I think that's sufficient introduction. There'll be more, don't worry.

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