Unity and time

July 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm
filed under Technology
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I upgraded my work machine to our internal version of Precise Pangolin, Ubuntu 12.04. I heard a lot of hue and cry about Unity and finally got to experience it for myself. Honestly, it’s not that bad.

Of course, that said, I still don’t quite like it. The best way to put it is that it’s in an uncanny valley between traditional-ish Linux/Windows window management and Mac OS X window management.

I’m thinking here about alt-tabbing doing double duty as a switcher between windows and applications, depending on how you use it. The Exposé feature— when you click on something in the, er, dock— is a nice touch, but I don’t see an obvious way to bring up that view with the keyboard combo (or mouse combo, for that matter).

The implementation of multiple desktops seems more stilted and less fluid. It’s not as good as Mission Control, in that there’s no straightforward way to look at all of your windows in the context of a workspace. Ironically, I don’t think it’s as good as Openbox or Gnome 2.x’s implementation, either; both of those are substantially more lightweight and simple.

I lived with it for about a day, but maybe I need to try it for longer.

Adventures in Linux

I had hacked together some Openbox environment previously. Unfortunately I still can’t quite get it working the way I’d like. And that’s really what it comes down to, these days.

Linux, or possibly just Ubuntu, is great for getting work done as long as you can refrain from trying to fix anything that isn’t working quite right.

At this point, I’m looking at maybe going back to awesome. I used that for a year or so before I got tired of never having figured out how to get a decent clock widget.

Alternatively I might finally switch to Xmonad. I have been picking at Haskell off and on, though considering how little Lua I learned as a result of futzing with awesome, I’m not sure how relevant that’ll end up being. From glancing at a few example configs, it seems more like you need to learn the DSL than Haskell syntax.

Time

This is how I end up doing a lot of fake work. I’m sure I’ve linked to it before, but Marco’s bit about moving up the stack, or grown up computing is very apropos here. Taken together, a few things are becoming clearer.

Time is a resource you can’t get more of. You can prioritize it as you like— call it optimization if you want. Even if you don’t prioritize it, some de facto prioritization will emerge, and it’ll likely be less coherent than something you’ve thought about in any depth. To wit, in college I played a shit-ton of video games. It was fun at the time and I look back at that time fondly. But I didn’t think much about how I was spending my time beyond that. I could’ve spent it programming, which I enjoyed then and still do, instead.

Now that I have a job, I have less time. Unfortunately as you get older, subjective time passes more quickly, so that plus 40+ hours of work in a week don’t leave you with much.

So when it comes down to prioritizing how I want to spend my time, tweaking this and that— even if it’s due chiefly to my own lack of discipline— is pretty close to the bottom. In practice, the lack of near-infinite customization in such as Mac OS X, and the reasonable out-of-the-box experience, mean that I end up feeling a lot more productive. I didn’t want to be one of those Mac-only people but I have to be realistic about what works for me.

Of course, that said, can I justify swapping out a rather beefy Linux workstation for an approximately as beefy Mac Pro? I don’t know, man. I don’t know.

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