Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy days and book reviews

I'm thrilled to now report that I have addressed my biggest user-interface complaint about OS X: I found a package that eliminates the brain-dead resize-only-works-on-the-bottom-right-of-windows constraint! Props go to my colleague, Markus, who did some clever Google-brand searching upon hearing me bemoan my Mac's limitations. Without further ado, the answer: The WindowDragon module for the Application Enhancer (APE). Now I've got Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-Button2 assigned to drag the window (no matter where on click on it) and Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-Button3 assigned to resize the window. It's just like my Scheme Constraints Window Manager (Scwm) which I miss so dearly! I think it'll still be a while before I'm able to make windows dance around algorithmically by writing Scheme code... oh well!

Another quick note: I selected a couple of books to read to soak wisdom for long-time-Mac hackers, and can now report on that experience. I bought Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Tiger Edition and find it generally useful to skim, but occasionally annoying to read. In particular, the author, David Pogue, continues to insult his readers even chapters in by always reminding them that instead of Ctrl-clicking, they can use the right mouse button. I suppose his insistence on making such remarks is only partially his fault as the Apple designers should just admit that multiple mouse buttons are substantially more expressive than one and ship the Mac with two buttons and a scroll-wheel!

The other book that I've skimmed through is Brian Jepson and Ernest E. Rothman's Mac OS X Tiger for Unix Geeks. It's got a broad but cursory treatment of lots of details about how you can find the Unix behind OS X, and how to make the best use of the various tools we know and love from that background even inside the pretty Mac exterior. The book walks a delicate line between just pointing out obvious command-line utilities such as top and providing subtle details about how OS X hides some Unix structure that would otherwise be tricky to learn. I'll recommend the book to folks who do have a Unix background, especially those who aren't really Unix Geeks.