Monday, November 11, 2002

Nov 11 2002

I have completed my two-week vacation from the internet.

And not only was I okay, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The internet — as wonderful as it can be — tends to be a massive time sink, and I found that keeping my distance from it gave me some perspective. I still don’t plan to renounce the digital world, but…well, now there’s a “but.”

These past two weeks have given me the opportunity to prove to myself that I am not defined by my internet connection. Nobody consciously thinks that they are defined by anything (“Me? Why, yes, I am defined by the clothes I wear”), but even if you aren’t, proving to yourself that you aren’t can boost your morale and confidence quite a lot.

Beyond that, this experience has made me appreciate our vast digital toolset. I can live without e-mail or Travelocity, but e-mail and Travelocity are undeniably valuable tools.

On the gripping hand, I had to forego MapQuest several times recently, and got directions the old-fashioned way, with a physical map. I was a bit worried about this, as I’d have to……find my destination and write out the directions myself. Horrors. But not only was it surprisingly quick and easy to do, I internalized the route better than I would have by slavishly following MapQuest’s step-by-step directions. MapQuest is a great tool, but it’s just a tool.

[iBook]

In other news, I bought an iBook on Saturday. Yes, I’ve gone over to the Dark Side.

Seriously, here’s my reasoning: I’ve been itching to buy a reasonably up-to-date computer system, and I’ve wanted a portable for years now. I also want to edit videos and make animations, which the Mac is designed for. I didn’t want to spend too much money, so I settled for the iBook.

And I must admit, it is a beautiful piece of technology. I expected MacOS X to be too cartoony, but in my experience, it’s more slick and polished than cartoony. Moreover, each flashy effect has a purpose. The “Genie” effect, for example, is used to minimize and maximize windows, and it’s an accurate representation of what’s happening to the window. It’s simply flashier than Windows’ simple animation.

In terms of raw functionality, OS X strikes me as extremely well-designed. Everything’s just a lot simpler to use on my iBook than it is on Windows, without sacrificing functionality. Things just work. I plugged the iBook into my home network, and not only was I immediately connected to the network, I was immediately online. No configuration. Boom, I’m online.

I have my quibbles; I dislike the fact that I can close all the windows of an application, but the application will still be running. Sure, it can be convenient, but it’s magical functionality (“Ha ha! You thought you got rid of the application, but it’s actually still running!”). There are bugs here and there, and the exact mapping of the GUI over the Unix BSD layer is sometimes mismatched slightly.

But all of that is forgiven for what is possibly my favorite feature of MacOS X, something I’ve been wanting for years: speech recognition as a command interface. I’m not talking about dictation; I’m talking about saying out loud, “Computer, quit this application” and the application quits. I’ve been using it ever since I found it, and it’s a fabulous way of interacting with your computer, particularly when trying to launch an application. Rather than hunting through a menu, I just say, “Navi, Unreal Tournament” and UT loads (yep, I downloaded the demo…and it’s a blast).

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