Mac-hinations

(Originally posted 2017-03-19.)

I’m probably the last person you should give a new piece of kit to – if you want them to remain productive. 🙂

But I’m probably towards the front of the queue if you want them to exploit the hell out of it. 🙂

So IBM got me a new Macbook Pro for work. This post is about my early experiences with it.

Some Background

It’s fair to say this is not my first Mac; My household is – with this one – now completely Apple.

It started over five years ago with a 13" Macbook Pro, having got fed up trying to run iTunes on Linux under KVM[1].

Along the way two things happened:

  1. A bunch more Macs appeared, eventually replacing everyone’s Windows machines, plus a 27“ ”family" iMac.
  2. A load of iOS devices appeared – in almost all the form factors available .

So we’re an Apple household now.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I moved from Windows to Linux 9 years and 2 laptops ago.

Plus the Blackberry service was terminated and I was given an iPad Air 2. (For what it’s worth I use the Blackberry for calls abroad – as it has roaming still on, and my personal iPhone only over WiFi or in the UK.)

I’d been doing some things with personally-bought software on my own Macs, but this had been most cumbersome. Still, good stuff got done.

You can read about some of my exploits here:

But these are only some of them.

Making A Move

I told myself I might need 2 months as this is a major architectural change for me. In fact it’s been 3 weeks and I’m pretty much there.

It’s taken time when we’re preparing for a big[2] customer workshop in a few weeks time.

I am convinced now I’ll be doing the workshop with my new Mac rather than my old Thinkpad.

I won’t detail how I made the move from Linux on a Thinkpad to Mac. But the mechanics were smooth though extensive[3].

Better Than Before?

Mostly I am a lot better off than before:

  • I have an SSD!
  • Five years have gone by and machines have become a lot faster.
  • The screen is much nicer.
  • I like Macs – hardware and software – anyway.

Those are fairly obvious, but there are some other things.

The wonderful Duet app allows me to use my 12.9" iPad Pro as a second screen everywhere.

But the real pay off is in automation:

  • I have TextExpander doing keystroke expansion. it nags me when I’m typing the same thing over and over to define a shortcut. My collection of shortcuts is expanding fairly fast.

  • I’m using Keyboard Maestro to automate lots of hot key driven stuff. Most notably in IBM Notes and 3270 Emulation. But also for Markdown.

  • Speaking of Host Emulation, I’m using TN3270. It doesn’t help that the keyboard doesn’t have an Insert or Home key, to name but two. So some Keyboard Maestro macros get round that, but not all of them are in this category.

  • I’m using Better Touch Tool for a few custom trackpad gestures: I can swipe up and down to scroll in ISPF. (I taught it to turn these gestures into PF7 and PF8 keystrokes.)[4]

So I’m getting somewhere – and already I’m ahead.

Tidying Up

The tone of this post hasn’t been “see how much better Mac is than Linux” though some of the above I hadn’the managed to do before.

I think the real thing for me is moving (largely) from the kludge that is personal Mac plus IBM-provided Thinkpad to one consolidated device.

So there’s a lot of simplification right there. Plus I now have the Mac with me on trips – so I can rely on it.

It’s good that I had five years personal experience before embarking on switching to Mac at work, but two notes:

  • I’d already started on doing a little work on my personal Mac.
  • I’m accelerating my adoption of Mac productivity tools now it’s “for free real”.

Finally let me recommend two podcast series and the Facebook page associated with one of them:

This has been a personal journey and post (so far). I’m interested in how others have taken to the productivity opportunities with Mac; I suspect most IBMers, frankly are not so far along.

And I think it’s fair to say this has cost me a fair amount of money. But I’m worth it[5]. 🙂


  1. As many people know iTunes is pretty bad under Windows.  ↩

  2. Important (as all customer workshops are) but, more to the point, this is a big mainframe estate.  ↩

  3. And that more to do with bringing stuff over from my home Macs than from the Thinkpad.  ↩

  4. I also set up Better Touch Tool – while finishing off this post – to make Byword on Mac emulate two gestures of Editorial on iOS: Two-finger swipe left to preview markdown as HTML and right to return to markdown editing.  ↩

  5. It’s really hard to value productivity. Perhaps accuracy and frustration are the real currencies.  ↩

Published by Martin Packer

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