A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a Dell Inspiron 6400 to replace my old and quite literally beat-up PowerBook G4 Titanium. The PowerBook is slow, its screen is damaged, its paint’s chipping off, its wireless has never been especially good, and nowadays, I find myself politely wondering when the hard disk is going to simply keel over. It’s done an amazing job over the last six years, but I felt that it was time to let it take a much-needed rest.

Because I’ve been a diehard Mac user for nearly ten years now, I initially planned to get a MacBook. It was a reflex action. Need a computer, get a new Mac. Yet on further reflection, I began to think that maybe getting another Mac wasn’t the best idea. I do have two working Macs, after all (at least for now), I’ve been wanting a Linux machine, and you really can get more bang for the buck hardware-wise by buying a generic PC. I eventually caved into this line of thinking, and, With great trepidation, I finally settled on the Inspiron.

Overall, I’ve been quite happy with the machine. The machine came with an absolutely beautiful 1680x1050 display, the machine is fast (it easily clobbers my dual G5 in anything I try), and, to my slight surprise, Ubuntu 7.04, minus the install process, has been a dream to use (although in fairness I should point out that I am veteran of Slackware 3.0-era of Linux, so my sense of a dreamy, easy-to-use Linux is probably warped, to say the least).

So, I’ve put the PBG4 in my closet, along with my Newton 2100 and my Handspring, just another old device that I don’t use but can’t bare to part with.



If anything, over the last couple of weeks, I find myself using the PowerBook more heavily. And it’s not that I find OS X easier to use, or prettier, or anything like that.

It’s that, after having used TextMate for the last couple of years, I honestly just can’t stand going back to the likes of Emacs.

“What?!” I hear my devoted reader(s?) cry. “But, like, you just blogged about how you use Emacs for like everything! What gives? Where’s the love, man? Where’s your lispy love?”

I have a confession to make. I do use Emacs all day at work. It does let me have the same editing environment on my Mac and my PC, and that is a boon to my productivity. I honestly think ECB, CEDET, JDEE, EDiff, and even the much-maligned Eshell are beautifully written, wonderful packages. And although I gave up using Emacs as my mail client after we switched to Exchange at work, I still have Gnus rearing to go the second I change my mind.

But here’s the thing: I’d really just rather be working in TextMate.

I won’t lie. TextMate can’t do everything that Emacs and my carefully crafted dot-file can do, and there are definitely some things that TextMate does far worse or not at all. (I’m pretty sure you couldn’t write a TextMate plugin even dimly resembling GUD, for example, which is sad, because extensions like GUD played a big role in drawing me to Emacs initially.) But what it really comes down to is that while Emacs may operate the same way everywhere, TextMate to me feels as if it acts the right way, if only on my Mac.

Rather than having my choice of carting around a ridiculously large .emacs with key remappings or simply using the arcane and contorted control and meta combinations everywhere, TextMate honors and extends normal Mac OS conventions in a good enough way that I don’t feel compelled to readjust everything. The third-party packages for TextMate are generally far easier to use, more transparent in operation, and more compact than their Emacs equivalents. Bundles can easily be swapped in and out without learning anything more complicated than drag-and-drop. The GUI actually looks like the GUI that’s used in every other program I’m in all day, yet manages to provide me with exceptional power anyway—and even passes on some of that power to my scripts. TextMate really has become the environment that I go to when I just want to get things done, right now—and at least in that sense has completely supplanted Emacs as my editor-of-choice.

I don’t think I’m ever going to completely give up Emacs, but my workflow in Emacs feels convoluted enough that returning to TextMate always leaves me feeling…relieved. Given the choice between my stolid PowerBook with TextMate and my blazingly fast Inspiron with Ubuntu and Emacs, I’ve found myself taking the PowerBook more often than not. I’m keeping a very close eye on e, but after having tried to use it for a few days, I feel strongly that it’s just not there yet. (And even if it were, its developer won’t be releasing a Linux version for awhile, which kind of defeats the point of me having a Linux laptop.)

I’m not sure that the Inspiron was a bad purchase, but I’ve definitely learned not to underestimate the value of your existing software packages when choosing a computer. At least for me, TextMate will be the quintessential example of why it’s so hard to give up the Mac.