Desktop preferences

2012-06-21, , Comments

Paul grumbled about the lack of new content on and since he’d just bought me lunch I thought I’d better do something about it. He also said he didn’t like the stuff about algorithms and maths. Well, that makes my life easier too.

I’m moving jobs — the lunch he paid for was a leaving do — and my employers kindly allowed me to buy this macbook pro at a reasonable price. Of course I had to wipe and reinstall it. It took an hour and a half to fill the hard drive with zeros and a similar amount of time to load a few ones back on1.


Installation done, I set about customisation. The official term is preferences but annoyances would be more accurate: you fix things which irk you before they cause real pain or, worse, you become immune to them. Typing hurt until I set key repeat to the max. Thomas Guest’s macbook pro is a lousy name. I’ve used Itchy before and I like it so I’m using it again. I booted Safari off the dock and stood Chrome in its place. I undocked some other things which I didn’t recognise by their icons and were obviously of no use to me. By now I’d seen the galactic login backdrop too many times. I’ve never found a customisable preference for it but google told me what to do.

$ sudo cp Downloads/matt-burns-pylon.jpg \


Actually, that’s pretty much all I needed to fix. Now it really was about preferences I prefer. Aquamacs. Skype. I chose two pictures for my desktop backgrounds. What you want on a desktop — no, what I want on my desktop — is something gorgeous but not distracting, something personal but not too personal, something which works in widescreen, something of a high enough resolution, something which doesn’t get spoiled when application windows are slathered over it. I went with a couple more Burnsy’s.

The Second Severn Crossing

I remember the second Severn crossing being built. I’d just moved to Bristol, joining a company which did virtual reality. The hardware was too expensive and the software too slow but we were a good team. Summer lunchtimes, we would play frisbee on the grassy hill by the Almondsbury garden centre. You could see the estuary, the new concrete pylons stepping into it, and, rising to the East, the towers of the original suspension bridge. Anyone who cycles around Bristol knows this view well. Interval training with Owen, we spin out along Passage Road and catch our breath before turning back.

More recently I’ve moved to Swansea but kept my job in Bristol, crossing from and to Wales under the river twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, working from home on Mondays and Fridays. Now that too has come to an end. We were a good team but … anyway. My new job will be home-based. Next I’ll be partitioning the hard drive and booting into Linux.


My thanks, again, to Matt Burns for allowing me to use his superb photos.

1 Which reminds me, I should write about a cunning data structure which lazily initialises a sparse vector. is a programming blog, honest.