Rebuild the Desktop

Rice Bowl IconLast Thursday, I dropped off my PowerBook G4 ( Titanium) at Tekserve for a little upgrade. Its original 30GB hard drive had been bursting at the seams for a while, and so I finally bit the bullet, forked over a few hundred dollars and had it replaced with a new, 80GB model. The always-helpful Tekserve technicians encased the old one in a portable FireWire drive so I can still access the data on it, and they gave me a fresh installation of Mac OS X Jaguar on the new one. So today I’m spending the day installing everything from scratch, from applications and utilities to fonts and all of my old documents.

Installations as Therapy

Setting up a new hard drive is a nontrivial undertaking, but it has a therapeutic, fresh-start quality to it that I enjoy. It’s not something that I look forward to, but once I’ve started the process, I relish the opportunity to set up everything in a tidy, comfortable and familiar kind of order. If I can liken it to anything, I’d say it’s a bit like moving into a new apartment and rethinking where all of your furniture and belongings should be placed — not something you’d want to do more than once in a long while, but when you do it, you’re basically engaging in an optimistic planning session for your day-to-day life.

What makes it somewhat tedious for me is the somewhat excessive number of third party additions to the operating system upon which I’ve come to rely, perhaps a bit too keenly. To get the OS behaving the way I want it requires the installation of about a dozen clever little utilities, all of which add some indispensable bell or whistle. Thanks to the fertile imagination and entrepreneurial spirit of independent Macintosh software publishers everywhere, I have a shareware addiction.

Anatomy of a Desktop

Just for fun, I’m publishing here a screen shot of my desktop from this afternoon, along with some notes on the little modifications I’ve made to it.

Desktop Screenshot
Above: a screen shot of just a few of the tweaks I’ve made to my desktop as of this afternoon.

Keychain Access1. This little lock icon is an under-publicized feature of the Keychain Access utility (found with every installation of Jaguar in Applications/Utilities/); it allows instant locking of the screen, and requires the user’s password for unlocking. Free and indispensable for any kind of workgroup situation.

StuffIt Deluxe2. StuffIt Deluxe 7.0.3’s Magic Menu, for quick access to compression and archiving controls. Not quite as crucial with StuffIt Deluxe’s contextual menu controls, but I’ve had this little icon in the menu bar since Mac OS 7.5, so I feel a little lost without it.

Timbuktu Pro3. Timbuktu Pro 6.0.3, which allows me access to my home Mac from the office, and my office Mac from home.

LaunchBar4. This icon, and the ledge just beneath the main menu bar that reads “Calculator…”, are part of Objective Development’s absolutely brilliant LaunchBar 3.2.10, the single smartest utility that I’ve ever installed.

World of Aqua 25. My new internal 80GB hard drive, represented by a custom icon from the beautiful World of Aqua 2 collection, published by The Iconfactory. Below it are two partitions from my old 30GB hard drive, one for a Mac OS 9.1 drive (its icon is from the same collection) and another for a Mac OS X 10.2.1 drive, represented by an icon from the Iconfactory’s Aibo X set.

WindowShade X6. This minimized Finder window made possible by the terrific WindowShade X utility from Unsanity. It restores one of the many sorely missed features from the pre-X Finder.

Greenburst7. “Greenburst” desktop wallpaper from Dave Brasgalla’s

DragThing8. DragThing, currently at version 4.6.1, is another utility that I started using in the days of Mac OS 8, and even then it was doing a better job at launching items and managing programs than the Dock can today.

TinkerTool9. Double-scroll arrows placed at both ends of the scroll bar, courtesy of Marcel Bresink’s TinkerTool 2.3.2.