Over the course of the last year, I've slowly gone through a major shift in my philosophy about technology and about life in general. I've begun to see the great value of minimalism, and as a result I've begun to strive for elegant simplicity.
For a long time, I've almost obsessively tinkered with my computer setup, both software and hardware. I have been a long time Linux user, and as soon as I got a stable setup I'd always be eager to update to the latest alpha or daily build so that I could get things working again. With web development, I would often start a project and get excited about it, and then start another one at the same time, and then another. In my personal life, I would get interested in something and I would pursue it 110% - spending hours perfecting guitar solos, writing fiction, completing video games - only to be snagged by another interest which would immediately receive all of my attention.
I realized that my life lacked focus. It had grown so complex, cluttered by so many interests and activities that I could never truly complete anything. I realized that I could achieve truly worthwhile accomplishments if I would just declutter my life and focus on something from beginning to end before moving on to a new project.
The Appeal of OS X
With Linux, there were a variety of OS distractions that would frequently capture my attention. Because of it's extreme flexibility, I could customize almost every aspect of the user interface and I found myself often spending hours changing things around. Also, there were a variety of minor issues that would often crop up - things like Flash Player crashing, media formats not working, fast user switching losing the correct display and switching to a blank screen, kernel updates which required the rebuilding of modules like my Nvidia display driver, etc. These things were always easy to fix, but they were distracting and sometimes frustrating.
I'd heard a lot of good things about OS X from fellow developers, so I decided to give it a try so that I could learn how it worked and become familiar with it in case I ever needed to work with Mac systems in a future project. I was completely unprepared for it's smooth and elegantly simple aesthetics, and I was totally blown away by how interoperable it is. I was able to run my favorite Linux applications like Gimp, OpenOffice, Eclipse, etc. without a problem. The graphical interface sat on top of a full-fledged Unix system, complete with a terminal running bash.
The way OS X was able to balance an easy and exceedingly useful user interface with a powerful Unix backend was a delightful surprise. Then, I started to discover the wonderful world of Mac applications available for software development and web design. I absolutely love the UI of TextMate and I am very impressed with Apple's XCode suite which they provide for free.
The Minimal Beauty of the Hardware
Another surprising difference was the hardware. Ever since the classic 286 computer running DOS that I started out on as a kid, my computers have always been big bulky things with a plethora of cords poking out of the back and getting tangled with each other. Whenever I moved a computer, it was always a major event to tear it down, untangle all the cords, and then set it up in the new location. It was unsightly, but I never knew that a true alternative existed.
With my new iMac, the mess of cables and confusion is now gone! I no longer have to lay down on the floor and scoot back behind my PC to untangle the cords and plug something new in. I don't have to find creative ways of covering the cables because the clutter is so ugly. Now, There's just one cable going from the surge protector to the computer - the power cable. Then, there's one USB cable going from the back of the computer to the keyboard. Then, there's a second USB cable to plug the mouse into the keyboard. That's it. Everything else is built-in. No network cable needed, because it has Wireless-N. No speaker cables, because the speaker and microphone are built in. No webcam cables, because the camera is built in.
I found that because everything was so simple and easy to install, use, and configure, I was able to focus more on what I wanted to accomplish. I became more productive in my development because of the quality tools and lack of distracting issues. Using the computer actually became more enjoyable because everything just worked, and didn't require extensive configuration before it could be used.
I've still struggled with maintaining focus at times, especially during a several-week period where I decided to pursue desktop development through Cocoa instead of working on web applications, but it's much easier now to resist that temptation and make great progress towards completing my projects. The Mac has dramatically increased my productivity, made it more enjoyable to use the computer, and provided me with a very aesthetically pleasing and inspiring environment to pursue the completion of my goals.