My Personal Computer History, How I Came to Work on the Mac

I’m working on some other posts to recount the history of our CocoaHeads chapter. While brainstorming for it I couldn’t help but start to capture my own history and how I came to work on the Mac so I figured I’d write it up and share.

The following post has a lot of “Way Back Machine” links to see sites as they used to be, a fun trip down memory lane.

I didn’t start learning computer stuff until high school (1995) and even then it was on a 286 using DOS for BASIC and PASCAL. Starting college (1997) I finally got to buy a computer of my own, it was a Windows machine but I didn’t really mind at the time. After my first year of college I got to take my co-op experience. Through it I ended up doing web design for a small company just outside Philly. I got to work with a former Apple employee and he was quick to saturate me in the ways of the Mac. Overall I was impressed and by the end of the co-op was considering a Mac of my own. Now being in college and just having bought a Windows computer I wasn’t in a financial position to change, but the seeds were planted.

By 2000 I was doing web design part time for Seybold, using a Mac at work and Windows at home. I was getting into the server side of web development, learning about UNIX, Apache, MySQL and the like. Around this time Mac OS X was announced. The idea of running Photoshop next to Apache pretty much sold me and I knew right then I wanted to participate on this platform.

I probably watched Steve introduce the Aqua UI over a dozen times.

With the 2001 Macworld Keynote came the release of the Titanium PowerBook G4. I got the high end 500 MHz model. I split the cost across two credit cards and some cash. I couldn’t afford this machine but I had to have it. It was the first personal Mac I ever owned.

Initially I ran Mac OS 9 on my TiBook, but on Saturday March 24, 2001 I drove out into the rain to my local UPS warehouse to pick up the copy of Mac OS X I had ordered (No way I was going to wait until Monday for delivery!). I came home, installed it and never went back.

Well, technically I did go back to OS 9 on occasion. Some apps like Final Cut Pro (which I was using for my film class) didn’t work in the Classic environment at all and other apps, well, just worked better booted into 9. That said, I really enjoyed working in OS X. Despite all of its performance issues and bugs I was too busy enjoying all the new stuff: the new UI and the new APIs (my first time programming for a native window UI).

Time moves on, it’s 2003 or so. By now I’m a total Apple geek. Regularly reading As the Apple Turns and Daring Fireball. I’m marking my calendar and listening to Your Mac Life’s live radio shows. I’m reading tons of books about the history of Apple.

I’m now also now looking to connect with other Mac users. I eventually come to join MacBUS a local Mac User Group focused on the business side of the Mac. I also visit other groups in the area from time to time such as the Main Line Mac User Group’s Programming Special Interest Group. A fun group but there was little coverage of Cocoa, it was mostly scripting languages like AppleScript and PHP.

It was however through these groups and connections I met Randy Zauhar, a professor at the University of the Science. He and some of his students were working in Cocoa and wanted to start a regular meetup. We called it PHAD, Philadelphia Apple Developers.

And that’s it for now. I’ll recount more of PHAD and how it eventually lead into Philly CocoaHeads in my next post.

31 Days, 31 Products: TweetBot & Twitterrific

Day 07: TweetBot & Twitterrific

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Doing a two for one special today (Cyber Monday and all!) with two of my favorite Twitter clients.

For me, the only reason I found Twitter usable and joined in 2007 was because of Twitterrific for Mac OS X. There was no way I was going to visit the Twitter website to stay active but the idea of having my timeline live on my desktop was a killer feature, and thus a killer app.

Later on iOS, I with many others experienced an orgy of Twitter app options. I personally favored Tweetie but after that was bought and killed by Twitter itself I moved on to TweetBot.

Random aside, it’s a real shame that TweetBot has given up so much of its historic personality / UI identity to fit in within the new iOS aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the features set of the app, but the current version has very little personality compared to its early days.

I do prefer TweetBot on the phone, but when it comes to my iPad I’m back to Twitterrific. While a bit bulky to look at, I just love the full screen view of my timeline.

Twitterrific for iOS is a free download on the App Store with a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock the full app. Twitterrific for Mac also has a free trial which can be licensed through the Iconfactory Store for $9.95 or purchased through the Mac App Store.

TweetBot for iOS is a pay for download on the App Store and will costs you $4.99. TweetBot for Mac is also a pay for download on the Mac App Store and will cost you $9.99.

31 Days, 31 Products: Duet

Day 06: Duet

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Duet is a new addition to my toolset, one of the many apps I bought after getting my iPad Pro, and wow is it good. Duet lets you use your iPad as a secondary monitor and unlike some previous Airplay-based solutions of the past, Duet actually uses a wired connection for a zero lag experience. To run Duet you’ll install an app on the iPad and then a secondary app on your Mac or Windows desktop machine. When the iOS app launches you’ll instantly connect and have a secondary monitor available in System Preferences, just like a “real” monitor. The connection process is seamless and there is no lag on the iPad.

I’ve been using Duet at home with my iMac and it’s so helpful to have the extra space for chat rooms or long running videos. I was also considering buying a portable monitor to use while I’m on the road teaching (one screen for slide and Xcode demo, and the other for my notes) and Duet looks like it will solve that problem too.

As mentioned above it takes two apps to run Duet. The iOS app is available on the App Store for $15.99 and the Mac and Windows clients are free downloads available on their website.

31 Days, 31 Products: ScreenFlow

Day 05: ScreenFlow

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

ScreenFlow is a best in class tool for screen capturing and video editing. Typically I use ScreenFlow to make screencasts, short videos primary featuring action from my desktop with a voice narration. These screencasts are incredibly powerful, wether it’s a short demo to accompany a code pull request or feature walkthrough for the client. Having these screencasts not only answers questions but creates archivable value in that they can be replayed for new developers or stakeholders in the future. I also use ScreenFlow to assemble and edit the video and audio sources for our CocoaHead videos.

So even though modern OS X has limited support in QuickTime for capturing the screen, I still recommend ScreenFlow. Its capture tools are really easy to use and can capture multiple things at once (like the desktop, your camera, your voice and the computer audio — all on separate editing tracks). Once your editing you’ll have even more power to trim the movie, speed up boring things like text entry, and cleanup the audio track.

ScreenFlow has a free trial download available on it’s website and when your ready to buy a license it will cost you $99 from Telestream’s store or the Mac App Store.

31 Days, 31 Products: Acorn

Day 04: Acorn

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Acorn is an image editor for Mac OS X built with tons of love, from the native UI that feels like it truly belongs on Mac OS X to some of the most impressive documentation and tutorials you’ll find. When you choose Acorn you’re getting a first class product.


I’ve been a long time Acorn user. I find it’s much quicker to open and do some quick image cropping or color adjustments than some other monster app like Photoshop. I’ve also made use of it’s excellent scripting features before to automate screenshot processing and the like. It’s a huge time saver.

Acorn has a free trial available on it’s website and when you are ready to buy you can buy direct or via the Mac App Store. A license will cost you $29.99.

31 Days, 31 Products: 1Password

Day 03: 1Password

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Usernames and passwords are a broken system, yet sadly one we’re likely to still be using for a while to come. 1Password is tool that can help you generate and retrieve good (hard to crack) and unique passwords for every site you use. With apps for every platform and features like browser extensions with form fill, thumbprint identification on iOS and security warnings about hacked sites, I find 1Password to be a must have app and one of the first apps I install on a new machine.

I’ve even enjoy using 1Password to share stuff. For example, at CocoaHeads we share a group vault for a handful of credentials shared via Dropbox. Now I know they just introduced a new team sharing feature so maybe this is a little old school, but it’s working for us and we like it.

My biggest feature request for 1Password is to get something more advanced than the master password for my Mac. Some thumbprint hardware would be cool, or maybe even a face+voice recognition alternative. This would obviously get some push if Apple introduced a native thumbprint scanner on their Macbook line. Maybe some day…

1Password can be bought through the Mac App Store or their site. A Mac license costs $49 (with a free trial available) and the iOS client is a free download on the App Store with a $9.99 in-app purchase for some more advanced features. Windows and Android versions are also available for similar pricing; again, see their store page for details.

31 Days, 31 Products: Fin

Day 02: Fin

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Fin is an app for iOS that turns your device into a large countdown timer; particularly helpful for presentations and performances. Fin is a universal app that works well for iPad as well as iPhone. It even has Watch support.

I’ve been using Fin via an iPad mini at CocoaHeads and it really helps us stay on time with our busy agenda. I really like the color warnings when time is running out and generally how easy it is to reset / change times with gestures.

Fin is available from the App Store for $4.99 and you can find out more about it on its website.

31 Days, 31 Products: MindNode

Day 01: MindNode

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

MindNode is a tool for mind mapping. Mind mapping is a process where you take a word, phrase or topic and place it in the middle of a piece of paper. From there you create branches off that first object to help explore or document an idea. Similar to brainstorming through a text-based outline, mind maps tend to be favored by people who think visually and like to accompany their maps with color assignments, drawings and more.

MindNode for Mac OS X

I’ve been using MindNode for a few months now, both on Mac OS X as well as iOS and it works great. The document format works on both sides so you can start a mind map on the iPad and bring it back the Mac with no issues. The UI of MindNode is simple but familiar. If you have experience with Keynote or Pages, you should feel well at home.

As for what I mind map, well, related to my recent announcements it’s mostly been things like naming (companies, products) and then pro/con list for different app ideas. I also recently did a map for how I organize my Dropbox files (a future blog post maybe).

MindNode is available from the Mac App Store ($29) as well as the iOS App Store ($9). A free trial for Mac can be downloaded from their website.

31 Days, 31 Products: Launch Post

At CocoaLove 2015 we had the pleasure of listening to Jaimee Newberry speak and from my notes I recollect the following from her talk:

Just Do It! and more specifically, don’t let your high taste of quality hold you hostage from creating and shipping. Get it out into the world and improve it over time.

Even before the talk, I was already inspired by Jaimee’s “31 days” series of writings and video posts. I’ve been wanting to get more writing practice and have been kicking the can on starting my own series but no more!

Today begins 31 Days, 31 Products — a blog series where once a day for 31 days I’ll post a short story sharing some of the products and services I’ve come to enjoy using. I hope you like it and discover a new helpful tool along the way.

PragProg Thanksgiving Sale

I started reading books from the Pragmatic Programmers back when I started learning about Rails 1.0 and over the years have built up quite a significant library from them.

They are having their annual Thanksgiving sale, 40% off all ebooks (code “turkeysale2015″). A great time to load up for some holiday reading.

My recommendation this year is The Nature of Software Development. It shares many core values I have about software development. It’s a short read with lots of quirky sketches. I highly recommend it.

There was also a talk at ETE from Ron about the book but I’ll continue to recommend the book itself more as I think it’s a little more focused, better value for your time.