Returning to my Windows grad school roots

Posted By Pamela on Jul 13, 2009 | 4 comments

Anyone who knows me in real life, knows “I am Mac.” In all reality, I am a linux person who adores Adobe Creative Suites and lives by MS Excel. In grad school I had a Mac for graphics from my adviser, a Sparcstation for research (from my other adviser) and I owned a Fujitsu lifebook. It was a cluttered life that after the advent of OS X got translated into “I am Mac.”

My original switch was the result of my laptop, then a VIAO, getting sick one too many times. My beloved VIAO with its x-windows emulator allowed me to login to a Solaris server somewhere else and do my astronomy work. I had virus protection and always surfed safe. Then I discovered there are viruses that will swim up closed ports. I got series of viruses that wiped my hard drive while at work at Harvard, and was twice one of the first 100 sufferers. It sucked. I live by software. I am more of a digital person than a real person in a lot of ways – taking all notes on computer/phone and talking more through IM and email than in person. I also have dyslexia, and computers allow me to mostly hide my problems behind spell checks and auto correcting tools. I love my laptops – they are a third arm and a second brain. And after two cases of digital amputation in short order, I switched to Mac. Back in 2004 I bought my first MacBook and I haven’t looked back.

But now I’m working with my students to develop software that integrate with Microsoft Research software. I’m typing this message on my ASUS EeePC 1000HE in Windows XP. In this tiny environment, I can hold the universe in my hands using MS World Wide Telescope. This many layered software package is being designed to facilitate not just looking at the sky, but for searching databases of images and information, allowing users to side by side explore the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Hubble image archive.

While I will leap frog Vista, staring suspiciously at it while I pass to Windows 7 someday in the future, XP is an old friend, and I feel like I’m falling back into the multi-platform days of graduate school. I have found a cool toy that I can only code if I’m using Windows, so I’m going to use Windows to play along with my software developing students.

MS Research has a bunch of cool toys. They are building George Jetson‘s tomorrow with a Star Trek aesthetic. From Surface, to the virtual receptionist, to, well, World Wide Telescope, they have my attention again.

Now, if only Apple and Mac would just use the same keyboard layout…


  1. Hey Pamela,

    Finally so glad to seeing WWT getting a shout-out. It is what really made me take my mild fascination with space to a higher level and have spent the last month or two listening to pretty much all the astronomy cast archive.

    You should definitely give WWT a shoutout the next time you and Fraser are doing a show, especially now as they have a Mac/Linux client.

    Anyway, keep up the great work, Astronomy Cast is 30 minutes of pure fascination for me.


  2. I’m mildly dyslexic myself, you’re not alone there. I find myself skipping letters in words, it’s like my mind has moved ahead of my typing fingers and has left them behind. Oddly, I never have the problem with numbers, just letters.

    Hang onto your Mac, it’ll come in handy for the non-MS tasks.
    Have fun at the eclipse, and take lots of photos for us vicarious participants !

  3. Vista isn’t that bad… but I’m excited for Windows 7 personally. So much so I pre-ordered it when they had their sales involving it recently.

    And woot for the Excel love… work with it daily, but I’m sure that’s evident from some of my twitter postings. Which I should actually thank you for getting me into twitter. Much love for it.

    Enjoy the eclipse, so jealous still! — And SAFE TRAVELS!

  4. no way… Sparc station!? Oh man that brings back memories! I started out Linux too and was kicked out of the lab since I wasn’t a “real” IT major! arg!
    Forced into what was Win 98 at the time. Yikes!
    Now, I’m a HUGE fan of Ubuntu Linux. Thinking of trying mac.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.