Starting over

Setting up Mac OS Big Sur from scratch. And getting (back) into the habit of writing. Sounds unrelated, probably is. Then again, not so much.

Starting over

When rebooting my website in February January this year, I tried to get into the habit of publishing blog posts regularly. You can read about my plans here.

Well, that didn't really work out as you can probably tell by the amount of blog posts available around here, or rather the lack thereof. I would love to blame 2020, but that has, for once, nothing to do with it.
Now what?


I'm currently reading James Clear's Atomic Habits, which I stumbled upon lately. Maybe that's going to help me get into writing blog posts more consistently, more regularly. Or at all, ha.

Anyway, this post is actually not about that, but about setting up my laptop from scratch. Isn't that exciting?!

With Big Sur

Every year when there's a new Mac OS version available, I take the chance to start over fresh with a clean install of my main work laptop. I know updating in place should work fine, but I love that fresh feeling of tabula rasa once in a while.

How are you going about updates? Let me know if you feel like it!

As this is a significant effort, and takes time to complete, I go about it in three steps to not interrupt my day-to-day work too much:

  1. Set up the new Mac OS version on an external SSD from scratch and install all the apps and things that I need. I'm using iCloud drive, so my documents, desktop and downloads (yes, downloads) follow me along automatically. The rest of my work is mostly kept in git repositories or online.
    My old, known-good installation on the internal SSD remains untouched and ready for work at all times, making it easy to switch back and forth between old and new system.
  2. Gradually switching over to the new installation on the external SSD for doing real work, resorting to the old installation only if need be. That way any road block I might run into doesn't tank my work day. I can reboot into the old system and keep focusing on work. Later I will come back and fix what didn't work or was missing from the new system.
  3. Finally I'll clone my old installation to yet another external drive as a backup, clone the new Mac OS installation from the external SSD to the internal SSD and live happily ever after. Until next year.

Same procedure this year

This week I started with step one and installed Mac OS Big Sur onto an external SSD drive. And yesterday I started using it for some light work already. It will probably take at least another week to finish switching over.

What's new this year?

There are a couple of things I want to change compared to my current setup. And there's a lot of stuff I will keep the same, and there will be some details I'm going to tweak.

Let's start with the big, fun stuff:

  • Switching from rbenv to asdf like I'm a cool kid. I want something that can handle my rubies and make it less painful for me to install and manage nodejs.

Well, yeah, that's about it for big changes I guess 😅
There is going to be some tweaks and fixes to my current setup:

  • For once I want to get VS Code's Ruby integration (mostly Ruby language server for linting with Rubocop) working reliably. I tried before, but it's still kind of brittle. Maybe asdf will help with that.
  • Improve my fish shell config. I want colors that work with light and dark shell themes, and I want to explore useful features like subtly showing git status in the prompt. I haven't found one canned fish theme or prompt I'm willing to use as is, so I guess this is going to require getting my hands dirty.
  • Any changes necessary because of things that changed in Big Sur, like widgets, and anything I might run into in regards to compatibility. Already switched from good old Caffeine to KeepYouAwake, because the icon lucked fugly in the new menu bar style.

For anything noteworthy - i.e. things I want to remember for next time and/or things I deem worth sharing - there are going to be subsequent posts.