Previously on Computer and Me:
I was going to do these things chronologically (more or less), but it all kind of weaves together, so there’s no reason not to jump around.
Part of what prompted this series (besides needing filler for NaBloPoMo), was my rediscovering a page I wrote ten years ago about why I was using the computer I was using. I concluded with a defiant proclamation that I’d get my parents to get my sister a Mac for school.
They did, too. They got her one of the early PowerMacs running System 7.
That was fine enough, I suppose. After a few years, though, she got annoyed she couldn’t read MS Word documents or play the games her friends were playing. Honestly, though, if she got a PC, it’s not like she would’ve upgraded the hardware or Windows or any of the things she’d have to do to do those things anyway. But I got in trouble anyway for subjecting her to a deviant computing platform.
I was probably more happy with it than she was. It was a little bit more capable than my Amiga at the time. When she and I were both home one summer (me on co-op), I ended up commandeering her computer to do things like watch videos of anime openings and playing games like Exile. Whatever I could download on her super-fast 56k modem.
She eventually got rid of that machine and ended up getting a PC at Future Shop. And when it came time to pick a successor to my Amiga, I never even considered getting a Mac.
I knew about Max OS X, though. It was a flashy, new operating system built on an open source BSD base. Unlike my sister’s Mac, it had a command line. While I was mucking around in the dreary Windows world, it was gaining converts and cachet. You could do more and more stuff with it. Firefox was ported to it and it finally had a decent browser. It started looking like a viable platform.
I was curious. I wanted to see what was going on here. Plus, I kinda wanted a laptop for wireless networking, and I knew PC laptops sucked for that. (This was four years ago. They did. Seriously). Mac laptops were supposed to be really good, so I decided to get my feet wet.
I went to a Mac sales demo at the university. I really, really wanted the 12″ aluminum Powerbook, but the sales guy said that, with it’s plastic case, the 12″ iBook had better wireless reception. I caught wind that a G4 iBook was coming out, and I was sold.
And I’ve had it for four years. It’s what I’m writing this on right now.
I love my little iBook. There are a few little quirks that bug me sometimes, like jerky Flash animation and video, a jumpy track pad, and the lack of a one-handed Page Down key. And I love Mac OS X, too.
I think if you wanted to spend all your time in the Mac universe, you’d be just fine. Actually, you’d be fantastic. Everything works really well together. Not just Apple stuff, either. Third party application developers on the Mac are fantastic. Quicksilver has changed the way I think about computer user interfaces. Attempts to clone it on Windows or Linux are (for now, at least) only pale imitations. If every computer I ever used had Quicksilver and Exposé, I’d be so happy. It’s already ingrained in muscle memory. It eliminates so much command line and window fiddling.
There is trouble in paradise, though. Apple doesn’t play nice with others.
They do support things like Windows networking, but they by no means go out of their way to make it seamless. My Airport Express is a lovely little device for getting podcasts over to my stereo, but the hardware works with iTunes and only iTunes. My iPod is tied to iTunes. Data put into iTunes or iPhoto is never coming out again. The new iPods are even more restrictive. And then there’s the iPhone.
You know those Star Trek episodes where some hyper-intelligent alien comes along and sticks Kirk in some exquisitely beautiful paradise, where all his wants and needs are taken care of? But upon realizing this, he recoils and breaks out, giving a stirring speech about how it’s man’s nature to be free, to strive and to seek challenges, even though perfection could be handed to him?
That’s how the Mac and the whole Apple platform is starting to feel like for me.
I love the Mac. I really do. But the more I get into it, the more I feel like I’m being shackled to it with velvet handcuffs.
The handcuffs are starting to chafe.