In 2005, I bought my first Mac: a 20″ all-in-one iMac. This was a year before they started building Macs with Intel processors, which I consider about the point when everyone in the world realized how cool/sexy/functional Macs were and jumped on board. A year later, when I realized that a laptop would better serve my collegiate computing needs (and Intel chips were the new standard), I picked up one of the first Intel Macbooks to roll off the production lines. I still remember the precarious bike ride home, Apple bag awkwardly strapped to my body, hoping that this wasn’t the ride where I got decked by a car.
Fast forward to today, and both of these computers still work beautiful. The iMac is a family computer in Fort Lauderdale, and my Macbook functions as both laptop and desktop via an external monitor, Apple keyboard, Logitech mouse, and some speakers. However, my Berkeley fellowship provides $1200 for technology, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about new computers.
One part of me sees no reason to get off the Apple train. Apple builds functional, beautiful products that last for as long as you take care of them. No viruses, no spyware, no blue screen of death. The best operating system ever written. The software is great, and I know my keyboard shortcuts like woah. Even though neither computer is under warranty at this point, I’d still feel better about taking a computer to an Apple Store than to anywhere else. Basically, Apple has served me flawlessly for the last 5 years, exceeding my every expectation and making computing a joy.
That said, another side of me was considering making the switch to Ubuntu or some other user-friendly Unix distro. (OSX == gateway drug?) Why abandon Apple? Because I just don’t need all of the computer that comes with a Mac these days. Here’s a basic list of the applications I need in a computer:
- UNIX-based operating system
- Web browser
- Email client
- Text editor
- Basic music and video players
Aside from a few more miscellaneous applications (application launcher, project manager, document repository, timer/stopwatch), that’s about it. I don’t edit photos/music/video and I don’t do serious number-crunching or modeling (leave that to the clusters!). No games either. And it doesn’t take a new Macbook Pro to do this stuff. I could buy a $500 laptop, install Ubuntu, and all of this would work beautifully*.
*Eventually, of course. While it sounds like Ubuntu is making great strides towards the level of usability that you get with a Mac, I don’t think they’re far enough along to convince me to make the switch. Time is going to be my greatest asset once I get out to Berkeley, and I can’t afford to spend 3 hours reading forums about how to get wireless internet working. And 8 hours to get my hard drives converted from Mac format to Unix format and my data copied over. And 2 hours to…
There are also so many great little applications that have been written for the Mac environment that I know and love. I’m sure that there are Unix equivalents that do almost the same thing almost as well, but why bother if I don’t have to? Big applications would be missed too, Time Machine for example. Creating a backup image of my harddrive is literally as easy as plugging in an external USB hard drive. And when I get my new Mac, I can plug in my backup drive and boot/restore my old computer to my new machine with a click of a button. Sweet.
So while it would be fun to embrace the free software movement and possibly good to loosen Apple’s grip on my world a little bit, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen in the next iteration. Besides, I have two great Macs already. And if it ain’t broke, I’m not going to fix it. Is there some angle that I’m not considering here?