Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Living In The Future

Just got back from the Apple store.

When I bought my MacBook Air, I knew I was spending a lot more than I would for an ultrabook computer running, say, Linux. I take a great deal of pride in my geek status and that makes the Linux alternative seductive.

I also like the total control Linux gives me.

Nevertheless, I bought my MacBook just so I could make an appointment, stroll into the Genius Bar and make pointing motions and grunting sounds whereupon a pleasant young person (when you're my age, everyone's a young person) will discern my intent and then do something marvelous like reformat the laptop's drive, wipe out all my personal data, and reinstall the operating system for the low, low cost of FREE. Which is what the guy just did. Bravo.

Granted, I could have dropped in on the Grand Rapids Linux User's Group and found a pleasant True Believer in Linux who'd do the same thing. But if I were to do that, I'd have to learn a lot more about what we were doing. And because the process has a lot more visibility into what's going on, I'd likely see something questionable to make me worry that I'd Done Something Wrong. And since we don't do this sort of thing every day, that would be much more likely. A lot more anxiety, sturm und drang!

Total control does have its disadvantages.

No. I paid a few hundred bucks more up front to get some predictable, reliable hardware, and FROM THEN ON I can visit the Apple Store, feign ignorance, (It's getting so I don't have to pretend as much nowadays.) and they make the software Just Work.

Steve Jobs set up systems that Just Work and whenever I deal with Apple, or when I use their products, I may be paying more, but when I do I'm living in the future. I like living in the future.


  1. Cue a True Believer, here to chide you.

    I have been where you are. I know the seductiveness of Apple and its "just works" platform full of full-featured and sexy (though expensive) applications. I felt the constraints of only fixing what Apple wants to let you fix. Though I never visited the Apple store, I've heard nothing but complaints about the process and often the results.

    I hope the future isn't one of willful ignorance of the tools you use most every day. Understanding how something works and how to fix it is one of the ways we can keep our corporate overlords in check. Their goal is to keep you locked into their products to squeeze every penny possible from your shrinking wallet. If you can fix your own computer, they lose some of that control. You no longer need to buy a new widget because they tell you the old widget is out of support. You can fix it and extend its life yourself (or with the help of your friendly local Linuxmen).

    What if Apple decided the Grand Rapids store isn't profitable enough and they shut it down? Where will you turn? With each iteration of Apple's hardware, it becomes harder to install a Free operating system to full functionality. Apple and Microsoft are actively trying to thwart your ability to replace their operating system with one that doesn't make them money.

    It is good that you understand the knowledge you are giving up for convenience, but I'm not sure you've looked at the larger picture. If we continue to encourage (through our purchases) lock-in and ignorance, that may one day be the only thing available to us. I choose to suffer some inconvenience in order to ensure that I will have Liberty available.

  2. You, sir, are absolutely correct. Yet the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I hope you'll appreciate that alongside each of my AppleTV set top boxes is a Raspberry Pi.

  3. You know, Steve, if most computer users woke up one day and one of the buttons on the mouse had stopped working, they would wonder who had been visiting the bad people's site. Apple pre-installs that malware, along with chrome from before Hillary was a Senator.

    As an owner of a Mac that could no longer receive OS upgrades after 4 years on the market, I can't support Apple's "taxation without continuation." With you on Linux though; it hasn't snuck past my effort/benefit filter for years. Trusty old Windows, humble but efficient, grants you access to a bazaar of geniuses, market-driven, willing to sell you a solution for less than the price of your time, without ever exposing you to socially transmitted diseases like Smugydia and Daddyboughtmeitis.


Those more worthy than I: