Essays on Technology and Culture

On Switching

The summer of 2005 was a tumultuous one for my digital life. Following a brief, and fairly unsuccessful attempt at freelance web design—not the smartest thing to do while being a full time student and a part time worker—I decided I needed a new computer. The original plan was to purchase a laptop. As a Linux user, my needs were modest. I wouldn’t be playing fancy, processor intensive computer games except SimCity 4, and I wouldn’t be doing much more high-end tasks than simply running GIMP to do image editing. Yet, as I pondered the situation, certain things were pushing me towards the Macintosh. Many of my geekier online friends, some of which are pretty solidly hardcore. ((To give you an idea, one of them now works for Dreamhost, and could write shell scripts in her sleep with one hand tied behind her back, with a Dvorak keyboard.)) On top of this, the Mac had long since ditched the “Classic” OS for the shiny, Unix based Mac OS X. The UNIX skills I had learned from my Linux days would not go to waste, after all. What pushed me over the edge, however, was [Merlin Mann](, and his [articles on Quicksilver]( ((Some of these, I should actually go back and read over again. I really would like to automate more stuff on my Mac.)) There was nothing like Quicksilver in the Linux world. I had to have it.

With $600 to spend, I rolled the dice, and chose the bottom-of-the-line G4 Mac mini, with a 512 MB RAM upgrade. Along with it, I purchased an Apple Keyboard to replace my [beloved IBM Model M keyboard]( ((The IBM Model M is, without a doubt, the greatest keyboard ever made. Other keyboards have their partisans. I know [John Gruber]( stands by his vintage Apple Extended II keyboard, but nothing is quite like a Model M. The darn thing was built like a tank. The key caps were two pieces, so you could rearrange to, say, Dvorak, without breaking a sweat. It clicked, loudly, so you always sounded productive. What’s not to love? I currently rock an aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard, and it’s almost as good, just too quiet.)), a necessary investment the IBM lacked the Command key. Within a week of ordering the mini, Apple refreshed the line, making 512 MB of RAM standard. Apple immediately refunded my upgrade cost, which earned them brownie points from the get-go. Waiting for it to arrive was the hardest part, but at last, come late July of 2005, I found the Mac mini at the door, when I left to go to my summer class at the Community College of Philadelphia. I had to be patient.

Once I had set everything up and copied over all the data from my old computer, I connected my digital camera to transfer over the photos that I had neglected to transfer for months. As soon as the camera turned on, iPhoto opened and displayed a message asking if I would like to transfer my photos. I did not have to install anything. I did not have to configure anything. I did not have to perform an arcane set of commands to make sure I could access the files. ((While using Linux to get photos off of my camera, I had to open a terminal session, switch to [root](, run gphoto2, and then change the ownership and permission for every image. This was due to some sort of quirk involving USB device permissions, and it was a pain in the rear to do.)) I could have cried when it finished. After all, it was 2005—why should I have had to bother with arcane terminal commands to do something so mind-numbingly simple?

The Mac mini was my primary computer for nearly three years, even as the entire Macintosh line went Intel. I upgraded the mini to a full gigabyte of RAM, and added a 250GB external HD. Before starting at Temple University, I picked up a refurbished, last generation iBook G4 to take to classes, and used the two machines in tandem. ((Oddly, this iBook had a problem with the main exhaust fan—it didn’t work. I didn’t figure this out for over a year, as the machine didn’t have any problems unless I kept it running somewhere that would let the heat build up. Another piece of electronics built like a tank.)) When my roommate’s computer died in 2008, I lent him the Mac mini, and I used the iBook as my primary computer for over a year. In May of 2008, for graduating, I got a MacBook—my first Intel Mac, and it’s still here. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid, and I like it.