I’m Becoming Bi

Bi-processorial, that is.

I told myself when I finished my associates, I would buy myself a present. I’d get a Mac. This is not the first time I’ve made such a promise to myself. When it looked like the writing career would take off, I told myself I would get myself a PowerBook. Obviously, that was a long time ago, but its successor, the MacBook Pro, is still on the agenda if I sell a book for something more than a faint promise or Amazon sends me a check for $4000 from ebook sales, whichever comes first.

Since we’re still waiting, I’ll focus on the degree, which finally came in the mail this week. (I did not attend commencement. I was too angry with the school over something that happened last year.) I also received a large payment from another source. Degree + money = Jim’s new Mac! To teh Intrawebs!

I Googled a few places and decided a used Mac was a good risk. Mac Heads tend to take care of their machines a little better. I found a site that sold nothing but used and refurbed Macs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Awesome. They had a 20″ iMac, the all-in-one unit that’s essentially an LCD screen over top of the computer guts, for roughly $550. I started to place my order and then…

The operating system is five years out of date. This is fine for a PC, where XP will run on just about anything, and Microsoft really needs to keep Windows 7 around a lot longer. On a Mac? Yeah, you try to install the latest iWork or Office on OS X Stray Cat when Werecougar is out. Not happening. It also had an anemic 1 GB of memory and no keyboard.

No keyboard? Every computer I’ve ever bought, even the used ones, came with a keyboard. I’m paying $550 for a desktop computer and not getting a keyboard and mouse?

“But, Jim, you’re getting an Apple.”

With no keyboard, bud. It’s still a desktop computer. Desktop computers ship with keyboards. If they don’t, you’re getting ripped off. But no worries. OS X runs with a Windows keyboard and mouse. I can pick up both for twenty bucks and be off. But that’s $20 I shouldn’t have to spend. I swallow my pride and looking at my shopping cart total. It says “Shipping: $80.”

To eBay!

My eBay search took me less than ten minutes from search to order. I found a 20″ iMac with 2 GB of memory, a camera, a 250 GB hard drive, and a keyboard!!! Same price as the used machine site. Best of all, I’ve dealt with this company before. When you’re employer is as cheap budget conscious as Medishack, you buy used machines. This company has sold us a few Dell computers that arrived clean, undamaged, and, I can’t stress this enough, with a keyboard. Did I mention this storefront regularly ships all makes of computers with a keyboard and mouse? Oh, and shipping?

$30.

Wham. Bam. Thank you, ma’am.

The machine should arrive tomorrow, and then the problems begin.

No, not the Mac itself. I’ve used them before, and while I’m not a convert, the first thing I’m going to have to deal with is the Mac Head contingent. A couple of friends are all excited that I’m getting a Mac to the point of telling me the best places to get rid of my Windows boxes. Granted, the HP box is living on borrowed time, but that’s HP’s fault. They build crap machines anyway. Beyond that, this is not going to happen. The HP will get replaced by a Dell. Why? Because they work.

This is exacerbated by my boss at Medishack, who is anti-Microsoft and anti-Google. (Fortunately, we’re both anti-Oracle, so we get along great.) His work machine is an iMac, though it runs a virtual machine running Windows 8. (Why? That’s a horrible desktop OS, though it looks great on tablets.) Here’s the kicker: We’re a Windows shop running Dells. Go figure. But he is constantly trying to rationalize why anything wrong with Apple is your fault and that Microsoft and Google are sinking ships. But it gets better, folks.

AJ hates Apple. He says Macs are “not intuitve.” And yes, he uses them everyday at college. He hates the interface. He hates the Apple and Command keys in place of alt and control. He just hates Macs. And if you are a Mac Head, like my boss, don’t bother trying to “correct” him. He uses them regularly and will simply see you as a misguided idiot. Never let it be said that my stepson doesn’t have a mind of his own.

My view is this: If you are dogmatic about the subject, you’ve already lost the argument. Pretty much any computer you own these days has an intuitive interface (Yes, even Windows 8, even if I think its desktop interface is the stupidest thing Microsoft’s come up with since Vista). The keyboards and mice are the same. Everything you do is on the Internet anyway. Hey, guess what. The Internet really doesn’t care if you use Windows, a Mac, or Linux (though Linux will make you work harder to get there.) I’m buying a Mac because I always wanted one. I’m buying it because there are three mobile platforms out there: iOS, Android, and Windows 8. You can’t write iOS apps on a Windows box. It’s really stupid, but it’s reality.

And besides, who says I must remain loyal to brands or platforms? I treat political parties as disposable. What makes you think I want to get tribal about my computing equipment.

OK, enough of that rant. The machine comes out of the box this week. Once I get Snow Leopard and iWork installed, I’ll let you know what I really think.

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Platform Promiscuity

With my new job, I’m not only neck deep in all that Microsoft has to offer (except for those sweet, sweet MSDN subscriptions), but I’m also finding myself working a lot with Linux, the open-source, community-built Unix-like operating system that does everything Windows and Macs do, except for free. (Usually.) Which means I’m now, by job description, bi.

I mean bi-processorial. I work in two platforms – Windows and Linux. And I plan to bring this form of computing deviance home.

Back in the summer, the old tower reached the end of its useful life span. I’d expected it to be the laptop that would go first, but the tower began wheezing and grunting just trying to load a wireless connection. One day, it started blue-screening on a regular basis, something it had never done in five years. Yes, Windows-bashers, most PC’s don’t blue screen on a regular basis. If they do, you need to look at where you’ve been on the Internet.

The bottom line is it was time to move to Windows 7. How was it? It’s definitely not Windows Vista. For one thing, the User Access Control is nowhere near as annoying as it is in Vista. It took considerably less time to setup than it did to reimage the PC. When it came time to replace the laptop, I took it a step further. I installed Windows 7 Pro on the new machine. The only thing I had to add in terms of drivers was the touchpad. Apparently, left to its own devices, the Dell touchpad will interpret your thumbs being in the same room as the keyboard as a mouse movement and send your cursor flying all over the place. A quick visit to Google revealed the glaringly obvious solution: Use the Dell driver, stupid.

Hey, what can I say? They spoiled me with not having to load drivers for the wireless, the video, the sound, etc.

But what of the old tower?

It is sitting in the corner quietly collecting dust, waiting for its fate. There’s nothing wrong with it, except we ran all the CRT monitors out of the house when I bought my flat screen. Nita uses a laptop. AJ has a flat screen, as do I. What possibly could we want with the old glass boat anchors we had sitting around?

Well, now I need a monitor. Why? I have found use for the old tower, assuming I remember to get some canned air to clear it out. For I now have an Ubuntu disk. So, what, you ask, is an Ubuntu disk and why would I want to use it on a tower?

Ubuntu is a user-friendly version of Linux that works great as an alternative to Windows or Macintosh. Plus, you buy one distribution of Linux, you can pretty much use all of them. And let’s face it, it’s been quite a few years since I seriously got my geek on. Linux is still very much a nerd’s OS.

But I don’t stop there. I have said in the past that I didn’t want a Mac because I can’t jusify what is now an Intel box running BSD Unix (a cousin to Linux) with a pretty interface.

Well, kids, I now have two reasons to want one.

First off, if I’m going to be running a Linux box with all the bells and whistles that make it not all that different from the boxes powered by Windows and OS X, why not go all the way? Why not get a highly-proprietary Intel box running BSD with a pretty interface? Lots of people like the pretty interface. And besides, if you’re going to go with two platforms, why not all three?

Of course, someone out there is probably suggesting I find a way to get an Amiga box. Remember Amigas? Well, dude, that ship sailed a long time ago for the Western Lands, never to return to computing Middle Earth.  Nor do I plan to run Chrome, which is dependent on an Internet connection or SCO Unix, which managed to litigate itself into irrelevance.

But why not go for all three? We have an annoying tendency to get stupidly tribal about things: Our religion, our politics, our cars, even the type of computers we own. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard was when someone wanted to lecture me about how ATT was the best wireless provider out there. This, of course, I found humorous because, while ATT claims to cover 97% of America, I apparently live in the other 3%. His rationale? Until a couple weeks ago, you could only have an iPhone on ATT. To him, the Apple trademark was all the reason one needed. To me?

Steve Jobs is a technology CEO. Therefore, Steve needs to earn my respect on an ongoing basis. So does ATT, which it consistently fails to do.

But then I’ve always despised any tribe that would have me.