You may remember that my TV co-host, Patrick, was considering the switch to Mac. He still has the Apple iBook at home, but at work he’s toting around the new IBM X30 Thinkpad based on the Centrino chipset. I can’t help eyeing it with some interest. It’s lighter than the iBook, and much faster. Patrick is claiming six hours battery life, too, which is about three times what I’m getting on the Mac. I don’t think I could handle the lack of a DVD player, though. But wait. IBM’s T40 includes the DVD-ROM for just $1664 right now. I’m sitting on the web page staring at the machine. The price is right, and I should really spend more time with Windows XP, but I just can’t bring myself to press the Checkout button. Despite all the compelling reasons to switch back to Windows — it’s cheaper and faster, I need to keep my WinChops® up, it supports the application we use for our TV scripts — I can’t buy a Windows notebook.
I don’t mind spending money on a Windows desktop. In fact, I just spent $500 to upgrade my home machine with a P4 2.5Ghz with 512MB DDR RAM and an nVidia Ti 4200 graphics card on the superb Asus P4PE motherboard. Yeah I run FreeBSD and Linux on the system, too, but it’s mostly a Windows XP machine. Windows is fine on the desktop (especially if you want to play Unreal Tournament), but there’s something intimate about a notebook. My iBook is my little plastic pal. I spend more time with it than my family (ask them – they’ll be glad to tell you). And even though I’m very aware of the price I pay to use a Mac, there’s just no other operating system I want to have such a personal relationship with.
I haven’t always been a Mac zealot. My first computers were an Atari 400 and a Northstar Advantage running CP/M. I did conceive a burning lust for the first Lisa I saw, and quickly consummated that desire when the Mac shipped in 1984. I have owned a Mac of some kind or another ever since – just as I’ve always owned a DOS or Windows machine. Nevertheless, I was pretty unhappy with Apple during most of the 1990s. Under a succession of execrable CEOs from Scully to Spindler to Amelio, Apple let Microsoft catch up then surpass it. Mac OS 9 was an antiquated rattletrap that crashed for any reason and no reason at all. But then Steve came back and Apple shipped Mac OS X, the closest thing to the perfect operating system ever created, and I rejoined the choir.
Microsoft has done more and more to discourage interoperability and lock people into the Windows universe, and Linux is just not pretty enough for daily use. Only OS X gives me a great looking desktop with that robust UNIX flavor I crave. I’ve trashed nearly all my Microsoft applications. Internet Explorer has been replaced by Camino, Powerpoint by Keynote. I’ve tossed Entourage in favor of Powermail, iCal, and Address Book, and as soon as NisusWriter for OS X ships, it’s bye-bye Word. The Appleworks spreadsheet is no match for Excel, but it does enough for me, and it doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars.
Most importantly, there’s no more programmable operating system than OS X. Applescript, Perl, Python, and the tcsh shell ship with the computer. gcc and the best IDE and RAD development environment anywhere are free for the download. Even for someone with my limited skills, Mac OS X is an enticing programmers’ playground.
So instead of spending my tax refund on a new Thinkpad, I’ve got my finger poised over the checkout button at the Apple store. I really like that 12 inch Powerbook. But… I just wish it were a little bit faster. And.. what if Dvorak’s right and Apple is planning a move to x86? I sure would like to see OS X running on the Opteron or Itanium. Maybe I’ll just stick with my old 600 mhz iBook for now. It’s not all that slow, and after all, it is my little plastic pal.