Losing an old friend

My trusty, indomitable Thinkpad T40 is showing telltale signs of domitability. I will feel its loss like the loss of an arm I’m using to cling to a mountain. Unfortunately, my Thinkpad crashes about once a day – hangs rigidly from a carefully-tied noose, requiring a hard reboot. I could send it off again to Lenovo, but it felt like a hasty hemispherectomy with a blunt knife the last time I needed to do that.

In pondering the purchase of my next outboard brain, I’m torn between the Lenovo X300 and the MacBook Air. If I refrain from superfluous eating or personal grooming, I think I can stretch my budget to $2200, which has to include warranty, spare power cable, external DVD drive etc. [Right now, the Lenovo X300 only exists in a flash drive model for $3000, but let’s assume that if I pray and masturbate hard enough, they’ll introduce a cheaper model with a standard hard disk].

Let’s start with the MacBook Air pros. It’s more beautiful than a prone supermodel, and almost as slim and weightless. Mac OS X probably works more reliably than anything else on the market, and with Parallels/Boot Camp, I should be pretty much covered for most eventualities. Keynote – nuff said. I don’t need a DVD drive more than once every few months, and I can live reluctantly with the ports it offers, plus some dongles.

On the con side, I don’t want to reward Steve Jobs’ deviously effective strategy of locking Apple consumers into an all-Apple world. I hate barriers to exit in consumer products. I think open solutions foster greater innovation in the long run. And I resent proprietary software like I resent being told what (not) to do.

There’s little to argue in favor of the Thinkpad specifically. I like its distinctiveness, its nipple mouse, and the fact that it has two mouse buttons and pageup/down keys.

Furthermore, I really like linux – I like that things are free in every sense. I love Debian-based package management – being able to automatically install and update everything with a single command or click is so weirdly, futuristically better than the Mac or Windows approach of downloading each application manually, each of which has its own update software – so much better that non-linux users literally don’t seem to believe what they’re missing. Finally, I love KDE. I like the fact that I have keyboard shortcuts for everything – I wear it like I wear my 5-year old walking boots that have moulded perfectly to my feet. I especially like focus-follows-mouse and being able to effortlessly move and resize windows by holding down Alt. These alone are very nearly enough to tie me to linux indefinitely.

But linux lets me down. My wireless is better than before, but it’s still a little drunk and a little deaf. I lose minutes a day to niggles and imperfections (e.g. USB, sleep and projectors). I’ve never quite had 3D video stuff working, so I have to jump through fiery hoops to run my experiment presentation software (PyEPL). YouTube and video are pretty hit and miss. And, even after using Open Office for 2 years, I still don’t like it as much as Microsoft Office.

So I’m left trading off my preference for linux’s user interface, package management and freeness against beautiful hardware and reliability. Perhaps I’m getting old and impatient, but the reliability is really the kicker here.

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One thought on “Losing an old friend

  1. As a current Macaholic, I’ll just note that keyboard shortcuts are available via Quicksilver (free), and that I do almost all work in Firefox, X11, TeXShop, Textwrangler, Stickies, and WriteRoom, all free except the latter (which used to be free, and I’m using the legacy copy that I downloaded when it was free, although I should probably pony up the $35 or whatever already, given how much I use it… anyway.) I do use Office for spreadsheet and presentation functions now and again, but I think I could get by with Google and Beamer and not miss their proprietary counterparts too much. And if you buy your Mac through Princeton, Office is pretty much free…

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