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ATPM 11.03
March 2005




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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by David Blumenstein,

Switched Over and Turned On

The first computer I ever laid my hands on was a Digital PDP-11, and that was back in the mid-70s. It was not until mid-2004, almost 30 years later, that I became the proud owner of an Apple PowerBook. Even then it still took more than a few months to get acclimated to the operating system and customize an environment in which I could be productive.

A good portion of my life has been spent managing enterprises running Microsoft Windows and Unix networks, and while the latter never ceases to amaze the former has proven to be an endless parade of mind-numbing and costly annoyances. The amount of time spent fighting worms and viruses, combatting spyware and malware, and applying countless security and system updates finally took its toll on me.

Up until May of 2004, I was the Chief Technology Officer of a global advertising agency. The week after I left, I went in for a series of much needed surgeries, which kept me off of my feet for the balance of the year. Rather than read titles off the bestseller list, I picked up a PowerBook and started teaching myself as much as I could about the operating system, software applications, and hardware. A number of my close Mac-savvy friends assisted me with suggestions of what to install, and which keyboard shortcuts would make life easier.

I was attracted to the Macintosh platform because I became so intensely jaded by and cynical of the computer industry. Two decades on IBM compatible/Wintel computers and 10+ years in the user group community had robbed me of my passion for technology. There just had to be a more appealing platform without all the stifling restrictions and anal adherence to a registry file. The emergence of Mac OS X, with its BSD/Mach underpinnings and a solid graphical environment, offers up the best of two worlds. I now have a workspace in which to run applications, and a Unix-based subsystem in which programs can be written and compiled. The peace of mind that my PowerBook affords me is invaluable, and at the end of the day that is what counts.

I came to realize that in order for me to make the most of my PowerBook I was going to have develop a desktop that would work for and not against me. This involved combing the world of third-party vendors and shareware applications and finally tweaking the hell out of my Unix shell environment. My penchant for Unix systems and the keyboard have made Codetek’s Virtual Desktop Pro and Quicksilver’s contextual launcher indispensable. I am confident that without these programs operating my PowerBook would be far less enjoyable.

Having walked around New York City with a Dell PC under my arm and now an Apple PowerBook, I have discovered the existence of an intangible Macintosh mystique, which is both hard to put into words and even harder to explain to someone who is not a computer user. I sat in my favorite coffeehouse at my table in the back, chugging away at my mocha and PowerBook, when a woman from France asked me out of the blue if she could share my table and power up her PowerBook with my adapter. She had run out of power, forgotten her power adapter at the hotel, and desperately needed to finish her work. Would she have been so bold if we both had PCs? What would the odds be, that being the case, that both of our computers were the same make and model so that the adapter would be compatible?

There is a kinship among Apple PowerBook and iBook users that cuts across gender, age, class, and experience. Perhaps this is part of Apple’s master plan to make both users and hardware interact and integrate with each other. It is working. I feel like I’m part of a community. As I weave in and out of neighborhoods that are new to me, fellow users will start up conversations, exchange tips and tricks they have learned along the way, and in one instance I actually ended up helping someone with their computer.

I am now a Mac-head. Somehow it crept up on me. Now I cannot envision myself latching on to a x86 machine running Microsoft Windows. It is the look and feel of Mac OS X, the drop shadows, the ethereal floating windows continually drawing me in. It doesn’t hurt matters either that the absence of a registry makes it so much easier to install and uninstall software and in general manage applications on the hard drive. Am I ready to love my PowerBook unconditionally? Stay tuned.

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Reader Comments (1)

Erin Ptacek · April 2, 2005 - 21:15 EST #1
Like you, I was dragged pretty grudgingly to using a Mac. If OS X was not based on UNIX, I never would have conceded. I used Macs for many years in the late 80s and early 90s and never felt like they were much more than glorified word processesing machines.

Kinship through compatible plugs? Could there be some social engineering going on? Is there soylent green inside? Is Logan running?

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