Run Linux on My Mac? No Thanks
- 2008.06.24 - Tip Jar
My serious computer geek days are well behind me. From the early 1990s up to about 2003, I was a pretty hard core gamer. I built and hot-rodded my own machines, from a 486DX/66 up through a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4. I knew my Socket 7s and Slot 1s and stayed on top of each new development from 3dfx and Creative Labs.
When the group of friends with whom I used to have LAN parties drifted apart, I pretty much went cold turkey on the computer games. They just weren't as much fun without the social element. The big P4 gaming rig on which I'd blown a ton of money was suddenly being used for nothing more taxing than surfing the 'net and watching movies, neither of which really made it break much of a sweat.
It was about that time that I began spending more time with older Macs. I had already been using my G3 iBook as a mobile web-surfing machine - and as a DVD player when I was on the road, so it wasn't a big stretch to start writing on my Color Classic or using a PowerBook 190 to keep a database that I needed for both work and home.
Part of what draws me to the Mac is the gestalt of the whole thing. A Macintosh is more than the sum of all its parts.
The Wintel Mindset
When I was gaming on Wintel machines, I didn't give a flip about the OS. Once you're actually inside the game, the operating system doesn't matter much. Rainbow Six or Diablo are largely the same game no matter what operating system you're running.
Writing for my blog for publication or for a web forum is different, however. I may have a word processor, a graphics program, and a half-dozen websites on the desktop at once. Now the interface matters to me. How easily can I cut here, paste there, and drag a hyperlink to the other place without disturbing my train of thought? The Mac OS is just better for me in that respect.
In my gaming days, frame rate and screen resolution were everything, while the actual physical hardware meant nothing. Eight hours into a marathon frag fest or dungeon crawl, I can barely focus my eyes away from the screen to see where the pretzel bowl and Diet Dew can are sitting. The shape and color of the computer case don't even get noticed.
The Macintosh Gestalt
When I'm writing now, I find I care a lot more about the nature of the hardware. How do the keys feel? How easy is it to reach a USB port? Can I adjust the monitor brightness on the laptop without losing my concentration on the paragraph taking shape in my head? Is the computer not ugly?
If you'd told me years ago that I'd be worried about the shape and texture of the box containing the chips, I'd have laughed.
There's something about them - some magic combination of hardware and software - that makes them Macs....
But there it is. Even these old Macs are more than just a box on which to run programs. There's something about them - some magic combination of hardware and software - that makes them Macs and distinguishes them from Other Computers. Everything's easy. Everything's all of a piece. Everything works together.
The Problem with Linux
And that's probably why I won't be one of the people installing some version of Linux on my Macs. I use Macs because they're Macs. They get me out of the computer geekery and just let me create. If I wanted to go through the joy of finding drivers again, I'd be building some water-cooled overclocked monstrosity that dimmed the neighborhood lights when I turned it on; the Mac is a Zen garden of a computer that keeps me away from all that.
Granted, I haven't had any Macs really fall through the cracks yet. All mine are either old enough that I'm comfortable with the fact that they're just for puttering around in good old Classic OS or they're modern enough that they can at least run Tiger smoothly, which still provides a fairly smooth web surfing experience. Maybe if I had a beloved B&W tower or Lombard that I was using as a production machine that just . . . couldn't . . . quite . . . hack it anymore, I'd be singing a different tune, but I don't know.
Porsche once had a print ad campaign that showed a car cover draped over the very distinctive silhouette of a 911. Even completely covered up, there was no mistaking that car for anything else. The caption for the ad was "We're pretty confident in our identity. How about you?"
If you load Linux on your G3 tower and cover everything but the monitor with a sheet, will you still be able to tell that it's a Mac?
And if it's a beige G3 tower, would you even need the blanket?
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