Some people have a favorite pair of boots that make them feel like dancing. Other people feel like themselves with they pick up a special pen, or dive deep into a remote patch of woods.
My soul feels free when I see a logo: Apple’s, to be precise. No amount of goading and mockery from my open source pals can displace the deep sense of purpose and possibility that sets in when I hear that startup chime and see my computer booting up with a big, bitten apple smack-dab in the middle of my screen. After seventeen years as a Mac user, the sight of that logo provokes a Pavlovian response: my inner creative starts to salivate with excitement over the blog post I’m about to write, the web sites I’m about to explore, or even (!) the spreadsheets I’m about to edit.
I make this profession of fervour as context for what I’m about to say:
Turning my HP Mini into a Mac is the Best Thing Ever.
Give me that same day, and a super-light, underpowered computer, and you’ll find me writing with great focus — punctuated by extended walks whenever I hit a block.
The HP Mini thus looked like the perfect purchase. At 2.5 lbs and 7×10 inches, it fit into a small backpack that made extended walks a non-issue. And at 1.6 gz, and running Windows, it made geeking out so annoying that distraction has been a virtual non-issue.
But I discovered one major problem. Without that startup chime and glowing apple logo, the Pavlovian instinct to create never kicked in. Instead of launching my day with joy, I felt the incipient dread that is the lot of the Windows user.
I tried getting around it by running Ubuntu, a version of Linux. Ubuntu made me feel super cool — kind of like the banana yellow patent leather heels that used to be my favourite shoes. Eventually, I had to admit that no matter how cool the shoes looked, they hurt like hell. In Ubuntu’s case, the toe-pinching came in the form of Evernote, the one application I utterly rely on which had no Ubuntu version or equivalent. I got around the lack of a Linux version of Evernote by running Evernote inside of WINE, a Windows emulator. It was agonizingly slow. Then one day I realized: instead of running a Windows emulator, I could start using the Windows partition I’d left on my Mini!
For a few months, Windows did the job. As long as I was working purely in Evernote, with occasional forays into TweetDeck and Firefox, Windows was tolerable.
Then I reached the point in my writing when I wanted to format my documents. OpenOffice proved to be a pretty annoying substitute for Microsoft Office, perhaps because it ran incredibly slowly in Windows. I had yet to find Windows equivalents for the various apps and system enhancements I use on my Mac (like Skitch, Default Folder X and TextExpander) and I didn’t want to waste time looking.
The moment had come to switch to a MacBook Air. I rounded up the various pieces of deprecated technology in my collection, and prepared to auction them on eBay — along with the Mini — so I could pay for a refurbished Air.
Then I went to see Star Trek at the IMAX theater.
I’d love to tell you that the sight of the freshly re-imagined transporter interface gave me a moment of sudden insight into my operating system travails. Believe me, nothing would make me feel more deliciously geek than to draw my tech how-tos from Kirk and Spock.
But the transformative moment came right after the movie, when my film-going companion and long-suffering netbook mentor, Mike K. (aka drfyzziks), showed me his Sony Vaio: running the Mac OS. I could do the same thing with the Mini, he assured me — it would be easy!
Mike is to computers as my brother-in-law Rick is to carpentry. Rick is the man who assured me that stripping the paint from a bookcase would be a breeze. After suffering multiple chemical burns and taking the finish off our marble floors, I was just glad I hadn’t listened to him when he said I could use a circular saw without risking my fingers.
So despite Mike assuring me that I could Mac my Mini, my excitement was mixed with skepticism. But I dove in and followed his verbal instructions.