I thought about calling this post "How a FOSS advocate ended up loving a Mac with Windows 7 running in a virtual machine and a thousand bucks worth of proprietary software cranking alongside it," but it was longer than headlines should generally be, so I figured I'd just steal from Browning for a title. She wouldn't mind, although her classic sonnet doesn't manage to capture the mixture of love and self-loathing that my Mac manages to conjure up.
A bit of back story: I just scored myself a new MacBook Pro this week, courtesy of a sweet lease deal and my oldest son's need for a Mac for college. I've had Macs before and they've been perfectly fine computers, but it wasn't until Apple gave me a long-term loaner that I started seeing that they might actually be worth their inflated prices.
The MacBook Pro I'm using (a 15" Core i5 with their high-resolution, non-glare display) came in around $2100 with their business discount. My son's, with a Core i7, upgraded graphics card, and the full-glass high-res display topped out at over $2400. Not pocket change. Nor was Adobe CS5. Or Windows 7. Or Office 2010. I didn't spring for the $39 to get VMWare Fusion, instead opting to run Windows 7 in VirtualBox, but running VirtualBox, Chrome, and Firefox hardly put me in Richard Stallman territory. It wasn't all that long ago that I raised the open source software flag daily and ran Ubuntu as my primary server and desktop operating systems. They were free and worked brilliantly. Why pay for software? Or for expensive hardware, for that matter, when commodity hardware will do the trick?
Because, when it comes down to it, I need to be hyper-productive. I have work coming out my ears (I'm not complaining in this economy, but I believe a deliverable for one of my clients actually did just go straight past its deadline and right out my left ear) and, increasingly, my work involves creating both written and visual content for a variety of platforms. I make my living in front of a computer and that computer better be able to do everything I ask of it, even if that's editing photos in Photoshop, producing audio podcasts, creating the PowerPoint deck to end all PowerPoint decks, or just let me type effortlessly for hours. The Mac does all of that wonderfully in a tough package that I'll have trouble breaking.
I did mention a healthy dose of self-loathing, though. Why? Because Steve Jobs is evil, the Mac ecosystem is closed in ways that offend every open source sensibility I've ever embraced, because the very core of the Apple profit machine is so closely related to Linux whose developers donate their time for the good of IT-kind, and because the very system I love is one that I can't recommend to the cash-strapped schools for whom I consult. And because the back-lit keyboard is so good that I can't help but write flowing run-ons like that one.
Even Apple's announcement surrounding whatever new Apple TV coolness they're unleashing today is cause for this little internal conflict of mine. Yay! I have a MacBook running Snow Leopard, so I can watch their announcement streaming live! Boo! They're requiring that everyone who wants to watch the announcement have an updated Apple product while still claiming to be using open standards. Yay! Their new streaming technology is going to improve video quality and bandwidth consumption! Boo! It's a closed implementation. Ugh.
And yet you don't see me not buying the Mac on principle, do you? No, her siren song is too strong. And I'm getting too much work done on the only platform where I can legally run OS X, with its fully integrated suites of iLife and iWork applications and snappy performance, alongside Windows 7 and Office 2010, seamlessly integrated through virtual machines, alongside Ubuntu running as a test and development environment for web applications, alongside the best graphics and content creation software that Adobe has to offer. And where I can compose run-on sentences that just never seem to end.
This video probably says it all better than I can. And Joan Jett is way better looking than Elizabeth Barrett Browning.