Disclaimer: This will be an unusually personal post so be prepared.
I’m a Mac user, and at one point a hardcore Mac evangelist who was responsible for converting many of my Windows friends by channeling them to “see the light”. Though I felt powerful showing off all my deep knowledge of Apple and the Mac OS, I quickly realized that switching wasn’t a one time thing… there was the responsibility of taking time to support my new Mac friends. I guess I did it because it felt like I was doing a good deed by making their life easier. An eventual advantage was that I would be introducing them a computer to them that requires less mantainance. I know this for a fact because even though I freelance fixing Macs, most of the calls I get are for Windows-related problems, namely spyware, malware, and viruses.
Once in a while, you do get users who don’t get Macs or are so used to how Windows works that they prefer to switch back. I had one such friend who saved up enough money just to buy one of cheaper eMacs. He had accidentally dragged thousands of files on his Mac desktop and into the dock, filling it into an unusable state. Back then I was so busy that I couldn’t help him much, so he had to drag files out of the dock one by one (ouch!). He ended up being so frustrated, he smashed the Apple keyboard into pieces, with letter caps flying all over his bedroom. Now we know that you could simply trash the Dock preferences to fix that.
When someone switches back to a PC, I don’t get so religious about it anymore. I believe that at the end of the day, screw brand loyalty and use whatever works best for you… Apple doesn’t pay me to evangelize, or offer me any discounts, but neither do most brands name companies, which is really stupid. This brings me to my confessional:
Lately, I felt like I have gone over to the dark side. Most of you know of my interest in the Mac x86 development scene. Ever since my friend Peter showed me how easy it was to configure and install, I’ve been using a Sony Vaio TR3A that dual-boots Mac OS and Windows XP. Heck, I even started to appreciate Windows a lot more now… so much so that my girlfriend was worried it would be a sign that I was succumbing to flirtation (damn those sexy Sony Vaios!). Sure, Windows isn’t user-friendly (user interface quirks), but if you’re an experienced computer user who understands what’s really going on in the system, sacrificing some form for function (e.g. speed) would be a welcoming challenge. I must say that compared to my 1.5Ghz 12″ Powerbook, this 1Ghz 10″ Vaio feel so much snappier and quieter. I’m quite sick of my 12″ frankly speaking, with all the irritating spinning beachballs, Safari crashes, boiling heat and fan noise. If Apple doesn’t improve their subnotebook line fast, I might just switch to a PC for good. Sure, there are some Mac apps that are irreplaceable in the PC world, but if you can live a day without making movies or DVDs, you’ll do fine using a PC laptop, especially for college where you would do heavy web surfing (including blogging), emailing (Gmail rocks!), and word processing.
Confessional aside, the manufacturing of my own freedom of choice manifests itself everywhere else too. I learnt from HardMac that the hacked Mac x86 OS is now being pirated in Bangkok. Always on the edge of piracy, the Bangkok market already sells a totally illegal version of Mac OS X 10.4 for PC. Pirates of course took advantage of the osx86project community discoveries, in order to sell versions they dare to call “Retail Edition”. They pointed out that this version is for experimental users, who won’t mind buying an unfinished product. While this is a questionable practice, certainly for the hacking community, doesn’t this show you how we’ve been so used to companies regulating our use of their products?
What the market wants, capitalism creates artificial demand though micro-channels which regulates things we use through specific file formats, PowerPC or Intel processors, type of flash media, and so on. What’s interesting is that the market fights back by hacking or modding products and services to do thy bidding. Everyone’s guilty of it: From storing illegally downloaded music on your iPod, to using GreaseMonkey to add a delete button or remove ads in Gmail, to the more complex hacking of Mac x86 to run on any PC (not just Apple issued ones).
This is the philosophy of our generation, the makers, the prosumers, produsers, and so on. Thanks to the Internet, we know how to circumvent regulatory technology to free the full potential of things we use. So, what would you like to hack today?