Tuesday 21 January 2003

To s**t or not to s**t

Weary of my pussyfooting around over whether to buy a Macintosh or not, Burningbird finally snapped:

Okay, enough is enough. Jonathon Delacour has been flirting with the idea of getting a Mac, teasing us, coyly, with this will he or won’t he like a 16 year old on a hot date.

Time for this man to buy a Mac.

As I lay here on my bed, lightweight PowerBook on my lap, I decided to start a list of reasons why Jonathon should either s**t or get off the pot and buy that PBook.

Shit or get off the pot. I haven’t heard that expression since I lived with a psychotherapist, J, many years ago. In Australia the corresponding expression is “put up or shut up.” I’m sure she picked up its more graphic equivalent from reading Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, transcripts of three workshop/demonstrations that Fritz Perls gave at the Esalen Institute in 1968. Perls would say this to clients who, once in the hot seat, were reluctant to dive into the malestrom maelstrom of their neurosis. I don’t recall J telling me to “shit or get off the pot”—like Perls, she reserved that expression for recalcitrant clients—but she did encourage me to tell lies. “Stop being so rigid,” she’d tell me. “The truth is malleable. You could be a really accomplished liar if you put your mind to it.” I wonder if that’s not why, many years after we’d separated, I abandoned the “literal truth” of photography in order to chase a dream of telling stories.

Anyway, enough reminiscing. I admit that I’ve been prevaricating over the PowerBook, possibly even more than “a 16 year old on a hot date.” And Burningbird offers a variety of reasons for buying a Macintosh—some compelling, others less so. Let’s run through them quickly:

  • Weight. I don’t need to be sold on weight. For nearly four years I’ve had an IBM ThinkPad 600E, which is the best piece of computer hardware I’ve ever owned: light, rugged, and reliable. But the 12-inch PowerBook is even lighter and Apple’s hardware is usually pretty good. Score 1 point to the PowerBook.
  • Ease of use. Though Burningbird likes her TiBook’s keyboard and touchpad, the ThinkPad’s keyboard is excellent and I hate touchpads with a passion. Score 1 point to the ThinkPad.
  • Monitor. The ThinkPad is also great for “watching DVD movies in bed.” Call it a draw.
  • Neat Apple stuff. “There isn’t fun stuff for Windows.” Maybe not, but there’s a ton of functional stuff. More about that later. The [Macintosh] software actually installs without tweaking. Amazing.” Amazing indeed. But another draw.
  • OS Support. Burningbird runs three operating systems simultaneously: Mac OS 10.2, BSD Unix, and Win2K (under virtual PC). Plus X Windows on top of the Aqua Interface. I’m currently running Win2K and Red Hat Linux on my ThinkPad. Score 1 point to the PowerBook.
  • Portability. With a wireless router and WiFi, Burningbird can carry her Macintosh everywhere. I’ve run an Ethernet cable from my router to an old Toshiba laptop in the living room so I can check email, if necessary. Burningbird also paints a picture of me in the kitchen, plying the Dishmatique while the Mac plays music, a movie, or soccer clips. A compelling vision, no doubt, but there’s a clear line of sight from my kitchen to the living room, where the TV and stereo are. A draw.
  • Cats. According to Burningbird, “cats prefer PowerBooks 2 to 1 over comparable PC-based laptops. No, really.” Hmm. I checked this out with Reimi-chan.
    “Aunt Shelley says that cats prefer PowerBooks 2 to 1 over comparable PC-based laptops,” I told her.
    “Not cats who belong to photographers,” she replied. “Rob Galbraith’s tests show that the PC is about twice as fast as a comparable Macintosh for a range of digital photography tasks.”
    Score 1 point for the ThinkPad. (I may no longer be “a photographer” but I do have a couple of digital cameras.)
  • Compatibility: Burningbird notes that I’m unable to test my website design against the OS and machines that many of my readers use. Point taken. Although I still own an ancient PowerPC 8100 (running System 8.6), I don’t have a clue what my site looks like on a modern Macintosh. Score 1 point to the PowerBook.
  • Coolness. PowerBooks are cooler than PC laptops. Agreed. But I prefer to think that I’m the kind of guy who is innately cool, rather than one who relies on external possessions to telegraph his coolness. But there’s a strong chance I may be deluding myself, so let’s give that 1 point to the PowerBook.
  • Sex. TiBooks are sexy, PC laptops aren’t. Well, I have to disagree. ThinkPads are made of titanium too. It’s just that IBM paints them black. So that other people won’t think ThinkPad owners are wankers. “Tell me, which would you rather be? Sexy? Or functional?” asks Burningbird. Where I come from, functional is sexy, if you’re functioning properly. Score another draw.

Burningbird offers as “the final and best reason of all — PowerBooks are the official laptop of Alpha Males.” I’m actually well-versed in Alpha Male Theory and this sounds suspiciously like the cat statistic, which Reimi shot down in flames. I’ll let it pass. For now.

So, how’s the scoreboard? PowerBook 4, ThinkPad 2. Admittedly, I’m due for another notebook computer, which is why—despite my loyalty to the ThinkPad series—I’ve been nurturing my Macintosh fantasy, first an iBook, now the tiny PowerBook.

My main problem is this: I don’t really need another computer. In fact, I was thinking to myself that I can probably eke another year’s use out of my current ThinkPad, when I followed up a ping from gord at poeticgeek who’s been lusting after an Apple notebook too:

I will definitely have to look a little more seriously into getting one. I really have wanted one for ages now. Then again, money is a bit tight. But, you really can never treat yourself enough. I’ll consider it a productivity enhancer; even though it will more likely be a productivity detractor.

He’s voicing my own thoughts, exactly. Money is a bit tight. But it’s nice to treat oneself occasionally. Then he articulates my greatest fear: another operating system will just be a productivity detractor. I was a Macintosh user from 1985 to 1996. It was a real wrench to pull myself away to the PC, which had a bunch of software I wanted to use that was unavailable on the Mac. So I have a huge investment in PC software. I know what it takes to become truly proficient with an OS. And I’m already a Grand Master at Using Computers To Avoid Doing Any Real Work.

There is, however, one compelling reason that Burningbird failed to mention: Apple’s first-rate Japanese language support. That warrants serious consideration, which can wait for another day.

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Jonathon, you based your question to Reimi-chan on _tests_ when _everyone_ knows cats are into sensory rather than intellectual input. No wonder she answered the way she did -- probably taking her cue from the Man with the Munchies.

In unbiased testing, when my two laptops sit side-by-side, Zoe prefers, two to one, to sit on the TiBook over the Dell.

Posted by Burningbird on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

"When I sit down in front of a Windows machine, I can't write; when I sit down in front of my Mac, I can write. So I only use Macs." —Michael Crichton

Posted by Norm Jenson on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Bb, your remark confirms my guess that Zoe is one spoiled cat. I'm sure Reimi-chan has yearned to sit on one of my computers ever since I took her to the vet and she saw the three-legged cat who lives there snoozing comfortably on a 15-inch monitor. But she appears to have accepted with good grace my explanation that computers and cat fur don't go well together. Or maybe she simply realizes the greater importance of munchies.

Ah, Norm, just as I'm teetering on the brink of buying a Macintosh you provide the most compelling reason for me to stick with the PC. What Truman Capote said (unfairly, in my view) of Jack Kerouac, definitely applies without qualification to Michael Crichton: "It is not writing. It is only typing."

Posted by Jonathon on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

From what I have seen, Mac OS X's interface is the dishmatique to PC's dirty sock. Both wash the dishes, but which would you rather use?

I find the beautiful and intuitive interface to be wonderful. As well, being built on a stable FreeBSD base, you have the makings of a wonderful computer. I don't know if you have seen the latest laptops with the backlightable keyboards, but that is definitely a plus for me, as I am often in the dark and am very accustomed to typing on a full size keyboard.

Posted by gord on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Michael Crichton?!? Anyone who uses him as a spokesman ought to lose money, house and significant other.

Posted by John on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

To be honest, from an ex-Linux user to a current one, it will take you zero time to become a power OS X user. I've had my iBook two weeks and a day now, and there's nothing I can't do. I was on the internet in five minutes (which would have been shorter, but I didn't realize the Ethernet cable was still unplugged) and had XEmacs installed and running in maybe fifteen. With fink, the developer tools, and so forth, you can install Debian packages, compile your own software, anything you could ever want to do.

And people will notice. You'll be talking to people about your Mac for weeks. :-)

Posted by Chris on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Look Jonathon, you've got heaps of Mac readers out there.

Get off the pot and get the beautiful small G4. You need it to ensure that your pages look good in that OS X environment.

Posted by Allan Moult on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Not wanting to sound pedantic, but since you've got such a knack for language --shouldn't it be maelstrom instead of malestrom? A Fehleistung perhaps?

Posted by tulse on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I know, Alan, it's just a matter of time now.

Thanks for the encouraging words, Chris. I guess I should be able to pick it up reasonably quickly.

And you don't sound pedantic at all, Tulse. Such an elementary spelling error can only have been a Fehleistung (Freudian slip, for the non-German speakers -- not that I'm a German speaker, I just looked it up on Google). I made the correction and I appreciate your pointing it out.

Posted by Jonathon on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

My wife is getting ready to junk her windows machine & buy a pBook.

But the real reason I stopped by to leave a comment is that my mother, who was a good Christian woman, would occasionally be moved--usually by my father's dithering--to mutter, "Shit or get off the pot." This would have been back in the 50s, btw.

Posted by Joseph on 22 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Okay Jonathon, please delete my ill conceived comment. I've never read anything by Michael Crichton and never will. Your readers are now threatening me. I know John used the word ought, but I know the slippery slope he is standing on. First ought, then should, and then... Perhaps you would be willing to substitute this by Douglas Adams.

"I wrote an ad for Apple Computer: "Macintosh - We might not get everything right, but at least we knew the century was going to end"

Actually I know just exactly what you mean. I'm unable to write anything even remotely creative on a computer. It must first flow from pen to page, but once written it certainly looks better on a Macintosh.

Posted by Norm Jenson on 23 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

You are getting close my friend. Just a little tiny push and you'll be there. I'm reminded me of something else Douglas Adams wrote. "Macintosh may only have 10% of the market, but it is the top 10%" since he said that it has become even more compelling, by some accounts we Mac owners are now in the top 3%.

Posted by Norm Jenson on 23 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Joe, Fritz Perls came to the United States in the fifties so he must have picked it up there -- though probably not from your mother. I'll be interested in hearing about your wife's PowerBook experience.

Too late, Norm. I'm most reluctant to remove comments -- no matter how offensive or controversial. Now that you've been branded an Enemy of Good Writing, I'm wondering how you'll manage to redeem yourself. And I know I'm getting close -- what will it be, I wonder, that gives me the final push?

Posted by Jonathon on 23 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)


I used a 600E for a long time, running Linux and KDE. Ram upgraded to 288megs, of course.

In July 2002, I switched to a 14" iBook 700, and switched to wireless.

First, as to the keyboard, I used the Thinkpad keyboard exclusively, and never got comfortable. I have never used (or needed) an external keyboard for the iBook. I really like the way it types.

As to the mouse, I keep a Microsoft Intellimouse in the laptop bag, it's my preferred mousing device. In those rare occurrences that I'm not using the machine somewhere with a desk/table/etc, I use the scratch pad. I don't like it, but only because I find it slow. It's responsive and works. The little nub mouse stick on Thinkpads has, and always will, infuriate me to no end. I never, ever, used it.

Having used both Thinkpad and iBook, I'd call "keyboard and mouse" at the very least a draw.

As to wireless, I avoided it for the longest time. I have a 1000' spool of CAT5 in my basement. I wired a wall plate with an RJ45 jack into my living room for the wife's computer. That being said, now that I'm wireless, I'll never go back. The reason I have a laptop is to not be tied to one location. I normally now use my iBook at my dining room table (My dining room looks odd. Five regular chairs and an Aeron). I use it in bed. I've used it in my basement, on my back porch, and sitting in front of the TV chatting with a friend while watching an NFL game.

And, yes, I've even been in the midst of a task and didnt want to lose momentum and carried the iBook into the bathroom.

As to the others, they're really subjective. You can get a PC laptop now that looks almost identical to a TiBook.

One thing that burningbird did NOT mention, however. Battery Life. If I'm going to be somewhere without easily reachable power for a while I crank the screen brightness way down. From a fully charged battery in this iBook, I get over five hours. The last PC laptop I had that I traveled with (The 600 had no battery, it was basically a tethered desktop), I had to change batteries mid flight between Cincinnati and San Francisco, at about 2.5 hours.

Posted by Chris on 24 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

You wrote: `Shit or get off the pot. I haven't heard that expression since I lived with a psychotherapist, J, many years ago. In Australia the corresponding expression is "put up or shut up."'

Strange; around here we say, "put out or get out."

Posted by Blackie on 24 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Happy Birthday, Jonathon! Now go buy the damn PowerBook!

Posted by monica on 25 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Happy Birthday Jonathon, and what better way to celebrate than to buy yourself a shiny new Mac.
It's your birthday you can buy if you want to, buy if you want to, I would buy too... but hell I already did. You're turn.

Posted by Norm Jenson on 25 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I've found cats are pretty platform agnostic, although they do prefer machines with wireless net connections:


I'd suggest another option, one with which I replaced the bulky thing in that image: The Fujitsu P series laptops.

* No trackpad, so there's not all that wasted space below the keyboard and (as you've already noticed) you're not accidentally brushing the pad and dropping your words into page 3.

* The extra width to height ratio give 1280x768 pixels. If you're going to go small, at least take advantage of all the room you've got. I do not understand crippling the 12" Apple with 1024x768.

* Subjectively nicer keyboard feel than the Apple machines. Keyboards are personal things, but I couldn't stand the iBooks when I typed on them.

* High cuteness factor. Snazzy metal color and small size that leads to lots of discussions when used in public places.

* 11+ hours of run time with the extra drive-bay battery for those trans-Pacific flights

* Built in wireless. No, really, wireless rocks. No more replaced dongles. No more worrying about someone else in the room tripping over the ethernet cable. No more "oh, I've gotta stop reading this article and go to the bathroom". I used to have Cat5 cable draped through the house too, so I know whereof I speak.

* The usual assortment of peripherals, DVD, CD-RW, Firewire, etcetera.

Of course my real reason for going with it was that the geek factor is high enough that there's really good Linux support on it, so you've got access to all those professional level video editing system, film depth image manipulation tools, 3d modeling and animation packages, and the great Un*x development environment. Had mine for 6 months now, and it's the best expensive toy I've ever bought myself.

Posted by Dan Lyke on 25 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Hey Dan, I think that's called setting the cat amongst the pigeons. I was unaware of the Fujitsu P series so I checked out the P2120 (http://www.lifebook.com.au/products/lb_p2120.html). What a sweet little unit -- and you forgot to mention that it has Firewire support too.

What flavor of Linux are you running on yours? I checked the Red Hat, SUSE, and Mandrake hardware compatibility lists and the Fujitsu P series wasn't listed.

And thank you for the birthday wishes, Norm. I was on the brink of buying the Macintosh -- then Dan made me aware of a viable alternative.

Posted by Jonathon on 25 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Viable,ha! Did I mention the display on the Mac is so good that you can see the future on it and I see you on the verge of slipping back to the dark-side. Resist, feel the force, it will guide you back to the light. Remember you want what we have you just don't know it yet. Dan you are now in serious need of redemption. What the hell were you thinking?

Posted by Norm Jenson on 26 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)


I know we've discussed the plus side of NOT getting a Mac, but I must admit -- walking past that Macintosh store this morning, a woman sitting on a bench outside, quietly typing away on her slim iBook -- that Siren sure can belt out one helluva song.
- Robert

Posted by RKB on 26 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

And since I'm on a bit of a rant. Red Hat, Mandrake, give me a break BSD best suits Delacour

Posted by Norm Jenson on 26 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Giggle. But I did mention Firewire, I just tossed it in at the very end with DVD/CD-RW and all those other things you'd expect to find in a modern laptop.

Details in email lest I turn your birthday greetings thread into some sort of bad hardware advocacy thing.

Posted by Dan Lyke on 26 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

See, I wouldn't be so late wishing you happy birthday if I had a laptop, as I have been away from my computer.

So without further ado, buy a laptop, I mean, happy birthday Jon.

All the best.

Posted by gord on 27 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Well the old switcheroo...
I like MACs for many reasons but for me 166x1200px resolution on a laptop, well it beats 1024x768
before you indulge consider
nice power system... pretty colours...
Of course I wouldn't mind having a mac as well but I need a pc besides I am a sony whore
even if they have URIs that are longer than pi!
just another couple of options out there to help you make up your mind.

oh, happy B-day

Posted by scottbp on 28 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour