Oct 20, 2010

#30before30: Buy an iProduct

Taken on PhotoBooth. With some sort of filter thingy.
Oh, I’ve become everything I’ve ever hated.

I’ve bought a Mac.

I blame John Birmingham. I really do. The man gets such a loving, faraway gaze in his eyes when talking about his master Steve Jobs and his shiny precious gadgets.

I wanted to feel like that! For once, I wanted to own a piece of technology that actually made my life easier, and didn’t make me want to bash my face into an electrified fence.

I’ve spent years loathing the “Cult of Mac”. I don’t even own an iPod. But repeated exposure to Apple-philes started me thinking that perhaps, PERHAPS, it might be worth a try. And then, my three-year-old HP laptop had a tragic encounter with a stretch of bitumen and couldn’t be revived.

Was it a sign? Like Sir Isaac Newton, was it time for me to have an Apple-induced revelation? I decide to give it a go.

“What my Master realised,” says Mr Birmingham, lightly flicking a finger over an iPad, “was that most people don’t care about how their computer works. They just want it to work.”

I’d asked JB to meet me at the Apple store at Chermside, and try to explain to me just WHY these mystical machines were so good. Having picked up his longed-for iPhone4 shiny precious, he was happy enough for the excuse to grab some accessories.

JB got turned onto Apple back in his magazine days, where it was the hardware of choice for graphic designers, and has been a loyal servant of Steve Jobs ever since.  He admits the company almost didn’t survive due to its famously “closed” operating system, but says in the end, Jobs was vindicated.
“My Master didn’t want just anyone touching his beautiful machine.”

He runs me through a fairly detailed history of the company, occasionally pointing at the glistening white iMacs in one corner of the store to admire their processing power, before arriving at the laptop section.

“This is what you’re looking at,” he says, standing in front of a 13-inch MacBook.

“Oh,” I say. “But it’s so… plasticky.”

JB gives a conciliatory nod of the head. “Fair enough, some people don’t like the feel of these ones."

We are joined then by one of the blue-shirted Genius brigade who wander round the store like Santa’s elves on nitrous. They must get happiness training or something, because not one of them seems to realise they are working in retail.

Our assistant turns my attention to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, a post-modern, minimalist masterpiece in brushed aluminium and smugness.

“I prefer the feel of this one,” I tell JB, who's busy getting specs from our genius.

“It’s got more memory, and a bigger hard drive,” he says. “And for your video and photo editing, the SD card slot is handy.”

But what about the different operating system, the different commands and controls, the fact it’s all the wrong way around to Windows? What if I can’t USE it, JB?

“You’ll be fine,” he says, in a Zen-like state of beneficence.

I ask the genius for a quote, and she says they’ll email one to me. But it never arrives. I even spend 20 minutes on hold to the Apple store a few days later before giving up. Those geniuses sure are popular.

So, after receiving my insurance payout for my old laptop, I end up ordering one of the damn things from JB Hi-Fi (also saved myself $5 – yeah, take THAT Steve Jobs!)

So, having had the “shiny precious” now for about two weeks, what do I think?

Well, it sure is pretty. All sleek and stuff. It looks like too nice a thing for me to own. Trouble is, I think it KNOWS it’s better than me. I feel a little inadequate.

The screen is lovely to look at, but I can’t for the life of me figure out the trackpad. Two fingers here, four fingers there – I feel like I’m fumbling through very embarrassing foreplay while the machine sighs with disappointment. I’ve had to plug in a mouse just to get articles written.

For something that’s just supposed to work, I’m having a few compatibility problems. The driver for my printer hasn’t installed properly, and a free program I downloaded from the net keeps freezing. Of course, the machine remains Lord Smuggy McSmugness - I feel fairly certain these issues are probably all my fault.

Thing is, being in the middle of the #30before30 challenge means I don't have time to just sit down and bond with the computer. Watch all the instruction videos, read up on the differences to Windows, play around for a bit, set up some basic files.

I haven’t got JB’s starry-eyed love of the damn thing yet. I’m not sure I’m computer savvy enough to ever get that. I’ll keep you posted. But judging from my inability to set up the mail program, it may have to be a good old-fashioned letter.