The Question


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Friends and family often ask me "what kind of computer should i get?"

This is always a loaded question. It's like asking "what kind of sweater should I get?" There's not just one type of sweater that's perfect for a given person. Some people want a sweater that's going to keep them warm while they're chopping wood at their cabin up in Maine, some people want a sweater that won't cause them to overheat while they're sitting in their office, and some people just need a sleek simple sweater that isn't going to get all stretched out after one year, and which won't pill up in a week.

It's the same thing with computers. There are computers that are small. There are computers that are fast. There are computers that are very cheap. There are also computers that work really well.

And if there's ever a type of computer that I'd recommend for everyone, it's the last type. Everyone needs a computer that just works. If you're not able to use the computer to do things because the hardware fell apart on you, or because the operating system got borked, or it's so riddled with viruses that it runs at a glacial pace, then it's of absolutely no use to you. It doesn't matter how powerful it is, how much RAM it has, or how cool it looks; if you can't use it then it might as well be a toaster.

And that's why I always bring up the Mac thing with people.

"Are there any specific programs that you need to be able to run? What do you need to be able to do with it? Are you running Photoshop? Are you looking for something that will allow you to browse the web and answer email?"

At this point I'll pop the question.

"What about a Mac?" I'll say.

I usually get this look, like I've just cursed at a cotillion.

"You'll never get viruses," I say.

"You'll never have to worry about spyware or hackers or reinstalling the OS." I usually get a pretty positive reaction to that one.

But still. People almost never bite. The Mac is somehow /different/. It's strange.

"Will I be able to run Word on it?" is a common question, and since the answer is "yes," it's one I look forward to.

"What about the Internet? Does the Mac have the Internet?" that's usually from people who think that AOL is the Internet.

"Yes," I say. "You'll have the Internet. You'll be able to run Word if you want to. You'll be able to still email people who have PCs. You'll be able to synch your Treo to it. The only difference is, you'll be able to do those things better."

And that's where I usually lose people. They'll start to look a little incredulous. I think they think I'm insulting their computer prowess or something. Which I'm not.

I program all day long on a PC. I've used PCs professionally for nearly a decade, but I use a Mac at home (a 2 year old Powerbook), and it's not for novelty's sake. It's because I get more things done.

I'm able to write web apps quicker because I have access to an actual *nix environment. I'm able to manage my photos more efficiently because of iPhoto. I'm able to work without fear of getting a virus because of yet another bug in Outlook / Internet Explorer / etc. And because everything is so tightly integrated, I can set up my home computing environment so that I have these tight little loops that allow me to store and retrieve information, from a number of different sources, which means I don't forget to do things anymore.

That's the secret. That's why people that own Macs usually are fanatical about their Macs. It's changed their lives. It allows them to get more things done. And it's both as simple as you want it to be, and as complex as you can handle.

So, there you go. Do you want a computer? Get a Mac.