Alright, alright, I admit it. I hate Freedom. Stuff your open source philosophies, your Free Software Foundation, your Libre / Gratis. Knackers to the lot of it.
I want a Mac.
Yes, I do, I want a Mac. I want a shiny, shiny MacBook Pro in all its aluminium unibody glory. I want to fondle its keyboard, hug its metallic curves and yes, possibly, gently lick its screen like a puppy.
Okay, most of what I just wrote is hyperbolic nonsense1, but in truth I’m seriously considering making my next laptop a MacBook Pro. There are a number of reasons, but I’ll outline just the most salient for the sake of brevity:
1. Quality of hardware
I’ve been a Dell user for a number of years, and my trusted Inspiron 640m has flown countless miles and taken much punishment from me. The keyboard is worn to the point where none of the letters are legible. The hard drive whines weirdly sometimes when it’s switched on. The volume controls are, shall we say, eccentric at best.
But from no-one who’s ever used a MacBook have I every heard “oh, it’s a bit plasticky” or “well, I wish they’d thought the case out a bit better” or “it’s just not a machine I’d like to be seen with.” MacBooks are the Jaguars of notebooks: even the ones that you think look ugly when they come out actually look astonishingly pretty; you just have to change your terms of reference to accomodate them (this metaphor falls down when we come to the S-Type, I know; I think that you’ll find the S-Type of notebooks to be something in the Acer range).
And the quality of the bits inside isn’t to be sniffed at, either. Although they’ve had their fair share of problems – just like most hardware manufacturers (anyone remember Dell’s exploding batteries? I’ve still got mine somewhere) – they are, for the most part, reliable and well built. They’re not as rugged as, say, a Thinkpad, but then I don’t actually need a laptop that I can use to beat a thief senseless with and still send an email from later (and come on, seriously, the case is metal).
Let’s cut to the quick. If I buy a non-Mac laptop, unless I buy from a very narrow range of manufacturers, I’ll get Windows with it. I don’t want Windows. Ever. I have no need for it and I wouldn’t ever use it now if I didn’t have to (see the next section). At least OSX, for all its freedom-hatingness, is Unix-based; at least I’m semi familiar with the way it behaves.
Truth is, I’d still want to run Ubuntu on the thing, either dual booted or inside a VM (can you have VMWare machine use an existing hard disk as its root partition? Just wondering, answers on a postcard), because I’m used to working in Ubuntu for ninety-odd percent of the time. I’ve no wish to change that. There’s only two programs that I’d every really need to run on OSX, which are…
3. Lightroom and Photoshop
There’s no nice way to put this: there’s just no equivalent digital photography tools in Ubuntu. None. F-Spot isn’t a Lightroom equivalent (nor was it meant to be). The Gimp isn’t a Photoshop equivalent (it’s getting close, but it’s not there yet). I am starting out on a path that’s hopefully going to lead to at least a semi-pro photography career, and I’ve gotten used to using pro tools. At the moment I use Lightroom and Photoshop in a Windows VM and it’s the hardest, most horrible thing in the entire world. I have to mess about with shared folders in VirtualBox and make sure that partitions are mounted properly all the time before I start Lightroom. I have to keep my Lightroom catalogues on the VM and sync them to my $HOME using Dropbox, because you can’t have catalogues on networked volumes (don’t ask me why, I’ve no idea). I have to put up with the horrible, aching, chugging of my entire system if the VM has to use more than a bit of its allotted RAM (and when you’re using Photoshop that happens a lot).
Yes, I know it’s not free software. If there was a free software alternative that was equal in quality to Lightroom, I’d use it in the blink of an eye. I would. Lightroom makes it astonishingly easy to do 90% of all my post-processing; Photoshop makes it possible (though not necessarily simple) to do the other 10%.
I don’t want to keep running these apps on Windows – face it, why would I – but I need to run them *somewhere*. OSX seems like the next best option to an actual free, open-source environment. It’s second best – and not even a close second – but I’d rather use Cupertino’s baby than Redmond’s any day of the week.
Yes, I hate freedom. But only a little bit.
1Except for the bit about the FSF. Screw ’em.