As a blogger, podcaster, and all-around new media guy, I have found that most people assume that I am on a Mac. I frequently have people ask me if I’ve installed Leopard yet, how to perform a specific task in iMovie, or tips on assembling podcasts in GarageBand. This is a pretty reasonable assumption–a majority of mew media types seem to be on a Mac these days, and for good reason! Integrating audio, video, pictures, and blogging into one’s workflow is just…well, easier on a Mac.
Look out… here comes the Acer!
People’s eyes frequently widen with surprise and a little amusement when I pull out my massive Acer laptop running Windows XP. Big and ugly, black and gray, with a broken webcam and funky optical drive, clicking and whirring as it lurches to life, it is the antithesis of cool.
I’m living proof that one doesn’t have to be using the latest and greatest computer to create a podcast or run an interactive blog. This laptop is the technological equivalent of an El Camino. It may get the job done, but it sure ain’t pretty!
Why on Earth would I be using an Acer and Windows XP?
At the moment, the only reason that I’m on this PC laptop is budgetary. I’m making a move to a Mac set-up in (hopefully) the next few weeks, and when I originally purchased this thing I was just looking for a reasonably priced computer that would run all the dozens of Windows programs that I already had. I didn’t want to buy Microsoft Office, Sony SoundForge, Photoshop, and Finale all over again in the Mac environment. I therefore went with the big, bad, and ugly (but pretty punchy in terms of its specs when I bought it) Acer laptop.
My blog was in its very early days and my podcast was just a twinkle in my eye when I bought this thing, and I didn’t foresee all the new media activities that I would be doing in the future. I was looking for something that I could use to teach interactive bass lessons with, play games and movies, and use for e-mail, web browsing, word processing, and the like, and this big daddy laptop fit the bill at the time.
While this machine may have worked fine for the above tasks, as a new media production machine I quickly found that it was sorely lacking. For instance, this is the second time I’ve written this post, because right in the middle of composing it my lovely Acer decided to arbitrarily (and without saving!) shut down. I rebooted it, only to find that my post was gone. Lovely… and this is par for the course!
Not that it’s Acer’s fault… or Windows, for that matter. I’ve used this computer all day long for the past couple of years, and it has been quite reliable (OK, I’ll admit it–it is kind of a dorky computer, but it has still been a good workhorse). But it’s probably time for a change.
My Macintosh Background
I always get irked when some well-meaning dunderhead tells me:
"Dude, did you ever, like, think of using a Mac? Ya know, bro, they’re way better."
Thanks, Einstein. I had no idea that there was this mysterious other platform out there that I could use instead of Windows. Now I see the light!
I actually happen to be a long time Macintosh user, having owned the little black & white original Mac cube and sticking with it through the (gasp!) Performa days of the 1990’s and into the first generation of fruit-colored iMacs.
I used Finale on that little black and white box, wrote most of my school papers on it, surfed the web with TurboGopher, and checked my e-mail with Pine and Eudora through it. I did the same with the Performa and the first generation iMac. I was a real Mac guy during the 1990’s.
Why’d I switch?
Because I owned Macs in their bad years (pre-OSX), and I was quite frankly sick and tired of having my computer freeze one or more times every single stinking time I used it. For folks with short memories, the days of OX 9 were not Apple’s finest showing, and making a move over to Windows made a whole lot of sense at that time–Windows 2000 and Windows XP were fairly stable releases. Besides, I had been a DOS user on an IBM XT back in the late 80’s, and I used this computer to access bulletin board systems, play games, and do all sorts of cool hackery. I was comfortable with DOS, and I had used enough Windows boxes in business environments to feel comfortable moving over to this platform.
Also, I was sick and tired of never being able to play any games on my computer, and though I have precious little time for these days, I spent a fair amount of time doing computer gaming in the early 2000’s.
Though Courtney and I had heard that the new (at the time) OS X operating system for the Mac was very cool, we had reached our limit with the bugginess and unreliability of the first-gen iMac (still running on OX 9), and we ordered a tricked out Dell desktop and never looked back. The Acer followed a few years later, and it made sense to have a Windows laptop given my desktop environment.
But Macs got cool again!
I started using Macs more and more over the years, and I quickly began to realize that I had bailed right before things started to get exciting on the Mac end. I used GarageBand for audio projects and iMovie for video projects at my office at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and I realized how excellent and truly different OSX was from earlier incarnations of the operating system.
Also, Courtney got into Macs again in a very big way, and I started to use her OS X box for some of my projects. Many podcast listeners have noticed certain tracks lifted from GarageBand and assume that I have created these sound files in a Mac environment, when I actually ended up recording these sounds and painstakingly converting them to MP3 files for use on my PC.
Financial considerations aside (upgrading costs some considerable $$$), I get into a workflow on my gear, and even though the Mac environment is probably much better suited for the tasks I do every day, modifying my workflow will necessitate a period of adjustment, and I don’t want to make the move until I’ve got a few days to get familiarized.
The final insult
A few days ago I was in a classroom where the teacher was attempting to run a piece of late-90’s educational software. The latest Mac operating system (10.5 Leopard) has eliminated backwards compatibility with OS 9 software, and it looked like we were out of luck, since the classroom was running Leopard on the room computer and all the other students had Macbooks.
"Well… I’ve got a Windows laptop with me. Would you like to give it a try on my computer?" I said.
The Windows version of the program booted seamlessly on my computer, and we all crowded around my big old Acer.
It only took a few second for the snarky comments to begin:
"Why’s your computer so hot? There’s this weird hot air pouring out the side!"
"This thing’s as big as a TV!"
"Why’s your computer clicking all the time?"
"Does carrying that around, like, hurt your back?"
…and my favorite:
"Dude, your computer needs to take some Viagra."
I’ve never actually have a group of colleagues gang up on me and make fun of me for using Windows! I suppose I’m living proof that it’s the quality of content and the way you use the tools you have, not the tools themselves. My stuff doesn’t seem like it was made on a PC… nor does it seem like it was made on a Mac. There are software solutions for virtually any task on bot platforms, and I have been able to be extremely productive in the PC environment.
I’ve got to say, however, that nothing makes you feel like a dorky old man than having a bunch of Macintosh-toting college kids make fun of you…especially when you’re supposed to be the "new media" guy!