The iPad, the Open System, and the Switch

Over at Daily Kos, Markos did a write-up of his experiences with his iPad and using it as a laptop replacement during a trip to DC. The reaction has, fairly predictably, been pretty strong.

I'm torn on the issue. I'm acutely aware of the concerns with Apple not letting the iPhone and iPad be more open, but on the other hand they're amazing pieces of hardware and software. I still haven't made a decision on the iPad, but I've had one iPhone or another for quite a while now, and I love my iPhone.

I've also come to like Apple's stuff more over the years. I had never had a Mac, except for a Mac Classic I had picked up from Goodwill many years ago that I had grandiose plans to put NetBSD on (but it didn't have an MMU, so it just sat there instead), until I got a MacBook in May of 2006 to replace the creaky PIII Dell Latitude I had at the time. Then it ended up becoming my only computer after that guy drove through my house. I was able to computer up with a proper Linux dev box and a Linux desktop after the crash, but ever since I always had a Mac laptop of one kind or another.

About a month ago, I finally made the leap to having a Mac for my desktop as well. I had been getting more and more tired of battling with my Ubuntu box, both with software and with routine reboots and freezes for several months that were probably hardware related.

Now that I've done it, you know what? I love it. I love my quad core iMac with two 23" LCDs taken from my old Linux box hooked up to it, with a real keyboard attached. It's a wonderful computing experience. I get the Unix that I love (seriously, I'll often have 20-someodd iTerms open at a time) with the gorgeous Apple design. I had been running Linux or FreeBSD as my main desktop since late 1998, and I still have the beefy Xen box sitting here for my Linux and FreeBSD needs, but I love this desktop.

I still love Linux and use it every day. I like that I can do so much with with it, tweak and customize it to meet my needs, and that it's so powerful. I've learned, though, that design matters too. It seems like a computer doesn't need to be sleek and attractive, but when it is it adds a certain quality to it that I've come to appreciate. Whether it's the design of the computer itself or the look and feel of the operating system, I've come to appreciate the Macintosh a lot more. Before I bought it, I was concerned about not being able to do much to expand the iMac, but so far I've found that hasn't been an issue, and the iMac's overall look is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than I thought it would be.

Of course, it helps that with all of that that you can still beat a Mac about the head and shoulders like any other Unix, run X apps natively, and what have you. That definitely made the Linux -> Mac OS X transition a lot easier, since I still get to do a lot of the same things I ever did. That, and still having a Xen box available to slice and dice and be able to run the nitty gritty things on helped.

There are those folks out there that aren't as wrapped up in the debate over closed and open systems, and while my younger self would be shocked at this, I understand it. To use a hoary and overused analogy, while I love hacking and beating at my computers, not everyone is interested in that. There are those people who love to work on their cars, and complain bitterly about these newfangled cars that you can't work on yourself anymore.

I am not one of those people. I've had cars I had to work on myself (I'm looking at you, '73 Dodge pickup I had in 2003), and I don't enjoy it. I just want my car to work, and if it doesn't I'm fine with sending it to someone who can make it work for me. I hate having to fuck with my car. Many people hate having to fuck with their computers. I can accept that my car is a finely engineered machine that I shouldn't mess with, and a lot of people are fine with their computers being the same way.

Openness is important, but function and design are important too. I'll keep jailbreaking my devices, but there isn't really much that I really need to jailbreak for anymore. Being able to jailbreak is important, and people need to keep doing it, but for most people it's not a big deal. If the device was sleek, functional, and served a purpose for me well, but was completely closed, I'd still at least consider getting it. I'm certainly not interested in a more open but terrible device instead. I would be happier with a completely open device, but sometimes something that works without a huge battle is nice too, and sometimes we have to make tradeoffs.

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