I should probably start off this new blog with a recounting of one of the most important decisions I ever made in my life as a computer nerd – my decision to leave my Apple-centered life behind and open my eyes to the wider world of possibilities offered by the Thinkpad platform. When I speak of greater possibilities, I really mean it, because for whatever reason, I found that the number of interesting things I was able to do with my computer and the range of possibilities I was able to explore increased drastically when I made the switch.
As I said in my last blog post, I was raised entirely on Macs. In fact not only was I a Mac user for most of my life, but I was a die-hard Apple fanboy as well. In fact I was such a huge Apple fanboy that it hardly bothered me when Apple started their whole patent war against Linux, trying to get Android devices banned in various countries, even though I was harshly criticizing Microsoft for doing exactly the same thing. As far as I was concerned, Apple had embraced the Unix platform by basing their flagship OS on FreeBSD, so they were a good guy in my book.
I made this graphic for /g/ several months ago, and I think it sums up pretty perfectly why I love the old Apple and hate the new Apple. Apple used to be about making their products interesting and fun to use. “Here’s to the crazy ones,” they would say. My first experience with computers – the one that caused me to fall in love with technology – was with an Apple IIc. Apple is the reason I’m a computer geek in the first place. For a long time the company knew what they were doing, and they followed the age-old wisdom of improving their devices by adding useful features. Now it seems they are taking the opposite approach: removing features that everyone uses and trying to convince people that this is some new chic form of minimalism. Meanwhile, all their software is bloated as fuck, which kinda defeats the purpose of being minimalist in the first place. Tim Cook seems to not understand that the primary benefit of minimalism comes from removing bloat, not from removing functionality.
I think I really started to make my transition from Apple fanboy to Apple hater in the second half of 2012, when the Macbook that had been serving me faithfully for four years finally died and I was forced to buy a new one. I had fallen in love with Leopard and all the Unix stuff that came with it, including the old Apple Downloads page (which has since been replaced with the (far inferior IMHO) Mac App Store). I made the switch to Mountain Lion expecting a plethora of exciting new features, and instead finding that a lot of the features I used to use had been stripped away and/or replaced with something else in an attempt to make the Macbook experience more like that offered by iOS. I did like the iOS-esque speed dialer, and the fact that I could now use the Terminal in full-screen mode, but pretty much everything else had gotten worse.
gcc was no longer there, and I couldn’t find any simple way to install it (this was long before I discovered Homebrew). The App Store did not offer any of the Unix apps or games that I had been able to get from the Downloads page, so I had to go without Lynx and several of my other beloved programs for a while. It was overall a frustrating experience.
I stayed with Apple for several more years in spite of all this, even buying a third Macbook in 2016. I considered this stripping of features to be only a temporary setback, and kept telling myself it would get better. But things got even worse when my hard drive cable started melting. It was like a clockwork: every five months or so, my hard drive cable would melt and I would have to buy a new one. I even bought a cooling board for my computer, since I thought my body heat was the culprit, but the cable kept on melting. There were other problems as well – like the power adapters that were constantly breaking and cost nearly $100 to replace each time, the rubber feet on the bottom of the chassis that would pop off for no reason, and the optical drive that would stop working when you put a defective DVD in, and would continue not working even when you switched it out for a good disc. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I had three laptop failures in the span of less than two months, which I thought was ridiculous, especially since I paid so much money for those laptops.
Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
— Some fortune cookie I got once
I had been avoiding switching to something else because all my stuff was on the Mac, and a lot of it was in one of Apple’s proprietary file formats. But I was starting to see the hopelessness of my situation, and the fact that making the switch was at this point not just a potentially advantageous move, but an absolute necessity if I was to retain any semblance of sanity. I had heard about this interesting thing called the Thinkpad, and I was curious. Everyone was talking about it, and I wanted to see what the hype was about. So after my third Mac breakage in two months, I committed myself to changing brands. My decision was final: the next computer I bought would be from Lenovo and not Apple.
I am so glad I made the switch to the Thinkpad line, and I can definitely see what the hype is about. In addition to the obvious advantage that it’s not a Crapple product, the Thinkpad also has really good specs for a computer of its price (keep in mind there are many models of Thinkpads ranging from low-end refurbs that you can get for under $200 to high-end i7 systems that cost well over $1000), it has a ton of ports of all different form factors that enable it to interface with a wide array of other devices, and it comes apart without much difficulty, which means components are easily swappable/replacable (though I have yet to attempt this with anything other than the battery).
The OS I’m using is Windows 7, which is quite a bit more flexible than MacOS, despite not being Unix-based. Unlike MacOS, it provides easy access to a much wider range of settings via the Control Panel and Regedit, and the use of restore points means you can basically fix any software problem easily by just rolling back to the most recent good restore point from before you had the problem. I relish both of these features, because they have allowed me to take far more control of my Thinkpad than I ever could have with any of my Apple devices. They are a great boon for digital control freaks like myself. And if I want to use the Unix terminal, well, that’s what Cygwin is for. Or I could just, you know, boot Arch Linux from a live CD, which is a lot easier now since there’s no longer that tight integration between the operating system and the hardware.
Since I got my Thinkpad, I’ve connected several other hardware components to its many ports and basically converted it into a desktop. I have two LCD monitors with 4:3 and 5:4 aspect ratios respectively that I got second-hand, as well as a mechanical keyboard, wireless mouse, and an external Hi-Fi speaker, and also a USB hub and Ethernet setup to connect in additional devices. I have a picture of my rig with Ubuntu Bionic Beaver running in one monitor and MS-DOS 6.22 running in the other monitor. I could never accomplish this setup with my Macbook. In parting, I will give you a glimpse so you can feast your eyes on my glorious command center: