Something has changed. It’s been in the wind for a while, but it seems to grow stronger each day.
I grew up with a father who was in full-time self-employment in the electronics industry. He also had a keen interest in computers, which meant that I grew up around electronic gadgetry and computers. This resulted in me having an almost-unhealthy obsession with the trivia and minutae of computer systems, and a habit of constantly fiddling with hardware and a constant stream of software. I used to read a wide collection of computer magazines, every month. I was constantly designing new systems (admittedly, for a few years that was part of how I made my living), but mostly because I enjoyed the process. I liked the fiddling, and the fine details.
As I get older it seems that life gets more complicated. That’s the rub. After all these years of collecting utilities and fonts, skinning my apps and modifiying my PC’s user interface, collecting computer hardware and doing my own upgrades, it seems that something within me has snapped. I’m becoming increasingly irritated by the things that used to fascinate me. See, I think it’s all about control.
iTunes is a good example. For several years I’ve had a growing collection of MP3s. I have a considerable collection of CDs (as well as boxes of cassettes, and a box of LPs). As my collection grew, I had an increasing struggle with managing the collection. How do I sort them? How do I track duplicates? What about compilations? What application should I use to rip my CDs? I insisted on sorting them manually, because I wanted to be in control. It was taking an increasing amount of time.
Then came the fateful day that I could purchase an iPod that was larger than my collection of MP3s. Of course, unless I wanted a painful amount of work, this meant using iTunes to manage my iPod. I gave in, and ceded control of my collection to iTunes (however, I kept a backup… just in case…).
After starting to work with iTunes, it was like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. iTunes is now doing the heavy lifting in managing my MP3 collection. And it’s simple. I no longer need to concern myself with the minutae of managing my collection – I can just listen to my music. Drop a new CD in, rip the tracks, away I go.
I once had an extensive collection of pirated games. Several years ago, I destroyed the lot and started collecting legitimate games. Recently, I’ve looked at my collection of games, and realised… I don’t actually play any of them. If I play, I mainly play WoW. I don’t use most of the utilities I have installed on my PC, because most of them were for control of some obscure feature.
When it comes down to it, I don’t want to come home from work and fiddle with my PC anymore. If I sit down to use it, I just want to get something done. I have a beefy PC that I built as a machine that could drive my graphics & web design software, but could also play any games I throw at it.
I have to constantly make sure that Windows Update, my anti-spyware & anti-virus software are all running and up to date. I still get faced with the occasional blue-screen because my graphics card throws a wobbly in WoW, or because my PC occasionally decides it doesn’t like one of my USB devices. Normally my iPaq (either that, or it decides it needs to reinstall the drivers so it can talk to the iPaq. Honestly, it’s beginning to drive me crazy.
Perhaps I’m becoming the anti-hacker. I read a friend’s blog today, where he had a lengthy to-do list of things that he had to get done on his Linux box before he could get down to the business of getting some work done. I can’t think of anything more painful than sitting down and trying to configure Linux to get something done. Some people find pleasure in that – I used to be one of them.
Honestly, I don’t want to spend hours and hours fiddling with makefiles and dependencies, just to get an office suite running that will almost open files correctly from Microsoft Office in Linux. I shouldn’t have to download the latest drivers for my graphics card, spend twenty minutes fiddling with settings and sacrifice a chicken to get a game to run in Windows. When I pick up a hammer or screwdriver, I don’t spend half my time trying to configure the tool to get it work with a nail or screw. I want a computer that just works. I want to spend less time configuring, and more time creating.
And honestly, I’m staring at one of the new G5 iMac’s and wondering “Would I be able to get some real work done?”