The pull of the Mac

I mentioned in the previous entry that iPods are cool, but that I was feeling “the Evil Pull Of MacOSX tempting me away from the ideologically pure land of Free Software”. Mark helpfully showered me with links to iPod-supporting Free Software. If I buy an iPod, I would certainly be looking at that, but it’s not strictly the iPod that I meant — if I wanted a mobile mp3 player then I’d buy an SDMedia card for my Zaurus and use that. What I was talking about (and I didn’t explain this very well, or, indeed, at all) was the Mac itself.

What I want is for Linux to be as pretty and usable as MacOS is, which is why I try and help with projects like RoxOS, but it’s just not there yet. And I keep thinking to myself “wouldn’t it be good to buy a Mac?” The G5 looks really pretty. Really, there are two things stopping me. The first is expense; the last two people I know who bought PowerBooks spent well over a thousand pounds each on them, and I don’t have a thousand spare. This is an invariant, regardless of my political viewpoint. :) The other part is that, well, I spend a lot of my time lobbying for Free Software and against proprietary solutions, and then to turn around and recommend a Mac seems to me the height of hypocrisy.

Perhaps even I’m worried that I’m using the banner of free software to disguise a not-so-admirable hatred directed purely at Microsoft. I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in this if I were, but I don’t think I am; I don’t quite follow why I have such a high opinion of Apple despite them being exactly the same as any other proprietary software company.

Neal Stephenson mentions this in In The Beginning Was The Command Line:

When Apple engages in this sort of corporate behavior, one wants to believe that they are really trying their best. We all want to give Apple the benefit of the doubt, because mean old Bill Gates kicked the crap out of them, and because they have good PR.

Perhaps this is the truth. All I know is, I want a Mac, but I really don’t want to want a Mac. Perhaps this makes me stupid, or a zealot, or something. Mac people would quite possibly sneer at me for zealotry, for example. The most technically competent guy I know, a pretty big noise in the Debian project (not known for its pro-proprietary-software stance) has just bought a PowerBook (although he’s going to at least dual-boot it). Jono, the guy who set up our LUG and a writer for Linux Format, has a PowerBook and uses it all the time. What hope for me?

But Macs are so nice…

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