The Mac to Linux Switcheroo, Explained

Recently the Blogosphere—which if you didn’t know is the amassed online ranting of middle-aged single guys with computers and too much free time, like me—uttered a collective gasp as Macintosh maven Mark Pilgrim announced his forsaking of OS X and embracing of Ubuntu Linux.

As someone who’s in the preliminary throes of the exact same switch I sat back with a designer mug-full of Fair Trade coffee and watched with great interest as Pilgrim’s post was dissected, defended and finally contextualized in the broader realm of what uber-blogger (and possibly middle-aged guy) Nicolas Carr refers to as The PC Elite.

PC Elite, eh? Hmm… I resemble that. And to you, Mr. Carr may I say that I’m flattered and almost a hundred percent in agreement with you, except for one little detail—We longtime Mac folks aren’t so much elite as we are self-loathing masochists.

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(Brilliant. Thought-provoking. Genius. I don’t get it…)

Come on, admit it; deep down inside we hard-core Mac users secretly love to be left out in the cold. Back in days of old we’d gather and boast about the text adventure games we created in HyperCard, while secretly lamenting that we couldn’t open Excel spreadsheets with either Claris or AppleWorks. We’d justify this with the proclamation that Mac was the one and only choice for bohemian creative-types like us, while knowing that Windows versions of Photoshop and the like were pretty much identical was eating us up inside.

Later, we’d collectively duck for cover behind our under-performing G4 and G5 chips, as Apple would momentarily confuse our Intel enemies with some arcane floating-point processor comparison. Deep down we knew it didn’t matter, but it helped ease our buyers’ remorse from that expensive new Mac tower with the cooling fans that wouldn’t shut up.

Sadly, those days are no more. With Apple’s latest and greatest now sporting Intel chips and this whole Web 2.0 deal the harsh reality of 21st-century personal computing is now staring us square in the face—that computers are a commodity item, and most of the stuff you use them for can be done on the web, nowadays.

So what’s a self-hating computer snob to do? Enter Ubuntu. It’s promise is Linux for Human Beings, failing to realize that most human beings are too busy working, raising kids or otherwise living out their busy lives to learn the ins and outs of a brand-new operating system that doesn’t ultimately have much to offer beyond what Mac and Windows have already got.

Yet this matters not; for while the rest of you PC peons busy yourselves with your pedestrian communications and productivity, we the Linux elite will gather in darkened corners to boast of how we got our laptop’s wireless card to work with NdisWrapper, while secretly lamenting that we can’t reliably open Excel spreadsheets with Gnumeric.

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(Wait a minute, you people aren’t the elite… You’re just people!)

And with this, we turn our backs on Apple. A real Mac-head couldn’t bear to spend even a few minutes in a shiny, new Apple store anyway; who are all these people, and don’t they know that the Intel MacBooks they’re lining up to buy can only run Photoshop under emulation? And if they do know, why don’t they care more about it?!

We Mac refugees must carry an additional burden—with the great unwashed switching to Mac in ever-higher numbers we’re going to get hit up a lot more for casual tech support. And while I would gladly share my custom export settings for Final Cut Pro with those who I deem worthy, I most certainly do not want to be the go-to guy when you can’t export your crap iMovie to your damn .Mac page to show off to your friends—I mean, my grad-school film theory professor would surely recoil in horror if he saw your blatant over-use of the Ken Burns effect!

Nope, the only way we can truly protect ourselves from the non-elite is to hide behind the shroud of mystery that is Linux—that way, when you ask us how to burn your iTunes music to a CD we can scare you off by suggesting you open up a Terminal window and execute a couple of command-line prompts from there!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to re-compiling my custom Linux printer driver. I’ve been working on it for over a week, and I’m due for a breakthrough anytime now…

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