I had a dream

Jul 17, 2012

Once upon a time, I had a dream. A dream of perfection. A dream of beauty. A dream of peace.

I dreamt of owning a Mac.

It’s not so much about the hardware as it is about the divine experience that is Mac OS X. By virtue of the osx86 community, I’d gotten Snow Leopard to run on my Dell XPS 1340. I used it for around a year (until the monitor stopped working, at which point I stowed it at the back of my cupboard and assembled my own PC), and in that year I was irrevocably changed. I grew dependent on the Ctrl- shortcuts that work across all applications, the Command- shortcuts that coexist peacefully with the Ctrl- shortcuts. As a minor example, consider the case of copying and pasting text. On windows and linux, it’s generally bound to Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V. But then, along comes the shell in linux and the windows command prompt. In both, Ctrl-C is mapped to the SIGINT signal, and so come the workarounds of “Quick Edit” mode in the command prompt and Ctrl-Shift-C in Gnome Terminal.

On Mac OS X, copy-paste is bound to Cmd-C/Cmd-V, so Ctrl-C works as expected.

It’s a lot of these little things that are a natural result of OSX Human Interface Guidelines. Like how an application’s settings can always be found at Apple->Preferences, and how even that menu item has the same keyboard shortcut across all applications. I’m told that similar guidelines exist for Windows, but given the lack of a firm hand imposing those guidelines, it’s no surprise that we have Edit->Preferences, Tools->Preferences, Tools->Options and so on. And on linux, you’re expected to modify the system to suit your own needs, but what the devs don’t seem to understand is that most people would benefit from having a set of reasonable defaults.

So anyway, now that the time has come for me to quit my job in favor of pursuing higher education, I thought I’d get myself a Macbook Pro or a Macbook Air. Started off by looking up the prices of the base models in both, and both are around $1100, which just fits into my budget. And then I went about actually trying to buy one here in India.

I checked out two Apple stores, both of them reported had only last year’s models, and even those were being sold for upwards of $1300. I finally found a dealer who had this year’s base model of the Macbook Air. Guess what the price is.

It’s being sold at a whopping $1415.

I might be a big fan of Mac OS X, but that doesn’t mean that I’d be willing to pay $300 extra just to get one. And buying one after I’ve reached the university is not really an option, because the nearest Apple store to Dundee is in Glasgow, which is roughly 100 km away. Which means that if something were to go wrong with the Mac while I’m there, I would have to either drop everything and travel 100 km to get it fixed immediately (and what are the chances of it getting fixed in the first visit itself?) or suffer without a computer of my own for an indeterminate period of time to wait for a break from studies. Neither of these options seem particularly appealing to me.

So, I squashed my dream, and I bought the new Samsung P550 instead. Sure, it has better specs, a bigger screen and a higher resolution, and the only thing I’ve found worth complaining about is that keyboard is slightly cramped, but it’s not a Mac. Oh well.