What Using my Mac Reminds me of...

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By FoolYap
January 17, 2002

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One of my hobbies is woodworking.

In the beginning, my budget was small. The tools I could afford were mostly cheap, low-end brands and models.

Some had long life spans; I could not kill a cheap Sears drill, nor a cheap Black & Decker saber saw.

Some performed so poorly out of the box that I used them once and nevermore. (A cheap miter-box attachment for a backsaw. More clamp-gadgets than I care to admit being suckered into buying.)

Some performed decently; a co-worker once gave me a battered Sears craftsman table saw (he got a new one), and I was able to do some passable projects with it.

Most insidious were those tools which performed just adequately enough to "get the job done", were not so annoying to use that I felt justified in ditching them for something better, and yet which lived forever.

(I will someday have to set that saber saw on fire. I hate the thing, and yet it will not die. It cuts wood: I cannot give it more than that faint praise. It smells my emotional state: It knows just how frequently it can get away with dropping the blade in the middle of a cut. Often enough to be make me hate it, not often enough to cause me to pitch the thing in the trash. So, I abuse it. I beg it to die. I push it until the casing threatens to melt, and I croon: "Go into the liiiight... Die, miserable machine, die!" So why don't I just pitch the thing? Because I cannot stand to throw away something that works, and by a strict dictionary definition, the damn thing does. I hate it so...)

Eventually my budget grew a bit. With that, I began to eye tools that I'd always considered too expensive.

I bought a new table saw, and while I didn't buy a high-end one, it was a decent Jet with a cast-iron top and wings, a good fence, and an excellent Forrest blade. Oooooohhhhh! Was I able to cut wood faster with the Jet than the old Sears? Slightly; the Jet's motor was beefier, and the thin-kerf blade much better. More importantly, the fence was a joy to use. I suddenly just liked using my table saw...

I bought a Lie-Nielsen adjustable-mouth block-plane, a dauntingly expensive little toy for someone used to seeing the (junk) $30 versions sold at Home Depot.. OOOOOOOHHHH! This thing fit my hand like it was crafted just for me, and it sliced wood like butter. I suddenly liked using a block plane. Nay, I began to find excuses to use it in places I never would've attempted planing before...

From this and other examples in woodworking and gardening (also a good way to drain one's bank account in search of excellent tools :-), I take away these dictums for my life:

1. You seldom get more than you pay for.

2. A well-made tool is a joy to use. It doesn't just get the job done; it makes the journey a satisfying one.

3. Adequate tools can do an excellent job, with enough care & pain. But the pain is paid in installments, every time you use it, in frustration and time. Buying an expensive but excellent tool, your wallet bears the pain up-front, but you reap joy dividends with every use.

4. Life is short. I no longer remember how much I paid for that block plane. I do remember, clearly, how much I enjoy using it, and how much it has helped make my hobby more satisfying and productive.

You know where this leading; this is somewhat Apple Cheerleading Central after all... ;-)

I bought a PowerMac because I wanted a computer (left the Windows machine with my ex-wife), and I wanted to edit videos (hobbyist-level stuff). I'd heard good things about iMovie. I'd heard good things about OS X. I'd heard good things about Macs in general.

All of this, so far, has proven true. iMovie2 is an absolute joy to use. I have no illusions that I'm producing the next Spielbergian masterpieces; these are home videos, poorly lit, often poorly focused, etc etc. But I was able to start editing literally in minutes with iMovie, and it's been fun! Need a soundtrack? Rip a few appropriate CDs with iTunes; tell iMovie to import the files; align them with the appropriate clips; lock them to the clips if I want; delete the camcorder audio when I just want a video montage to music; lovely, professional-looking cross-dissolves... This is fun! Easy!

Are there good editing packages on Windows? I'm certain there are. Good music-management? Certainly. Could I have spent less on a Wintel box to do all of this? Of that I have no doubt.

The higher up-front cost of a Mac is a significant barrier to larger market-share. Make no mistake; a Mac costs more. You can show me bingo-card comparisons of price-performance and features all you want, and I stand by that statement. I also don't care. To me, it's been worth it. It is a damn fine tool, a pleasure to use, and I'm proud to own it.

My $0.02 du jour, --FY


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