Friday, February 19, 2021

Into a new tech

Things change, people change, and so do our technological needs. That’s something we all know on some level, me maybe a bit more than most. Today I took another leap forward: Today I received a new Mac Mini.

This isn’t the first technological change I’ve had, and I’ve talked about many of them on this blog. It’s not even the first new Mac I’ve had, but it’s an important thing. But first, it’s important to back up a bit.

Back in October 2019, I explained my technological change:
When Nigel was sick, we talked about preparing me for the future after he was gone. “We need to get you a new MacBook so you can do your work anywhere.” He wasn’t done with instructions. “You also need a dock so you can connect a bigger monitor when you’re home, and a bigger keyboard.”

The reason he insisted that I get a MacBook was, first, that what I use now is a “Hackintosh”, basically a PC he built from very specific components so it can run the MacOS and software. Actual Macs are all made with components that are always compatible, obviously, but those machines are also really expensive. Trouble is, updates to the MacOS may make it incompatible with a Hackintosh until the hardware is tweaked (like updating the BIOS or whatever), and I’d have to hire someone to fix it for me every time that happened.

That’s because Nigel always took care of all computer stuff for me—he built me a LOT of computers over the years, and built a lot for family members, too. I don’t know how to do any of that stuff myself, where I do fully understand Apple products. Logically, and because of all that, an actual Apple product made the most sense for me, and Nigel knew that.

He wanted me to get a MacBook rather than a desktop Mac because then I can take it with me and work wherever I am. I’m glad I listened to him because there will be times over the next few months where I’ll need to work when I’m away from home, and for the first time in years, I’ll be able to (the last time I could do that, more than a decade ago, I was on a PC and had a PC laptop—which Nigel also had to maintain).
So much has changed since then. Most obviously, I settled into a new house fairly quickly, and the need to be mobile disappeared. In September of last year I replaced the window coverings in my office and the spare bedroom, and that meant moving my desk away from the window. Somewhere in all that I managed to break my Hackintosh: It would no longer connect to the monitor. That meant that it was useless, and it also meant I didn’t have a clue how to fix it.

For the past five months, I’ve relied on my MacBook Pro alone, which is the main reason I haven’t podcasted: All of my equipment was set-up for my Hackintosh and, to be brutally honest, I just couldn’t face sorting that out.

Eventually, I reached a turning point: Either fix the Hackintosh for the first of what would be many times, or buy a new real Macintosh. I put that in the “too hard” basket for months, until the new Mac Mini was released with the M1 chip and everyone seemed to be raving about it. But, as is my way these days, I hesitated.

I decided on a Mac Mini because I’d had one in the past and loved it, because it was powerful, it's small (I have a smaller desk nowadays), and because it’s silent (a good thing for recording podcasts). I wanted to buy one from a local authorised retailer (partly because I know they pay NZ company tax, something Apple doesn’t necessarily do…), but they only sold it with the standard memory and I wanted more (you know the old saying: You can never be too rich, too thin, have too much computer memory, or too much hard drive space).

On February 15, I ordered a Mac Mini from Apple itself with double the standard memory and hard drive. They told me, first, that it would arrive on March 2 or 3, then February 26. It arrived today. I got a text message telling me it was to be delivered today about ten minutes after it was actually delivered. Then, I got another text around ten minutes after that telling me it was delivered. No one ever said Apple was perfect.

I set up my new Mac Mini to, basically, copy my MacBook Pro, which makes sure I get all my files, log-ins, and more—basically everything I needed to just start using the new Mac. That was what I did for my MAcBook Pro: Copied my Hackintosh to it.

This evening I started getting it ready, and there were a few glitches (mostly because of software that wasn’t compatible with the MacOS on the new Mac). But the thing about Macs is that I’ve been using them for so many decades now that I don’t really need to think about how to work around a problem: I just do it. And that right there is why there was never any chance I’d by any other machine than a Mac—and it’s exactly why Nigel wanted me to get a real Mac.

Having this new machine running will mean that I can finally begin podcasting again, and so much more (this is my first blog post on the new machine). My plan is to make my office my creative space, and that will also mean using it at all: I’ve largely ignored it since September 2020 when the video stopped working on my Hackintosh. This has been important to me for a very long time, and even though my office is still an unholy mess, at least I’m using it.

I don’t yet know what this means for my MacBook Pro: I may sell it. I also have a 2010 (I think) MacBook Pro that I may use just for podcasting (because I can use my audio mixer with it, something I can’t do with any modern Mac). Then, of course, there’s Nigel’s own Hackintosh, which is still working. Eventually I’ll have to get rid of it, too.

Right now, all I care about is that I have a machine that works for me, that does what I want it to do, and how I want it to do it, and something that I know how to deal with when things go wrong. My hope is that this will serve my needs for the next five years at least, and after that, who knows? I’ll be retired by then. My needs may have changed by then, and so will the available technology. Of course.

We all probably know that our technological needs change over time. Something I may know a bit more than most people. Today I took a leap forward, one that Nigel would have backed me in doing, and that’s enough for me.


Roger Owen Green said...

I know I'm in trouble technologically because my wife knows less than I. Yeah, I heard of BIOS...

Arthur Schenck said...

I know some tech stuff really well, other stuff less well, and some not at all. However, because I know some stuff about a lot of things, I can usually work out what a problem is and/or how to fix it. Not always, but often. The main thing I have going for me is stubbornness: I'll keep working on it until I find a solution, whether my own doing or hiring someone else to sort it.

Andy said...

Your Nigel sounds like a person I would have enjoyed knowing, and having among my circle of Friends. As you are. And so I regret not having had that opportunity.

Of course, he is quite right about the technology, and for the reasons he has given. If Apple is your preferred platform, then this would be the 100% right answer.

For my sins, I use Windows platforms. But my heart is in UNIX (not Linux), or VM/CMS. I have owned only one Apple, a Macintosh SE+. It is an excellent machine and it still runs. Early 1980s vintage, it's more of a curiosity than anything else nowadays.

Arthur Schenck said...

He was awesome, and that's a statement of fact, nor merely my biased opinion (and not just about this topic, of course). He kept the family's computers running, helped them buy new technology, and advised them on what they needed to do or get.

In my case, I kind of lost focus because I had Nigel to look after my computers (though I seldom had to do that when I was running actual Apple machines (as opposed to a Hackintosh). So, I'm re-learning or remembering things I could once do for myself, and Apple is by far the safest bet because I remember the most about that platform than any other (I'm sure I wrote about that sometime or other).

Now, if I'd learned how to build PCs, I'd be in a much better position, but I can still at least evaluate technological solutions to see what best matches my needs, and that's probably as important.

All of which is probably just a long-winded way of saying that Nigel actually prepared me well to face this alone—but I still think he'd be shocked to find out that I was actually listening to him all those years!