Why my next computer will be a Mac

Now, I’m hardly an anti-Microsoft/Bill Gates zealot–most of my computing experience, except for 8th and 10th grades, has been on PC machines running one of the various iterations of Windows and, truth be told, while I like Apples just fine I’ve never had issue with using PCs.

Until now.

I’m gearing up (read: saving up) to by a new computer because I have a desk top from 1997 that runs Win95 (which is, to the computer-oriented, one step up from smoke signals), and a laptop running Win98 (which, I gather, is like communicating over long distances by use of drums).

Now, the media has been all aflutter about Vista these last few days, and today’s the day that Bill Gates comes down off Sinai to present the faithful with the latest operating system.

But that also includes a few new commandments that are, essentially, written on the back of the tablets. You NEED to read this article (http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/1640/159/)

So I’ve decided that when the time comes I’ll be buying a Mac.

This isn’t because I love pirated software, rather it’s because I resent that I can’t do whatever I want with something I buy. Do car manufacturers tell you where and how to drive once you’ve paid them for their product? Do microwave manufacturers demand the right to inspect what you’ve been nuking and for how long whenever they wish? Of course not. And neither should Microsoft, either at their own whim, or the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, or whatever other big business lobby group is so desperately trying to maintain control of their copyrights in the age of instant, easy digital copying.

Should publisher’s lobby groups insist that everyone who lends a book be charged with a crime, or that they should have the right to check you bookshelves whenever they want to esnure that the book is where it ought to be? When you put it like that it’s easier to see how farcial the whole thing is, don’t you think?

Now, I say this fully aware that I’m someone hopeful of a career in which my ability to make money is linked to my (and my publisher’s) ability to assert and maintain my copyright. And I’m not condoning or encouraging piracy–I much prefer to have licensed versions of my software because I worry about viruses, spyware, etc. and like to know the provenance of my data. I don’t download whole albums and not pay for them, nor would I like to see one of my books some day scanned and available for free download…

Unless I was the one who did it.

Check out Cory Doctorow’s thoughts on how artists might survive and prosper in a digital age over at Craphound.com. He’s done way more thinking and writing on this matter (because he’s much smarter than I am), and I have to say I think I’m in complete agreement with him.

That hissing sound the MPAA and the RIAA heard a few years ago? That was the sound of the genie being let out of the bottle.

In the age of the webternet artists need to figure new ways to reach an audience and provide content. Some of that will need to be free to hook them (again, see Doctorow’s giving stories and whole books away under a Creative Commons license), and only then will you start to make money.

Using legislation to stifle digital copying, preventing people from using content the way they wish (even if you disapprove) is a desperate attempt to cling to ways of being that are if not already gone, then quickly receding into the dustbin of history. It will only result in the passage of laws no one heeds and is a terrible attack on the truly democratic nature of that most remarkable invention–the Internet.

The notion that in order to use certain software you must sign an agreement (or check a box) allowing some company (and likely some government) to inspect you at any time and decide what you can and can’t do, use, or view with something that’s ostensibly yours strikes me as tyranny. Perhaps it is of a low order, but such tyrannies, such infringements of rights, rarely stay so minor for long. The demands become more outrageous, the compromises more taxing, for the wedge only gets wider once the thin edge has slipped through.

Consider that the iterations of Windows (soon including Vista) command something like 90% of the operating system market in all computers. The tyranny of technology is that if you want to participate you must compromise to do so, whether you wish to or not, or else be left in the digital cold. And in this world it is intensely difficult to not participate, even if you try.

And before you start spouting off that I’m wrong for whatever reason please read everything ever written by Jacques Ellul, George Grant’s Technology and Empire, and (dare I sound hysterical) Orwell’s 1984.

Yes. That’s right. You need to do your homework first before you’re allowed to argue with me 🙂

And I suppose some of this might sound odd coming from somebody who writes SF. I neither love technology for itself, nor do I hate and fear it irrationally. I’m interested in exploring how human beings deal with, interact with, and react to their technology. I try and explore this is my fiction, and my concerns are the moral compromises that technology can demand of human beings. Fundamentally, I think, good SF must be HUMAN stories, and that’s what I try top write.

I firmly believe that we can negotiate the dangers that technology represents, but it takes caution, insight, forethought, and a willingness to seek out human solutions rather than blindly accepting cold machine logic or technical “progress.” I, for one, don’t believe that our current problems can be solved by more and better technology unless and until we address the human issues which lie at the heart of how and why we use our technology, and why we so easily surrender to what the technology demands.

So that’s why my next computer will be a Mac laptop. It’s a small rebellion, perhaps, but it’s one I can make and feel good about.

Now, I know that iTunes uses an encoding that limits the number of times you can copy and share a song. I don’t like that–it seems like if you can’t do what you want with the music you buy then you’re sort of renting it from iTunes rather than owning it outright–but that’s fairly minor compared to what Vista achieves. Besides, most music is crap anyway, and the best stuff can generally be paid for and used without restrictions.

But, for now at least, Apple still seems intent on treating its customers like grown-ups ca. But of course that could all change, quickly, and then what? Linux? How far must one go to avoid the tyranny of technology?

– S.

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One Response to Why my next computer will be a Mac

  1. I think you need to check your tinfoil hat there, Steve.

    Microsoft has no particular interest in enforcing RIAA or Hollywood copyrights. In fact it could be argued that they have the opposite interest, since they are in the market of selling MP3 players now. I’m sure they would like to sell them content as well, but if the ability to get someone elses content free is one of the main selling points for their product, why would they undermine it? What’s more, I imagine you’ll be able to turn off Vista’s virus software in favour of your own if you’d like.

    The use agreement seems pretty standard to me. Vista isn’t meant to be open source and you’re not buying a free hand to alter it or use it as a base for something else when you get your copy. They don’t want people selling changes to their product (or giving away ones that they could be selling).

    It would be like someone took a book you published, added some new content, and then sold it (or gave it away) as an updated version.

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