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Is OS Choice Important to Bloggers?

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Mike Doyle

Since 2005 scribe of the local blog, Chicago Carless. I invite you to visit.

A recent post to my personal blog announcing my decision to switch from Mac OS X to Windows 7 after 15 years as an Apple user generated more controversy than even I, the Chicago blogosphere's official pain in the CMS, expected. It's not a decision I made lightly, but I didn't expect so many people to take my announcement quite so personally. In an era when most blogging is done via browser-based web interfaces, is the choice of operating system really that big a deal for bloggers? And more importantly, why?

On Wednesday, in a post on my blog, Chicago Carless, entitled, I Am a Future PC: Why I'm Dumping Apple after 15 Years, I stated my case that ever since Steve Jobs made Macintosh silver the new beige, the platform has revolved around wishy-washy consumer apps that don't meet the needs of power users--and more importantly, that Jobs' insistence that Apple hardware and software be used wherever possible takes away fundamental choices regarding how I might want or need to use my computer. Not to mention my iPhone.

Boy, did that open the floodgates. Wednesday morning Mac headline news sites started picking up on my post and by day's end it had been read by thousands of people on every continent except Antarctica. But judging from the comments I received, I'm sure there are a few Apple-adherent colonies of lichen down there who have me on a hit list.

Almost as soon as my post went live, a slew of Mac fans told me in no uncertain terms why all things Apple were better than all things Microsoft, why I should at least give Linux a chance before going all the way over to the "dark side," and why I owed them better, more compelling explanations for my decision to stop using Macs than I gave in my post. Because, apparently from the perspective of some Mac fans, I need to get the permission of Apple's installed user base in order to cease being part of it.

Given that I spend so much time working in my browser--using the web interfaces of my blogging bylines, reading my web-based email, managing my web-based calendar, writing work documents in Google Docs--it struck me as odd that dozens of people would be taken aback about a decision that doesn't affect the fundamental way I do the things I need to get done online. Why should I keep myself locked into an operating system that will demand a several-hundred-dollar premium of me every time I buy a new computer if the only thing the OS is doing for me is helping me play my tunes and browse my photos? And, frankly, I want Google Voice on my mobile phone, already. Is all that really such a big deal?

These folks thought so:

"You sure used a lot of words to say nothing. I read the article looking for something approaching a rational reason why the Mac wasn't suitable. You rambled a lot and said absolutely nothing of value. What are the reasons Macs are less suitable today than they were 15 years ago? What justifies a switch? Be specific. I've spent enough time reading your rambling, content-free screed." (Joe Anonymous)

"Mike - I'm treading carefully here...Your reasoning bothers me. Did the 'Oh so locked in Apple/Steve Jobs' forbid you from using anything else but Apple's consumer apps? Did they disable your music/photo library to stop you using other solutions? No... the choice is yours and always has been. I'm not an ADHD sufferer but as far as I see, there is no reason for you to hold such a disjointed and if I may say, naive viewpoint against Apple..." (Fring)

"If you so despised the limitations of the "iApps" on your Mac, why did you not move on to other software, whether Apple's pro apps, or from someone else entirely? There are plenty of high quality alternatives. Your argument makes no sense to me." (mark)

"In many ways, I think the departure of people who seem to somehow define themselves based on their choice of the Mac as a computer is a good thing. Your post reads more like a man going through a mid-life crisis than a rational person who has chosen a different operating system. Despite providing you with 15 years of a fulfilling relationship, you have spotted a cute barista who smiles at you and knows your name, and you now need to tell everyone how stifling and controlling your wife has been." (Jim Glidewell)

"But, when all is said and done, it seems you really want to go back and live in a swamp. Apple and the occasional pain of cutting edge progress is just too rich for you. You are a talking point. But you are also alone." (Jon T)

I have to hand it to the commenters who suggested that if I didn't like the consumer apps  Apple touts as primary reasons for using a Mac, I should spend even more money on software to do the same tasks that I can have admittedly ad-funded Google apps do for free.

These are far from being the only emotionally charged comments I received about my choice to change my OS. My comment thread from Wednesday is full of such cult-like rantings. I'm not all that surprised...I used to be a rabid Mac fanatic, myself. But what did amaze me was the closed-mindedness comments like these suggested about my now and soon-former OS community.

So I wonder, for other bloggers out there plugging away on OS X, or some old or new flavor of Windows or Linux, is that OS you're using really that important in the grand scheme of your web-based life? Or doesn't it recede into the background just a little--or a lot--during those hours and hours you spend staring into a browser window and typing?

Would you really, as Mac fans have said for a generation, hold onto your OS to the death? Make the coroner pry your install DVD out of your cold, dead hands? Do your blog or your sanity rise and fall on whether there's an Apple, window pane, or whatever the heck that Ubuntu Linux logo is cowering in the corner of your screen?

My answer is I don't know. But unlike many of the commenters on my blog, I'm willing to open my mind and find out. Yesterday I played with Linux. Last night I jailbroke my iPhone. As soon as I can, I'll install Windows 7 on my MacBook. And before the day is out, I'll be making a few more Google Voice calls on my mobile.

The integrated and easy-to-use Google Voice Mobile app I downloaded to my jailbroken iPhone may not work for Steve Jobs. But it sure works for me.

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1 Comment

Mike Doyle said:

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As the weekend wore on, the distraught comments from fellow Mac users kept on coming under my original post about leaving Mac behind. Today, I posted this comment there, which I'm repeating below:

"It’s amazing how many dozens of people in this comment thread actually believe I owe them a reason for having a new OS preference. The fact that my fellow Mac users take my decision so personally–and are so pissy about it–really makes me reconsider why I would want to remain in the community–irrespective of the software. The whole, “you’re either with us or your against us,” thing is, frankly, frightening. Even if I stayed a Mac user at this point, I wouldn’t be sticking around as an OS evangelist. I wouldn’t wish the judgmental segment of the Mac user community evidenced in this comment thread on anyone."

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