Desktop No More

About two months ago, my iMac died. Five years ago, this would have been a huge inconvenience. In 2016, it became a mild irritation (mostly because I was making good progress on Jonathan Blow’s wonderful The Witness) and an opening to reconsider my personal technology stack.

Since my dad first lugged home an SE/30 in 1990, I’ve always been a desktop-Mac-as-my-primary kind of guy. That poor abused SE/30 gave way to a pokey Performa, and a very early G3/233 accompanied me to college. I scrapped and saved for a G4 Cube mid-way my junior year, but by graduation I was tired of having an external monitor. Thus began a solid 14 years of an iMac on my desk. Every major model (outside of the “gumdrop”) worked into my cycle, including the bizarre but quirky “white half sphere” with the articulating arm display.

Helping to reinforce this was the side effect of Apple’s Intel transition: through Boot Camp, I could now run Windows, and therefore could run Steam. A new avenue of gaming opened up, and my replacement iMacs were almost always BTO options to max out the graphics card and RAM. It wasn’t top tier gaming performance, and it certainly was a premium above building a separate gaming PC, but I always appreciated having a single computer.

But back to January: the iMac went kaput (likely a hard drive failure, undoubtedly related to my inability to heed a recall warning), and I instinctively went to the Apple Store to start pricing out a new model. And then thoughts started swirling in my head:

  1. Over the average week, I was using my iPad Air considerably more than my desktop.
  2. The things I was using the desktop for was mostly Windows gaming.
  3. The Retina iMac had increased the cost of the line generally, particular at the higher end
  4. The higher end would be needed, as the only place you can max out the graphics card is the very upper end of the line
  5. Even after my educational staff discount, I was still looking at about $3,000 for a like-for-like replacement.
  6. While I do have a work laptop available for business functions, I’d need something to not lose my oversized Steam library and want something for day-to-day computing.
  7. I refuse to use Windows as my primary OS. Just out of principle.

After some soul searching and some research, I’ve settled on a new approach: an iPad Pro 12″ for the non-gaming, and an Alienware Alpha for the gaming. (I was holding out until last week’s Apple Event to see if the lineup changes might’ve changed my plans, but they did not.) Combined, I saved about $1,300 versus the traditional iMac plan, and spares me a separate iPad upgrade later in the year.

Given how Apple is now trying to sell the iPad Pro as a viable laptop replacement, I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. Check back in a few months for the oh-so-thrilling results.


Burnt Out

My [magic streak]( has not held up.

Buttons Checks His RSS Feeds

I came home tonight to a faint scent that I could not place. It smelled warm – perhaps my landlord had decided today was the day to turn on our heat. Our heaters are electric, and they always smelled a bit odd.

I did not take the hint that my iMac was off, even when I knew full well that it was still alive and online not 90 minutes beforehand. I rebooted without thinking.
The message struck home when I got up thirty minutes later and noticed that it, again, was off. This time, I sat and watched it reboot. The login screen appeared normally, but not a second after I attempted to type, *boom*. Darkness. I subsequently pulled open the casing and, while I could not locate any particular source of the damage, the burning smell was confirmed to be coming from somewhere on the motherboard; most likely, a blown capacitor.
There is some irony to this. I have been aware that due to my technolust, I have what has been deemed by others to be an absurd upgrade cycle for my hardware. Alternating every year, Katie or I have replaced our primary hardware:

*2000* – I purchase a Mac Cube. It actually held up terribly well.
*2001* – Katie receives her first iBook, a G3/500.
*2002* – I received my iMac G4 as a graduation present.
*2003* – Katie replaces her iBook with an iBook G4/800. This is the first Mac hardware we purchase on our own.
*2004* – I replace my iMac G4 with an iMac G5/1.8GHz.
*2005* – Katie replaces her iBook G4, which had now ground to a halt, with another iBook G4/1.42GHz. This happens enough in advance of the introduction of the MacBook that I don’t feel completely shafted.

This year was the year I had promised to break this cycle. The year I was sure my iMac G5 was not going to start feeling uncontrollably slow, even while I picked up a MacBook Pro at work and had a very direct comparison with the latest and greatest.

But no, the hardware had to die through natural causes. Now my hand has been forced, and I will be trekking to the Apple Store this weekend to take what has become a mandatory upgrade.