Linux For Poets

Keyboards in 2003

I would like to complain about modern computers for a moment. My favorite computer that I currently own is a 10 year old Dell Inspiron Mini 10V netbook with a cool 1 GB of RAM and a 1.6 GHz processor. It is beautiful. I mean, obviously, this is a crappy computer. It is small and slow, but when I put Debian on it, it runs pretty nicely. The original hard drive crapped out a few years ago, so I replaced it with a solid state drive, and it runs fine. What it does have, however is amazing: an ethernet port, three USB ports, the ability easily swap out the harddrive, an easily replaceable battery. Very like the old white Macbook I had before this Macbook Air, for that matter. That was a beautiful thing too. But sadly, the white Macbook no longer boots, while my Dell does, so it is the one with honored status on my desk as a Syncthing backup machine.

2009 Dell Netbook

These glorious ports and replaceable parts are things that my relatively civilized looking Macbook Air does not possess. I have an ongoing problem with it because it has a small harddrive (120GB), which means I need to plug in external harddrives often to access my data, especially photo librarires. Also I don’t like using the touch pad – I find it imprecise and annoying, so I use a mouse most of the time, which requires plugging in a little USB wireless thingy. I have a bunch of frequently used files on a flash drive that I leave plugged in, so I run out of USB ports basically every day. I had to buy a USB hub to have enough ports for everyday life, and even that I don’t like to plug the big external drive into for fear of overpowering it (this has happened before).

I think Ethernet ports should be standard on all computers. I know we don’t always have access to ethernet, but if I can use ethernet, I will take it. Why not? It’s faster. Sometimes I do really need to put my laptop on the counter to watch NCIS while I make noodles, and that’s real. But at my desk? Ethernet. Same for wired vs wireless keyboards and mice. Why have the slower, less responsive option when there’s no need? When you want wireless, that’s cool, but must computer companies pressure me into having all wireless all the time? Many, many times I’ve had to debug a wireless connection, and I fixed it by plugging in the ethernet, updating some drivers or whatever, and then wireless works. With my current laptop I don’t have that luxury, so I have fewer options if wireless is being weird. I run Ubuntu Mate most of the time on this. I tried out Debian and couldn’t access wireless, so couldn’t do the netinstall and gave up. How sad is that?

Here’s another gripe: Chiclet keyboards. I make more mistakes on them. My old white Macbook had a keyboard that had more give and more tactile feedback. But the really good one was the G4 PowerPC Powerbook, my first ever Mac. That is the best keyboard. I refuse to give that powerbook to Ecobinary for recycling, and I will revive it one day. Maybe I’ll make that into a writing machine, just because the keyboard feels so good. When I got this Macbook Air I didn’t like the keyboard. Three years later, I haven’t gotten used to it. I use it because it works and it’s what I have, but I still don’t like it. I have my mechanical keyboard plugged into my USB hub as we speak, because it’s nicer to type on.</p>

I know I am bitching about this specific laptop, but it’s the way the whole industry is going, not Apple alone. But don’t get me started on the nightmare that is the most recent portless wonder of a Macbook.

Sorry I’m so cranky. I hope I haven’t somehow hexed my laptop by insulting it so violently. If you know what laptop is better about such things, please tell me. I place all my hopes on my computer crush company, System76, but we shall see. A girl can dream…