The Mac Webb

The Simplified Mac Life

- 2001.11.08

This week saw a dramatic shift in my personal relationship with computers. For the majority of my adult life, I have counted computers and PDAs as a hobby of mine. Much like my ancestors painted on cave walls or worked on Chevy cars, I tinkered with computers. I enjoy breaking a system apart and putting it back together again, learning a new OS, and basically playing with machines.

eBay has become one of my greatest vices, replacing many of the much more popular vices like Krispy Kreme bingeing and beer. Opening a new computer system is an event at the Webb house. I make my four year old wait for the "BPS" man and call me the minute a new machine arrives. I then rush home to rip open the boxes and get the machine setup. The process continues several months later as the machine is sold on eBay and the next machine is purchased. As of last week, I had the following computers in my home:

Power Mac G4 400

Dell Latitude PIII

iBook 500

Home built PII

PowerBook Pismo

Compaq iPaq

PowerBook Wallstreet

Palm VX

Umax C180

Psion Revo Plus

Power Mac 6100

Apple Newton 120

Classic II

My friends get fired up about BMWs, fancy televisions, stereo equipment, and other more common interests. I would rather have a great computer to play with than a great car (witness the 1996 Honda Accord covered in dust in my driveway).

As is only natural, the arrival of a few kids has changed a lot of my hobby time from things like installing a new OS to things like going to the park or coloring. While these changes are ultimately more fulfilling, they mean that computers can no longer be a major recipient of time and resources. I still need computers for work and play, but I no longer have time to tinker. With my new lifestyle, I need computers to work as the tools they were intended and to meet my computing requirements, while providing a small percentage of my entertainment.

Last Monday night, my wife needed to find last year's tax records for some purpose only women can come up with in the middle of the World Series. I ran up to my computer room and began booting machines. One hour later I tracked the files down and experienced an epiphany (and created four new curse words when I ran out of old ones). I determined that I wanted to simplify this mass of systems and cables to find the bare necessities in my computer life. While I can still have fun with computers, I do not need so many that they detract from actual usefulness.

I spent the next few hours making a chart with the requirements for one computer and one PDA. I then went machine by machine to pick the lucky winners in each category. At the end of the exercise, I had the biggest batch of eBay auctions I have ever managed at once. The good news for Mac owners is that our beloved machines still maintain a great secondary value as my two year old (albeit tricked out) G4 /400 maintained half of its original value. The 'Books also did very well in the market, with my Pismo selling for 4x the amount of the Dell Latitude from the same time period.

At the end of the week, we had the following setup in my house. One iBook 500, which my wife decided she wanted to save from the auction block (so its not on my count), and one PowerBook G4 400, which I grabbed at the close out prices at CompUSA. I needed a G4, and mobility is one of my requirements. The PDA I selected was my iPaq, one of my favorite machines since the Newton 2100.

I brought the G4 memory up to 512 MB, ordered a 48 GB drive this week, and still had a tidy profit - and a much more manageable system chart. My wife was the biggest beneficiary, as she received cash, an iBook, and a new room in the house all in one week. She is so happy, she started talking about an iMac DVD for our four year old son

Hmm, maybe we need to buy a few more computers for the kids. I will check eBay today.

Someone pass me a Krispy Kreme. LEM

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