Mac Musings

Getting on with Life and Low End Mac

Daniel Knight - 2004.01.07

I'm fortunate enough to run my own business, although I'm not particularly good about the business end of things. Frankly, there are a lot of parts of life I'm not very good at.

But I do know Macs, and I love 'em. Seeing a little hobby site grow from a couple dozen profiles to ten million page views per year has been something else. I've been able to attend three Macworld Expos, although none since 2001. I've been able to just about make a living doing something I love, writing about something I'm passionate about.

And there are fellow travelers, others who write for Low End Mac and allow me to edit and post their thoughts. It's a good job.

But sometimes reality gets in the way. A few times we've been in desperate financial straits, and LEM supporters have helped us make it through. That's behind us now, and we seem to be on a solid foundation as far as finances go.

Where everything has gone to pieces is my home life. My wife and I have been separated since the start of December, and emotionally separated longer than that. My life is in turmoil. I feel like a field that's been harvested and the soil turned over. I'm hoping spring will come soon so something can grow.

I'm still using my 700 MHz eMac at LEM headquarters, the family home where we've lived for the past nine years. But at my apartment, I'm back on my old reliable PowerBook G4, the original 400 MHz model that came out three years ago. It was a bit sluggish under Jaguar, but it's very responsive with Panther.

I've upgraded my TiBook with 512 MB of RAM and a 5400 rpm 20 GB hard drive, so it was already more responsive than off-the-shelf machines. And if I was really brave, I could even play with clock chipping it; some sites say 550 MHz is possible. Maybe after AppleCare runs out....

The only real drawback is the 1152 x 768 display. I run my eMac at 1280 x 960, and when you run a couple browsers, Yahoo Messenger, three email clients, iCal, and at least three classic apps related to my Web work (Claris Home Page, BBEdit Lite 4.6, and Mizer 1.2, an HTML compressor), you really want all the screen space you can get.

But the TiBook is adequate, just as it was for the first 2-1/2 years that I had it. Fast enough. Big enough screen. Large enough hard drive. Not overkill, not a speed demon, but up to the task. And at home I don't run multiple email clients or any classic apps, just a browser or two, Yahoo Messenger, and iCal.

The tough part is getting used to dialup service, because we've had broadband cable Internet service for as long as it's been available in Grand Rapids - but the apartment complex has its own cable system and doesn't offer cable Internet. Now I'm learning how the other two-thirds of computer users access the Internet, and some sites are definitely better than others over dialup.

Another challenge is living one place and working two others. The whole purpose of separation is getting out of each others faces so you can really deal with the issues, not just the personalities. So I mostly only work at LEM HQ three days a week, and several times during December it was less than that as I dovetailed my work here with work at Arden's Photo (often four days a week during the holiday rush).

The stress of moving out, setting up housekeeping, and especially being alone after 22 years of marriage, has taken its toll on me. I took a week off at Thanksgiving, and ended up taking 10 days away from LEM starting with Christmas, mostly because now that Christmas is past I'm covering for vacation schedules at the camera store.

Then there's therapy. It's fatiguing, especially the joint sessions. We've had a couple of real doozies, and the fact that we haven't already given up says a lot for us. But it's tough being apart, and the separation is never off my mind. Macs and LEM kind of slip to the background.

For the first time in years I completely missed a Macworld keynote address yesterday. I only found out about the iPod mini when I phoned someone about something unrelated and he asked what I thought. I told him it was the first I'd heard. And this morning I learned about the G5 Xserve and GarageBand while editing Still Waiting for the Tipping Point by Stephen Van Esch.

I have other priorities right now, and business it taking a back seat, just as it has since October - or perhaps a bit earlier than that. I'll continue to plug away at Low End Mac, but I don't plan on writing much myself. I can't lose myself in my work this time; instead I have to find myself in my marriage.

And my Macs, the Internet, email clients, and messaging software have been invaluable in helping my wife and I communicate both while living in the same home and now that we're living apart. That's what's in my front seat right now.