Saturday, November 15, 2003


I've always used Apple computers, but it wasn't a decision that was in any way thought-out. My mom used (and still uses) a PC, my dad's last computer was actually something called a Wordstar, and my first was the kid-friendly (and state-of-the-art) Commodore 64. But my elementary school used Apple IIs, and in high school we had Macs, so when it came time for my first grown-up computer that was the way to go (plus, this was still in the days of DOS, so giving a child something windows-based -- which at the time only meant a Mac -- was really the best plan). Once you're on an OS, along with all your stuff, it gets tricky to change. But I've never been one of those rabid Mac cultists. I use Windows all the time because I have to at work, and I have no problem with it. Let's face it, if you know an application in one windows-based environment you'll be able to use it in another, and if you don't know an application in a windows-based environment it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

But lately I've found myself closer to drinking the Kool Aid. This is partly because I'm a sucker for good design, and my 12" iBook is the cutest thing ever, and OSX is just pretty. But lately Apple has also been nurturing my geek love, my pack-rat tendencies, and my unemployment-fueled need for projects like crazy.

I've always been a pretty big fan of putting certain aspects of my life in the hands of my Mac, like balancing my checkbook or organizing my address book (I used Palm Desktop for years before I actually got a Palm). But I've recently taken on two projects to really get onto the digital bandwagon.

When I got my new iBook last spring, it came with the snazzy new OS X versions of iTunes and iPhoto. It also has a built-in CD burner and a 40 GB hard drive (up from my highly unreliable old external burner, and a measly 10 gigs) and included a great rebate on a 3-in-1 printer that also scans and copies.

So with all this time on my hands, I've undertaken the daunting task of putting all of my 300 or so CDs (or at least highlights thereof) on the computer. I'm not getting rid of most of the CDs themselves (though anything that only had one or two worthy songs on it has gone up for sale on Amazon), but my theory is that if I play music on my computer (something I do increasingly often lately), I can play from the entire library on random and odds are I'll hear all the things I never think to pop into the CD player, but that I really enjoy. So I'll wind up listening to more stuff and remembering old things I like. I just got a neat little device called an iMic, which connects my computer to any stereo or Walkman or whatever, and will allow me to import LPs and tapes as well. This is a much slower process, since it has to be done in real-time (ie, you have to actually play the record or tape) but the end result will be that I'll eliminate clutter by getting rid of most if not all of my tapes, as anything worthwhile has been upgraded to a CD already, and I was mostly hanging on to things for one or two songs. I'm even making iTunes playlists out of old mix tapes, which is a fun trip down memory lane. And it's totally helpful on 80s music quizzes!

Of course, now I want an iPod even more desperately than I already did. When I see people with them on the street or the train I just seethe with jealousy. I'm up to 4,260 tracks and 21.43 GB in iTunes. This rules out the 20 GB iPod; I need to get the 30 or the 40. And I just don't have $500 to spend on something I'm utterly terrified I will drop and smash into a million tiny pieces in the first week I own it.

Oh well.

Project #2 is far more daunting. I want to scan all my old photographs (well, all the good ones). For a long time I was a fairly fanatical picture-taker. I'm mostly excited to now own a digital camera because it eliminates that feeling of looking at prints from a party and realizing you took the same picture five times because you were drunk, or after a long trip discovering that every sunset looks exactly the same. That's all well and good for the future, but I still have 20+ years of prints in boxes here and haphazardly in a drawer at my mom's apartment. Again, I'm not planning to get rid of the originals and negatives, but wouldn't it be nice to have them all in one non-space-taking-up place? I might actually look at them now and again. Plus, there was a big fire in my neighborhood a couple of months ago, and while nothing residential was damaged it kind of freaked me out (not to mention the fact that I don't trust any of my neighbors or their incredibly stupid children to know how to use their stoves let alone a fire extinguisher), and for the sake of humoring my paranoia it would be nice to throw everything on a CD and keep it somewhere else, like at my mom's. Anyway, scanning everything will be hugely time-consuming, and as much as I want these boxes out of my living room I just haven't dealt with it yet.

It's all a lot of work, but it's also kinda fun (and it's hardly manual labor). I've been playing albums I haven't heard in years, and remembering that they're good, and looking through old photos is always fun (especially the ones where I'm fat and can gloat at myself about how much better I look). I don't think I'll ever stop buying CDs or ordering prints of pictures (though I did just download my first complete album), but I find the long-promised "digital revolution" strangely appealing, especially if it can coexist alongside the tangible. I'm trying very hard to eliminate clutter from my physical life, and this is a great way to do it. Dump the tapes I never listen to, shove the photos in the back of a closet, but still have them easily accessible? It's dreamy. Plus, it's nice to feel like I'm getting the most out of my expensive toys while I'm not using them for work. And even though it still doesn't involve leaving the house or doing anything that's strictly "necessary," I feel far more productive than if I were sitting in front of the TV all day.

I'll be accepting contributions via Paypal for that iPod....

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