A New Found Appreciation for Control

Chris Hannah, writing about his want for more control over his computing devices:

[…]one phrase came to mind yesterday that seems to sum up my overall opinion on technology: “I don’t want nice, I want control”. And whether or not this is the reality, I’ve always felt like the Apple world offers more niceties and a cohesive experience throughout all of their products, and not exactly one that offers an abundance of control to its users.

When I started using Apple computers, the ability to swap out hard drives and memory was the norm. And with many machines you could even swap out processors and graphics cards.

That era of Mac seemed to have culminated sometime around 2012 — right before the introduction of the trash can Mac Pros and soldered components became more and more common.

Apple has slowly removed much of the control we had over our hardware. Today, if you want some of that control back, you either need to buy an old machine which will soon be unsupported by macOS or spend north of $6,000 on a Mac Pro.

But they’ve made strides to take control away from a software standpoint too — the difficulty in installing unsigned software and booting from an external drive comes to mind.

I’m not too fond of these changes. Like Chris, prior to my interest in Apple products, I built my own PCs. I loved picking out all the hardware, installing the operating system and fully configuring the environment to my liking. And after a few years with the same machine, I could upgrade the graphics card, hard drive, and RAM with ease. I still got a taste of that when I started using Macs — I’ve upgraded the memory and hard drive on most of the Macs I’ve owned. But with the move to Apple Silicon, those days are numbered.

This is partly why I bought a 2018 Mac Mini, and why I recently purchased a used 2017 MacBook Air and installed Pop!_OS on it — I want some of that control back. Despite Linux being a worse operating system in a lot of ways, the freedom that I have to use it exactly how I want is incredibly valuable. And I think it’ll be worth the frustrations I run into along the way while I’m still learning everything.

This doesn’t mean I’m abandoning the Apple ecosystem. At least not any time soon. I’m writing this on my iPad Pro while listening to a podcast on my iPhone through AirPods. A single laptop running Linux isn’t going to supplant all of my computing devices. But there’s plenty of opportunities to fit Linux into my life.

My current plan is to use Pop!_OS in all the instances where I want a desktop operating system for personal tasks. If I need to do a bunch of file management on my home server or if I want to make some changes to Initial Charge’s design, for example. And if that usage naturally grows in the future, so be it.

I recently shared some thoughts on Mastodon about the tension that Apple has created with users over the past handful of years — the bad keyboards in MacBooks, the move to USB-C, the move away from replaceable components, software changes that seem to exclusively get in your way, and more.

I’m someone that, just a few years ago, would never have even considered using anything other than iOS and macOS. But now I’m using Linux on my personal laptop and actually thinking about buying a laptop without an Apple logo. Has Apple pushed things so far that they’re starting to run off the die hards?