When My Tech Started Breaking


About a year ago, my beloved MacBook Pro started to have some irretrievable problems. I saw them coming a mile away, and after months of deliberation and research, I made the hard choice that my next laptop would run Windows10.

I’ve always been pretty fluent in both of these operating systems, and I’ve always preferred Macs. Plus, as laptops go, Apple usually makes better hardware (even though they overcharge for it). My first computer of my own was an Apple IIgs, I had the first iPhone, the first iPad, and dearly loved each of my MacBook Pros. I’ve been a bit of a fanboy at times, watching the Apple events for the new releases and lusting after the shiny new iThingy.

I know what I’m doing with Macs, and I’m accustomed to burning through them every 3 years or so — this is my 5th such MacBook Pro. But this was also the first laptop that I couldn’t open up and tweak myself, as it was specifically designed NOT to be user-upgradable. I knew when I got my 2015 MacBook Pro that it would likely be my last, unless Apple changed their direction.

They haven’t. Don’t get me started.

So after doing everything I could to extend the life of my ailing Mac, last November I finally broke down and got a PC running windows. It sounded like the better option. It should have been the better option. It should have worked.

Only that’s when everything technical started breaking…

Within three months, I would be on my third PC. Also, my third router. I’d also have burned up several backup storage drives, a half-dozen SD cards & USB thumb drives, and lost my iPad. Yes, I’m a heavy duty user of whatever you put in my hands, but this is ridiculous! Is there anything that can hold up to the rigors of what computers used to do routinely a decade ago and without incident? Not a Dell XPS13 or XPS15, apparently. Not another Mac running the newest OS. I finally got a gaming computer, a Razer Blade 15, and that’s been holding up okay on the hardware side so far — though Windows 10 is another story.

My records from this last year are chaotic, with many paniced duplications and huge gaping holes. I still haven’t figured out what’s what and where it is, or if I even have the data. I’m talking my iTunes libraries, my photos, my videos, business & financial records, the whole deal. I’ve had to pull all-nighters to rebuild entire multi-day workshops from my girlfriends computer at the last minute while on the road. I’ve had to make lame excuses to powerful clients that have little patience for delays. I’ve had to compromise my deliverable schedule and struggle through every simple little thing over and over and over day in and day out. Fun times.

As a traveling musician turned video production guy who usually has a backup to the backup of the backup on hand, this was a strange situation to be in. I’m no stranger to tech that breaks (it always does), but not having an operational fallback? That’s usually just bad planning. But I had planned. I had researched and troubleshooted and gone deep down the design rabbit-hole. Still broken.

This entire last year has been spent trying to fix the things that broke. The speed of breakage has reduced, but the curse is not yet broken. My tech is still breaking, and often, and I don’t know why or quite know what to do about it.

…But I have an idea.

I’m planning on ditching both Apple AND Microsoft! And Google and Amazon and IBM and Oracle while I’m at it. That’s right, I’m heading to Linux and the FOSS community. I’m building my own server, running my own cloud, and when I can affortd it I’ll be getting my next cellphone and computer hardware from Purism.

At this point in history, I really don’t see any other viable options. I want my stuff to work, and to work the way I tell it to. I want to develop a workflow that keeps working and doesn’t change because The Gods of Technology are fighting or someone decided the features I care about don’t factor into their most profitable userbase or threaten their future data monetization model. Let The Almighty Tech Gods fight up upon their Mount Olympus. I am but a humble mortal, and prefer to hear the epic tales of their battles from a distance. I ain’t fixin’ to get all up in their brawls. Lemme do my thing over here…please?

While I’m not doing anything that needs to be super-secure or locked down, I do appreciate the concept of privacy. And I don’t like how that very concept no longer seems to exist amongst The Gods. Anytime I talk with other people about the privacy issues, they either don’t believe me or don’t they want to hear about it — because they feel so powerless. Personally, as long as I can decline the opportunity to be powerless, I will do so. Like you, I don’t always get as much choice in the matter as I’d prefer. But when I can, I choose to be free.

It seems that these days this means learning how to roll my own everything. I wish it wasn’t this way, I really do. I wish I could just run Apple’s 10.6 or Windows XPsp2 forever, but neither of those are supported anymore. In the Linux world, on the other hand, an operating system like CentOS from 10 years ago still not only works but is actively supported! I want to set something up that will keep working for a good five years at least. It is possible, but only with Linux. And if you think your favorite Google or Amazon services will still work the way they do today five years from now, you should have your head examined! Don’t worry, I’m sure they have an app for that.

I attempted to get started on my Linux migration in August/September, but had to put that work aside to focus on new business. I told myself I wouldn’t return to Linux-land and server builds until 2020, by which time I hope the fates will align and fortune will be smiling upon me again. It’s hard putting this off. In the meantime, I’m learning a ton about networking, security, the Linux kernal, and how to make this one-way trip out of the walled gardens that each of the Tech Gods have created for us as long as we pledge our undying allegiance to any one of them, but only one of them alone.

Things had to break this much for me before I would seriously consider my own little private rebellion. So be it. Here’s to technology that serves people, rather than the other way around.

Here’s to becoming more free!

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