A Geek's Paradox

I've been thinking about writing this piece for quite some time.

I can't pinpoint exactly when, but at some point in the not-too-distant past I came to the realization that I'm really not as much as a hardcore geek as I (and others) may think.

The juxtaposition is interesting: on one hand, I am decidedly geeky, what with the plethora of iOS text editors on my devices and the fact that I fiddle from time to time with the .css file for this site. On the other hand, though, I'm not much of a tinkerer — I don't bother using URL schemes on iOS or spend time configuring OmniFocus, for example. To be honest, I find something like URL schemes too complex and "hacky" for my taste. That isn't to say I don't like them or I think they're bad, but that they just don't fit the way my brain works.

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A shining example of my Jekyll-and-Hyde approach to my geekery is my Mac. My main machine — my first-ever Mac, in fact — is a Late 2008 aluminum unibody MacBook. I bought it shortly after Apple announced the new notebooks in October 2008, and transitioned it to being my full-time computer in 2011. (I was a Windows user before then, having only used Macs sporadically in school.) My MacBook shipped with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip, 2GB of RAM (since upgraded to 4), and a 250GB spinning-platter hard disk drive. Out of the box, it ran OS X 10.5 Leopard.

To put these specs in perspective, in 2008 I was still using my original iPhone and the iPad didn't exist outside of Jony Ive's secret Cupertino design lab. And yet, almost 6 years later, my MacBook is still getting the job done. It has run Mountain Lion perfectly fine for the past year, and will run Mavericks once its released this fall. There are occasions where my Mac shows its age and I have fantasies of upgrading to a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, but if it's still doing what I need it to do, no reason to put it out to pasture just yet.

Likewise, with iOS devices, I'm not wont to upgrade my iPhone and iPad every single year, in spite of my geek status. I used my original iPhone for almost three years before upgrading to the iPhone 4 . I did upgrade the following year to the 4S solely because of Siri, but I did not upgrade to the iPhone 5 last year. Thus, I've used my iPhone 4S as my primary phone since buying it at — gulp — the AT&T store in October 2011. And, quite frankly, I haven't missed not having the 5 that much; my 4S runs iOS 6 just fine, I have all my favorite apps, and the device just does what I need it to do. That said, I am looking forward to upgrading to the iPhone 5S with its 4-inch display in a couple months.

The same logic for not upgrading applies to the iPad as well. I used my original iPad until March 2012, when I upgraded to the iPad 3 because I lusted after its Retina display. And here I am, over two years later, writing the words that you're currently reading on that very same iPad. My iPad 3, while not without its warts, has served me very, very well. I'm generally pleased with it, though I am contemplating upgrading (downgrading?) to a Retina iPad Mini whenever that hits the market.

All this said, however, I will concede that I am more apt to upgrade my iOS devices at a more rapid clip than my Mac. Given the importance of mobile nowadays, and my penchant for using my iPad as a "laptop", I could reasonably argue that my iOS devices are more important to my workflow than a full-blown Mac.

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Software-wise, I'm always an early adopter. I always make concerted efforts to keep the apps on my Mac and iOS devices up-to-date; whenever new versions of anything are released, I'm almost always first in line. My MacBook is running the current version of Mountain Lion (10.8.4), while my iPhone and iPad are both on iOS 6.1.3. I think it's really important to keep my software up to date, mostly because I like having the latest features and I feel they perform better. This is especially true on the Mac, where I occasionally am beta-testing new apps, and I want them to run on a stable, current OS. All this to say that when it comes to software, I am admittedly more inclined to be as geeky as possible.

But hardware-wise, though, I'm definitely more apt to milk as much utility out of my devices as possible. There are budgetary considerations, sure, but for the most part, my geeky inclination to upgrade at first chance is more often than not trumped by the actual utility I get from my devices. If they work well and can run the latest software, I'm content. I don't feel this insatiable need to have the latest and greatest every single year.

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I will admit to sometimes feeling twinges of "cool kid" envy because I don't have the latest hardware, but most of time it doesn't bother me. I still proudly call myself a geek, and I know my wallet certainly appreciates my restraint in resisting all the shiny new Apple gadgets.