Apples or Oranges?

I’m a sucker for bright, shiny objects. And not just any bright, shiny objects. I’m talking about expensive bright, shiny objects that can play music and connect to the internet and do all kinds of other cool things. I’m talking about gadgets. I have several gadgets, and I love them all. I love my Zune(s), I love my netbook, I love my DS, I love my Xbox, and my Playstation 3, and I even kind of love my Wii. But as much as I love the gadgets I own, there are, of course, many more gadgets that I wish I owned. And of all the gadgets I wish I owned, none fill me with such conflicting feelings of lust and disgust as those gadgets made by Apple.

Ah, Apple. How do I love/hate thee? Let me count the ways. First of all, from a design standpoint, Apple’s products are unmatched by any of their competitors. For example, there simply is no laptop on the market as beautiful as a MacBook Pro. But that’s part of the problem also. Apple’s industrial design is so far ahead of everyone else’s that Apple hasn’t updated its designs for a couple of years now. So when I see a MacBook Pro, part of me thinks “that is the most beautiful piece of technology I’ve ever seen, and I need it,” but another part of me thinks “Really? That’s all you’ve got?” I’m bored of the MacBook Pro design, and yet, I desperately want one, because, like I said, I’m a sucker for bright, shiny objects, and there is no laptop-shaped object brighter or shinier than the MacBook Pro.

Another area where my feelings toward Apple are conflicted is that of functionality. For example, I love listening to music. And I love listening to a wide variety of music, and having a massive selection of music available to me at all times. So an MP3 player is pretty much a must-have for me. And Apple’s premiere MP3 player, the iPod Touch, is a fine device. And I, of course, want one. But from a pure music-lover’s perspective, I find that the device I do own, the Zune HD, is superior. It’s difficult to adequately explain why, but I find the user experience when it comes to music is better on the Zune HD than on the iPod Touch. Plus the Zune HD has a music subscription service, so for $15 a month, I can listen to virtually anything I want. The iPod Touch doesn’t have this option. So that’s fine, right? I mean, I have the device that’s better for what I want to do, yeah? Well, yeah. But the iPod Touch also has other functionality that the Zune HD does not have. The iPod Touch has access to what’s known as the App Store, which basically provides near-infinite expansion of the device’s abilities. According to Apple’s website, there is something like 150,000 apps on the App Store. That’s a lot. By contrast, the Zune HD is technically capable of running apps, but the selection is limited to a dozen or so. Most of which are pointless games, although there are few useful apps. So the Zune HD is a great music player, but that’s basically it, whereas the iPod Touch is virtually a full computer that fits in the palm of your hand.

So this is the source of more of my frustration with Apple. The iPod Touch is an awesome little device. I want one. I want to be able to play Plants vs. Zombies and check my email on a handheld device and whatnot. But it doesn’t do the most important things I want out of an MP3 player, namely, deliver a really nice music experience and a music subscription service. So it’s not really worth the $300 it would cost me to get one. But I still want one. See? I’m conflicted.

Continuing on with the functionality thing, Apple’s new device, the iPad, is a perfect example of how Apple’s products do some things really well, and do other things, well, not at all. The iPad, like all Apple products, is beautiful. It also does lots of things. You can listen to music with it, watch movies on it, surf the internet, read books, play games, look at pictures, and countless other things using apps from the App Store. But it has some weird limitations too. It doesn’t have a camera, which means that it can’t be used for video chats. The screen is not widescreen, so if you watch movies on it, there will be black bars on the top and bottom. It is incompatible with Flash, so you can’t watch most web videos on it. It’s also surprisingly heavy for as thin and small as it is.

My biggest problem with Apple, though, is price. Apple’s products are, frankly, overpriced. All of the other problems I have with Apple’s products combined don’t come close to matching that one. As much as I want one device to listen to music on, surf the internet on, play games on, and so forth, I don’t really have a problem with buying an iPod Touch in addition to my Zune HD. Except that I would have to spend at least 300 bucks. Same thing with the iPad. Yeah, it has some weird limitations, but that’s not really what’s holding me back from buying one. The thing that’s holding me back is that they cost at least $500. That is a lot of money. If I could use it as my primary computer, that would be one thing. But it wouldn’t replace my computer, and it wouldn’t replace my Zunes, and, really, there isn’t anything I own that I could use the iPad in place of. It would just be another toy. Which would be great, but I just don’t have $500+ to spend on a toy. Heck, I don’t have $300 to spend on a toy. And so I’m reduced to ranting about Apple on my blog and surfing their website to drool over all the wonderful toys I wish I had but simply can’t afford. On my netbook. While I listen to music on one of my Zunes. And manage the content on another Zune. And contemplate playing a video game on my Playstation 3. Okay, so maybe I have enough toys.

What to Do, What to Do…

So now I have a blog. I’ve been wanting to start a blog for some time now, but I recently was given enough of an incentive to actually start one. See, right now my occupation is to stay home with my kids and take care of them and clean the house. It doesn’t pay well, but there are some significant benefits (generally in the form of smiles and hugs). But recently, my mother and I were discussing what I was planning to do once the kids were in school. I said that I was hoping to start writing my book, the one that’s been in the planning stages since I was a junior in high school (that’s, uh, 1998, in case you were wondering). So she told me that I should start a blog, so that I could practice my writing skills. I responded that I would love to have a blog, but having two small children made it hard to find time to do anything but take care of two small children. So she said that she wanted to do something to give me an incentive to blog, and told me that if I posted a 1000 word essay every week, she would give me some money towards buying a new laptop, which is something I desperately want. And so this blog was born.

Having never blogged before, I’m not entirely sure what form this blog will ultimately take, but I do have some ideas in mind. I envision it primarily being a place where I can ramble on at length about some of my favorite topics, namely music, video games, politics and religion.

I do have one concern, and I’m curious to see if it is well-founded or not. I come from a politically conservative family, and I married into a politically conservative family. I also have (mostly) politically conservative friends. I, however, am not politically conservative. I used to be. I voted for Bush in 2004, and I would have voted for him in 2000 if I hadn’t been too lazy to vote back then. But I did not vote for Bush McCain in 2008. I voted for Obama. Mostly what changed is that in between 2004 and 2008, I went to college. Which of course sounds like I have no opinions of my own and just believe whatever the majority of people around me believe. And if I end up voting for Sarah Palin in 2012 (God forbid!), after several years out of college, then I’ll have to admit that that’s probably the case. But I’d like to think that my opinions are a little bit more deeply engrained then that.

To complicate matters, I am also a Christian. And there seems to be an unwritten rule among conservative Christians that it is impossible to be a Christian and a liberal. So I find myself in a position where I often feel like I can’t freely express my beliefs without offending/angering the people I’m close to. So I’m excited to have a place like this where I can rant on about what I believe and mostly likely nobody I know will ever see it, which gives me a chance to vent without running the risk of getting into a political argument with anyone, a possibility that I generally dread.

However, this first post was never meant to be about politics. I don’t particularly feel like starting things off with such a weighty topic. Instead, I want to talk about something much more important: what should I do with the money my mom is giving me as an incentive to blog?

First of all, as I mentioned earlier, my original goal was to buy a new laptop. I have a little Lenovo netbook, and it’s alright, but it’s as slow as really thick mud and gets terrible battery life. Plus it’s got a fairly small hard drive (160 GB) – plenty of room for music, but not very much room for video. I would love to have at least 500 GB, so I would have plenty of room for TV shows and movies, plus home movies of the kids. But a good laptop is pretty expensive, and it’s going to take me a while to save up enough money to get one.

Option number two is to buy a decent desktop and hook it up to my HDTV. Gateway makes a nice desktop with a Core i3 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive that sells for about $560 – a steal for such a nice computer. I could use this desktop as a sort of digital hub – a place for all of our music, movies, pictures, and whatnot, plus it would be a heck of a lot faster than the little netbook I’m using now. And, I could keep the netbook and use it the way it was intended to be used – as a companion to my primary computer, not as my actual primary computer. The downside is that if I wanted to, say, use the internet while sitting on the toilet, I’d still have to use it on this sloooooooow netbook.

The third option is by far the cheapest. For $95, I could buy a 640 GB hard drive and put it in my Playstation 3. That would give me plenty of room for TV shows and movies that I would download from the Playstation Network. I would also be able to put some of our pictures and home videos on it. However, it really couldn’t be the end-all, be-all digital hub that a Windows laptop or desktop would be. For one, the web browser on the PS3 is crap. Second, some of our home videos are on an external hard drive that the PS3, for some reason, doesn’t recognize. While I probably could, in theory, figure out a way to move the videos on that drive to the PS3, it wouldn’t be as easy as just plugging the drive in and transferring the videos. I also couldn’t put most of my music on the PS3, because I use a Zune Pass to get most of my music, and the PS3 and the Zune Pass are not compatible with each other. Another problem is that I would only be able to get videos from the Playstation Store, rather than getting them from wherever the heck I feel like.

So, which one should I get? If anybody actually reads this first post, post your comments and let me know what you think!