The Quest Begins!

Today is my last day of work. I have Wednesday and Thursday to get my affairs in order, and I begin my new job – and officially begin my technomadic experiment – this Friday.

So the laptop buyout went… poorly. I was really hoping that they’d bite – my original negotiated deal was to work for the ISP for one year, and at that point I’d be entitled to buy out my laptop for $1000. Well, technically, the deal I tried to negotiate was that after six months the ownership of the laptop would just transfer to me, but they played hardball and would only go for the full transfer after eighteen months. I was kind of stretched financially at the time, so I accepted.

The problem is that I’m leaving the company after only just shy of nine months. I made them an offer of $1000 plus an extra $100 for each of the three months shy of a year, so $1300. The big boss agreed, but with the caveat “…as long as Joe doesn’t need the machine for his tech guys”, putting the decision in the hands of the manager of the technical support team. He was supposed to let me know Friday, but Friday afternoon told me he’d need the weekend to think it over.

That left me at a bit of a disadvantage, as my last day is today, Tuesday, and I would have to leave my machine there – but I was pretty confident that he’d make the right choice and let me buy the machine out. Unfortunately, early Monday morning he emailed me saying “Sorry dude, we’re getting more mac clients lately and so it’d be better to have it in the tech office for testing and client solutions stuff”.

Now, that’s a pretty flimsy premise. You’ve gotta understand, there’s a lot of office politics at play here – for one, I had the only Macbook Pro in the office, and frankly that chapped a lot of cabooses, and for two the Macbook Pro is a phenomenally well-designed machine and I’m in an office full of geeks. There were at least four people in the office with designs on my laptop, and from my vantage point (aka “shitty cubicle”) I got to watch them circle like vultures as the word spread. Deals were quietly made – my coworker made his case “I should get the laptop because I’m second to Drew in the admin team and I only have a regular Macbook, which could go to the tech team…”, and went from office to office gathering support for his cause. Another coworker, of much higher ranking, thought he should get it on rank alone. And even the big boss said something like “Just leave it on my desk when you go – oh, and make sure the applications and such are still installed, I’ve been meaning to pick up a mac for my own use…”.

Regardless, I’m getting a signing bonus with the new company, with which to purchase a new laptop. I was really hoping that purchase could be my macbook pro, with money left over for a fancy new iPhone too – but with that hope dashed, I was left with one day to evaluate my options and purchase a new machine.

Fortunately, I’m a geek, so I’d kept up with the tech pretty well – I’d already narrowed the field down to two options. In the left corner the slightly more pedestrian Macbook, and in the right corner the sleek, sexy Macbook Air.

I’ll save you the suspense: I bought the Air.

It was pricy, that’s for sure, it used up my entire budget and then an extra $100 on top of that – but I think I’ve made the right decision. This is a machine that I’ll be carrying with me everywhere for the next – oh, let’s call it two years. I’ll be spending anywhere from one to fourteen hours per day on the thing, which means it has to be both functional and comfortable. I look at a laptop as being like a good pair of workboots – if you’re just doing some gardening every few weeks, the $90 pair of workboots will suit you just fine. If you’re out on a construction site every day though, rain or shine, for eight hour stretches, the $340 pair start to make a lot more sense.

There were a few other factors that influenced the decision; for instance, the Air doesn’t have firewire, which is a strike against… but I had firewire on my MBP and never used it once in the nine months I had the machine. Also the Air only has a 1.6Ghz processor. Which is, um, the same one I’ve been using for nine months on my MBP with no complaints.

Functionally speaking, I’ve traded my Macbook Pro for the equivalent machine, only pared down with less extraneous crap, lighter and more mobile. This is exactly what I’m trying to do with the rest of my life, so it makes me think that I’ve made the right choice.

Friday, I get to spend most of the day on Skype with my new coworkers, mapping out the networks that I’ll be taking care of. Of course, since the new company has grown very rapidly and with a small core of employees, there isn’t really any documentation for any of the systems, so that’ll be my first big task. The following Thursday, I fly to New Brunswick for a two-week “vacation”, which will be the first big test of being a fully mobile sysadmin… and after that, it’s off to Burning Man to either celebrate the burgeoning success of my venture, or to do some deep desert soul-searching as to what I’m actually trying to do here.

Is this all a great idea leading to a wonderfully adventurous alternative lifestyle, or a huge mistake stemming from a drive to escape from a life that seems to be leading to stagnancy?