This post was published in May 2011, so the information in the post or about me in the sidebar may no longer be correct.


I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about contingency plans, I think partially spurred on by (re-)finding Alex Payne’s rules for computing happiness. His rules have encouraged me to try and keep things as simple as possible, and to not to rely too much on anything that’s far outside my control.

So, I present a few scenarios that could easily happen over the next few years. While I hope none of them do, thinking about it in advance can’t hurt.

What if Apple stopped making the best OS?

This is becoming more of a worry with news dripping out about OS X Lion - Apple seem to be moving towards a simpler, iOS-like experience on the desktop. And while I hope they never abandon the nerds who love using OS X for development, I’ve got a horrible feeling we might wake up one day and find the command line gone.

I’d still keep using Apple hardware (it’s the best, see below), but I’d probably move to a Linux distribution. I’ve thought about this a bit recently, and I reckon the reason I’m such a fan of OS X is because it’s much more closely related to a LAMP server than Windows 7; making web development and testing that bit easier. Moving to from OS X to Linux would make more sense than moving from OS X to Windows.

Perhaps Ubuntu to start with, and then another distribution if I my needs changed or I felt a little more adventurous. Depending on how easily they installed on Apple hardware, of course, I’ve not looked in to that.

What if Apple stopped making the best hardware?

It’s really hard to imagine a world in which the quality of MacBook Pros drops so far that they’re no longer appealing. Given what I’ve seen recently at work I wouldn’t ever touch a Dell. I think a souped-up Lenovo ThinkPad might do the job quite nicely. An IBM ThinkPad T21 was my first laptop back the early 2000s, don’t cha know?

They seem like they make decent quality, not-beautiful-but-not-ugly laptops. A cursory glance at their online store suggests something like a ThinkPad X220 might work. £1100 for a 12.5 inch 1366x768, Core i3, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD is comparable to a MacBook Pro on price though; the argument that “Apple is more expensive” seems to have been well and truly eroded.

A couple of months ago, Engadget called it “arguably one of the best laptops [they’ve] ever tested”. That’ll do.

What if Twitter shut up shop?

This would be really tough. Twitter is a few things to me:

  1. It’s a place to meet new people with similar interests. I suppose I’d have to spend more time using Convore, Reddit, IRC? I’ve met quite a few people because of Twitter, and even got a few freelance web development jobs that turned out really well.
  2. It’s a place to socialise with friends; Facebook would probably get that traffic.
  3. It’s a place to find out the latest news that I’m interested in. At a few job interviews the interviewer has asked me how I keep up to date with the latest web goings-on. I haven’t been able to think of a better answer than Twitter and RSS.

I’d start blogging a lot more, and probably investigate installing my own service that would allow me to keep posting brief updates.

What if Spotify closed down?

Simply put, I’d have to find somewhere else to get my music. I’ve recently started paying £5/month for Spotify, and I’m sure there’s another service that would do suitably well as a replacement, though probably not with the same huge catalog. (especially the radio) would probably get a lot more use from me.

What if Dropbox turned (more) evil?

I’d head over to Amazon and buy the smallest, cheapest USB flash drive they had going, and put it on my keys. We’ve got a few Sandisk Cruzer Blades at work; they’re currently under £14 for 16GB, and the price of flash memory drops every day. And Verbatim do 16GB in fingernail-size for £24, so that’d be another to go for.

I don’t think there’s a service currently available that offers the same convenience as Dropbox. And if the only file-syncing solutions are stupidly tough to use, I’d rather go back to carrying round my data with me.

What if the iPhone stopped being so damn attractive?

I’d probably go the route of webOS first - there’s something fundamental about the lack of attention to detail of Android that really bothers me.

I’d try the latest HP/Palm Pre in an O2 store, and see whether that works for me. And if not, probably whatever the latest HTC Desire S or Google Nexus S type thing is.

And on, and on, and on

What’s the one service that you completely rely on? And what would you do without it?


  1. Chris Mear says:

    I think you forgot Gmail.

    I’m not overly concerned about switching OSs per se, supposing Apple goes down the pan. (I mean, it’d be a shame; they make nice stuff. But let’s assume that they go down the pan because they stop making nice stuff.) I’ve switched OS before, and I can do it again.. What’s more concerning is the amount of money I’ve sunk into first- and third-party software and accessories for their platforms over the last ten years.

    As a side note, I think it’s pretty safe that as long as the Mac is the development platform for iOS apps, development tools on the Mac won’t be going away anytime soon.

  2. Alex Muller says:

    You’re right – totally forgot Gmail! I wonder whether that’s a scary indication of how much I take it for granted. I need to start moving over to using the address attached to this domain; it’s still Google Apps-based, but at least that means it’s far easier to switch away in the future.

  3. Michael says:

    Interesting post considering what apple are doing to final cut…

    As for phones, I recon you’d be better with a nexus than palm pre – purely due to app support…

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