For the last couple years I’ve had a Mac Mini attached to my television. This has served as our DVD player and content streaming device. To this Mac Mini I had attached an external hard drive. This drive contained several movies I’d ripped as well as my entire iTunes music collection. I set up a wireless keyboard and mouse so that we could use the computer from the couch, but the reality is that using a web browser from 10 feet away is sub-optimal. This meant that we were often standing directly in front of the TV to find and start some show. The Mac Mini has been good enough, though everyone in the house will agree that it’s not a stellar solution.
Last night, the external hard drive attached to the Mac took a plunge off the mantel, and stopped working. I’m frustrated that I lost all my media. But in reality, none of it is irreplacable. Moreover, I didn’t avail myself to the bulk of that content with any regularity so most of the time it went unused.
The last couple of months have been bad for the hardware in my life. I clobbered my laptop’s hard drive and shattered my iPhone. And now the external drive. I’m growing increasingly tired of hardware. Too much can go wrong, too easily. Too much maintenance is required, or too many ancillary purchases.
I don’t consume enough media to feel compelled to own much of it. It’s been years since I last bought a CD or DVD – and almost as long since I last watched one – and I’m not particularly interested in Blu-Ray. We’re already Netflix subscribers, and we use Amazon Video On Demand with some regularity. Most of the time something like Last.fm or Pandora is sufficient for listening to music. I’m not enough of an audiophile to be able to justify Spotify’s monthly fee. And I don’t have a stereo system: all music gets played through my television’s speakers.
I’ve been eyeing a Roku box for awhile, wondering whether it would be sufficiently easy to use without being annoying. It would allow us to continue to enjoy Netflix and Amazon VOD, as well as the various music streaming services. But a Roku would still be another piece of mostly fragile hardware that doesn’t demonstrably make my life any better. Yes, it might facilitate distractions, but it’s not really doing much to improve my quality of life.
Maybe it’s not hardware fatigue I’m suffering, but digital fatigue. All the apps and web sites and servcies and doo-dads we consume every day are all mostly distractions. They don’t improve my health. They don’t do much to bring my family together. They often distract us from things that are arguably more important.
It’s also entirely possible I’m just becoming a curmudgeonly middle aged man.