I used to love fiddling with tech. Lots of evenings, nights, hell, even days spent getting a computer to do things Just Right. Obsessing over config files. Custom configurations. Window managers. All the wonders that Linux systems have to offer.

This didn’t end when we had kids. Now I had less time and energy left from a day full of carework and wage work, but I still found relaxation in tweaking an OS install.

I can’t quite pinpoint when that feeling left me. It must have happened gradually. Somehow sitting in front of a screen, playing with tech for tech’s sake, ceased to be fun.

When I fiddle with tech now, it’s usually not out of my own free will. Just tonight, I spent the better part of an hour doing tech support for a kid who wanted to run Fortnite on our XBox while tying it to their Epic account. We eventually failed.

I’m sure that Microsoft, Epic and all the other games companies invest significantly in UX. However, this evening’s experience has reinforced my view that the lot of them should be stuck in a bag and beaten to a pulp, and then we should all go outside and touch grass.

I just did the sums and noticed that most weekdays, I work 14 hours either for my family or for my employer. If there’s an occasional waking hour left that I can freely dispose of, I sure as hell don’t want to spend it fixing printer drivers or some such shit.

Just let me get something done, ok?

Today, the mobile devices in our household run iOS. Not because the devices or their software are somehow superior – they’re not –, but for the sole reason that this way, I have less sysadmin work to do. You see, sysadmin work is only fun when you’re doing it voluntarily. It’s not fun when there’s a user (or several) breathing down your neck and howling for you to solve their problem RIGHT NOW. Kid-sized users especially have ways of conveying impatience that are no longer readily available to adults.

Having come up among people who fiddled all day, every day, I’ve finally realized that they’re the exception. Almost everyone in the world uses tech purely to Get Something Done. Sorry nerds, I love you, but you’re a rounding error. (As we all know, Apple and its shareholders have grown ridiculously rich on the back of this insight.)

Of course, the old reflexes don’t quite go away. Right now I’m looking for a pulse meter that won’t give every government and major tech company a flatrate on my movement data1, and doesn’t require a degree in computer sciences to operate.

It appears those two requirements are somewhat incompatible, and I can’t help but feel a little tired.

  1. Yeah, I know that my iThingy usage renders this concern somewhat superfluous. Thanks smartass, you get a cookie. Now sit back down and shut up. Chances are that I’ve been playing this game longer than you. ↩︎