I am currently running a Windows 98 box which I bought, unsurprisingly, in 1998, when I started college. His name is Basil. He's been a good computer to me all this time, but 8 years old is getting close to "creaking ancient" in computer terms, and I think it's time to give him a dignified retirement in which I no longer expect him to go on the internet so I can stop worrying about security vulnerabilities and just use him for programs like 3-D Home Architect that probably don't exist in modern form because no one liked them but me. I think I could also coax Basil to play The Sims, but I'm unwilling to try until I don't need the computer to do anything else in case that does Horrible Things.
Anyway, I'm pretty sure I don't want a Windows box. The Independent Cuss in me wants to be able to reinstall the operating system as many times as I damn well please without anyone being able to tell me nay (this is despite the fact that I don't think I've ever done this on Basil). Also, I hate change and Windows seems to bundle all of its upgrades together when you try to go in for bugfixes. Also, you know, Microsoft is the devil in many more ways than I can even begin to go into here, but I want to explain why I don't want Windows again on its own merits rather than start angsting about why I hate pretty much very company ever, or else I'll just end up reading library books by sunlight and going to bed when it gets dark rather than get a new computer. Also, it's the most common target for viruses, thus necessitating constant minor upgrades, which I hate because they tend to break things and make the computer run more slowly.
So, Mac or Linux? On one hand, I used to be quite the computer hobbyist back in the day (I've been using computers since before I could read, which is a pretty mean feat when you realize that this meant DOS-based programs at the time) and Linux calls out to the part of me that misses the Good Old Days of doing everything yourself. On the other hand, just like in the Good Old Days, it can send you on a Write Your Own Drivers Adventure when you really just want the shiny new thing you just bought to work. Also, you need to have a pretty good pile of clue if something becomes broken and you need it fixed fairly quickly or you want to install something at all obscure. It does, however, have multiple desktops, and I've missed them in the years since I last used it. The two main "fun" programs I use are Firefox and Gaim, so I wouldn't have to find new programs for those tasks if I switched to Linux.
Macs, on the other hand, would require minimal amounts of clue on my part. I know the basics of computer use already, and I'm unlikely to be sent into "nobody ever got around to writing end-user documentation for that" hell, let alone driver-writing hell. On the other hand, it's a Big Company and I have no idea how bad they are about forcing upgrades along with bugfixes. On an additional hand, I can buy a scanner and a digital camera that will say on the box that they'll work with my computer, and they probably actually will. Plus, I can get a laptop. (It is my understanding that there is no way to get a Linux laptop without buying a laptop that originally came with a different OS on it, which seems to defeat part of the point.) I've moved Basil enough times that a laptop is pretty appealing. (He moved into and out of the dorms twice a year, went with me to California when I was living out of hotels (nothing says fun like moving a 17-inch monitor at least once a week), and has generally been quite well traveled for a mid-tower.) Also, I'm going into k-12 education, and everyone else will have a Mac. If I have a Mac, I'll probably be able to open any file they happen to send me.
Bah. I want a Linux box on a philosophical level, but I know a Mac would be more practical for what I will actually need a computer to do for me in the coming years. I really don't consider computers a hobby anymore (I've found new ones that make me less angry all the time than computers have started to), but at the same time I want to encourage the type of computers that I want to have exist to come into being. But I really, really need a computer that will just work most of the time without me having to constantly mess with it.
I hate this. This is why I've kept Basil so damn long.
So anyway, any advice? I should really get this bought this week before this term gets too much underway.