First of all, I'm not trying to start an OS war, I consider computers tools, and I choose the best one for my purposes. I started a Texas Instruments, did my first serious music work on an Atari ST, and used Windows since DOS5/Win3,1 and Macs since System 6 (OS6) on Motorola chips.
I use ThinkPads on the gig. Why? They are very reliable, so reliable that in the control module of the International Space Station, the one that monitors the oxygen and other life support systems and looks for dangers approaching the station, they use redundant ThinkPads.
I've been using ThinkPads since 2002 and I use two on stage for myself and one for my partner. They all have all the data, plus the data also is carried on a flash drive. We can get by with 2 computers, but 3 are up and running at all times.
I do one-nighters, which is very hard on gear. And I do this for a living. So the computers along with everything else get taken in and out of hot and/or cool environments, bounce in the van and on a keyboard stand all night, and generally get abused.
I don't keep anything on the computers that isn't necessary, no "Office" apps, no Internet, no Anti-Virus, no games, no anything but what I need to do the specialized job I bought them for. I've never-ever had a data crash on stage.
More info on how I make and use the backing tracks can be found here http://www.nortonmusic.com/backing_tracks.html
Since 2002 I've had these problems
- Hard drive started making mechanical noise - no service iterruption - I replaced it the next day
- Seven year old computer wouldn't boot up because the CMOS battery was dead. As I said, I can get by with one computer with only a little slow down. I replaced the $4.95 battery the next day. I eventually retired this 2002 ThinkPad because the hinge was wearing out.
- Last month we had 18 one-nighters and one of my stage computers died - the screen went dark. Used the other computer all night.
I knew parts would have to be ordered. We can get by with two computers, but not one and I'm a "the show must go on" kind of guy, so even thought it is highly unlikely that another one will die, I didn't want to risk it. So I stopped at an office supply mega-store on the way home and bought an el-cheapo Windows computer. The next moring I loaded all the data from my flash drive and by the next evening we were running with 3 computers again.
The cheap computer is extremely cheap, membrane keyboard that sags when you type on it, not a lot of computing power, but with a price tag of less than $300US. It did the job fine until my Win7 computer (the one that replaced the 2002 retiree) came back the next week. (Now my oldest ThinkPad was purchased in 2003.)
For display of my music and/or words (not all 550 songs are completely memorized) and running my backing tracks, it doesn't take much computing power. Reliability and ease of replacement are more important than the OS and eye candy. If I was dedicated Mac on stage, I wouldn't have been able to find any replacement by the next day -- we don't have an Apple store in the quad-county area where I work. And even if I did, it would be a lot more than $300.
When I made the decision to give up my on-stage sequencers in 2002 and go computer, I thought about reliability and replaceability. For reliablity I chose ThinkPad, which turned out to be an excellent choice and for replaceability I chose Windows, because even then if you walked into a computer store and said Mac, the sales person would look at you as if you were a fish out of water.
My Win7 ThinkPad took a week to get fixed, they did have to order parts and we are back and running, plus I have an el-cheapo computer at home to fill the bill just in case my 2003 ThinkPad decides to give up the ghost.
And I was never in danger of having a computer failure stop the show.
Insights and incites by Notes