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As I sit here at 4am in the air-conditioned, sterile ambiance of Muscat airport, I can’t help but feel lonely. Lonely and a little let down. Yes, it’s probably my fault for going too far afield in the first place. Certainly it’s my fault for booking onto a gruelling schedule of eight flights in the space of two weeks, half of which are over seven hours and all of which are on my own. I have tempted the fates and have been duly smote.

The undeniable existence of sod’s law has taken effect and my bloody iPod has decided that now is the optimum time to mysteriously wipe all of my music.

This is the third time that this particular device has played this amusing little party-piece on me. On previous occasions, my reaction has been to attempt fruitlessly to fix it using mere logic before resigning myself to defeat and consoling myself in calling Steve Jobs a variety of four-letter obscenities at the top of my voice. Therapy is an individual thing, you see.

Since his demise last year though, I feel that it would be in poor taste to carry out my usual ritual. Partly as it doesn’t feel right abusing the dead, but mainly out of fear that one of his disciples would hunt me down and do something threatening-yet-geeky to me. Like send me an abusive virus or create a virtual picket-line around my router… I don’t know how these things work, which is why (like the rest of us) I pay some socially-inadequate con-artist a fortune to fix my computer when it goes wrong. It’s a humiliating situation though when someone with a phone holster on their belt has the last laugh on you.

Anyhow, I digress. The outpouring of emotion at Steve Jobs’ death last year was a truly extraordinary series of events. Here was a man who was head of a vast global organisation, a man who was a shrewd businessman and a forward thinker no doubt, but at the core of it all he was still a corporate suit (or should that be corporate roll-neck? Vive la revolution!). Yet when the obituaries and accolades rolled in, they made him out to be some sort of maverick freedom fighter. I swear if you’d blanked the name out of one testimony, you would have thought it was for the love child of Che Guevara and Joan of Arc.

This struck me as odd. Sure he stood up to the power of Microsoft (although I find it unfortunate that a man as charitable as Bill Gates seems to be painted as akin to the Emperor from Star Wars in this particular tale), but that’s not exactly covering yourself in petrol and lighting a match as far as ‘sticking it to the man’ goes. The truth is, from where I’m sitting, that he oversaw the recovery of a huge company that made some serious technological leaps under his stewardship. But is that worthy of floral tributes outside Apple stores? It is, unquestionably, sad that a good man died before his time, but this was insane.

But what of the company that he left behind. Is it really all that?

I must confess that I have always had a fairly poor opinion of Mac products, this sentiment entrenched in my beliefs by the fanatical support of them by my absurd IT teacher at school. They always seemed to be the computer of choice for the kind of arty, wanky people who thought that having a trendy computer made them cool. The type of person you saw sitting in Starbucks in skinny jeans with his MacBook as some sort of nerdy fashion statement. As I sit in an airport coffee shop now, writing this on my iPad, the irony isn’t lost on me.

The iPod was, without doubt, a great idea. Indeed I have frequently said that if I was saving one (caveat: inanimate) object from a burning house, it would be my iPod, such is the importance that it plays in my life. But here the message is lost. It would be easy to assume that my affection was for the device, and I can even imagine “Jobbites” (or should it be Jobsciples?) nodding smugly that this naysayer has defected. The truth of the matter is that my iPod is indispensable to me because it is where I keep all my music. Thirty years ago I would not have been charging out the embers of my flat clutching a gramophone. No, I would have had as many bits of carefully-selected vinyl under my arm as I could physically carry.

To these ends, it’s not exactly in my interests for this cocking machine to wipe my entire collection every nine months.

Not to worry, I thought when this first happened, I can just go to one of those wonderful Apple stores and they’ll fix it. I now look back at this and laugh forlornly at my naivety.

The first time I arrived, I was greeted by a man who was far too happy. I left immediately. Not that I’m inherently miserable, but people who are too happy instil the sort of fear in me that I’d usually reserve for a dinner party at Hannibal Lecter’s. This is why I’m terrified of going to America.

I went back shortly after and was told I needed to make a reservation. At this stage I feel I should add that the Apple store is not in a convenient location for me. Far from it, my nearest one is located at Oxford Circus. I think in the Greek underworld, should i go to purgatory upon crossing the river Styx, my eternal punishment would involve walking up and down Oxford Street. Rest assured I would lead a positively monastic lifestyle to avoid such an eventuality. Sadly this is all factored into my Apple store experience.

After making an appointment, I returned. Ploughing through tourists out the Tube with the sort of effort a Salmon expends at breeding time, I finally reached the inner sanctum. After spending all of twenty seconds explaining what had happened with my iPod, my grinning chimpanzee gleefully informed me that “all I needed to do was reset the device and put my music back on”.

I nearly hit him.

You see, being a normal human being, my iPod was filled with music from about ten different computers, most of which I don’t own and some of which don’t even exist any more. These morons seem to live in a utopian world of make-believe, where everyone only listens to music they have bought themselves. The file-sharing aspect of MP3s was the major selling point (Although I’m sure record labels would disagree) and yet you can only back up the music you have on your computer. Essentially what happened was the equivalent of someone leafing through your CD collection and snapping all the ones you’d burned off mates. Given that this has now happened three times, I assume that it is a fairly regular feature of the iPod.

File sharing was, in a geeky way, fairly rebellious. It was every mans way of sticking two fingers up at record companies that had increased album prices practically year-on-year. As someone who spent practically every penny I had on CDs until I discovered booze and ciggies, I didn’t feel particularly guilty about lifting some free albums from friends either. I had paid my dues.
With the invention of the iPod, Apple took control of your music collection. With their technological failures they police it. The more music you steal off friends, the more painful it is when you lose the lot. The smiling bastards at the Apple stores merely capture us members of the rebel alliance and nudge us gently in the direction of the Death Star… Now who’s the maverick freedom fighter, Steve?

If this article is too long, blame Apple for not putting a word counter on the iPad. If it contains any ludicrously out of place words, blame Apple for the lunacy of their auto correct service. And if this article is a pile of arse that has wasted ten minutes of your life, blame Apple too. If their machines worked properly, I wouldn’t have felt the need to write it.

By Harry Harland