Thursday, June 09, 2005

Why I Hate Macs 

Sure, I've used Apple products. There was that Apple II GS -- the last "real" Apple -- that blew up on me in college, leaving me with no choice but to pull an all-nighter just to hand-copy a 26 page paper off the screen. The old Classic that kept showing me bombs. The in-house machines over the past few years that couldn't decide which version of the operating system they were running, and weren't reliable in either; the G4 that's been sent back to the company five times in a year and still dump their storage when students try to export their movies.

Despite early and ongoing difficulties, though, I've always figured it's just me. I respect macs conceptually: their hardware and software design are, in the end, better for graphic and multimedia work, and their semiotics are more up my alley ("return" is so much more gentle a terminology than "enter"). That many geeks can't be wrong. And I've always been really impressed by those

And I really, really love my iPod.

But today was the last straw.

The three highest-stakes set-ups for reunion weekend involved what should have been a perfectly simple process: connect mac a to projector b, smile smugly, hang out eating crackers during the event while nothing whatsoever goes wrong with the powerpoint presentation / video / iPhoto slideshow / live auction updates via the web.

Instead, each of three mac laptops had an entirely different but equally unfamiliar output socket for projector connectivity.

And by unfamiliar, I mean not only did we not have compatible cables, our entire IT department had never seen nor heard of anything resembling any of the three. I know, because I did grave-rubbings of each of them (geekalert: a handy way to make sure that you're getting the right cable at Radio Shack, incidentally) and showed 'em around.

Front left to right: Power plug, modem, Ethernet, firewire, USB, USB, mini-DVI, audio input, audio output, and security lock.Look, geeks, we're not talking about older machines, either. Check out the side view of this $1700 Powerbook -- this was one of the machines we had trouble with today. Yes, that tiny double-wide, double-strip DVI output. What the heck IS that? Why is it twice as tall as the iMac output? Why is it half as wide as the one on its predecessor?

After three hours of amazement and shoptalk (woah, aren't macs supposed to be the universal compatibility machines?), I finally realized I've never "got" macs, I'm never going to "get" macs...but most importantly, I now have a foolproof reason for hating them.

There's certainly some feedback occuring here. A PC environment primarily buys data projectors that work with its PCs. And habit counts for something fierce; work with Windows versions of everything for seven years and the brain just plumb thinks PC after a while.

In other words, I'm not saying you should hate macs.

But when your job is making minds work -- any mind, off the street, in a matter of moments -- you use what most people are familiar with, and celebrate that which has the shallowest learning curve (and let me tell you, an operating system and an office environment tied to each other in ways which piss off power users has the shallowest learning curve).

And when your job includes making the fastest, most successful connection between any potential piece of equipment and any other potential piece of equipment, it's hard not to love the universal fifteen-prong input standard of the PC.

And easy to curse the company that ends up having to include model-specific adaptors for everything it releases -- which then sends the average user out into the world without them. I mean, so much for human-centric computing. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that most people don't know what those cables are for, so they leave them in the box.

I mean, come on. Three different, non-standard, never-before-seen sole projector outputs on three different model and generation Macs? In one afternoon? I spent five hours today working on alternate solutions for things that "worked just fine back home," and now I look stupid. Thanks, Mac.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:26 PM |

i guess you just aren't worthy.
To us Apple users there ARE two computers in the world Apples and everything else. Why do "everything else" users assume that Apples should be physically or operationally compatable. There is a reason why we prefer them, they just plain do things better (especially MultiMedia).

Every apple user knows to never throw away any adapters as you will always come across a case such as this - the owner of the computer must be a rookie if they misplacing the "rosetta stone" of cables that turns the modern MDVI output into the "old school" RGB one.

For the record - I worked for IT at the school till June 3rd (last day of classes). I am absolutely sure I could have solved this problem in a matter of minutes but I did not even get a friendly phone call to borrow the correct cable.

The problem is not with the Apple computer but with an IT department that continues to refuse to support a platform that is becoming more popular every day. With the Mac Mini's becoming the cool new dorm computer, I pity the IT department that continues to refuse to have at least one "real" apple person on staff.
I wrote a much longer response to this earlier but lost it to the autorefresh on the library computers.

Suffice it to say, though I believe the assumption Shane makes about rookie users actually describes the average user (disclaimer: Shane and I work in Ed Tech / IT together), that is merely an exacerbating factor to my primary complaint, which is that, given the universal standard in projector connectivity, I believe macs misread both their users and good consumer adaptation by both using odd standards for peripherals and also changing them too frequently.

As such, my complaint is not that Macs are or should be physically or operationally compatible, only that good design should be synonymous with peripherally compatible -- without a need for adapters.

And yes, I agree with Shane's assement of the trend in IT without suggesting anything specific about our own IT department other than noting that it is horribly understaffed and yet could be streamlined better. But I refuse to "phone a friend" to solve problems that the school should solve. Better, IMHO, to let IT and others see the effects of awkward support models, as I believe it is the best way to force change.
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