Dissing anything Apple is one of the most dangerous things a blogger can do, but I feel obliged and justified. Baiting Apple fans is second only to criticizing open source as a way to generate vituperative comments. I have always had a mixed marriage with my wife preferring Macs and me needing to use Windows notebooks because my employer wants me to. Since I am the computer guy, it means that I have to figure out how to get both types of machines (and more recently my Blackberry) working on our home network, printing on our printers, etc. In the early years, the Mac always was easier. With the latest two OSX releases, I just feel like I am figuring it out twice, with the Mac a fair bit more difficult.
I am as impressed as most people are with the overall design and beauty of the Apple products. Usability is definitely suffering, however, as they get more complex and intertwined. Last week, my wife’s iBook G4 died. Apple seems to think that is a normal thing for three year computers to do, because there aren’t really many viable repair options available. By the time we replace the hard disk, and the keyboard (which has been wonky for about a year), we would have almost paid for a new machine. So that’s what we did: A brand spanking new 13 inch Macbook.
When trying to revive the old machine to get the data off, I reinstalled the OS. Now it starts fine, but when I try to start any applications, they just bounce on the dock a few times and nothing happens. No error message. Nothing to indicate that an app failing to appear is out of the ordinary. Just a little happy bouncing icon. That kind of behaviour drives me crazy. As often as not, when something goes wrong on the Mac, there is no information about what happened and no apparent place to go to fix it. On Windows machines there are all kinds of places to tweak and probe. I never know which one to use, which drives me crazy in a different way, but at least I can find a place to start fiddling. What can I do with an icon that bounces happily away, but little else?
I moved the iTunes over from a backup, and all seemed to go well. I had to re-authorize the machine to play the tunes I had bought from the iTunes Store. Slightly irritating, but I can live with that. Now about half the songs we bought pop up the authorization message (and refuse to accept the authorization), and half work fine. No idea why. We bought them all exactly the same way.
I also moved all our photos over from a backup disk. But do you think that there is a way to get iPhoto to recognize all of the libraries and albums from the other machine? Not that I could find after quite a bit of searching. It imported them all just fine, but lost all of the organization, metadata and slideshows built up over the years.
The new machine has a nifty built-in camera. Except that iChat says that this machine is not equipped with a camera. But it is. I am sure there is someplace to turn it on, but I haven’t found it yet.
We wanted to use the nifty iChat interface. But the descriptions on how to get it working are incredibly opaque. the steps involved to connect to someone else are in no way obvious. Something called Bonjour keeps popping up, but I have yet to figure out what it is or how it will help me, after about 30 minutes of looking, the limits of my patience.
I still have to figure out how to convert old AppleWorks files into a format that Office for Mac can read. I would have thought that would be a standard filter, but I’ll have to go looking for it.
I appreciate the design of the box, and the slick look of the operating system. I am also sure that I will figure out all of this stuff eventually. Please don’t offer technical solutions, as remote support is frustrating for both sides. I am also sure that Windows can be just as frustrating. I honestly really like the Mac in many ways and don’t feel that strongly about operating systems anyway. But I expected more from a system that is so praised for its usability. I have always secretly wanted to be a Mac user, so I write this diatribe with disappointment. I am sure that it is a viable alternative to Windows as a corporate desktop machine, but only because it is equally frustrating, albeit in different ways.
I have stopped muttering about how Macs are so much easier to use while trying to figure out why some obvious function isn’t working. It’s better for my mixed marriage.