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Opinion

How Do You Like Them Apples?

by Tom Bunzel (tombunzel@wwwiz.com)

 Is anyone else as sick of the Mac as I am?

Aren't you just plain tired of Mac people constantly touting how ``special" their OS and their computers are?

In the dark ages of the PC, Macs genuinely had superior graphics and video capability, and Macfanatics' insufferable superiority was manifest at every multimedia trade show and event.

            But lately they still perpetuate the myth that there is a significant difference between a Mac and an IBM PC–in terms of reliability, performance and value.

            And this comes at a time when the amount of software written for their pitiful platform is at an all-time low–and when the same stupid modem I can buy for my PC for $10 at Fry's costs them $79 at Mac Mall.

            But what really gets me worked up about the Mac-Heads is that for them this totally meaningless issue is like a moral crusade or a holy war.

            Their inane comments are inevitably delivered with a snide sense of ethical superiority akin to Republicans talking about Bill Clinton.

            It's as though the Mac has some moral imperative to be the top platform on the planet–that it's the only one that is useful and user friendly–and that Moses came down from Sinai with the golden tablets and a PowerMac.

            PCs crash, burn and go wrong–let's figure out how to make them work.

And you know what–it's no different on the frigging Mac.

What's more, one of greatest evolutionary achievements of the PC is as yet unrealized on the Mac.  When I consulted at an ad agency that needed help on Microsoft Word, on their Macs, I said to the guy, ``right-click"–and he looked at me like I was nuts.

            On Windows, in whatever program, whenever you want, if you right click you get a context sensitive menu that anticipates your every need.  On the Mac, there's no right mouse button–you must Control Click–so it takes two hands.  Mac-Heads can't do it and hold their tofu shakes at the same time.

            But guess what?  A PC pal informs me he gets the right click functionality on his iMac by using a Microsoft mouse! 

            And by the way Mac-Heads, have you ever seen a Windows user just push a little button on his CD ROM to eject a disk? Pretty amazing, huh, since you have to drag yours to the ``trash." What a great metaphor.

            Have you ever heard Apple users utter the phrase ``rebuild the desktop"?  That's what happens when their screen freezes and they need to reboot–it's like when a Windows user must let Scandisk check his or her hard drive after a crash.

As their desktop is ``rebuilt" Mac-Heads also have to sit and wait for all their little icons to regenerate while their computer figures out what screwed up.

            But they would make you think that this hardly ever happens.  Hogwash–I did digital video on Adobe Premiere on a Mac Quadra five years ago and I froze and rebooted all the time.  It's the nature of the beast.

I admit the Mac has some advantages–No. 1 is no Registry to corrupt and the ability to back up application folders quickly and easily. But that hardly justifies their users' insufferable smug superiority.

            Mac-Heads come up to me all the time because I wear a cool ``Apple Café" jacket that I got for free at an Apple press event to which I had absolutely no business being invited.  Apple wasted ungodly millions trying to create a worldwide network of Internet cafes at which the digerati could ``do Internet lunch."

            I love the jacket because it attracts Mac-Heads who make snide remarks about the PC and confide to me how much they ``love their Mac."  They expect me to nod knowingly. Instead I tell them what an annoying product QuickTime is.

You know QuickTime–that super-cool technology that Apple would have you believe is the only way to really do digital video.  Ever heard of MPEG?  Ever heard of RealVideo?  Or Indeo from Intel?  Uh, ever heard of ... Windows?

            You know how Jeff Goldblum is on the tube gloating how his little iMac can do real movies?

What happens when that iMac runs out of hard drive space, which if it's doing video will be fairly soon?  Can you open it up and simply sock in some 30-gigabyte Ultra DMA IDE Quantum Fireball?  I don't think so.

            You can't even open up a frigging iMac.  Oh sure you can add a USB peripheral–like a cool Firewire CDRW or hard drive for like a gazillion dollars.  I can buy a CDRW for my PC for $79, and I got my 30 gig Quantum Fireball at Fry's for $100 bucks counting the rebate.

And you know what–I like the iMac.  When a computer-phobe asks me at a cocktail party what to buy, and all they want to do is sort recipes, surf the Web and not worry about ``upgrading," that's what I tell them to buy.  A safe little iMac.

            But I also tell them to look around for one of those pukey green ones that you can pick up cheap from the ``clearance" area of most stores.  That's because those trendy Mac-Heads are paying more for their red or blue computer.

            Hello!  It's a machine–it does word processing.  Next thing you know they'll be putting up catchy personalized license plates on their raspberry iMacs.  They'll say stuff like IMA4ME. 

            What about the super-cool Cube?  The one that Steve Jobs showed off and lifted out of its casing so he could upgrade the components–what an incredible concept. Unfortunately no one makes anything to put into a Cube.

            Because I don't ``love" my PC–I use it–I can build myself an old one out of parts and get rid of it in the Recycler when I buy a new CPU.  I can choose between an AMD and a Pentium, buy RAM for $50 for 128 megabytes, mix and match components and run out of IRQs for a host of peripherals.

            Meanwhile, what can you do with the Cube or the G4–the one that is supposedly faster than a Pentium running at twice the gigahertz?  Run Microsoft Office for the Mac, which doesn't even have a programming language.  Or perhaps run Final Cut Pro, the great digital video tool not available on the PC.

Boo hoo.  I guess I'll settle for Adobe Premiere and Photoshop, which will run even better when I add my extra RAM and the hard drive with the money I saved by not buying some over-hyped piece of furniture.

            But I digress, back to QuickTime. QuickTime, I will admit, does some amazing things–like QuickTime VR with neat panoramas and object movies, all of which I have successfully created on my PC without the Mac-only Virtual Reality Toolkit that Apple sells for gazillions.

            I acknowledge that Apple's QuickTime integrates really well with Macromedia multimedia tools such as Director and it is purported to be an excellent development platform. 

            But QuickTime also claims to stream on the Internet.

I don't know about you, but the last thing any QuickTime movie ever does for me on the Web is stream.  What it does do is let me know fairly quickly thatI do not have the right version of QuickTime. 

            So I must go to Apple.com, download, reinstall, and I must reboot, even though I know I just installed QuickTime 4.0 with every Adobe, Macromedia and other multimedia piece of software I own.

            But installing it isn't enough.  It still lacks components.  And the frigging Installer alone is almost a megabyte download.

            That's the Apple digital video solution–Slowtime NTRV.  Never the right version.

Along the same lines, Mac-Heads love to talk about how terrible Windows is–even though they don't use it–and how cool the Apple OS is.  But it's never the current Apple OS, which they'll never admit is just as bug infested as Windows.  It's always the next version.

            A close friend recently wanted to upgrade his 9600 so he could finally go online.  He was told that he needed to go from OS 8.1 to OS 8.3, but if he wanted to do Firewire, he needed OS 8.2, or something like that.  Now that's user friendly.

            As I recall, from Windows 95 through ME, Microsoft has released four major versions of its OS.  Mac seems to have one every month.

            When my Mac friend ran into trouble, he was advised to do a ``clean install."  Does that sound familiar, Windows users?  That sounds an awful lot like formatting your hard drive, losing all your data and reinstalling all your applications!

            Then, when he got online, he crashed and froze so often that any Windows user would have been proud.  It seems like his browser didn't like something called Java.

            That brings up an article in a recent edition of Tech Talk in the Los Angeles Times, where Mac enthusiast Jim Heid complains about Mac-hostile Web sites.  In that same piece, Heid suggests that Electronic Arts and Sony should make their sites ``Mac-friendly"–and admits that the Mac has a problem with Java.

            In typical Mac fashion, he suggest that this will be remedied soon–in the next Mac OS that will also run Unix and/or Linux.  Maybe.

            In the meantime the Java Virtual Machine crashes my current version of Windows just fine, thank you.  And the little items that make those Web sites unavailable to the Mac are called ``enhancements."

            It's not up to Web sites to downgrade for the 5% of the population that has an inferior OS or platform that spits out java or–dare I say it–ActiveX. 

            It just seems obvious to me that the Internet is built on standards–Java, TC/PIP, HTML–which any decent computer ought to be able to handle.  And, if someone has enhanced the performance of a site for such emerging standards it's to the benefit of the consumer.  The site shouldn't be downgraded and visitors penalized.

            What is that, affirmative action computing? Handicapped access for the information superhighway?  If the Mac can't keep up, tough noogies. 

It comes back to that wonderful phrase, ``think different."  But of course, why would cool people like Mac-Heads need to encumber themselves with correct grammar, or worrying about something as trivial as adverbs?

            They can be ``thinking different" down the path of the Amiga and the Commodore. 

            For the rest of us, we'll buy inexpensive hardware and ubiquitous software that works most of the time, just like theirs, and crashes sometimes, just like theirs.

            I say think differently–don't make your operating system a religious obsession.  Buy a PC and give the savings to charity.

 

Tom Bunzel works as ``Painless PC," a consulting and training facility in West Los Angeles, specializing in business, presentation and Web-authoring applications.  He can be reached at (310) 286-0969 or tom.bunzel@painlesspc.com

 

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