Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One man's Mac story...

This one's for Amy...

Now, before you do anything, go HERE and watch this movie on the making and design philosophy of the new 13-inch Mac Book Air. Go on... I'll wait.



OK, so the mellow, hippy music aside, that's pretty effing sexy. A unibody shell machined from a solid brick of aluminum? Are you shitting me? Reduction in PVCs and other emitted gasses right down to the teensy-weenie internal cables used? Sensitivity to wasted space in shipping palettes, which led to increased capacity in cargo planes, hence a reduction in carbon footprint via less jet fuel used? Wow.

To say that's "drool-worthy" is an understatement, to put it mildly.

For those that don't know it, I've been a die-hard PC user for many, many years. I still think that gaming on the PC is the best... the truest... gaming experience, the one with the most flexibility and capacity to extend and empower a game's fan-based development as widely as possible.

All that aside, I admit that I recently purchased a Mac Book Air for my writing.

Even though I love my PCs, I positively adore the Mac. It's small. Sleek. Sexy. It goes to sleep and wakes up in about 3 seconds, tops. It's cool and smooth and metallic and I like to run my fingertips along its case, like one would touch an expensive Italian sports car.


I also have some complaints about the Mac, all of which revolve around their software and their OS's "quirks" (to put it mildly) and, at the end of the day, the more-or-less totalitarian control that Mac imposes on their users. In short, when one works on a Mac, one has to work within a set of pre-defined constraints.

It's not as if Mac is saying "it's our way or the highway" (although this is, in effect, what happens), but rather that they honestly and truly believe that you wouldn't want to work any other way than theirs. This is an idea alien to the PC world, where high-end users don't request but demand a host of customization options and the freedom to, in effect, develop whatever they want.

This "philosophy" bleeds into Mac users groups, where my honest questions and requests for customization advice or tips and tricks designed to streamline the pre-defined workflow of a Mac program were more often than not met with incomprehension if not outright hostility.

I ran into this, for example, when I tried synchronizing my MP3s between my Air and my iPod. My 30 gig 'Pod is modified, and is loaded with the non-Apple Rockbox operating system. Why? because I want it to be that way, and it's my iPod.

Of course, the player will not sync with the Air. Why? Because, according to the errors thrown by the computer, iTunes cannot "recognize" an iPod loaded with a non-Apple OS. Macs (or so I'm told) can interface with any other manufacturer's MP3 players, but it can't read its sister hardware after it's been violated with a replacement OS?


Stuck, I did what any good PC user would do: I hit the Mac users' forums. Of the few people on those boards that even understood what I was trying to do (and there weren't many), the ones that replied to me generally led with an honest and puzzled "why in the world would you want to do that? Just use iTunes."

"Because I have like 200 playlists I made in WinAmp that are stored in .M3U files, and iTunes diesn't like them the way I use them," I replied.

"So just use iTunes and remake them. It'll only take you an evening or two."

"But I don't want to spend hours remaking 200 playlists. I want to use what I have! They work great in Windows and Rockbox loads them flawlessly."

"Well you can't use a Mac for that. Mac's are easy."

"They're not easy in this case, are they?"


"But why do you want to do that anyway???"

...and around and around it went. to date, I still cannot use my "easy" Mac with my Rockboxed iPod. Sigh...

All that aside, I must admit that the quality of Apple's products and designs really are top-drawer. Sure I resent it when I have to pay more than $80 for a spare power adapter, or almost $100 for a keyboard (a keyboard? really????), but those really are secondary considerations when held up against things like an all-glass, LED backlit display and that sexy, sexy machined case.

So go ahead and drool. I know I was. And I plan to keep my Mac. I just don't think that, even as sexy and competently egineered as they are, that Macs are flawless.

And if I get really frustrated, I can always load Vista on it - that'll fix those pesky usability problems... "Easy" Mac, indeed... (( ducking ))...

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