Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's Just A Computer

I have been a child of the Dos/Windows universe for as long as I can remember. I also dabble from time to time in different Linux OS's. As such I am firmly planted in the camp that Macintosh computers are for the non-technically oriented and the elderly. Also I have never been able to reconcile the fact that the Mac crowd also seemed to generally be the metro-sexual, urban, fake environmentally friendly, smug douche set. That's not to say even the majority of my Mac loving friends would be easily pushed into one of those boxes, but rather that they might live on the fringes of what was a much larger crowd that contained a significant quantity of arrogantly prickish morons. Or perhaps I just wanted the crowd of people who used a different computer than mine to be like that, and have been projecting that image. I doubt it though. We all know at least one guy who shows up at a meeting and spends the first five minutes bragging about his Macbook whatever. And we all know he's an asshole.

So it was with some trepidation that I took possession of my new work computer for my new job. A 1 year old Macbook Pro with a dual core Intel processor, 2 gigs of ram and all the usual trimmings.

First impression.
Using a new hardware configuration and a new OS is always fraught with frustrating experiences. Control doesn't do what it should and there's an entirely unnecessary extra button 'command' that handles some of those functions but not others. Nothing files automatically where I want it to and there seems to be some sort of mysterious method of hiding things from me that I'm working on. Unlike the systems I'm used to Mac seems to love cleaning up after me. And of course that's how I get lost.

All of this is of course the product of a learning curve created by someone's idea of a better syntax and command structure. With time this passes as it has before with new versions of Win, Suse, Ubuntu, etc.

What remains.
The hardware is as you might imagine, top notch. This is perhaps the one thing that might separate Mac from the PC market; you have no choice but to get high end equipment. They simply will not sell you anything cheaper, and they will not attempt to make their product more affordable. It's a nice thing that as a brand you know when you pick one up, the hardware is designed to work. Not so nice when you need something simple and affordable. The OS on the other hand is not in the least impressive to me. That's not to say it's any worse than Win, it's not, really. It's just not the kind of better that justifies the smugness I've seen all these years. The driver libraries are significant and self reliant. I have very little problems adding hardware. Though to be fair I don't really have problems in Windows either. The file system is sufficient and relatively transparent. Once you figure out how Mac thinks, it's a coherent system. I'm enjoying the way that the touch pad allows me to control my desktop with creative multi-finger gestures. On the other hand I have never gotten over the loss of my right click button. The two fingered touch pad work around is atrocious and anyone who says differently is lying. I can't count the number of times I have scrolled down a page and then clicked on an icon or link only to find myself looking at a menu because I still had two fingers on the pad. I want my two buttons back. Fortunately my mouse plugs in just fine and it's right button works like a charm.

In short at this stage of the game what I've discovered is that... It's just a computer. Hype aside, it's no better or worse overall than any of the other systems I'm running. I'll concede I haven't integrated it into my home network yet (beyond internet access) and that may be interesting with the myriad OS jungle I'm already dealing with. But so far, I report nothing interesting at all. Computers, the machine that changed the world, are becoming more and more like furniture; buy the nicest one that matches the painting you like and the check you want to write. It's the person sitting there that makes the difference.


Christian Nunciato said...

Nice post. I agree the Mac OS has grown tired (I seem to hear more and more about that lately, even from died-in-the-wool Mac lovers), but might disagree about the hardware, which has always seemed to lag a number of years behind the PC.

When you can, you should try Windows 7 -- I can lend you one of my developer installs. It's beautiful -- clean, simple, elegant, smart, essentially what Vista should've been. I should've shown it to you while you were here. :)

Ombibulous said...

Chris, I know what you mean. I didn't mean to imply that Mac developed better hardware technology, which they don't really. I just mean that they don't have a budget option in their product line for people who can do with generic ram etc.