Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

« ServiceweltmeisterMainTastes like Chicken »

Macintosh or Windows

732 words on

After I discovered a while ago that my EyeTV’s analogue input wasn’t broken but its failure of getting any pictures to me was another case of SCART FAIL; And after discovering that plugging the SCART plug in sort-of half at a slight angle would give me an image, I started going through my trusty video collection to see which of the films - lovingly recorded from telly back in the 1990s - I wanted to keep. Luckily I’m not a big re-watcher, which kept the number reasonable and only made me go for the stuff I don’t expect to be easily available in the future.

One of those ‘out-of-print’ videos is called Macintosh or Windows? It was made in 1996 and I received it after finding some Apple evangelism web site - and happily telling them about the enthusiasm I had for the platform at the time. Which probably came from me not having become as cynic as I am today and Apple’s products being much more amazing at the time. Amazing in that they could do plenty of cool stuff which other machines couldn’t do. I also hadn’t seen a Mac break down at the time. Neither in hardware, nor in software - which was quite remarkable compared to the self-destructive habits of DOS and Windows seen on the machines of the few remaining non Mac-using friends in those days.

Mac PowerPC CD drive with a Marathon CD in the film

The video is rather amusing. A guy stands in front of a Mac and a Windows machine and illustrates how the Mac is a superior machine. The film is made with a bit of humour as the guy keeps tapping the ‘other’ machine in a friendly but ever so condescending way. And in how they show all the hardware and installation horror people had to (still have to ?) suffer through on Windows machines.

Of course the comparisons are grossly unfair as well. For example attaching an external hard drive was mentioned. On the Mac one could simply attach it via SCSI. And the Windows machine didn’t have a SCSI connector, so it was about opening the machine, installing some card, getting it to work and so on. I am fairly sure DOS machines with built in SCSI cards existed as well in those days.

Shot showing the steps needed to connect a Mac and Windows machine to a shared printer.

Obviously price isn’t mentioned in the film and the fact that the presumably generic ‘Mac’ in the comparison was a not-exactly-cheap PowerMac 8500 may have played a role there. The machine happened to have built-in video capturing logic. And thus a further test was to compare videoconferencing. Hilarity ensued as the DOS machine needed to have a bunch of cards (networking, sound, video) installed to match the features.

Another inadequate test won, hooray. Then came speech recognition. Which I even considered a somewhat risky topic back in the days. Because the Mac’s built-in speech recognition always sucked for anything you tried to do with it beyond the wonderful Knock, knock script. Actually it frequently failed on that as well. I guess we don’t speak the right American accents…

QuickDraw 3D working in the Scrapbook and SimpleText. Nice features of System 7.5

While there is some humour in the film, I felt a bit disappointed that they elaborated so much on the hardware aspect - i.e. more expensive hardware having more features and requiring less fiddling. Then - and all the more today - the main value is the OS. Its advantages are more subtle and probably difficult to express in such an advertorial film, so they get left out. The only such subtlety the film features is the Finder’s ability to just let you drop control panels and system extensions on the System Folder and file them away appropriately. A feature so nice that it was killed when the Unix overlords took over the Mac platform a few years later. Now we’ve got installers, yay!

More than a decade later the focus on rather superficial advantages also makes the claims in the film look extra silly. Even in software - rather than focusing on a clean and consistent design - they went for the latest and greatest features. And thus we see stuff like AppleTalk printer sharing, QuickDraw 3D and even the wonderful Cyberdog in that film. Those actually were great technologies and at least AppleTalk and Cyberdog haven’t been outdone by their successors yet.

Ugh, and the architecture. A diagram - made back in the System 8 days! - which I found highly amusing and quite possibly correct.

Architecture diagram comparing Macintosh and Windows 95 in the film.

July 20, 2008, 0:09

Tagged as ad, film, mac, vhs, video.

Comments

Comment by Simone Manganelli: Gravatar image

Which probably came from me not having become as cynic as I am today and Apple’s products being much more amazing at the time. Amazing in that they could do plenty of cool stuff which other machines couldn’t do. I also hadn’t seen a Mac brake [sic] down at the time. Neither in hardware, nor in software - which was quite remarkable compared to the self-destructive habits of DOS and Windows seen on the machines of the few remaining non Mac-using friends in those days.

Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahaha. I’m sorry, but I think it’s mostly, if not wholly, due to you becoming quite a cynic.

First of all, if you hadn’t ever seen a Mac break down in hardware or software, then either you’re outright lying (which is possible, if you’re trying to make a point) or you didn’t ever use Macs much at all. In 1996 I was helping out the computer teacher at my junior high school fix Macs, and there were many problems back then. Macs being infected with the MBDF A virus, freezing issues, extension conflicts, TV remote controls being able to turn off Macs with an infrared port and the only recourse being tape over the sensor, Ethernet cards failing at an incredible rate in Power Macintosh 5500s (these were the bane of my existence as a sysadmin for a school full of Classic Macs), etc.

It is incredibly, extremely, awesomely myopic to say that today’s Macs aren’t “[a]mazing” because they didn’t ever break down. It’s ridiculous to the point of being hilarious.

I am not one to say that things in the current Mac world are perfect. You’ve seen my rants on my own weblog, and my recurring annoyances with all the bugs that I have encountered and written about. And I have had experience in working as a sysadmin for a school full of Mac OS X-era Macs as well, and it’s not a cakewalk either. But I can say without reserve that there is no way in hell that I would ever go back to the Classic Mac OS days. Not for a second.

In terms of the Macs being able to do plenty of cool stuff other machines can’t do, I still think that applies today. I haven’t yet seen another platform implement cross-device synching like MobileMe. This is not just synching of contacts, e-mail, calendars (which even PCs can do with MobileMe), but this is synching of Dock items, keychain items, application preferences, and more. I know people like to make fun of MobileMe as Apple’s maligned step-child, but it’s really worth $99/year for this feature alone.

Regarding desktop software, Time Machine is a great addition to Mac OS X (despite its quirks) that no other operating system matches. I’m pretty sure iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand, and iPhoto don’t have other competitors that allow novice users like my grandparents to manage their photos and create movies, and for fledgling artists to create movies and music. And Mac OS X’s free development tools allow for a great array of 3rd-party software that exists on no other platform, like Delicious Library, Acorn and Pixelmator, Tangerine!, Snapz Pro X, Papers (to manage, find metadata, and search for research papers) etc. Core Image allows developers to GPU-accelerate some of the graphics intensive operations in their apps. And a little app called TextEdit has advanced typography features (like allowing advanced customization of the variants of fonts) that I’m pretty sure even Microsoft Word doesn’t offer.

There are under-the-hood things like AppleScript and Automator that also allow workflows unmatched on any other platform. AppleScript can do UI scripting, which means basically anything you can do with your mouse and keyboard you can do with an AppleScript. (And I recently found out that this extends to web pages with Safari — it actually builds a UI hierarchy for web controls and text, so that you can automate web pages just as well as regular desktop apps.) Automator allows novice users to create such workflows, but AppleScript has made my life so much easier as a sysadmin — especially for getting around deficiencies in software from companies that ACTUALLY don’t know how to write good software (cough HP cough Microsoft cough), and I’ve heard reports that many publishing houses also use AppleScript in their workflows with nothing to replace it.

I also haven’t seen any other hardware implement something like Front Row with remotes which are incredibly useful (especially since you can use them with Keynote), and no other hardware allows easy access to measurements from the Sudden Motion Sensor allowing integration into Mac apps. And how about MagSafe? That’s also an incredibly useful and potentially Mac-saving addition to Mac laptops that I haven’t seen anywhere else, despite it being a 2.5-year old feature in MacBooks.

And if we’re talking about Apple products, and not Mac products, we can include all of MobileMe, the AirPort Express (which I use every day at home), iTunes (which I also use every day and I haven’t found as good a management app), and of course, the iPod and the iPhone.

Pining for the “good ol’ days” of the Classic Mac OS is just like pining for the “good ol’ days” when humans were predominantly agricultural. Yeah, you know, except for all the backbreaking work, the low life expectancy, the monotony of the agricultural diet, the lack of modern medicine, etc. Oh, but besides all that rather unimportant stuff, the good ol’ days were AWESOME! Both are incredibly anachronistic and myopic views of the past. And they reveal not only a deep cynicism, but also an almost fundamental denial of what actually occurred during that time.

Go back and actually use a Mac that runs Mac OS 9, ssp. No, seriously. Go back and seriously use an original iMac running Mac OS 9 every day for a month, because it’s clear that you either don’t know or have completely forgotten what that era of Macs was actually like. Show me the incredible third-party software that wasn’t available for non-Mac computers at the time. Try replacing the hard drive in that original iMac, and then try replacing a hard drive in a modern day MacBook, and tell me which is easier (hint: the MacBook’s easier). Go back and install a bunch of third-party software, and do some extension conflict management. Go back and see what it’s like to have unprotected memory while using a piece of software that’s poorly written. Go back and remember how easy it is to make an app for Mac OS 9. Go back and try to use and/or successfully compile a bunch of open source UNIX apps.

If you really objectively compare the state of the Mac compared to other platforms back in 1996, and the state of the Mac compared to other platforms today, the Mac today has better hardware, better software, better development tools, better third-party software, more advantages over other platforms, and even a better UI. There are many more reasons to get a Mac today than there ever were in any other point in time, excepting perhaps when the Macintosh was first released in 1984.

July 20, 2008, 3:25

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

Well I hadn’t seen any Mac hardware problem until ca. 1997 when the battery in my PowerMac needed to be replaced. That was somewhat mysterious but a fast and simple fix in the end. And historically I never had serious software problems – despite having a row full of extensions icons appear during startup. I heard other people having such problems – which with extensions people, and certainly Apple, would certainly blame the people themselves for – but have been very lucky myself.

Both on my own machines, those of my family and the room full of machines we had at school. They all worked without problems, sorry to report that. And the only virus I had was back in the days of using an Atari. While I enjoyed the animation in Disinfectant’s about box a lot, the application never actually found anything :(

As for today’s Mac, I think you are missing the point there. Apple’s synching – the reliability of which seems questionable by people’s reports – is not part of Mac OS X. It’s a separate product (which admittedly looks like Apple steals resources from their OS X customers for). And you surely can get similar results elsewhere. Even just switching everything to do to Google Mail/Documents/Reader/Whatever might practically lead to similar results in terms of synchronicity. It also seems less like to fail and may be cheaper.

But the main point I see was that back in the 1990s, Windows users would see a Mac and be baffled that you could do certain things which either weren’t possible at all on their side of the computing problem or which were totally inaccessible to sane people thanks to the deficiencies of Windows. Today that’s not the case. People may say ‘nice slideshow’ or like the look of some application better than what they are using. However, people are essentially doing the same things and they can cope.

And quite likely their interest in Core Image even exists (why should a user care that a developer has to work less? And for developers it opens the door to a whole new range of problems). And how many people give a damn about advanced typographical features? That stuff is nice to have but I doubt it makes a difference in everyday use of the machines.

The same goes on for Automator. Which percentage of Mac users actually uses it (or even knows what it’s good for)? And, obviously, OSA was already around in 1996. It may be a great technology but look how popular it has become and how many people are immediately captured by how useful it is. I won’t even get into the difficulties of actually writing a reasonably complex and non-failing AppleScript.

MagSafe is nothing but a plug with a magnet. It’s a gimmick. It may be useful to some people. Personally I’d prefer a plug that can be accidentally unplugged. As far as I know the FrontRow remote isn’t part of the Mac experience anymore. And possibly rightly so as it sucked for navigating anything non-trivial. And I never actually saw people using FrontRow apart from trying it out. The real nut-cases got an TV instead and only now they all rejoice because Apple were ‘generous’ enough to offer a Cocoa Touch based remote control for that. For presentations, people could easily control their machine with a mobile phone or many other remote controls for years.

And you don’t need to assume I’m saying there was no progress in the past decade. On the technical level there was, machines became more powerful and thus more abstract technologies became feasible (hence freeing up developer resources and time to implement interesting new stuff). That, I consider normal. Once developers don’t have to hand code their assembler to move graphics on the screen, they have time to implement drag and drop – and so on.

What a silly suggestion to use OS 9 for a month. How should I do that? Most of my data is in formats by now which will be hard or impossible to export in a backwards compatible way. And while we’re into inadequate comparisons why not compare exchanging a hard drive in a Pismo Powerbook with exchanging one in a MacBook Pro or even an iBook? The hardware design isn’t progress, it seems mostly random.

And as great as stuff like ‘protected memory’ may be from a technical point of view, it’s mainly a tool to make life for developers easier. In fact, I am tempted to think that having such an ‘advanced’ operating system made software worse because the consequences of writing poor code aren’t as infuriating as they were.

July 20, 2008, 11:58

Comment by Simone Manganelli: Gravatar image

They all worked without problems, sorry to report that.

What is there to be sorry about? Problems are inconsistent, and whereas you may have been lucky with your Classic Macs and software, others were not so lucky. And you seem to have more problems than most with Mac OS X, whereas others (like me) have had very few major problems.

The plural of anecdote is not data, and you can not extrapolate your own experiences to the general Mac world, not in the Classic Mac OS days, not in the Mac OS X days. Objective studies like Consumer Reports have consistently noted, throughout both the Classic Mac OS era as well as the Mac OS X era, that consumers with Macs are generally much more satisfied with their computers as compared to Windows counterparts.

Apple’s synching – the reliability of which seems questionable by people’s reports – is not part of Mac OS X. It’s a separate product (which admittedly looks like Apple steals resources from their OS X customers for). And you surely can get similar results elsewhere.

Um, the SyncServices framework is indeed part of OS X. And as I said before, while parts of MobileMe can be had on other platforms, the whole experience is not. Preference synching can only be had on the Mac. So, no, you can’t get similar results elsewhere. If you can, please point it out instead of just saying things without backing it up. Google Mail/Documents/Reader/Whatever cannot synch the preferences of my desktop applications across all my Macs. This is essentially giving you the same workspace wherever you go, which is decidedly different from just being able to access your e-mail, calendars, and contacts.

By the way, synching has been working perfectly for me across all my Macs ever since it was first introduced as a feature in .mac, with no major problems and only a few minor problems. Again, the plural of anecdote is not data. You have a strong bias towards questioning the reliability of Apple’s products and services, and so, naturally, you latch on to all the reports about people having problems. NEWS FLASH: people who don’t have problems are not going to make noise. Sure, the MobileMe launch has been rocky (even Apple admits as such), but again, the vast majority of people who are not having problems are not going to report anything. For the first few days, I couldn’t access the web apps. But I didn’t have any disruption to my e-mail or MobileMe synching or anything like that. But far be it from me to disrupt your dystopian view of Apple products.

But the main point I see was that back in the 1990s, Windows users would see a Mac and be baffled that you could do certain things which either weren’t possible at all on their side of the computing problem or which were totally inaccessible to sane people thanks to the deficiencies of Windows. Today that’s not the case.

Again, your bias is showing here. There are certainly things that can be done on the Mac that can’t be done on other platforms. And I mentioned several, but you went through and dismissed them because, oh it’s not “part” of Mac OS X, or it’s not something that users should “care” about, or it’s a “gimmick”, or nobody ever uses that feature (again, THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT DATA), or blah blah blah.

It’s so hilarious. I have already had my Mac saved by the MagSafe adaptor twice now, and yet somehow it’s still a “gimmick”. It’s like you refuse to accept that some improvements are actually improvements.

What a silly suggestion to use OS 9 for a month. How should I do that? Most of my data is in formats by now which will be hard or impossible to export in a backwards compatible way. And while we’re into inadequate comparisons why not compare exchanging a hard drive in a Pismo Powerbook with exchanging one in a MacBook Pro or even an iBook? The hardware design isn’t progress, it seems mostly random.

The point is to show me exactly how more amazing OS 9 was compared to other platforms at the time. It wasn’t that more amazing.

Besides, comparing exchanging a hard drive in a Pismo Powerbook to one in a MacBook Pro would be a toss-up, but exchanging a hard drive in a MacBook is far easier than in an iBook. Oh, I forgot, that’s just a gimmick.

And as great as stuff like ‘protected memory’ may be from a technical point of view, it’s mainly a tool to make life for developers easier. In fact, I am tempted to think that having such an ‘advanced’ operating system made software worse because the consequences of writing poor code aren’t as infuriating as they were.

Hahahahahahaha. Hahahahahaha. Protected memory is just a “tool to make life for developers easier”. Wow. Just wow. That statement alone shows just how much you can rationalize away improvements in computer technology as something that users don’t care about, when in fact, they actually do.

July 20, 2008, 23:42

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

Ah come on Simone, you know I have a different view on these things than you do. You are more on the technical side while I am looking at it from a user’s point of view. Sure some of the synchronisation underbelly may be part of the Mac OS itself. Apple even used it to sync data over to iPods back in the days.

But what can that technology do? Can I use it to sync data from my Mac to another Mac standing right next to it? Or would I need to have an internet connection and shove mony up Apple’s ass for that basic feature? Or can OS X’s syncing technology sync your address book to the new phone you just got? Quite possibly not. At least I had friends ask about ways to sync their new mainstream phone to their address book several times and the closest we could get to doing that was downloading some modified plugin from the internet and fiddling it into some obscure subfolders of the system. Just Works™? None of my friends made a public fuss about it, so I wouldn’t assume that everybody who’s keeping their mouth shut, has everything working perfectly for them. (And from what I heard OS X’s syncing technology isn’t even considered worthy enough by Apple themselves to sync data to their own phones. Apparently one needs iTunes for that.)

So what about your local preferences? What about syncing them? When you process your data in the Google-universe you won’t need them or the desktop applications you talk about. I thought that’s the charme of it. And once you’re inside a web browser Google will know all your preferences – and possibly much more. I wouldn’t advocate that way of working but it certainly is an existing possibility. A platform agnostic one, even.

And to be frank, I don’t care about a magnetic plug saving your computer. Intuitively I’d guess that you chose an ‘unfortunate’ position for your cable when that happened. It never saved mine, it even lost me data because the plug is easily dislodged, stops powering the machine and these MacBooks’ power management is so crappy that the machines occasionally just turn themselves off rather than going to sleep before. So from my point of view this caused hassle for zero benefit. I don’t think that your advantages count much in my world.

At least you got the point about exchanging hard drives. Personally, I thought back in the Pismo days that Apple’s design had advanced enough to make common taks such as exchanging hard drives simple. I was wrong. Such exchanges are simple on some machines, and a fiendishly difficult waste of time on others. There’s no coherent direction to be seen there.

I won’t bother to call my mum and ask what she thinks about protected memory. But I’m fairly sure we both know the answer to that question. And my mum isn’t unusual in that respect. As long as the machine can do e-mail, show a few web pages and copy photos from the camera, it is fine. Whether the memory is protected, unprotected or manually transcribed by Mr Jobs’ minions is not something the user would – or should – care for.

July 21, 2008, 0:31

Comment by LKM: Gravatar image

We shouldn’t confuse anecdotal experiences with actual statistics. In 15 years of mac ownership, I’ve never had a lemon. I’ve owned a dozen Apple notebooks, yet I’ve never even had a single dead pixel. I’ve only had good experience with Apple’s hardware and their support. I once destroyed a PowerBook (took it apart and probably touched something while I wasn’t grounded, and it didn’t work when I put it back together), called Apple on the very last day of AppleCare, and Apple replaced it for free.

However, that’s just me. My brother bought a 17” MacBook Pro about two years ago, and he literally had to send it in about three times a year since then because of random hardware issues. Apple has now given him a brand-new 17” MacBook Pro, but still.

All of this is meaningless. Anecdotes don’t tell us anything about Apple’s hardware or software quality. They don’t even serve as valid data points of a statistic. If even 1% of Apple’s hardware has serious issues (which would be ridiculously low), there’s going to be a few people who have serious issues with every single Apple product they buy.

Mac OS 7 was a great OS. It had a lot of stuff I would like to see in Mac OS X; but it was great in a different era. There’s really no doubt that OS X is a much better system in today’s world of ubiquitous Internet access. Mac OS 7 didn’t even have multiuser support. Maybe your mom doesn’t knowingly care about memory protection, but my mom sure as hell did care if Word bombed her iMac running OS 9.

As for the MagSave, I used to live in the same flat as a guy who was stoned pretty often, which lead to him constantly stumbling over cables, which never hurt a Mac, but did kill a few power adapters. MagSave was a godsend. And it’s not like Apple didn’t always have hardware issues (PowerBook 5300, anyone?).

July 21, 2008, 10:24

Comment by Simone Manganelli: Gravatar image

Ah come on Simone, you know I have a different view on these things than you do. You are more on the technical side while I am looking at it from a user’s point of view.

From what I can tell, we both pretty much care about the same level of technical stuff and stuff from a user’s point of view. I do like the technical stuff, but you’ve delved into some pretty technical stuff here on your weblog as well. And I’ve covered UI stuff a lot on my weblog. I don’t see us being that much different in terms of what we focus on.

So what about your local preferences? What about syncing them? When you process your data in the Google-universe you won’t need them or the desktop applications you talk about. I thought that’s the charme of it.

Web apps can’t possibly ever take over for desktop applications. Ever. I have many applications that can’t possibly be replicated with as good a UI on the web (since we both are concerned about issues from a user’s point of view): Mail, iChat, Skype, iTunes, Terminal, Xcode, Keynote, Colloquy, to name a few that are on my Dock at the moment. I love web apps in that I can access information if I need to, and I’m not hobbled if I don’t have access to my main computer. But largely I actively hate using web apps. (I can’t believe I’m having to explain this to you, I thought this would be self-evident.)

That’s what the MobileMe local preference synching offers me: I can sit down at a pristine Mac, create a new account, log in to MobileMe, wait a few minutes for all my preferences to sync, and then launch an app and have it appear exactly as it was on the Mac I was working at before. I’ve done this multiple times. It hasn’t majorly borked at all for me. Web apps have nothing on this.

(One could even argue that this prevents data loss: if you have your computer stolen or it crashes, all your preferences are saved and can be retrieved at any time.)

At least you got the point about exchanging hard drives. […] There’s no coherent direction to be seen there.

On the contrary, I think the majority of Macs that have easy access to hard drives have been ones in the Mac OS X-era: iMac G5, MacBook, G4 cube… you’re right in that Apple seems to waffle a bit back-and-forth (cf. later iMac G5s vs. earlier ones), but the general trend has been towards easier access to both memory and the hard drive. I could be omitting blindingly obvious models from the Classic Mac OS era, so correct me if I’m forgetting something.

I won’t bother to call my mum and ask what she thinks about protected memory. But I’m fairly sure we both know the answer to that question. And my mum isn’t unusual in that respect. As long as the machine can do e-mail, show a few web pages and copy photos from the camera, it is fine. Whether the memory is protected, unprotected or manually transcribed by Mr Jobs’ minions is not something the user would – or should – care for.

Your mom won’t necessarily know what “protected memory” is exactly, but she will absolutely be appreciative of its effect on the end-user experience: far fewer crashes. Every user I’ve ever talked to who has used the Classic Mac OS has remarked that Mac OS X is so much more stable. It’s possible that your mom never crashed a Classic Mac OS machine when doing e-mail, browsing the web, and copying photos from a camera (if those were even things that your mom did in the Classic Mac OS era), but protected memory is an incredibly user-centric feature.

You harp on data as being the one most important thing to a user to an incredibly extent on your weblog, and protected memory is probably the single most important feature in preventing data loss on Mac OS X as compared to the Classic Mac OS. How does this not benefit the user, even if they can’t articulate exactly what the feature is or does for them? Even if a large part of protected memory is to make developing apps easier, the end result is still to prevent developers from creating situations that will cause data loss, something that is incredibly important to the user.

July 21, 2008, 11:02

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

@LKM:

We shouldn’t confuse anecdotal experiences with actual statistics.

I don’t. The only thing relevant to me are my experiences. My benefit of other people having a great experience is exactly 0. My machine failing in hard- and software, however, is a real concrete pain, possibly even linked to data loss.

And my recent – where by ‘recent’ mean what most people on the web would call long-time since around 2001 – experiences with Apple hardware, as documented around here more frequently than I would like, is that it fails. My experiences with Apple’s customer service is that they were unhelpful on the good days and incompetent liars otherwise.

This is the first hand experience I have to go by, not statistics (and who would have relevant statistics on the issue?) which are irrelevant to my experience.

I do not expect Apple to replace stuff I broke, I simply want the stuff I buy to work. I expect metal screen hinges to not break, not even after years. I expect a hardware/software combination that is sold to me as working with wireless networks to actually do that and not require me to run a cable across the room while everybody else is enjoying a smooth wireless network experience everywhere in the flat on Linux or Windows. I also expect a machine to be able to play a film without skipping. This may sound outlandish to some, but these things seem pretty reasonable to me. In fact, I can remember times when those very things were possible, even with hardware and software I possessed.

Maybe your mom doesn’t knowingly care about memory protection, but my mom sure as hell did care if Word bombed her iMac running OS 9.

Obviously we avoided that specific problem by running an AppleWorks household (and AppleWorks only started being problematic in X.5 as far as I can tell). But the fact that a single application could crash the whole machine created a huge incentive for people to write stable applications. The huge ‘collateral’ damage of such a whole machine crash made it much more unpleasant.

And my impression is that in OS X applications are less carefully written and crash more frequently (if I count the crash logs on my system and assumed a restart for each of them – excluding the beta versions – there’d be no multi-day uptimes), thus making developers’ lives easier and quite possibly their work sloppier. That seems particularly true when you consider that it’s considerably harder to crash an application when writing code in the Cocoa framework than it was when writing software using the traditional Mac Toolbox.

July 21, 2008, 11:29

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

Web apps can’t possibly ever take over for desktop applications. Ever.

I tend to think along the same lines, although web apps came a long way recently and that opinion may have to be revised at some stage.

I just wanted to highlight a different idea of data mobility. Apparently with .Mac / Mobile-Me you can replicate your preferences, if you happen to meet one of the few machines on the planet which happens to be a recent Mac. I hope it also mirrors over my applications, TeX installation, etc. so I can use them just as I’d do at home. I won’t even talk about having to use Parallels or Cisco VPN, you know stuff you might need while you’re not at home.

(I can’t believe I’m having to explain this to you, I thought this would be self-evident.)

You don’t really have to. I’d already dismiss the idea on a much lower level: My data becoming hostage of some American corporation. (Where the ‘American’ part of it isn’t the essential one, but the favour of big business and lack of data protection in the U.S. aggravate the situation.)

Of course Mobile-Me syncing does something but it’s conceptually the wrong thing to me. It may work fine if you are using only Apple’s own applications and thus may be convenient to some. But I don’t see it solving the big problem yet. To me the focus is on low hanging fruit (getting money from people for a relatively simple implementation) rather than solving the full and hard problem.

With many people using mobile machines these days I’m not sure this ability to move over to another machine is very useful anyway. If I have my own machine at hand why use a different one? (And indulge in the extra wait, the fact that my data will live in ‘the cloud’ and possibly remain on that machine afterwards?) To me a much more common problem – you know one that could be useful – would be that you have more than a single computer, say a portable one and a stationary one, or two machines in a household of which only one will be taken on the holiday trip. Syncing those machines would be something I’d expect of an OS that comes with synchronisation technology. All that of course quickly, seamless and without exposing my data.

Hard drive exchanges.

As I said it’s quite random with the hard drive exchanges. The PowerMac G5 case may be a great design for that (but who actually buys those machines? Mostly people who have a technician for those jobs anyway it seems.) and the Mac Pros are pretty much the same yet apparently a bit more painful when it comes to upgrading RAM. In my experience SE/Classic style Macs are horrible to upgrade as they come from a time when the whole idea of things being ‘user servicable’ was pretty much rejected by Apple. The LC series are a great design for upgrades and the later beige machines were openable without a screwdriver and reasonably accessible. In between they had some machines which weren’t super easy to upgrade but you could open them with a coin…

The iMacs weren’t great for upgrading initially and I think it’s been a bit of an up and down since with things looking quite good in the G5 age. Same for the Powerbooks, Pismo easy, TiBook easy for RAM, OK for HD, white iBook good for RAM, super horrible for the HD, AluBook and MacBook Pro OK for RAM, horrible for the HD, MacBook easy everything, MacBook Air, no idea, possibly ‘as easy as exchanging the battery’ in marketing terms?

July 21, 2008, 12:09

Comment by LKM: Gravatar image

@Simone Manganelli:

Web apps can’t possibly ever take over for desktop applications.

They already have taken over for some genres of applications, and will only get better. The only issue I have with them is that using them means I don’t control my information.

@ssp:

The only thing relevant to me are my experiences

While that may be a natural way of feeling about things, it’s still a pointless way of evaluating products when it comes to production quality. Your personal experiences give almost no information about Apple’s hardware quality.

July 21, 2008, 13:44

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

@LKM Sure, my data are not statistically relevant, but it’s the best I have and the only data I know to be true. Obviously companies like Apple have a tendency to lie about their data or simply not publish them. So-called testers and journalists usually do only superficial testing in the most obvious situations and thus are no match for my own. And if I were Apple (or any other company), I’d make sure those multiplicators get pre-tested hardware and setups for their tests. Which makes those widely published tests even less relevant than my own if one were to bring up statistics.

I can only vouch for my first hand experiences. While my impression is that the 100% failure rate I am seeing is above average (again something that one would hope for…), failures seem to have become pretty common in Apple hardware in the past years. If I have to think hard to come up with a friend or family member who didn’t need a fix to their the completely unstatistical gut-feeling I get from that is that it’s a bad sign about hardware quality.

And I need a good gut-feeling to recommend stuff to people. That good feeling existed back in the 1990s and quite a few people are Mac users today because of that. With today’s experience, all I can say is that the Mac OS doesn’t suck as badly as Windows but that the hardware can be fragile and unreliable. People need to take that into account before spending money.

July 21, 2008, 14:48

Comment by LKM: Gravatar image

The most reliable indicator of “computer quality” in general is probably consumer satisfaction, which can be tracked independently and in a statistically valid way.

For hardware quality specifically, consumer organizations sometimes do larger-scale tests, which, while often not statistically relevant, are at least more trustworthy than a bunch of personal anecdotes.

July 21, 2008, 17:30

Comment by Simone Manganelli: Gravatar image

I do not expect Apple to replace stuff I broke, I simply want the stuff I buy to work. I expect metal screen hinges to not break, not even after years. I expect a hardware/software combination that is sold to me as working with wireless networks to actually do that and not require me to run a cable across the room while everybody else is enjoying a smooth wireless network experience everywhere in the flat on Linux or Windows. I also expect a machine to be able to play a film without skipping. This may sound outlandish to some, but these things seem pretty reasonable to me. In fact, I can remember times when those very things were possible, even with hardware and software I possessed.

Sigh.

Why do you repeat things that we completely agree with? I never said that any of these things are outlandish or unreasonable. Never. And nobody else has, either. Why are you taking down a straw man?

What I’m saying is that your personal experiences, however bad they are, do not translate to the state of the Mac platform as a whole. I have repeated, ad nauseam, that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. I can offer you plenty of examples in my personal circle of friends and family of Macs that haven’t had any problems. I, personally, have had Macs that haven’t had any major problems whatsoever. And I have pointed out specific areas of repeated failure in Classic Mac OS-based Macs that have personally caused me and other people trouble.

And yet you continue to repeat that the Mac today “doesn’t suck as badly” as Windows, or that the hardware is “fragile and unreliable”. Bullshit. That is your biased opinion, colored by your own experiences. I am not doubting that you have had problems with your Macs in recent years. But that does not mean that the hardware is fragile or unreliable as a whole, only your own hardware is.

If you don’t have a “good gut-feeling” about recommending a Mac to another friend or family member because of the problems you have had with your own hardware, that’s fine. The point is that you make blanket statements about the quality of the Mac platform as a whole that are practically verifiably false. Yes, reviewers tend to do superficial reviews, but that doesn’t mean that they never encounter any issues whatsoever. And, as I said, there are other more objective ways of measuring satisfaction among consumers of the various platforms that can render statistically meaningful trends in hardware and software quality, like Consumer Reports and others, which have consistently ranked the Mac’s hardware and software at the top of the rankings, both in the Classic Mac OS era and in the Mac OS X era.

Of course Mobile-Me syncing does something but it’s conceptually the wrong thing to me. It may work fine if you are using only Apple’s own applications and thus may be convenient to some.

Sigh.

And again, you let your cynicism get in the way of actually realizing what this feature actually does. I am not talking about “Apple’s own applications”. MobileMe syncs the preferences of all your applications, including third-party applications like Skype and Colloquy. Just because Apple offers a service doesn’t mean that it completely blocks out useful functionality for third-party applications.

This is exactly the point I’m trying to make: you’re unfortunate experiences have predisposed you to blow things out of proportion and to extrapolate problems you’re having to the Mac platform as a whole. It’s just not true that most people have the problems you’re having.

They already have taken over for some genres of applications, and will only get better. The only issue I have with them is that using them means I don’t control my information.

Web apps are always fewer-featured and have a worse UI than their desktop counterparts, practically by definition. Web standards are notoriously slow to evolve at the pace of desktop applications, and once web apps are able to reliably take over certain functions from desktop apps, desktop apps will have already evolved new features or UI paradigms that the web app can’t keep up with.

It’s just like the mysterious “laptop-killer”. By the time that power and functionality of a state-of-the-art desktop filters down and is available in laptops, there will be a new state-of-the-art desktop that the laptop can’t match. Desktops computers, just like desktop apps, are a constantly moving target.

Yes, there may be a time when laptops or web apps are good enough and people will start innovating first on the web instead, but that time is a long, long way off.

July 22, 2008, 9:42

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

Great Simone, then we agree on everything it seems. I just wanted to share a bit of Mac memorabilia anyway.

The point is that you make blanket statements about the quality of the Mac platform as a whole that are practically verifiably false.

What else do you expect?

Lifeless ‘online journalism’? I wrote ‘The world according to Sven-S. Porst’ at the top of this page for a reason. I never claimed this is a general point of view I present to you here. It’s just an existing point of view, and possibly one that differs from the general one.

The funny thing is that ten years ago – simply because everything worked well for me thus far – I would have believed any positive statistical reviews. These days I’d at least want to have some more background on who tested and where the data came from. Web polls will obviously be fanboy magnets and at least around here those testers have earned a reputation for being very good at testing mechanical devices like washing machines but at completely ‘not getting’ the electronic world and using mostly their same old methodology there.

Finally, I’d also look at prices and aspects like the service you get with the machines you buy. If I didn’t have a competent Mac shop in town (people who are happy about about each broken Mac as it’s business for them and seem to be quite happy with hardware quality from that POV), I’d be much less at ease because I’d go through the unreliable and lengthy phone-process every time.

[Web vs desktop]

I am desktop fan and I know the advantages in terms of desktop applications. Yet I am not sure this view is shared by most users. People who don’t use ‘advanced’ features like interapplication drag and drop may not even notice.

And Google came before Spotlight, not the other way round, just to name an extreme example of the web setting the pace.

[Laptop vs desktop]

I suspect my computing demands are slightly above average, but I started thinking that the power offered by a portable machine is easily sufficient when I got my G4 Powerbook. Of course Apple (and other software makers) managed to create more processing hungry software resulting in the lap-burning machines we use these days but I really doubt that this resulted in much directly relevant progress.

I think that the percentage of people who require a state-of-the art desktop machine for the additional features it has has become quite low and that portable machines have caught up quite well.

What do you see as tasks that still require a desktop machine these days? And how many people are affected by that? I am tempted to think that most people aren’t even aware of the limitations their portables have simply because they’re irrelevant for what the machines are used for.

July 22, 2008, 10:34

Comment by LKM: Gravatar image

Web apps are always fewer-featured and have a worse UI than their desktop counterparts, practically by definition

I disagree. In my opinion, gmail offers the best UI of any mail application I’ve ever used (and I’ve tried most of them, from Musashi to Mailsmith). The awesome search features, tagging, and message threading alone put it above any desktop mail application. Granted, it’s not the prettiest or easiest-to-learn UI, but it’s my mail UI of choice. And I’m not alone; I know only few people who still use desktop mail clients, and those who do use Exchange because they are forced to.

I know people who use meebo instead of local chat clients - admittedly mostly Windows users who don’t want to or don’t know how to install applications (but still, they prefer using an online client to installing a desktop app).

How many people use flickr or similar sites as a replacement for iPhoto? iPhoto has become the flickr uploading tool.

And if you look at corporate software, new solutions always have HTML frontends - which is a huge advantage for Apple, because it finally allows corporations to finally use Macs.

Things like 280slides are going in the wrong direction, in my option. Web UIs should not copy desktop UIs, they should - and often can - improve upon them. It doesn’t matter that standards are slow to evolve, because most web applications only rely on a rudimentary subset of HTML and CSS, and use abstraction layers above JavaScript to make up for differences between browsers.

July 22, 2008, 13:14

Add your comment

« ServiceweltmeisterMainTastes like Chicken »

Comments on

Photos

Categories

Me

This page

Out & About

pinboard Links

♪♬♪

People

Ego-Linking