Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm a Mac AND a PC

Today marks a major life change—I got a new Mac laptop. I named him Ernest, and will be naming the iPod Touch that’s coming tomorrow Zippy. I’m sure we’ll get along just fine after I climb the steep learning curve and adapt to such a dramatic change. But I refuse to stop preferring the adorable, erudite, and creative John Hodgman over the cool and with it, but smug and has-yet-to-prove-his-brilliance Justin Long.

Much as I prefer Hodgman to Long, I don’t think either computer system is measurably better than the other—they’re just like English and French, with proponents of each thinking theirs is superior. The designers I work with at the Lab use Macs, and there’s a certain amount of garbling when I save an InDesign file on a PC and they open it on a Mac, so we need to be on the same system. Going back and forth is rather like writing something in English and leaving it to Babelfish to translate it to French—there will be subtleties that don’t come through. But that goes both ways, and in no way, shape, or form indicates that either language is superior.

It’s interesting that as I switch, Mac owners, like techno-evangelists, are congratulating me and telling me how much I’ll love it—how EASY Macs are, how STABLE, and how they NEVER CRASH. To hear them talk, Macs are the Mary Poppins of computers—practically perfect in every way. But then I go to the Mac threads on my beloved TableTalk where the term “crashed” appears in quite a few posts, where the posts themselves are incomprehensible, and I find out how difficult it seems to be to upgrade operating systems (and Macs have changed their operating systems a LOT during the lifetimes of Windows XP and Vista—right now they seem to be on OS 10.5.4, and there’s a huge amount of hype on the Mac website about Snow Leopard, a whole new system coming out next year), and I start seeing all the complaints about running this program or that one on a Mac platform. And I can’t help but think, “Wait just a doggone minute—why do so many Mac owners use Boot Camp or buy special software so they can run Windows on their machines while PC owners would never want, much less need, to run a Mac operating system on their computer?” And “how can you say the computer is stable when it can’t run the software you bought the computer to run? I mean, hello? One doesn’t buy a computer to run a platform—one buys it to run software.” Hmmm. Makes a girl think.

My Gateway desktop, bought in 2003 with Windows XP, has never once crashed, and is still a wonderful, reliable machine that has fully lived up to its name, “Dreammachine.” My Dell laptop, bought in 2005 with Windows XP, has just as good a track record (Her name is “Scout”). It will be instructive at this late date in my lifespan to try out this whole new thing. I’ll let you know how it goes. But I’m keeping Dreammachine and Scout nearby, even as I keep reminding myself that in real life, John Hodgman uses a Mac.


  1. First update:

    Those commercials where Justin Long says he can use his MacBook right out of the box are a wee bit misleading. First thing I had to do was upgrade OS 10.5.2 to OS 10.5.4, and the other software that came on the computer. I've had it out of the box for an hour and a half, and now may finally be able to start configuring the computer. But one lovely thing--many of my friends with Macs have an infernal thing going on in their toolbar in which, when the cursor is anywhere near, icons suddenly loom out like they're in attack mode. That feature is not happening on my computer. Whew!

  2. So far, the Mac is NOT "intuitive" or "easy to use right out of the box." Open a folder of photos, and unless you've already done something to put the photos in iPhoto or something, it doesn't KNOW they're photos! Windows automatically has a sidebar inviting you to look at them as a slideshow so you can decide which ones to import in the first place. And what's so advanced about a mouse with only one click? So you have to use two hands to click on control as well as clicking to get the functionality of a cheap, simple Windows mouse?

    I keep saying there's a reason why so many Mac owners say they're superior. But so far that reason seems to be to suck other people into the cult so the Mac owners won't feel stupid.

    Anyway, I've given up on thinking it really is intuitive, so off to all the websites that explain how to use it--something anything truly intuitive would not need.

  3. I have used pc's since the TRS 80 model 1 I have found Mac's to be very difficult to use because they do not follow the same pattern as pcs. However, they are very good computers and better at somethings than pcs.
    good luck,

  4. I have used PCs all my life (well, since late in high school), so I find them a lot more intuitive than Macs. My current Dell desktop with XP is about the same age as your Gateway. While it's definitely not a dream machine, it is serviceable and (mostly) stable.

  5. One word: Vista

    Forever Mac Owner

  6. Oddly enough, though, the Mac owners I've encountered who aren't techno-evangelists do a lot of complaining about the difficulties in upgrading from one OS to another, and say they always wait for one to be out there a while and get the bugs out before they do it. So I don't think Vista is any more of a problem than Leopard. My machines still have XP because it's expensive to upgrade, whether you're in Windows or Mac. And I must admit it's a wee bit off-putting to spend two thousand plus dollars on a brand new computer only to hear that Snow Leopard will be ever so much better than Leopard.

  7. I don't think I fall into the category of techno-evangelist, but since I switched to a Mac about 10 years ago I've been much much more satisfied with it. I don't think that you'll find the learning curve too steep. Like everything different there is a curve. And while Macs do crash (let's face it, its a machine, a complex one, and everything mechanical will have some hiccups) I've found them much more stable that PC's. You'll also find that you're more likely to have a program hang up (and you need to force it to quit) and not the entire machine. You'll probably find that when you plug in a peripheral it will work, not the with the myriad of conflicts that I remember with PC.

    I'm with you on the mouse. Buy a two button mouse and it'll be just fine. I use contextual menus all the time.

    Give it a bit, I'm sure you won't regret it.lf