Thursday, April 28, 2005

Computers: Macintosh - Apple is STILL here?

I've been using Apple computers since around 1990. I remember when I first saw a Mac - it was in the fall of 1984. A buddy who had gone to another college came back home with one, and I was immediately smitten with the idea of graphical computing.

In between then and 1991, when I received my first Mac at work, I did a fair amount of programming and work with DOS and Windows - especially programming Lotus1-2-3 spreadsheet macros, and dealing with data flow between a PC where I was copy-writing, and the compugraphic machine, where the typesetters got teh copy ready for the catalog. (This was at Ellett Brothers in Chapin, SC). I have heard for a long time about how Apple is going to die as a company - and have heard it multiple times. As I write this, the industry pundits are (once again) real high on Apple's prospects, given a leading market share in the digital music player arena. Give the pundits a few weeks - they'll change their tune.....they always do! By all rights the company should have ceased to exist in the mid-90s because of poor marketing, bad pricing policies, and several really bad design decisions (anyone remember the 5200? Boy, I wish I didn't.) So why do I use a Macintosh? Why am I such a fan? (Remember, I use Windows just about every day - I used to manage 2 labs full of Windows machines, plus a whole campus of Macs of various vintages - from LCIIIs to PowerMac G4s, and 3 sets of iBooks). 1. The OS works much better for getting work done. Case in point: When I need to make a graphic web-friendly, on my Mac I can get it done in 2 commands using graphic converter (by LemkeSoft). On the Win2000 box sitting on the same desk, it takes wading around 3 sets of menus plus 2 sets of adjustments just to crop and resize the graphic. Changing the dot resolution down to 72 is an excersize in frustration. There are tons of other examples - why does XP remember so few window settings? Why is there no keyboard shortcut to cloe the currently open window when I double-click a folder? Macs have had that feature since 1986. 2. Macs last longer. I have a vintage 1994 PowerMac that I do digital audio editing with - yes, multiple tracks. There isn't a single Windows machine on the planet from 1994 that can do that. I'm running Pro Tools Free, by the way. 3. Macs come with more features than your standard Windows machine, and the bundled software is better. I would put the iLife suite up against ANYTHING bundled with any Windows machine anywhere. The software is absolutely phenomenal. 4. From 1984 - 2003, there were fewer than 100 Mac viruses developed. None damaged hardware. NONE! Max OS X has been out for a few years now, and there have been ZERO Os X specific incidents of malware developed. Yes, there have been some BSD attacks, but none nearly as serious as you see for Windows, Internet Explorer, et al. (So why does the Mac version of the Symantec Security Suite cost so much more than the Windows version? It should be EASIER to develop it!) There will be more to come........make some comments. What do YOU think?

What, Apple isn’t dead yet?

Part 2 of semi-random thoughts about Apple, the Mac OS, and computing in general. My experience with the Mac dates back to around 1991, when I, as head of a college music department, purchased a Mac Classic. That was the start of a budding music technology center that eventually expanded into the James T Bass, Jr. Center for music Technology - a 12 station netwroked music technology lab complete with digital audio recording, sequencing, music theory software, and the like. It turns out the concept was ahead of its time, and was at an institution not prepared to support it - but it was fun while it lasted. At the same, Windows started making real inroads into what is now called the enterprise market, and i was able to compare the two systems in a networked environment. Granted, much is different nowadays - then it was Windows 95 vs. MacOS 8, now it is Windows XP vs. Mac OS X. It is surprising what is the same, though. For example - I watched a crew of FIVE people take a full week setting up a networked Windows lab - networked printing, networked file storage, access to the internet. Midway into the next semester, fully half the lab didn’t work - there was ALWAYS something going wrong in there. The Mac labs I have worked with (include the above-mentioned music lab, plus 3 sets of iBooks doing the wireless netowrking thing) have all been a dream to setup. No major hassles - real consistent setup, consistent operation - things just worked. It only took me 2 days to get the music tech lab fully up and running - by myself. I have seen it where 2 examples of the SAME MODEL Windows machine running the SAME OS required different settings to get up on the network. It was ridiculous! That’s one reason why the Mac is still around. They are easier to work with. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it? A lot of the Macintosh advantages are, at first glance, not a big deal. Fore xample - it has long been a Mac hallmark to remember window settings (position on the screen, sixe and shape, what the view was last set to). The OS has done this for every window opened on the machine - even for removable media like floppies/zip disks/ removable hard drives/etc - since, oh, Mac OS 2.......? Windows XP STILL has a limit on the number of windows settings it remembers. Doesn’t seem like a big deal - UNTIL you begin to track how many times you resize a window, or change the settings, of the various windows you use. That can add up to significant time - and aggravation. It costs you in another way as well. When you are creating something (this could be a graphic, or writing, or aduio or video - anytime your are creating SOMETHING on the computer) - you have activated the right side of your brain - the creative side. Moving a window around is a left-brained activity. Windows requires you to interrupt your creative flow to resize windows and such - this costs you brain processing time (there is a significant processing penalty for “switching mdoes” as it were). I call it “the creative groove” - when creating you get in a groove where things are just flowing and then........interrupt the flow to resize a window or adjust a setting. That’s costly....and may cost you the idea you were working on. It can be difficult getting into that creative groove to begin with (depending on the day!) - and it can be even more difficult getting back into it. This is a small example of why the Mac allows you to get your work done - you spend less time futzing around with the system, and more time on your work. More to come. Leave a comment!