Thursday, April 28, 2005

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!