Articles In Category
2. A Freakin’ Awesome Dictionary
I’ll bet those of you who read my first article in this series last spring are either Windows fans who have been chuckling, “See, he could only think of one thing!” Or you’re Mac fans who are disappointed that I started in strong to give the other side “what for,” but then left the match just when it was getting interesting.
Although you’d both be wrong, you have to understand that here on Mars, time moves at a somewhat slower pace than it does on Earth. You see, here it’s only been a month since I wrote that first installment, and I thought I was doing pretty good to be getting a second one in already. Then I realized how it might look from down here, and, well… I’ll try to get the third article done in a time frame that will make more sense to you folks.
Now, you ask, “Exactly how could something as mundane as a dictionary possibly induce envy in a Windows user?” Ah, I see you’re one of those who still hasn’t fully appreciated the awesome Dictionary.app built into Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4). It’s already been highlighted in all the Mac news magazines, glorified in all the Mac blogs, and praised endlessly in the Mac discussion forums. Yet I still encounter good, hardworking Mac users who don’t know about it yet. How could that be?
Well, the Tiger Dictionary ain’t exactly a flashy product, for one thing. It doesn’t sit in your Dock, so it’s easy to not realize it’s there. I don’t think Steve included it in any of his Tiger demos. And, well, it’s just a Dictionary, after all.
It’s hard for me to see choosing Apple over Microsoft as striking some great blow for populism just because Apple is a smaller company… In my mind, choosing Apple is substituting one greedy corporation for another.
It’s a sad commentary on my peers when I hear them voice opinions like this. What it means is that they think Microsoft’s behavior is the norm, and that all companies would behave like Microsoft if they could. This is the same cynical view that destroyed our faith in politicians after Richard Nixon’s crimes. For some reason, rather than understanding that Nixon was a political outlier, we adopted the view that all politicians would behave like Nixon if they could. And many people appear to be making the same mistake with Microsoft.
Good grief, to a man from Mars this looks like mass insanity. Microsoft is no more the norm than Richard Nixon was. But what they have in common is substantial:
- A total disregard for the truth
- A willingness to engage in dirty tricks against enemies
- Corrupt management from the top down
- A paranoia about–and intolerance of–deviations from any standards they have set for the world.
If you’re a Microsoft fan who’s just wandered into this article, you’ll no doubt think this is pure hyperbole. And though nothing I can say is likely to convince you otherwise, I do intend to try.
My third reason for sticking with Windows at home (and, for me, this has been the most significant consideration): It is in the job description of my organization’s 2 IT staff guys that they will do all desired maintenance/troubleshooting/upgrading of our home computers if we bring them into the office. They have installed memory for me, new drives and cards, a wireless network, and remote access software. … Our IT staff doesn’t maintain Macs.
I had to laugh when I read this one… It just goes to show you how absolutely brainwashed PC users are about their computers. Since most (if not all) PC users started interacting with a computer at work, where you come to rely on a Help Desk for support, they naturally assume that unless you’re a technical wizard you’ll need such support for your PC at home, too.
Now, my friend has it extra bad, since his Help Desk support guys come for free with his home PC–a situation that I don’t think is all that common. If those tech support guys come for free–I mean, if my company thinks it’s worth the trouble to pay for this service so I can be productive at home, why it must be because it’s necessary… right? And as long as he has a Windows PC, he’s probably right! I mean, in addition to Windows’ long-standing usability problems, there’s this whole world of hackers and viruses that have turned from a bad nightmare into an even nastier reality over the last 5 years. If I were in charge of IT for a company these days, I’d lock those Windows systems down so tight the user couldn’t install any of their own software or anything else. All it takes is one little virus getting loose, and you’ve lost another day of productivity in corporate America. But that, of course, will be the subject of another little essay. The point here is that a company can justify giving free tech support to its employees’ PC’s nowadays–and not because they’re being nice. This isn’t an employee benefit… it’s a PC desktop management necessity.
Of course, this is only true if we’re talking about Windows systems. My friend’s default assumption is that his experience with a Windows computer at home will be the same as with a Macintosh when it comes to technical support. And that’s the crux of the problem… It’s not the same. In the Mac world, things have always been a little different. (And that’s not just a marketing slogan… honestly!)
I don’t question that Apple is great for multimedia applications… However, I don’t do video or photo editing, compose music on my computer, make graphics, do desk-top publishing, or design web pages.
Yesterday I had a major epiphany* about what to get my Dad for his 86th birthday this weekend. Until yesterday, I had bought into his belief that he would never learn how to use a computer, because he found it too confusing. The implication of this, of course, is that he was never to experience the many positive enhancements to his life that email and the Web could bring. Yesterday I realized there was a great solution, thanks to Apple’s new Mac Mini.
Some background will help explain my thinking…. You see, for years after the Web and email became a standard part of the life of working folks in America, my Dad has poo-poo’d their value. Left out of this huge communications revolution, he had to be content ranting about the negative side of the Web… namely, increased access to pornography and other forms of “dangerous” information (some of legitimate concern, I might add, like how-to sites on building bombs). As far as email goes, he couldn’t see how email would improve on old-fashioned print communication or on the good old telephone. And what about all that spam he keeps reading about? Lucky for him he doesn’t have to deal with it!
So, a couple of years ago one of his wife’s children had the bright idea to buy him a computer and set him up with internet access. They did, and the computer has sat virtually unused on a small table in their bedroom ever since. My Dad says that whenever he tried to use it, he could never figure out what to do.
OK, so he’s had a computer for 2 years and hasn’t used it. What makes me think giving him a Mac Mini will help?
To answer that, let me get back to the title of this essay, which is also related to the quote that opens it, from a friend of mine who doesn’t understand how a Mac would be any better than a Windows system as a personal computer, unless you’re doing multimedia work.
You see, although IBM coined the term “personal computer” when it rolled out its DOS-based systems back in 1981, it has never been marketed at “people”, really. (For an excellent history of the IBM PC, check out this article at about.com.) Instead, the PC was aimed squarely at the business world, which is one of the main reasons for its success over Apple’s computers.