Sunday, November 18, 2007

Leopard / Mac / IBM AT

Our first computer was an IBM AT, if I recall it was a 286 processor. The case was roughly the size of the table on which it sat. You would flick the mechanical power switch, and then go get a drink because it took about 5 min to boot into DOS. When you wanted to install a new program, or attempt to do anything other than the simplest of function, it usually didn't work. This would then result in a trip to the local computer shop with the entire rig, they would act superior due to their specialized knowledge, and then would poke and prod and ultimately it would get fixed.

Since then I've gone through 5 other Windows machines (no none were Vista, so don't bother going there) and am now on my first Mac. Each Windows machine improved incrementally over the previous iteration. My last one - the desktop I bought for college ~5 years ago has since been re-formatted and upgraded ever so slightly and is now serving my father - never once required a call to the manufacturer or a helpless afternoon in a PC repair shop.

Enter my MacBook: I was sick of Windows because I stare at it all day at work, and was told that Macs were better/more user friendly. I wanted the sleek minimalist small design, which was everything my Windows machines weren't. Therefore I spent more money on a MacBook than I would have on a similarly speced PC, and took the plunge. Since then Apple pushed an update onto the machine that fried the battery (one trip to the apple store and time spent standing in line only to be sneered at and asked why I didn't get the patch in time - de ja vu?). Then, the case started turning brown and the plastic started cracking (another trip to the apple store with more standing in line and being treated dismissively by their "Genius" - all over again?). I am, however, willing to overlook these issues as ultimately they were resolved quickly and required limited effort from me. Apple simply took care of it.

Now, for the last few months Leopard has been hyped as "the best new thing". My experience was as follows:

Saturday: I went to the Apple store and plopped down my $200 for the family pack upgrade. Upon getting home and inserting the disc, my MacBook churned for a few minutes and spit the disc back out. odd. Tried again - same thing. Clearly, something was wrong. I dove into the support pages and was told to ensure I had all the updates installed - checked, installed, restarted, disc spit out. At this point I'm entering hour 3, and the MacBook still has yet to even register the CD. Dig some more in the support pages. Find instructions saying to insert the disc, and before the computer can spit it out, restart and then hold "C" during startup. Tried this - disc is still spit out as the machine boots.

Apple store time. Online, I find out that no appointment is available in NY until Sunday night. So I resort to a CT location which can squeeze me in Sunday afternoon.

Sunday. Day 2. Go to the store (again) to be curtly handed a new disc and being told "we see this all the time, this should work". I ask if I should test it in the store, and am told to just go home (mind you this took less than 2 minutes, why couldn't a NY store have done this yesterday?). Alright, fine by me. I get home, insert the disc, and after 2 days, it loads! the guy was right - snooty - but at least right! - I click install, it prompts me to restart, I hit ok, the computer cycles through startup and just when it looks like it's going to work... the disc gets spit out again.

From my Day 1 research I recall that holding "C" will boot from disc during startup. Why not try - sure enough it did the trick, I'm in the installer and after 3 hours of "disc verification" and installation, I now have a running copy of Leopard installed.

To get here, I've needed to go to the store (twice) and hone my own computer knowledge, something I thought a Mac was supposed to let me not worry about anymore.

Why does this experience remind me of the repeated trips to the pc repair shop that our AT required? Have we gone back in time? Is the PC industry regressing? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I can attest to a few things:

1) Leopard didn't add that much to my computer experience. This is based on a few hours of use, and maybe my opinion will change - but for now I'm wondering where are my $200? - strike one.

2) Apple's brand is based on being user-friendly. They've built this image well and carefully, but now there's a disconnect developing between that fiction and the reality of their product. This does not bode well.

3) While Mac has closely maintained control over components and possible upgrades, claiming this stricter environment allows for a better user experience, Windows machines are more open and somehow achieve greater transparency in functionality. (strike three)

One last thought: Leopard doesn't add spots to my Mac...

blog comments powered by Disqus