2010-02-12

Why I Don't Own a Mac.

I might be what you call a computer expert. I don’t mean to boast in saying that, but I imagine that others would find it to be true. Here are my credentials to see if you agree: I have two degrees in Computer Science. I’ve been writing software professionally for 5 years. I’ve taught computer classes at the college level. Every computer I’ve ever owned (5 so far), I’ve built with my own hands. I worked for a school district, providing network and desktop support to teachers and administrators. Basically, if it can be done with a computer, I’ve done it.

I am also a Windows user. That’s actually kind of odd when you think about it, because I grew up using Apple IIs and Macs in school. I used to sign up for “computer camps”, where I would spend two weeks of the summer going back to school so I could have unfettered access to the computer lab. In Junior high, I won desktop publishing and computer aided design competitions, both using Macs. I even still organize my desktop icons like I’m on a Mac (hard drive icons in the upper right corner, trash in the lower right.)

So, why don’t I own a Mac now? There are lots of reasons; none of which really matter to you probably, because for what I need a computer is different than for what you need. In my situation, I have issues with Macs’ cost, hardware variety, software availability, and tweak-ability. And as I figured, none of those things matter to you (except for cost, probably.)

The really big problem I have is with the attitude of superiority that seems to exude out of Apple lately. I think that’s always bad news. The best thing that happen to Windows was the explosion of Linux and the development of OS X, because that led Microsoft to develop a truly worth competitor in Windows 7. The other problem with superiority is that is breeds the attitude that “our way is the right way”. This does a huge disservice to the users of their devices, because they end up being oblivious to the alternatives. When I was a kid, I loved the Apples and Macs because they helped me to do things I had never done in ways I never thought possible. They opened up a whole a new world. And now, I expect that freedom with any device that I spend a lot of money on or use on a daily basis.

The really odd thing is that I don't think I can find that freedom in a Mac anymore. Sure, if I want to do something that's included in Apple's wonderfully designed suite of programs, I'm set, but what if I want to do it differently? What if I want to do something else entirely? My options are then really limited. It seems a far cry from Apple's "1984" ad.



In case you were wondering, here's a list of the things that vex me:

Why do songs in the iTunes store have DRM? Why do they cost more than those on Amazon? Why can I only use iTunes to put songs on my iPod? Why can't I take songs off my iPod using iTunes? Why did Apple reject the Google Voice app from the iPhone and hundreds of other useful apps? Why is it so hard to troubleshoot Mac problems? When a new version of iTunes comes out, why do I have to download a whole new 100 MB app instead of a few megs up program files? And why do the old versions stick around and clog up my hard drive? Why do mac laptops require expensive connectors to be hooked up to standard projectors and TVs? Why do Mac users believe they can't get viruses? Why can't I use whatever hardware and peripherals I want with a Mac? Why can't I use whatever language I want to write Mac applications? On what planet does it make sense to drag a CD to the trash to eject it? When I plug a non OSX drive into a Mac, why does it create all these extra useless files? Why can I tell when a movie has been made using iDVD, an album made in iLife, or a Facebook profile pic taken from a mac laptop? Why does Quicktime still insist on the horrible .MOV format that isn't compatible with anything other than Apple devices? Why does so much software stop working when Apple upgrades OSX to the next version? Why does Apple think anyone will be satisfied with the iPad?