The Curse Of Apple

An acquaintance of mine who is ignorant about computers wanted to buy one and asked for a recommendation. Like an idiot I suggested Apple — it’s supposed to be easy to use, right? Well, he bought one, and the experience has underscored for me the wisdom of not making recommendations based on second-hand information.

There’s nothing wrong with the computer, it works fine. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to have any ease-of-use advantage over recent Windows machines. And since I’m not an Apple person, my every attempt to help my friend use his computer is accompanied by a lot of time spent researching how to do things that are second nature for me in Windows. And because few people in my circle use Apples, it can be difficult to find someone who can answer a simple question.

So, for example, my friend receives important emails with Microsoft Office file attachments. He clicks on them and the computer informs him that his trial version of Office for Mac has expired, and would he like to buy a full version for $400? That seems like a high price to read a spreadsheet now and again. It took me a long phone call to Apple, and a long trip to my friend’s place to fiddle with the computer, to determine that he can view these files using the AppleWorks software he already has. (And of course I wasn’t successful in setting the file associations to make AppleWorks the default software for opening Excel files, so my friend has to do the {ctrl + click + menu} thing every time he wants to open an MS-formatted attachment. And I still don’t know how to resize the spreadsheet to make it legible on the screen.) What a nuisance for both of us.

And I have no choice but to continue to help, if only because I got him into this situation. It’s as if I saved his life and am now responsible for him, except that I am trying to save him mainly from the effects of my own poor judgment.

10 thoughts on “The Curse Of Apple”

  1. My kids have already learned the mantra, “never buy an Apple”. What a pain in the ass. I have re-installed, clean-installed, blah blah blah on their I-Mac more times than I can count. My kids can fly around on a PC, but the Apple holds no intuitive charms for them. Apparently, not much has changed with the newer Mac OS. There is a good reason that Apple only commands a sliver of the market. Anytime my PC really gets lockjaw, I just reformat the HD and install the OS again, and I’m good to go for another 12 months. Say what you will about security flaws and weak code; Windows runs like a Chevy, and I can’t afford nor do I want the hassles of tuning a Ferrari.

  2. As Jonathan points out its more like a Chevy and a Toyota with right hand drive. It’s what ever you’ve gotten used to that now seems more intuitive. But really there’s very little difference except for viruses.

  3. Apple used to have the edge on what you might call ‘user friendliness’ for lack of a more precise term, but with OS X Apple backslid a bit, and Microsoft has continued to improve to the point where today they’re at rough parity. OS X is an enormous improvement over the old Mac OS, but in making the switch Apple threw out a lot of the things they’d learned about human-computer interaction.

    The big remaining user-interface advantage of the Macintosh isn’t anything having to do with the system itself, but with its user-interface conventions; the Macintosh world is a much more consistent one. Copy, Paste, etc. are always the same keys on a Macintosh; this isn’t true, even now, in Windows (terminal programs in particular tend to use strange keystrokes, because the usual Windows keystrokes, Control-C and Control-V, are used for other things). Setting the preferences in a Windows application is a challenge, because the preferences might be under any menu, and they might be called ‘options’, ‘settings’, ‘tools’, ‘preferences’, ‘defaults’, ‘properties’, or something else entirely. The worst applications have both ‘options’ and ‘settings’. On the Macintosh, very few applications break the rules, which makes a big difference.

    That said, your friend can change the Mac’s default application for those Excel files by selecting one, selecting ‘Get Info’ from the file menu, clicking on ‘Open with’ in the resulting window, selecting Appleworks (or whatever), and pushing the ‘Change All’ button. I can’t believe you didn’t find this, as it’s not hidden at all, and anyone would expect to be able to make global changes to system preferences by selecting a single file and messing around with its settings.

  4. Tino, I tried repeatedly to change the default app using the method you describe, but it didn’t work. Perhaps if I had spent more time fiddling with the computer I would have gotten it, but I was about at my limit for that afternoon. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. Macs are very nice but yes, they are very different beasts. Just because they don’t behave like Windows does not mean they’re not easy or easier to use.

    But yes, it is a bit of a gamble to recommend a system you don’t know firsthand. It could have been a lot worse though; you could have recommended a PC with Linux…

  6. The zealotry of Macboys has one real benefit: like linux users, the Apple user base has written tons of help online. Just google your questions and I’d be surprised if you didn’t find the answers you’re looking for.

    I’ve been a long-time Mac basher, but, despite the high cost and lower performance of the hardware, OSX is decent. It’s levels above the nasty and unstable n.x versions. Once you get everything set up, it should run quite happily without a whole lot of nasty fixing it.

    There really aren’t any advantages to OS X vs. Windows 2000 / XP, or killer apps like graphics and multimedia used to be. But there aren’t really any serious drawbacks either (except for choice of hardware or fewer software titles available). It comes down to if you feel comfortable working with a Unix based system (however pretty the facade), and if the UI works for you.

    It doesn’t work for me, but the Macboys love the hell out of it. It is certainly not any ‘easier’ to use.

  7. Remember grasshopper. Allways feel the flow of energy. Times like this are why Buddah brought us to E-bay. Sell the the thing and buy an IBM.

  8. Although Tino and Capt. Mojo have fairly well summed up the distinctions, I’ll add my own two cents.

    For the average persons needs, Mac isn’t going to give the best bang for the buck. Apple specialized itself long ago, and if one doesn’t use computers for the handful of tasks that Mac’s evolved around the brand is more trouble than it’s worth.

    That said, I’m a cult of Macintosh guy myself (Macboy?!), and like Scotch drinkers, we don’t imagine that the taste we’ve acquired is appropriate for most other people.

  9. I believe you can buy Office at the education price, about $150. (Apparently we are all students if we say we are.) And the incuded program TextEdit willl open MS Word docs.

    And i would guess that there’s someone around who would not mind taking over your tech-support duties. We Mac-cultists like talking about our machines, sort of like sports car fanatics…

    As for price, if you compare with PC’s equiped to do the same stuff, such as download digital video via Firewire and edit it, you will find that Macs are no more expensive. But of course you may not want to do those things…

  10. I’ve been a Mac user since 1990, my first computer was a PC. That was also my last PC. I use Panther, OS 10.3, and PCs can’t touch it. Rock solid stable. No need for re-installs. Andy B, upgrade the iMac to OS X. A 1998 Mac will run 2004 software without a hiccup.

    I find that OS X is not at all intrusive and condescending as is the latest Windows OS — which will not shut up and get out of the way and let a person work.

    The difficulty for Windows users is that Apple makes using the computer intuitive so that people, accustomed to thinking of the most difficult way of getting things done, overlook the simplest way to get a thing done.

    And, no, I would not give up my 3-year old iBook for March 2004 Windows machine.

Comments are closed.