“I just think things should work properly”

I’m not an Apple hater, I’ll say that up front. If anything, I’m a Microsoft hater.  Though I much prefer to be a supporter of things.  

If you’ve been following my tweets you’ll know that I got a new laptop computer about a month ago.  I bought a Dell – I have a Dell desktop and am really, really, happy with it.  It’s 4 years old and still going very strong – it’s easily got another few years in it, though I’ll have to give it up when I move to Australia (I’m really sad about that – especially given the problems with the new laptop.

I won’t rant about all the problems I’ve had with this new computer – most of them have been resolved.  The biggest problems were resolved by turning off every paranoid security feature that was pre-built – whether it was Windows7 being paranoid or Dell pre-installing McAfee which brought me to the point of having to uninstall it because it was causing millions of problems and solving none.  I still have problems, though. Windows 7 is dreadfully slow, opening a Word file often takes 30 seconds to a minute — ironically, ten years ago that would have been fast, but this is unacceptable in 2010.  For some reason the Ctrl key randomly activates itself, usually at times when I’m typing a letter that activates some sort of shortcut and all of a sudden I’m typing in italics, saving the file, searching for something, or closing the window.  I haven’t figured out if that last one is hardware of software, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it were a combination of both (that, or my inability to operate the new keyboard – I’ll admit it COULD be my fault).  

I complain about these problems, because they’ve become a daily thing and when one is working 12-hour days as I have been lately, and all 12 hours of those are in front of a computer with these problems, it’s all one has to talk about.  The immediate response anyone has (especially the Twitterati) is some version of "get a Mac." Beyond the incredibly obvious reasons that this is a useless recommendation (the significant capital outlay for another computer when I just bought one being the biggest), this isn’t practical for me. Tax software, for the most part, is designed for Windows.  Not Windows7, mind you, I had to run three different sets of patches to get it all to work… but that’s beside the point.  The typical response to that: "you can run Windows on a Mac."  That part is true – you can run Windows emulator on Macs, in order to run Windows programs.  But then I’d be running Windows. On a Mac. And I’d still have all the problems that I have with Windows, only I’d have an even-more expensive computer than I do now. Running the same buggy, useless, operating system.  I hope the implication is obvious.

When Apple designs an OS that seamlessly, without hacks or workarounds or fixes or anything else, runs software designed for Windows, I might start to consider one.  People often pin this blame on MS or on PC software designers… but frankly, if you want people to buy a product that is used to facilitate the operation of other products (i.e., a computer), and your product doesn’t work will with anything that anyone’s designing – you need to make it work well, or people won’t buy it. I think it’s a pretty simple marketing concept.

The thing that really bugs me, though, is this strange overriding assumption people have that Apple is somehow less incompetent than Microsoft at designing software.  I’ll admit – Microsoft is pretty damn bad at designing software. They eliminated the ability to open multiple files in different programs at once when they designed Windows7. No one in the MS forums can tell me whether or not this was intentional, and the only solution seems to be to send a message to Microsoft that it’s a feature I would like to have and that, maybe, in a future release they’ll reintroduce the functionality that already existed in previous versions (i.e., Windows XP).  

But Apple is not saintly.  I have an iPhone (admittedly, it’s hacked, so I’m not a typical user), and use iTunes regularly to download music and now TV.  The version of the iPhone software that I’m stuck on (due to the fact that I haven’t found (or looked for, to be honest) a hacked version of newer software) came with a known glitch that automatically disconnected from WiFi and took forever to reconnect.  They solved it in a future release, but it took weeks or months, and was a really obvious problem that should have been caught in beta testing.  I’ve since had countless problems with various versions of iTunes that should have been caught in beta testing — not the least which being my latest problems with TV downloads, but I’m now also having problems with stuttering music files.  I’ve previously had other problems where it’s destroyed my library… not to mention the wonderful sometimes-disappearing, sometimes-duplicating calendar items (which had a frighteningly annoying comeback when I got the new computer – despite using the same library files)… that last one was a beautiful combination of Apple and Microsoft getting together to fail as largely as imaginable – it was both an Outlook and an iTunes issue.

My point – Microsoft is often the problem, but Apple is not the solution.  If it gains any traction, I’d be interested in playing with Google’s Chrome OS… assuming it’s compatible with things (one can only hope).  Though given other issues I’ve had with its browser (I won’t go there at this hour), I don’t know if they’re the solution either.  Maybe there isn’t a solution, and we’ll be perpetually stuck with useless software and useless hardware.  I wish computer hardware and software designers adopted the approach from the ads Dyson ran in Canada a while ago – "I just think things should work properly"


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