The other night, one of my daughter’s friends asked me why I have an Apple sticker on my car.
I gave my usual response, which is “because I use Apple computers and they’re cool,” but for some reason I felt the need to temper that response because of the way Mac people are perceived these days.
I consider myself a “Mac Person,” but more important than that, I’ve always believed in the philosophy of “the right technology for the job.” There are things that mainframes can do that UNIX servers don’t do very well, there are things that Linux servers do nicely that a Windows 2003 machine can’t. For what I do, a Mac fits the bill better than a PC running XP or Vista.
The Mac is not flawless, by any means. I’ve had my share of problems with Macs– but for the most part it’s a solid platform that works.
And sometimes, the reactions you get from people who hear you’re a Mac person are amazing.
Many people I meet are technology-agnostic, which means a computer is a computer and there’s usually no compelling reason for them to care what operating system is running under the hood. When I mention to these people that I use a Mac, they’re usually genuinely curious, and in some cases (let’s take my real estate agent as an example) ask if the Mac would solve some of the problems they have on their PCs, or at least, how different the computing environments are from each other. It’s my hope that most computer users will eventually fall into this camp.
Until then, we’ll continue to have the factions of Windows-hating Mac Users and Apple-hating Windows Users.
Not too long ago, I was on a local discussion forum and someone made a comment about the expense and incompatibility of Vista on his computer. When I raised a concern about Windows Vista’s new licensing structure, he immediately said “Well, that’s what you’d expect to hear from a Mac User.”
Unfortunately, this is typical in some corners of the computing world, and it seems no matter how even-handed you are about computer platforms, someone will label you. And it’s not limited to that side of the argument (if we must pick sides).
There’s also a segment of Mac users who view other Mac users as part of a huge brotherhood who must do everything they can to convert the masses to using the Mac. Often, these people are even worse than the combative PC users because they approach their world as evangelists, oblivious to other opinions or viewpoints. For these souls, Apple can do no wrong. This is the main reason I stopped visiting certain Mac forums on the internet– reading most of those postings made me woozy. (Posted next to a Hello Kitty avatar: “Omigod, I just looooooove my little Macky the MacBook! It’s so cuuuuuuuuute!” Gack.)
What I like about the Mac is the fact that, most of the time, if I want to do something it will simply work. By controlling most aspects of hardware and software, Apple has created a near-seamless model. Plug in your iPod, it works. Plug in a gigabit Ethernet connection, you’re live. Viruses? None to speak of, really. These are the parts of the “Get a Mac” TV ads that speak the truth.
What I don’t like is the fact that when something goes wrong with a Mac, it’s usually something really stupid. For example, I am about to have the keyboard on my MacBook replaced for the fourth time— not because of abuse, but because of Apple’s self-admitted problems with the manufacture of the part. Apple is cheerfully replacing the keyboard free of charge, but what if I didn’t live no more than 10 minutes from an Apple Store?
Another example: last week, Apple released an update to their iTunes software that I dutifully loaded on my Mac. The result: about 40 songs that I purchased from the iTunes Music Store wouldn’t copy to my iPod any more. (Not all the songs I purchased from iTunes, just these 40 completely random tracks.) The solution? I had to rebuild my entire iTunes library, a 20-minute process.
So I’m faced with a choice– have a computing environment that works with the occasional stupid glitch, or run what 90% of the computing world uses (Windows) and deal with drivers, antivirus software, and a little more tweaking than I’d like.
I’ll choose the former, but I won’t be evangelical about it. And the truth is that PCs will be with us forever, and even though I use a Mac, I still run Windows XP (under Parallels) on my MacBook because there’s no software for the Mac that’s as good as Adobe Audition for mixing our podcasts.
The proper tool for the proper job: that’s what it’s about. And that sticker on my car? It’s not so much a badge as it’s a cool-looking sticker.