Monday, December 3, 2007

Nah...I Don't Like Macs

Look Who's Ba-aaaaaack...

Death, Taxes, Rudy Giuliani being an asshole, and lots of sparks, flames and smoke in comments on a post on anything Apple computer related.

All of these things are inevitable.

As Hubris pointed out here, there is a bit of history massaging with this new Disney (Urrrrrgh. Sorry Jesse, in spite of some wonderful product—and I can normally overlook issues and focus directly on ‘product”—the company's been a bad actor in too many ways of late for me to dig on 'em) ride exhibit where the history of communications/computing will be depicted via the use of animatronic figures—but one specific animatronic “*LMD” has got some folks in an upoar.

It's the one of Apple's Steve Jobs—to the exclusion of his fellow midwife at personal computing's true birth, Steve Wozniak.

And it's true as Hubris says that “one of the benefits of being on the board is that you can indeed “write people out of history.”

But a ride at a Disney theme park is hardly Stalin's crew of airbrushers removing no longer favored cronies with a poof-poof-poof of gouache.

Wozniak, post his plane crash in 1981 has been a bit of an eccentric (a mother-of-all-concussions after plowing his aircraft into a steep embankment shortly after liftoff fucked him up pretty badly insofar as all manners of amnesia and odd brain fucnctioning) and withdrew even further (he was already quite the introvert) from the public spotlight cast on those then-young masters of Silicon Valley. He was a brilliant software/hardware designer and builder who simply tired of the rat race shortly after his initial, but mammoth engineering successes.

The whirring and clicking Jobs at the Disney ride will do nothing to dim Woz's accomplishments. They're too well documented and so much the stuff of can-do legend. If the “Hall of Presidents” exhibit was all we had to go by to learn about Abe Lincoln,'d be one sorry-ass world we lived in. It isn't., and Wozniak's legacy is safe.

Plus, even though he's no longer a day-to-day employee at ol' Infinite Loop, he still draws a paycheck and is a shareolder—which is kind of scary to think about how wealthy he must be, having gotten in at the ground level and seeing that stock split, and then double its worth again in the last three years. Maybe that brag of his about always carrying at least $20,000 in cash on him is true.

I mean...Goddamn!

But the fact remains that Jobs is the company's public face—like it or not. Woz's retreat into the shadows may have been a factor in fueling Jobs seeming ubiquity. But remember, he booked up too, and was coaxed back after the Gil Amelio debacle of the mid-nineties. The company was damaged goods and he put his face, name, and ass on the line when Apple needed to pull itself back from the brink. Perhaps he got lucky. Maybe it was good timing, and he sold his soul to the devil for a machine that allowed him to simultaneously tap the brains of superior computer intellects for their ideas, and mass-delude millions of people into believing the resulting products integrated better with their lives than what they were using. I dunno. What I do know is that he NOT a technical genius or the second coming of Modok, The Living Brain.

What he is a genius at is in marketing, style sensibility and trend-sniffing.

Madonna didn't invent “The Vogue”, she just packaged it and sold it perfectly.

Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile. What he did was perfect it's production and market it phenomenally.

Jobs is an iconic figure in that sense—the Ford/Madonna sense. I tip my cap, there.

What strikes me is the venom against him, though. I, and no one else for that matter saw him bounding across the stage screaming “I love this COMPANY!”, in full, crazed Ballmer-mode. That smug, self-assuredness may come off like a screaming boast, but in the end, it's just smug, self-assuredness. The “Come on, you want this stuff and you KNOW IT” smirk sets a lot of people off, evidently. Me? I could care less. There's a lot of “hateration and holleartion up in this here dancery” over Apple's “marketing”. I don't understand it. The company's still in a single-digit share of the market, so why so much venom instead of what should be ridicule? I could see it f they were going all “GoDaddy” with trashy promotions and the like, but that's not it. If there's a “problem” with their marketing, some major annoyance that is patently egregious. I'd love to know just what that is.

I mean...Is it the “cool” factor that so sends people 'round the bend? What makes for that “cool”? Is it the “Reality Distortion Field” button on that machine Jobs got from the devil? Or is it the fact that Apple routinely ties a certain elegance of operation—software, to an equally elegant physical aesthetic—hardware design, and that draws a definite, maddening distinction between them and the competition?

Maybe it's that whole “cult of personality” thing, and a lot of folks just find Jobs' confident soft-sell stealthily arrogant. Crazy-making, in fact.

Again, I don't care. I met the guy and talked to him for a few minutes when they opened the Apple Store here in NY. Went for the opening day free swag, saw him and said ”Hi. I like your company's products.” Told him some ways he could improve on iMovie and Final Cut Pro, and to maybe inform consumers better about the short life of his computers PRAM batteries and how when those cheap items fail, they cause no end of trouble. How they should maintain them to maximize their life. He listened, said they were looking for a way to do away with dealing with that old technology altogether and that they had some ideas on that.

Shook my hand, got an extra free T-shirt and he had a floor person give me a 20% discount voucher for my next purchase. Seemed decent enough.

And I wasn't kidding. I very much like—no, let me piss off the detractors here—LOOOOOOOVE Apple's products.

Why? Because they work consistently—unlike the Windows stuff I've had to use when under a deadline. Maybe it was bad luck on my part, but I had four major failures of Windows-based items during four major projects, and I have come to not trust the stuff. Never liked the A,B,C,D drive set-up. Drivers (Sweet Jesus...DRIVERS!) and their machine and project-wrecking instability—Urrrrgh! The needless difficulty in doing simple tasks?

I walked away easily to Macs. Even with the instability issues of some iterations of OS's 8 and 9, they still worked far better for me. I'm a graphics/audio/video professional, and the Mac was seemingly made for me, and people like me. My brother switched after an album he was working on ran away to hide in a Windows-seizured system. A teacher friend I gave an old Mac to switched and bought a G5 when he started work on a chlldren's book he was creating. He got tired two years ago of his Windows computers (2 of 'em in three years) barking at him and going down at inopportune times. I have found that if you DEPEND of a computer for your graphics and art production (audio/video/film/multimedia), a Mac just seems to do that better.

If you're a gamer, and don't stress your computer with all the dedicated horsepower, and data path zipping that high-end creative applications require, a Windows box is probably more your speed.

But in the end, both camps are beginning to meet in the middle—the Windows stuff is getting better at system reliability for creative professionals, and the Mac stuff is doing much better at general computing beyond the creative.

I just need something that consistently works—and in my personal empirical dealings, the Macs are it.

They're NOT trouble free. You have to maintain 'em, just like a car that needs oil and an occasional tune-up. You have to mind your free drive space. Occasionally rebuild permissions. Keep your desktop cleaned up and so on. That being said, my problems with them have been miniscule compared with other platforms. I did have a problem with my old PowerBook 540C, where it kept forgetting the date and needed a double start-up to get going. I took it to a repair facility here in NY that shall remain nameless, and I saw the technician do a key command and I was charged $49.00.

I said never again, and I set out from that day to learn more about the damned things so I wouldn't get ripped off by another tech. Two years later, I could tear a machine down to the Mother Board and rebuild it or upgrade it. Ram, processors, video cards, hard drives, ROM swaps, overclocks—I could do it. I haven't been to a repair facility since, and began to make money troubleshooting on my own, though I mostly worked for free for friends doing upgrades and customizations.

Yesssssss, you can customize a Mac. I've done several. Started out with a shell or laptop case with no HD, processor, RAM or anything and rebuilt the damn things to newer, more powerful specs. Steve featured my re-tooled old Wallstreet PowerBook at the New Blog two years ago. Pimped the shit outta that one. Swapped out the G3 for a G4 brain, maxed the RAM, swapped in a DVD burner, made her wireless, added Firewire and USB and ditched the old 6GB HD for a 60GB.

Even pimped the case. Machine's corporate code name was “Wallstreet”, but I wanted it to look not like a broker's hoopty, but something a CEO would rock, So I tricked it out with a case customization. Deep red to simulate the leather of a bigwig's office couch, and a mahogany inlay to get that wood-paneled “club” look. I changed the machine's name from Wallstreet, to “Mogul”

That machine is pictured at the top of the post.

And in my troubleshooting, hobbyist travels over the years, my red beauty is not alone here at Casa de LM. So many Macs have passed through my hands—cast-offs that people handed me, trades from other repair folk, and my own curiosities that I've gathered out of my collector's spirit (Computers, vintage sports jerseys, vintage radios, records, and action figures), that I've got quite a group of Macs of my own—not including the numerous ones I've rebuilt and upgraded and given away to schools, friends and family.

This picture is of the various Macs in my personal collection. More than enough to make an Apple hater sick for months. And every one of 'em works!


Clockwise from top left:
A.) My workhorse Graphics Dual 1.25 GHZ G4—tricked out with 3 HDs (one for system, one for media, one as a scratch disk), then my son's tricked-out GarageBand G4 Dualie (3 HDs also), and my first truly powerful desktop, a G4-upgraded Blue & White “G3” (with 4 HDs). All had their old optical drives swapped out for DVD burners. The Quicksilver and Blue & White I got from a swap list. So cheap, it hurt! :)

B.) The displays for those machines—one's an Apple monitor, the other a castoff Dell I rescued from a canvas dumpster.

C.) My workhorse PowerBook G4 1 GHZ. maxed out the RAM, dropped in a 120 GB HD...Ohhhh, she runs sweet. Note her twin in the BG at left. Got 'em both free for brokering a deal with a guy who had a surplus of 'em gently used and I put him in touch with a program that needed laptops.

D.) My red beauty “Mogul”. Steve was gonna clonk me on the head for this baby when I let him hold her in his hands. He and I had gone back and forth “nyah-nyah-ing” each other online about Macs supposed inability to be customized. They can be. This was an old 233 MHZ G3 when I got her from eBay for $150. Two months later it was a 550 MHZ G4 with a DVD burner, monster HD, maxed RAM and the custom case pimping. Pop ya' collah, son!

E.) My wall of vintage PowerBooks. from L to R, the aforementioned 540C (“Blackbird“), as featured in Mission: Impossible I (Ving Rhames used that model), my beloved 1400C (“Epic”) that started life as a 133 MHZ but got Frankensteined into a 466 MHZ G3 with a fat HD, and lastly, my still awesome 3400C (“Hooper”) 240 MHZ sub-woofered monster. Some of the best sound of any laptop ever produced—4 speakers! (and the model Jeff Goldblum used in “Independence Day”)

F.) The same 1 GHZ Titanium as shown on the opposite side—except the desktop pic of a Bond-era Jill St. John is visible minus the browser window. Redheads...“sigh!”. (Mrs. LM never sees that desktop pic. I switch to my Dodge Charger from “Bullitt” when she strolls by.)

And G.) The Wonder Twins at the bottom—2 Mirror Drive Door G4s. One is my main A/V machine (I do the YouTubes on it), a Dual 1.4 GHZ rip-snorter with 2GB of RAM, three HDs, Two burners) and the backup/loaner (for friends) machine, a total twin. Atop the twins are the fraternal twins—the aforementioned “Mogul” PowerBook at left, and at right its twin under the hood, but with a shiny black marble inlay. My brother's getting that machine for Christmas.

Just fell in love with the look of 'em, and how they worked. Not pictured—my first PowerBook, a 145B with a B&W screen. That one's packed away at Mom's house in the attic. Also not pictured, the display for the A/V machine.

As you can see...I don't like Macs even a little bit. :)

Okay, I'm being facetious. I love my Macs. As for Jobs? Eh. He's just a dude.

Put him in an animatronic exhibit? Don't really care. Want to impress folks? Truly represent computer/communication history with a Cheeto-chomping (with cheesey scent piped in) animatronic internet troll. Yeah!