The Apple Conundrum Part 1

OK, just to be clear first and foremost; this is not to start a flame war.  I am writing this about my own experiences and observations using computers and personal electronics.  Not everyone knows computers to the same degree, so I’m going to simplify things as best I can without coming across as children’s programming.

I would tend to think that I have a little more expirience using a computer than most people.  Not all people, mind you, but most.  I own a Mac and a PC and use Windows and OS X (sometimes at the same time).  I’ve had to teach myself how to recover from any sort of system crash in Windows, and that there isn’t really a way to recover from a crash in OS X (so don’t go screwing around in there).  But it wasn’t until this last weekend that I think I might have hit upon the fundamental difference between an Apple and a PC.

PC users expect more of their machine.

I know, it sounds weird to read it, and it really sounds weird to say it.  Even most PC users have bought into the idea that a Mac is very capable and pretty but just for people who want to do specialized things.  Mac users think that PC users just like to torture themselves with unstable operating systems and complex interfaces.  And to a moderate degree, both are right.  However, each one could learn something from the other.  

This weekend I decided to increase the size of my Windows partition on my computer.  My main machine is an iMac running OS X Leopard, and I had installed Windows Vista Ultimate using BootCamp some time ago.  When I had done it, I figured I’d be using Leopard as often as I used Vista, so I gave Vista a little less than half the drive.  Fast forward to present day, and my Windows drive was nearly full.

After searching around on the forums, it seemed there was no definitive way to re-size the drive partition.  Long time Mac users suggested simply blowing away the Windows installation and starting over.  Long time Windows users were aghast at such a suggestion.  No middle ground could be found.

After much searching and reading, I came across a method that involved saving an image of my Windows partition to an external disc (hopefully ensuring nothing was lost) and wiping out the partition.  After 5 hours of working, the image was complete and the Windows partition was no more.  I launched BootCamp again and told it to create a new Windows drive, this time giving vista 95% of the drive.  It churned for some time before telling me it couldn’t . . . something about files in the wrong place.

I panicked.  Sure, my Windows image was secure on my external drive, but what good was that if I couldn’t access any of it?!  The exact error message even suggested that I blow away my Leopard installation and start the whole computer from scratch.  After a LOT of searching online, it became very clear that most other Apple aficionados didn’t find this a bit odd in the slightest; if that’s what the error message said to do, there’s no reason not to do it!

At some point, an explanation came up as to why the computer was having a fit.  It would appear that after I installed Vista, Leopard just started saving files willy-nilly all over the drive.  Now that I wanted to resize the drive, Leopard couldn’t handle that because some files were sitting in the space I was wanting to use!

The average user is either scratching their head right now, or stopped reading this awhile ago.  The average PC tech is thinking, “No biggie . . . just defrag the drive!”  Except Leopard doesn’t have a defragment utility!  According to Apple, the OS does it automatically without ever involving you.  Of course, they lie, since everyone on the Apple forums who runs into this problem is surprised to find that their drive is heavily fragmented.

The solution?  Either wipe out the entire computer and start over (as the error message told me to) or buy a 3rd party program to do a task that the OS should have had included.  Long story short (too late!), I was able to get everything redone just right (more than doubling the space that Vista has available to it) without resorting to a full format of my machine.

How does this relate to my observation at the beginning of this post?  Well it sort of came to me when everyone on the Apple forums and Support were telling me to go ahead and format my machine and reinstall from CD.  When I explained that I really didn’t feel like reinstalling everything I had ever done, they asked me why hadn’t I ever done a backup.  It’s apparently expected of people that if they are going to buy a Mac, then you are also going to buy a backup drive, because there is no way to recover from system errors than to format the sucker!  

PC users expect more of their machines: They expect them not to crash and lose everything you might have done and swallow it into the Void, never to be accessed again.  They expect to have the ability to upgrade the system past its original specs, and not have to scrap the whole thing to buy the latest model (and migrate their files with the obligatory backups they’ve been creating).  They expect to walk into an electronics store and have everything in the store work with their system!

Meanwhile, Apple still touts normal funtions like they are revolutionary!  A perfect case in point is the newest iPhone ads, going something like this:

This is how you play music on it.  This is how you can play games.  This is how you can read your email, texts, and the internet on it.  This is how you use it to get directions.  This is how you can even find and download new applications.  And this is when you realize . . . IT’S ALMOST LIKE YOUR PC!!!

I made up that last part, but I think you get the idea.


Part two for tomorrow.

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  1. I hate to agree with you Zuke, just because of the simple fact that I would be agreeing with you, but. . .

    Recently, my friends whom I am staying with, wanted to listen to music on their iMac. Okay, a little older computer and all. They had been complaining that disk space on it was almost full so they went ahead and threw all their music and photos on their external hard drive. Okay. That’s fine. It’s exactly the same set-up I have for my PC. All my music on my external. So. . . I go to open up their iTunes. It is a Mac, after all, and they do have an iPod, which they had previously plugged into the Mac to suck out lovely music in the past. . . blah. blah. blah. Their iTunes wouldn’t allow them to pull music from the external drive and put it on the play list. Older Mac. Yes, I know. I fiddled around with it, to no avail. Ellen, whom was sitting at the computer, I kept telling her, “You should be able to just click and drag from the other drive. . .” Should. You can access the other drive, sure no problem. Could not click and drag. I finally gave up, frustrated.

    Using my PC techie knowledge, I told her that we should go through her computer and try to see if there are any programs that she has on there, that we could delete, therefore giving her some more free space. She found one and proceeded to drag it to the trash can. I, dumbfounded, asked what she was doing. She informed me that it was how you delete a program. I went, “Uhhh. . ” and asked about all the components and extensions. She thought for a moment, and then ran a search for anything by that file name. I told her that it wouldn’t cut it. She was baffled by what I was asking her to do. She then informed me that if the program had extensions, it probably would have an uninstaller program, and since it didn’t, obviously she could just put it in the trash.

    This is obviously short hand of the incidents. Her family has been Mac users forever. I hope the newer Mac OS has an add/remove program feature. It just seems bizarre to me to NOT have one. . . .

    I have been told that I over-think it. I reply that I just am used to, you know, thinking, and since I know how to use a computer, I don’t think I will ever be able to un-learn to use how to use a Mac.

  2. I’m a Mac hater. This just confirms what I’ve been feeling all along. Sure, they do have a purpose if you’re into film editing or art stuff but other than that, I see no purpose to own a Mac. (Unless of course your company buys it and then you get to keep it when you quit.) Mac owners think that their farts don’t stink but, in reality, as you pointed out, they smell worse than those of Windows users. Mac farts do have pretty colors associated with them though. Of course, so do mine when I’ve eaten at Betos.

    A few years ago I was helping my dad set up his computer to connect to my sistwireless network. He had a Windows PC, she used a Mac. Because she used a Mac, she had all of the Mac accessories including a Mac wireless router. The thing cost $250 and did less than my $60 Netgear router! That’s some awesome marketing on Apple’s part though to convince their mindless horde of cultists to spend money like they do. Poor fools…

    I will say this though about Apple, their devices are pretty. OS X’s GUI is very slick and the iPhone is a nice device. However, I prefer functionality over looks in my computers. Windows allows this. If Windows crashes, I fix it, not reformat. Reformatting is Gateway tech support talk. It doesn’t sit well with me.

    One more thing, Apple’s marketing is a lie. Instead of saying “I’m a Mac.” “And I’m a PC.”, they should be saying “I’m a PC with a Mac based OS.” “And I’m a PC with a Windows based OS.” THEY’RE BOTH PC’S! Both computers use Intel chips, either OS will load on either machine, and they’re both personal computers. Again though, it goes back to their marketing. Freaking geniuses.

  3. Zohner, look back for my post “I’m a Mac, no you’re not”.

    Halley, actually that IS how you uninstall programs. Wanna know how you install programs? You drag them into your applications folder. That’s it! It’s a very special type of interface (by which I mean “stop eating the paste!” special). Each program is a self contained system, while the OS simply needs to know how to handle such systems. This is the Mac OS’s greatest strength; programs don’t negatively effect each other, it’s very easy to kill rogue process threads, and it’s hard for a virus to take hold. It’s also the OS’s greatest weakness, as there is NO interoperability between programs. (BTW, to update the iTunes library, you first need to blow away the old database. It’s somewhere in the iTunes options, though I forget where. If you aren’t careful and simply tell iTunes where your music is, it will assume you put it there on accident and “import it” back to its original location.)

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