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By Standabove
February 6, 2001

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Wow.

I never set out to fan the flames of Wintel hatred, but it wasn't an altogether unpleasant experience!

For the record, I don't hate Windows at all. I prefer the Mac for a number of reasons, and I do believe it to be superior in terms of usability and functionality. But, then again I prefer brunettes to blonds, Ford over Chevy, and David Lee Roth over Sammy Hagar. I'm open minded enough to accept a world that doesn't necessarily concur with my every little whim. I enjoy teasing Windows users the same way I enjoy teasing the cross-town college football rivals. If I could go to Redmond to steal the Microsoft mascot (who I believe is that little guy with the moneybag from Monopoly) before the big game, I would.

I actually get along with my Win2000 machine at the office pretty well. It's the modern day equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction- my machine agrees not to give me too many problems and I agree not to take it on a one way trip to the Artillery range. There are even a few features of Win that I appreciate, namely the ability to multitask without fear of losing the entire machine to a system freeze (a problem that should be corrected with X.) The bottom line is that I can appreciate that someone may prefer Windows and don't begrudge them that.

But, for me, the most damning thing about Windows as a piece of technology is how difficult an unintuitive it is to configure and trouble shoot. It's untidy. I think expecting a peripheral to work upon plugging it in isn't out of line. Nor should I fear unplugging it for fear of wreaking havoc with my desktop. That's pretty basic stuff, but you wouldn't know it by trying to do it in some cases. In fact, perhaps one of you engineer types can explain to me why third party peripherals don't have drivers and other necessary software embedded in the device itself, so that merely plugging it in installs the necessary software?

People who have been here for a while know it's a pet peeve of mine that so many people equate complexity with intelligence. I don't want to have to learn a great deal of minutia to execute what I consider to be simple tasks. I can't build a vacuum tube mainframe that reads punch cards either, but that doesn't make me stupid. I think it makes me practical. There is so much that modern technology offers us in terms of expanding possibilities. I prefer to see more of that potential realized then have to constantly sharpen my proficiency at feeding the machine. For me, the Mac comes closer to that ideal than Windows.

I know very little about how, exactly, my Mac does what it does. A couple of months ago I purchased a Dell at a government liquidation sale for $50, again to assist my wife with her degree (my wife is sometimes more trouble than she's worth. But that's for another post.) I grabbed a beer from the fridge and jumped in. The hard drive had been stripped and when I tried to load Windows, I couldn't get the machine to recognize what was being loaded from either the CD or the DD. Eventually, I called in the big gun that, in this case, was a data systems officer I know. It took him about 8 hours to finally fix all the problems, which had something to do with the BIOS and SCSI interface (or something like that). I began asking questions about the whole process and, between a few more beers, he started explaining all sorts of things about how disks are mounted and how they interface with the BIOS yadda, yadda. I'm not embarrassed to say I have no idea what any of this means, so when he tries to draw parallels with the Mac as a way of explanation (he had used a Mac maybe once in his life) he couldn't believe that I didn't know the answer to some of his questions. Eventually we transitioned to the den where my G4 lives and I proceeded to show him how the Mac worked.

"How do you move files from one disk to the other?"

"Like this" I say as I drag the icon from one spot to the other.

"No, I mean what about the file path. How do you reconfigure it?"

"Reconfigure what, you just move it like this!"

"That's your hard drive?"

"Yes."

"How is it mounted to the system?"

"Mounted? Look man, all I know is that little icon there is the hard drive. If you attach another drive to it," I attach a CD/RW, "then another little icon appears."

At this point the whole exchange devolves into a bad Abbot and Costello routine. I don't remember the exact details of the conversation, as by this time we were surrounded by several dead soldiers (empty beer cans) and proceeded on to sing Irish drinking songs of OS's gone by ("What would ya do with a broken hard drive, eyrle in tha' morn-in!")

The point, if I have one, is that the Mac's brilliance lies in that it's built so that I very seldom need to know how it works. It is empowering vice consuming. That in turn allows me to use my machine for that which it was intended, like video editing, financial databasing, word processing, and surfing for naked pictures of Jennifer Lopez.

I personally know few Mac users. I am definitely a sheep among the wolves as far as that goes. So, I know very few Mac users who are evangelistic when it comes to their platform choice (I know they're out there, they're just not on Okinawa!). OTOH, Wintel users who seem offended that I have made a choice at odds with theirs constantly barrage me. Most of my conversations with these people have the same tenor as if I had answered the question "Have you been to the hospital lately" with "No, I don't use hospitals. I use leeches."

"Leeches!?"

"Yup. Leeches."

Then comes the conversion pitch, which would make a Jehovah's Witness blush. IMO, most of these people are addicted to the machine, and have no comparable frame of reference because they've never used anything but Windows.

I suppose that is why so many Mac users come off as defensive and are sometimes referred to as cultish. It's a symptom of being violently in the minority and being preached to by an often uninformed majority. I have no problem if you choose to be a Windows user. I also have no doubt that for some, perhaps even many, Windows offers a superior computing alternative to Mac. But, for God's sake, spare me your condescension because I choose not to use it.

Ideally, what I would prefer is a world in which Macs and Wintels, along with those pesky Linux boxes, can all feed of one another, each excelling at something only to be one-upped by the other. Then we might see true evolution as the computer we use today becomes a more useful and practical part of our lives instead of the dull homogeny that currently passes for progress.

At any rate, life is too short for me to worry about whether or not you use Windows or Mac. Hopefully, this smoothes over any bruised feelings and stops the death threats.

Standabove