Well, at least that’s settled

Looking back over the blog can be a bit dispiriting. Many of the arguments we are having now were being conducted, in much the same terms, back in 2002. There is, however, at least one exception, even if it’s a relatively minor one. When I started, I included a category “Mac and other computers”, planned to express my position as a member of the beleaguered but enthusiastic minority of Macintosh users.

I’m posting this in a Starbucks in Washington DC[1] and every customer in the store, including me obviously, is working on either a MacBook or an iPhone. That’s fairly typical of my recent experience, so I think I can safely say that this issue has been settled. Of course, now that Apple is no longer the underdog, there are plenty of reasons for concern about its corporate policies, but those are more related to issues like Intellectual “property”

So, this is the last post in the “Mac and other computers” category. If only I could say the same for “Boneheaded stupidity”.

fn1. Not the kind of place I’d ever go in Australia, but decent independent coffee shops are just about non-existent here.

56 thoughts on “Well, at least that’s settled

  1. The loneliness of the long distance thinker in the dull after glow that has succeded the euphoria of the turn of the century and the” roaring noughties”.
    I’d imagine the blogsite would be of value to folk with an ethnological or sociological bent as it probably points to certain behaviour patterns, over time, that indicate the comprehension level of a certain demographic and its responses to events occurring in terms of say self interest and altruism and how that is expressed in reactions to change, as with Hansonism and labour policy, say.
    Maybe the blog is a minor thing to its author, like some of Shakespeare’s plays were to him when he was writing that today are considered important and telling examples of things Shakespeare wouldnt have imagined or beleived, when he was noodling away.
    I don’t think you are disappointed in the blog, professor, as much as amused and maybe disturbed at the attitudes and behaviours of a working section of demographic relative to educational level and social, poltical and cultural conditioning and the possibility that less obvious factors determine at least to some extent the responses even of the few genuinely intelligent and wise folk youve met as a subject at this stage in human evolution and actually occurring history.

  2. Due to a lack of ready cash, I am stuck with using a PC with Win7 on it. I must say, I’ll stay to my prediction that MS will be out of business by 2020.

    The lack of world progess on key fronts especially renewable energy, sustainability and reducing CO2 emissions, though depressing, was completely predictable.

    Both MS and the world will learn the truth about limits to growth and collapse.

  3. I have had Macs back to 1984 starting with an SE (which still sits on a shelf). I just bought my latest, the wonderful MacPro. The interesting thing though was that the Mac shop, which once upon a time would have had computers on display and numerous models out in the store room to choose from, had none in stock (had to be ordered in from the warehouse in Sydney). Hadn’t in fact sold a “proper computer” in some time. All of the displays, and their efforts, were now based on ipads, ipods and iphones (and all the associated gizmos and gadgets), with a few MacBooks. It seems the days of having a “computer” on your desk, as I have had for 25 years, may be nearly at an end, and one day this lightning fast MacPro will join the SE and the G3 and the G5 (I traded in the others in the series) on the shelf as a dodo.

  4. I understand Macintosh machines are very good but I’ve never felt the need to use one. On the one occasion that I did (in 1994 or so), it was a highly unsatisfying exercise — taking a long time and neither teaching me anything nor producing useful output, and I ended up digging out a spirit duplicator to pront the worksheet I wanted.

    Maybe PC systems are simply what you get used to.

    Disclosure: I now have an iPad and an Android.

    Note: the proprietary nature of the iPad does impose some limitations and costs that would not apply to a more generic device but it’s a fun little thing

  5. I haven’t seen a Mac Pro for a while. For most normal applications (including the nonlinear econometric stuff I do for example) an iMac or MacBook is fine. I have an iMac at work and use a MacBook at home (on a stand with extra keyboard and mouse when used at a desk). Used Macs since 1988 partially and mostly exclusively since 1991 after one of my PhD advisors said: “Why are you wasting your life trying to use that machine” as I was trying to econometrics on an old PC that was malfunctioning.

  6. yay for marketing!!

    Still very happy with my PC, available in almost infinite flavours at far less cost.

  7. Re now vs 2002 there is at least one difference: Australian coal has added ~8 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere.

  8. itunes is by far the most irritating program that I’ve ever used. I’ve got four computers in my house but cant use my iPhone with more than one of them without wiping everything off it. Designed purposefully to be inconvenient! And it’s no coincidence that Apple dont make a version of iTunes for Linux – they are a worse enemy of open source software than even microsoft. Of course the whole point is that you cant share files with your friends; I think that’s why Apple is endlessly promoted in the modern media, their products are designed to protect intellectual property and copyright in the internet age.

  9. If you buy a PC you can put Linux on it. Then you have Windows and Linux (and Ubuntu is a million times better than Mac OS, although you do need to set everything up whereas with a new mac everything works out of the box).

    If you buy a mac you pay several hundred extra branding premium, and then if you want Windows too (because lots of programs dont work on the mac) you got to pay several hundred extra. So all in all, a PC is a better deal. But less aesthetically pleasing to look at.

    (And the new imacs are made out of the most horribly scratchy, scrapy aluminium material. And their silly little keyboards cannot survive being wiped with a wet cloth).

  10. After years of defending the PC position I have switched to MAC and I use an IPHONE and IPAD. Two (independent) viruses on my PC left me in deep dod-daa over the past year – both picked up via a USB’s unprotected intercourse with university computers. I’ll probably be disappointed with the switch – the ‘grass is always greener’ etc – but I want a standard machine that works reliably and is not virus prone.

  11. @hc
    Another inconvenient truth is that macs are virus prone. The first scan with my antiviris smoked out 13 trojans. Of course the early alerts were loss of all the i-thingys: photo, calendar etc. ( My OS is 10.4.11)
    Beware. Use the prophylactic at all times.

  12. Yes, I’d say this is hardly an improvement. Apple offers a completely inflexible user experience, DRM crippled rigs chock full of resource-hogging antifeatures, and an atmosphere of benevolent authoritarianism. Thanks to Steve Jobs, we are now in an era when even changing the battery on a cell phone is considered a job for experts.

    I’m sticking with Ubuntu.

  13. I own more than one PC – an ASUS laptop which is fairly portable and has a few years in it yet; and, a new Samsung netbook with Win 7. I’ve used Apple computer products in the past and its been a mixed experience, pretty much as has my PC experience. Microsloth with NT vs 95 vs Apple O/S (sorry, proper name has faded from wet-ware memory) as the choices wasn’t great, but these days I really don’t have much concern over Win 7 vs Apple equivalent (sorry, not implying that there is an equivalent, so Apple users don’t take offence at such an outrageous idea). It is still early days for the netbook with Win 7, so I can’t claim expertise yet. On the other hand, what has needed adjusting?

    Where Apple is an important company, it is IMHO the innovations with regards to design. Apple is vibrant again, willing to risk a bit by taking audacious design steps. Of course, they then milk it for all it is worth, eg iPods, but fair enough. Anyway, the thing is that this behaviour is a challenge to the other bigger players to continuously step up. We now have a mind-crushing amount of compute power in a fingernail worth of silicon that makes Gibson’s “Neuromancer” novel a rather quaint classic, a bit Jules Verne in how the science and technology has passed it by. BladeRunner, on the other hand…what a movie.

    Sadly, the blackhats get the Apple goodies to use too. Comes with the territory, nowadays.

  14. Speaking as a non tech person I work with a Mac at home and much prefer it to the PC experience at work. In five years at home no technical glitches – wouldn’t switch back if I was paid

  15. @Ikonoclast

    [off topic]

    The lack of world progress on key fronts especially renewable energy, sustainability and reducing CO2 emissions, though depressing, was completely predictable.

    You might like to listen to Tim Flannery’s interview on the ABC Science Show for a different take on this: Reasons to be Hopeful

    His idea that CO2 reduction is a long term objective, and one we can be cautiously hopeful about is one I’d agree with. Despite the current craziness here and elsewhere there are some significant positives.

  16. @gerard
    You can use your iphone with more than one of your itunes equipped computers (non-iOS ipods are a different story). Just be careful what you set each computer to sync on the iphone. I use one computer to sync the video on my iphone, and another to sync the music. I can use either to sync contacts and cal.

    On software compatibility, there’s plenty of mac software I wish I could run on my windows machine as well (I have two macs, one windows, one linux). As you know, linux and mac are very similar under the GUI. And re your screed about Apple and open source, a large part of Webkit (the browser rendering engine that safari, chrome, and most smartphone browsers use) is Apple developed and open source.

    Regarding DRM on media files, that’s all about keeping the media producers happy (even if Apple could buy up most of Hollywood with the cash it’s got). And, for what it’s worth, respecting the DRM is optional…

  17. wilful :
    yay for marketing!!

    Yer that about sums it up. Everyone wants to join the awesome apple fanboi club. truly amazing marketing job, other company’s could learn a lot from apple.

  18. On the PC wars, MacOS does have pretty much NetBSD under it, drop into the terminal and you’ve got an easy ability to run almost anything Unix. And it’s got the friendly stuff that Linux still doesn’t. As far as compatibility goes I’ve spent today stuffing around with cygwin to get my work PC to play with hadoop. And path stuff always creates problems. Not a problem with MacOS. There’s a reason (apart from fashion) huge numbers of developers use Macs
    And those viruses you found Edd were almost certainly PC viruses – Macs tend to be carriers but are very rarely susceptible themselves
    But Apple’s corporate and marketing behaviour does suck. Everything’s predicated on making more money. They’re a great example of US style capitalism, building their own monopoly.
    On the other hand I’ve got a windows 7 desktop at home as well as the MacBook Pro and it’s a surprisingly good OS for typical consumer type activities.

  19. John, that seems like confirmation bias to me. Macs are definitely more popular, but despite common belief, power users still plump for Linux or ms. Macs demographic is out of the box users which I would argue is a decreasing demographic. As for smartphone, I just swapped from iPhone to android and I’m not alone – it just passed ios in market share. Finally, widen your sample size – a coffee shop in a highly transitory, young, wealthy (at least a high concentration of wealth) city which prides itself on being the power centre of the world will give u bias. My point; macs are overpriced status symbols before they’re good quality computers.

  20. @John
    There’s no chance iOS or Android will ever dominate the smartphone market. Ultimately the network operators control that market, and the last thing they want is a dominant handset maker that’ll lever them to cheaper anything or whatever will upset them. iOS is, so far, a much better proposition for app developers because of the fragmentation of android and the lack of updates (for eg, Samsung isn’t updating the OS on it’s handsets that are only six months old). Apple seem to have a better organized supply chain too – that’s why they make 48% of all the profit made on mobile phone sales.

  21. Regarding DRM on media files, that’s all about keeping the media producers happy (even if Apple could buy up most of Hollywood with the cash it’s got). And, for what it’s worth, respecting the DRM is optional…

    Yes, and we’ve already seen that with iTunes music (’twas the labels who needed to ok getting rid of DRM finally). Apple allow you to rip/import your own music to unencumbered AAC or MP3 – again, not the actions of a DRMopolist (see Sony and Microsoft for the industry norm that Apple bucked).

    On Open Source… feh. From Apple themselves:

    “As the first major computer company to make Open Source development a key part of its ongoing software strategy, Apple remains committed to the Open Source development model. Major components of Mac OS X, including the UNIX core, are made available under Apple’s Open Source license, allowing developers and students to view source code, learn from it and submit suggestions and modifications. In addition, Apple uses software created by the Open Source community, such as the HTML rendering engine for Safari, and returns its enhancements to the community.

    Apple believes that using Open Source methodology makes Mac OS X a more robust, secure operating system, as its core components have been subjected to the crucible of peer review for decades. Any problems found with this software can be immediately identified and fixed by Apple and the Open Source community.”


    But you go on believing what you want, sonny.

  22. They should release a fanboi app that detects comments critical of apple on the internet and accuses the people who make them of being trolls. automate this clockwork like process.

    If apple really wanted openness, then they’d let you drag and drop files to and from your iphone

    or if that’s too much to ask, at the very least they could put out a version of itunes for linux, after all these years.

    oh well, not long til the Nexus S comes out.

  23. EWI, that’s spin – the reality is that Apple has taken far more from the Open Source community than it ever intends giving back, and its whole business model is founded on closely linking hardware and software in proprietary formats.

    There are distinct advantages in each of the three major PC desktop OS’, with each of these advantages being more important for differing customers. Certainly if you’ve got even a smidgeon of tehnical nous and willingness to tinker then it is hard to go past the Ubuntu family. OTOH Apple, precisely because of its closed nature, “just works”. I can’t see the attraction of Windows unless you need unusual apps, you’re into gaming, or you find it too hard and costly to change. But there are plenty of people in each of those categories.

  24. @EWI
    ???????? What’s with the “pirating copies of iLife”? Why would you bother ?
    Go sit in the corner.

  25. I started with an original 128k Mac in 1983, and have accumulated a museum including an SE, a II, a MacPortable, an original iMac, a G2 iPod and a G4 laptop. Most still run. Plus peripherals and printers. Apple, now that it’s become a giant, is no longer so whimsical in its software offerings and, more importantly, no longer as supportive of its customers – OS upgrades used to be free for example. Along the way, it’s seen off IBM and faced down MicroSoft, and even survived being run by a CEO from the soft drink industry. As you say, Prof Q, the war is at last over – a conclusion I came to a year or two back when I spotted Apple products in Harvey Norman.

  26. Re: sitting in Starbucks – you’re lucky! I went away for a couple of weeks and upon return discover my regular coffee shop is now a dodo…drat! An empty shut up shop. Not a single Apple device in sight though 🙂

  27. in todays fin page18(that’s thurs jan 20 2010)
    there is a graph showing investment spending against unemployment.
    from 1990 to 2010.

    the lack of small coffee places is what caught my eye.(i know,i know i have a tiny mind)

    don’t have apple don’t have microsoft.

  28. As I am about to make the move to MAC I am interested in Edd’s comments on the need for anti-virus software with a MAC.

    I am told you need it if you run the Windows emulation programs. I also see that several anti-virus products for MAC software exist?

    Are they in fact necessary? Does running to emulator program weaken the whole system by making the whole system vulnerable to viruses?

  29. Jesus Christ, John – “posting this in a Starbucks in Washington DC”! And dreaming of a new Mac? I thought you were a prole like the rest of us. I paid $100 for this old laptop and it’s provided sterling service.

  30. @hc There’s no need. To be fair to microsoft, there’s very little need in windows 7 either (XP and earlier are a security disaster).

  31. We have used macs for years – some time ago I was concerned about viruses and ran an anti virus program only to find out that the program was the virus.

  32. @hc
    I started losing parts of iLife and then Bookmarks and Address Book and email history bit by bit. It got worse after I tried to correct permissions, lost the lot. No other files were interfered with. Local Mac guy found 6 viruses and 1 trojan. Bought the antivirus about a month later. Local guy did not stock av software because most Mac users don’t believe etc etc.
    And yes Dorothy there are Mac viruses. Ask any Mac repairman not the salesman.
    (Of course I backed up)

  33. Apple will take over soon – my daughter starts high school this year and they are all getting Macs which they will use and update through the entire school. Somebody did some good marketing there. That’s a whole generation who will not have used a PC by the time they start work.

  34. Starbucks – the business model that swamped locailties with starbucks cafes until every other coffee shop lost their business and went broke, whereupon starbucks is left with most of the towns coffee shop business and then and only then reduces its shops to a profitable number…

    Im in agreement with May. What on earth were you doing in starbucks?…dont tell me…I already know..there were no other coffee places around. You should have known you would cop a roasting over this one (pardon the dreadful pun)

    Give me the old railway cafe any day.

  35. @Hal9000

    a conclusion I came to a year or two back when I spotted Apple products in Harvey Norman.

    This was, of course, some time after Gerry Harvey had said “Apple have lost. Microsoft have won” or something similar.

  36. @Alice
    Starbucks has only done well in countries where the coffee culture sucked. In the US, coffee was a 50 cent cup of filtered horse dung until Starbucks discovered there were people wanting something better and would pay 5 bucks for for a venti schmenti somthingorather. Blame the culture, and that enough people had travelled to other parts of the world and new a better cup of coffee was possible. Starbucks is also very successful in the UK, for the same reasons. But not here (stores have closed!) because there is a coffee culture here. We can thank the post-war immigrants from the Mediterranean world for that. Understand the modern espresso machine wasn’t invented until 1945 (and a pump wasn’t added until 1961). The pre-WW1 Italians and so on that went to the US did not take with them quite the strong coffee culture they took to Australia.

    I’ve been to plenty of places in the US where Starbucks was the only alternative to that warm brown goop they call coffee in that country. But what irks me even more is the near impossibility of getting coffee in a porcelain cup. All the best coffee I’ve ever had in the US has been in good restaurants where there’s an espresso machine, someone who cares, and a real cup to put it in. And they’re the only places you can get good coffee in that country.

  37. I don’t think MS and the hardware manufacturers that use it’s software will just roll over. Will those independent manufacturers load an apple OS as an alternative or will the model of integrated hardware and software both dominate and be wholly monopolised by Apple? Is that dominance a good thing? Anyway, is one coffee shop in one part of Washington a representative sample? A bit more statistical rigour required Pr. Quiggin.

    What I can say is that a macbook was never in the reach of my budget and suspect that’s a widespread phenomena that will endure.

    As for Linux – when someone like me can install it and have my old printer and scanner work, have it recognise my modem, play my MP3’s, use my external sound device and the cubase software I sometimes record with and all without endless searches of the internet for drivers that don’t exist (back to Windows to do that – modem not recognised) and install it all without resort to an unintelligible command prompt language reminiscent of MS-dos… then maybe. Not holding my breath.

  38. Ken, not sure when you last tried the alternatives? A Macbook is $1199. And Ubuntu now at least comes close to your requirements. But I think with Windows 7 MS aren’t too likely to just disappear. Another vista might have done it though 😀 And I also agree with you that an Apple monopoly would not be a good thing (Just as an MS monopoly wasn’t).

  39. Paul, the price difference is significant by my standards irrespective of perceived value for money. What I have does more than I need without pain; should I feel deprived?
    I did try Ubuntu not too long ago but (I admit) prior to upgrading all around but a common as dirt canon printer and no drivers for that one particular model was very frustrating. The ubuntu experience was unpleasant enough to make me reluctant to ever try it again. Topped off by lack of instructions for getting the OS and the bootloader off my hard drive.

  40. Aren’t we looking at an increasingly Internet-centred computing model? The majority of personal time I spend on a computer is using a browser, which is close to an identical environment on Mac, Windows, Linux or a tablet. Add to this a few standard player and media storage/basic edit applications which are very similar on different platforms and I’m close to done. I would like to store nothing that I could loose irrevocably on a local machine, but can’t quite yet.

    In this environment, the platform war doesn’t actually amount to a lot. The Google launch of Chrome OS shows that a full browser based system is actually pretty close. The idea that a browser could replace an OS and a stack of applications would have sounded pretty weird a couple of years ago. It has massive positives for the average non-technical user (who might actually produce a conventional document a few times a month) including zero installation, reliable backups, and relegating major crashes to nuisance value. I expect this mode of computing will take off once the trust and familiarity are there.

    Specialist will likely require desktop OS and their particular applications for some time. Google docs doesn’t replace applications like Photoshop and InDesign. Though who knows? Big Photoshop transformations might crunch a little faster on the cloud.

    At work I need to run a Microsoft desktop OS to access development and management tools for our Microsoft server environment. On the user side, we would like more choice on platform. We run a horrendous number of specialist health applications in addition to the standard set of office applications. The preference is for for browser-based clients to these application because they require zero installation and allow a mix of end user devices. This Nirvana will take time to reach but enough is already in place to allow some peripatetic hospital users to run tablets.

  41. Fair enough, Ken. A bit of looking around and I found some good windows laptops for 2/3 the macbook price. To be honest the main frustration I have with my work Windows laptop vs my home Mac laptop is the lack of the multitouch touchpad, it drives me crazy not having two finger swipes. For me multi touch is much better than any mouse, let alone your average touchpad.

    And Jim I kind of agree with where you’re going, but I think the ipad is well positioned to capitalise on this, so it will only strengthen Apple.

  42. @Peter Evans
    I guess that means you dont agree with my suggestion that the starbucks business model (and Gloria Jeans for that matter) is to deluge, strangle existing competition and retreat slightly?
    The coffee isnt that special actually and its oversized (like many other US foodie businesses).

  43. Jim, it sounds like a new model that requires lots of bandwidth – my laptop came with access to online storage but my satellite internet connection is both too slow and too expensive to make it useful for more than documents. A full hard drive image is out of the question and I don’t expect my rural location will get fibre connection any time soon. Having backups right here on discs and hard drive might only seem more secure than online storage – could be all lost in a fire or storm – but I’d probably remain nervous about total reliance on remote storage.

  44. @Alice
    No. I think they are terrible. Gloria Jeans also has some Hillsong buy-in. Couldn’t be more off. But neither is anything like as successful here as they (or their equivalent) are in the US and the UK, for the reason I outlined.

    On the other hand, the evils of US fast food companies continue unabated.

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