I am a Mac-user. Obviously, or I wouldn't be developing an application in Cocoa for OS X. I like OS X. Actually, I love OS X. OS X is a wonderful operating system. And Apple machines look rather nice. THIS DOES NOT MAKE APPLE COMPUTER INFALLIBLE. It just means they have some good software engineers and designers. Okay. There, I said it. Now go ahead and flame me all you want.
Again and again I am baffled by the fanboy-ism of a certain breed of Mac user. This is, I know, only a sub-species of Mac user which just happens to be the most vocal. They no doubt emerged from the same shallows of the gene pool as did PlayStation and Xbox fanboys who have endless slanging matches about which console is "best". They do Apple no favours. Such fervent and inherently irrational devotion to a computer manufacturing corporation put me off buying a Mac for years. (I still feel queasy if I have to step into the Apple church of Scientology, sorry, I mean Regent Street store.) The quiet majority are a much better advertisement for Apple; I doubt you will ever find Phillip Pullman on a forum accusing anybody of being a Microsoft troll merely for stating that they have a problem with an Apple product, as did one poster to the Apple support forums today:
"Quite honestly I think a majority of the complaints are coming from non-Mac users who have infiltrated these newsgroups. As an OS/2 advocate for many years I was always under attack by Microsoft fanatics masquerading as OS/2 users. Their intent is to scare or drive people away from one OS and to their chosen product. Microsoft was actually found, at one time, to have paid employees to do such work... So don't pay much attention to them."
Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me... Whenever I post on that forum, I feel that I have to balance any problems I have with my machine with praise for Apple, lest I am flamed for daring to imply that a single Apple machine out there might not be perfect. I confess that there are times when such users, and Apple's attitude to its users and the press, make me think about returning to a PC just to be away from such ugliness of attitude. Of course, such madness is only momentary: one look at OS X, or at the Cocoa support forums, where Apple software engineers such as Douglas Davidson, John Randolph and Ali Ozer all give support to programmers for free, reminds me that I could never return to Windows. But like I say, such users do Apple no favours.
Meanwhile, the new top case to my MacBook - which was replaced because the old one suffered from the discolouration problem - seems to be, er, suffering from some minor discolouration already. It was only replaced three days ago, and already, if I look at it from an angle, I can see a yellow-ish patch which I cannot clean off. It seems that Apple are aware of the problem and have taken a decision to replace affected top cases but still haven't tracked down the root cause. Great.
Well, after much moaning to AppleCare, they finally agreed to take my MacBook in and replace the top-casing, which has suffered from the infamous "discolouration" issue - it seems that Apple are finally starting to take this seriously. And I have to say that the AppleCare service was quite amazing. They agreed to take my machine in for repair on the Friday. A box arrived with TNT the following Tuesday, and TNT took it away there and then. Apple repaired the machine on the Wednesday and I received it back on the Thursday (today) - fantastic. Except...
Except that the "repair" seems a bit of a botch-job to me. I don't think it's being too fussy or anal to expect a near-perfect machine from the get-go for nearly £1,000. It looks like Apple may disagree, though... They have indeed replaced my top-casing with a lovely new, pristine white one. However, they have only replaced the plastic around the keyboard. I naively assumed that they would also replace the plastic around the screen while they were at it, given that they are made of the identical material. But no such luck. The plastic right around the iSight camera is starting to discolour where my thumb lifts up the lid. It's not very noticable as of yet, but then my thumb only comes into contact with it several times a day, whereas my palms were in contact with the palm-rests for several hours. It doesn't take a genius (or a Genius) to work out that within a couple of months the plastic around the screen is going to look pretty shabby, too.
On top of that, the top-casing doesn't even seem fitted properly to me. It's certainly not flush against the polycarbonate case as it used to be. There is a millimetre gap between the top-casing and the polycarbonate in front of the left palm-rest and the trackpad. I can fit a thumbnail under there. All it will take is to catch it on something, and the plastic is going to get damaged - not to mention that dust is going to get under there.
And on top of that, the Apple engineers who replaced the top-casing obviously weren't too careful. There is now a small nick in the polycarbonate on the left of the keyboard, right next to the top-casing - obviously where they have used a screwdriver or something to prise off the old top-casing.
And if all that wasn't enough to weep into my bank statement, when I booted up my machine I found that everything was gone. It turns out that they replaced my hard-drive, too, as when they did lots of diagnostic tests before returning the machine to me, they found the original hard-drive was dodgy. Great! So now I have to reinstall everything, and I am really annoyed because there was one picture of Thurston that I used for my user account picture that I forgot to back up. Grrr.
Obviously, I called AppleCare about all of these issues about ten minutes after checking out the returned machine. Again I spoke to someone very helpful, although he told me that because the repair centres check over the machines very carefully before returning them to customers to try to ensure that they won't need to be returned for repair for anything else anytime soon, the fact that my machine had been returned to me probably meant that all the problems I have are considered "within spec" (which to me sounds horribly close to "it'll do"). He said he only knew of problems with discolouration of the top-casing on MacBooks, and not with the area around the iSight, and he wasn't aware that they are made of the same plastic (which seemed odd to me, given that he was the laptops expert - hey, he said "laptop", surely he must have meant "notebook"; these things are too hot to be "laptops"! It made me wonder if he had ever actually seen a MacBook, as it only takes one glance to see that the area around the screen is made of the same plastic as the top-casing...). Anyway, like I say, he was very friendly and helpful, and asked me to send him some photos of all my issues so that he could discuss them with engineering. He promised to get back to me next week, so I will just have to wait and see what happens.
To be honest, I could probably live with all these minor imperfections - the machine works, I can use it to develop and then use Scrivener quite happily. But why should I just "live with" a brand-new machine? After all the discolouration fuss, I think I'm entitled to a little perfection.
Wow. I've just been called a Mac fanboy (or near enough) over on the Apple support forums. Despite the fact that I bemoan Apple as much as extol them. Why are people so rude and downright nasty on forums? A question on University Challenge recently revealed that given a certain number of users and a certain amount of time, the chances of someone calling somebody else a Nazi on any given public forum on the internet soon rises to 100%. Someone elsewhere pointed out that because they can't be seen, many people forget basic manners when using the internet. No one has a chance to say, "Say that to my face." What sad, little people they must be, if the only thing they can do to make themselves feel better about their lives is to insult strangers whilst hidden behind a mask of anonymity.
Well, this is annoying. Lots of people have complained about issues with the new MacBooks - "mooing" coming from the fan, whining, overheating, crashing, warping; you name it. Of course, much of this seems disproportionate: if you hang out at a support site, you are only going to hear from people with problems, not satisfied customers. All the same, I have not had a single problem with my white MacBook (touch wood) - sure, it runs hotter than I'd like, and I'm going to get one of those lap cooler thingimajigs so that, should we want more children, the option will not have been cooked away, but other than that this thing is lovely.
Except... After two weeks of heavy-ish use, I noticed that the trackpad and palm-rests (especially the right one, because my right-hand does all the trackpad work) had started to turn a horrible yellowish colour:
It looks like I've been smoking 60 a day and breathing heavily on the surface of my MacBook for two years. Not pretty. It's also very surprising, given that I have owned an iBook for two years and it never suffered from anything like this - it's a bit scuffed, but there is no discolouration anywhere. And it seems that other's are having the same issues after a few weeks' use, too:
(I hope that last one doesn't disappear - I've noticed that the Apple mods are quite trigger happy when it comes to deleting posts.)
I wonder if this is why Apple charge extra for the black MacBook? Someone somewhere noted that Apple only care about how lovely their products look in the store; they don't care how they look a few days later, because cosmetic issues aren't covered under AppleCare. Well, I hope whoever said that is wrong, but judging by the bad press that Apple is receiving recently for this sort of thing, it seems not.
Personally, I can live with it. My MacBook is just a machine, after all, and so long as it works well, I'm happy. I couldn't afford to wait for another revision, because I need an Intel machine now so that I can make sure Scrivener is Intel-ready, but I do hope that Apple fix this issue for the next batch of MacBooks - if you are thinking of buying one and don't want to pay the "black tax", you might want to wait.
What you don't see on those Apple ads:
"Hi, I'm a Mac."
"And I'm a PC. Is that jaundice or are those just liver spots?"
I do wonder: why is there a continued discrepancy between the brilliance of the Apple software engineers and the rest of the company?
Much as I hate them,* mobile phones have reinvigorated a part of our language which was hitherto sadly neglected outside of learning to read and clever literary novels: present tense. Before mobile phones, anybody standing at a bus stop announcing loudly, "I am at the bus-stop," or proclaiming, "I am in a shop," whilst paying for their groceries, would have been taken and locked away. Now, I'm not saying it wouldn't be a good idea to lock away the loud and rude mobile-phone-users who do this on buses and in shops, but that's just the way of the world.
Salinger: "The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on earth."
*Or used to. Now it's more a grudging tolerance. I even own one - though, much to the annoyance of friends, I refuse to put any numbers into the thing or have it switched on. Ever.
You know, when I was younger and greener, a friend of mine had a young child who spent a lot of time with us. We all lived in a big post-student house and her daughter spent a lot of weekends in said house. And I, what with being younger and greener and all that, had a notion that capitalism and ownership must be a learned concept, based on an isolated observation of this girl's daughter giving away without any qualms whatsoever some pine cones she had collected. ("When you have your own children" is a sentence-starter that can be on a par with "When I found God", so I apologise for the next sentence:) When you have your own children, such illusions are soon shattered (I wanted to put in a simile referring to a chimera and Belleraphon here, but my Greek mythology just isn't up to it). The first words most of these little tykes learn is ,"No, mine! Mine, mine, MINE!" Ho-hum.
All the same, watching language develop is fun and interesting in equal measure. I wish toddler social habits could be carried on into the adult world (admittedly, some adults have toddler social habits). It being half-term and all, today we did one of our family trips and visited Christmas Tree Farm in Downe. I was surprised there was so much greenery so close to South London. Anyway, of all the animals on display, Thurston went straight for the chickens, turkeys and ducks. Over and over again. We dragged him around the rest of the farm, to be sure, but that was where his heart was. But you know, as we walked around the farm, it kind of depressed me. The parenting skills on display, I mean, You get into the farm and you can buy, for a mere 50p, a bucket of animal feed. And strewn across this farm were empty buckets. Not just one or two, but dozens. Which adds up to a lot of parents who just do not give a flying donut about their child littering. At this point, I need to calm my blood pressure. But I digress. Blah blah, terrible kids, terrorising animals, blah blah, and then Thurston, after saying, "Sorry chicken" to some chicken he's bumped into with the gate, pours the rest of the animal feed right over the top of a chicken, laughs his lungs out, and then spends the next ten minutes chasing ducks. Toddler fun, parental consternation (which could be a mantra). And after that, we go to a local pub, and in the garden there is a toddler play area, and a little girl playing in the wooden den-house. And this is how Thurston, without further ado, introduces himself to the little girl: "I chased ducks." Now that's an introduction, and no mistake.
I sort of wish, now, that I hadn't spent so much time in my younger days (not that I'm exactly old, but hey, Jesus died when he was my age, and Kurt Kobain, who, let's face it, has had far more impact on my life than Jesus, died when he was six years younger than I am right now) wasting time on deliberating about how to meet people (did I say people? I meant girls). You just march right up and, without further ado (or embarrassment), announce the most important aspect of your day or life. Some possible introductions:
"I ate eggs for breakfast."
"I bought PCGamer."
"I surfed for porn."
"I typed over one thousand meaningless numbers into Excel today. That's more than yesterday. Meaningless, I mean."
Come to think of it, I doubt if it would have helped. But it might be worth a go anyway. At worst, the other person will just think you're talking on your hands-free mobile phone. Feel free to leave your own, should you happen by.
I don't get it. What is it with Apple? Why does the brand inspire such religious zealoutry in its consumers? Let me start by saying, I love Mac OS X. Love it, love it, love it. I first bought an Apple machine a couple of years ago because, despite their reputation for making expensive machines, the iBook was, at the time, the cheapest laptop available that did not weigh about the same as a small off-shore tanker. I wanted small, I wanted light and I wanted portable, and the iBook was all that. And I fell in love. Actually, another reason I bought an Apple was that I figured: