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iPontificate

And Now It's Time For Some Reader Mail!
March 31st, 2004

You may be wondering, after reading the title of this column, why I am answering mail after only having written five columns. That's easy; I am very lazy, and these things just write themselves.

Actually, I did receive quite a bit of feedback, and much to my surprise, most of it was positive. I even wrote a column that I thought would be controversial and only a couple of readers complained that I was being controversial. Maybe next time for some controversy, I will refuse to testify under oath before Congress, or maybe I will have a "wardrobe malfunction."

Better yet, I may just have a wardrobe malfunction while I reluctantly testify before Congress. That'll show 'em!

I think I will tackle this column by column.

Column 1: Tales From the Dark Side

Synopsis:

In this column, I vented against having to work with Windows XP Pro at work. Why? Because it sucks. I was hired to be the Mac guy, but when the Macs worked and Windows didn't I became the all-platform guy. I dealt with viruses, constant security updates, and general instability. That annoyed me, I bitched and moaned, then I quit.

Insightful Observer Comment:

I use both environments, and while I'm getting into GarageBand, iPhoto and iTunes, I wouldn't knock Windows so hard, and I'd fault the network admin for allowing a virus to get out and for not locking down systems in the first place - all manageable.

I'm not defending Microsoft and the volume of updates, but I think the column is too hard on the boy.

Dan D

Super Intelligent Response from Gary:

Your point is well taken and we do have some issues with our network, which could make another column or four. However, all of our Macs are exposed as well, and give us no grief.

Thanks for reading.

Update:

The network administrator at my former employer has finally been fired for incompetence. Perhaps the Windows machines will finally work, however the Macs will not be affected, as they have worked all along.

Column 2: Rumors Sites: Harmless Fun or Scourge of the Earth?

Synopsis:

I suggested that while rumor sites can be an entertaining read, perhaps they are causing some real harm to Apple by setting some unreal expectations amongst Apple's biggest supporters. My example was the recent Macworld San Francisco keynote that contained what I thought was some really good operational news out of Cupertino, but was widely panned for not having a huge killer product announcement.

Insightful Observer Comment:

While I agree that the persistent $99 iPod rumors made the unveiling of the $249 iPod mini a bit disappointing, I firmly believe rumor sites do Apple more good than harm. When Interbrand recently rated Google and Apple as the world's #1 and #2 brands, respectively, they said the following:

"If [Google] can maintain its reputation as an expert search engine, it will join the ranks of exceptional brands like Apple, where consumer loyalty ranges on fanatical."

[...]

Rumor sites are part of Apple's culture, part of what makes it different from the likes of Dell and Microsoft. After all, what's more interesting? A rumor regarding a video iPod that doubles as a cell phone and has Bluetooth and the ability to download movies directly from Pixar? Or a rumor regarding the next planned release date of Longhorn?

Michael McKinney

Super Intelligent Response from Gary:

None. I know when to shut up.

Update:

None of the many Mac rumors sites have crumbled under the pressure from my sharp, witty, acid tongue-lashing I gave them. Dang!

Column 3: Is Being Part of 5% Really So Bad?

Synopsis:

In what I expected to be a controversial piece, I said that if Windows users can't appreciate a better, more stable, more powerful, more elegant, and more secure operating system, then Mac users shouldn't feel obligated to enlighten them. Why? Cuz, screw 'em, that's why! While I was called "an arrogant ass" and an "obnoxious elitest," most Observers indicated they had similar frustrating experiences talking to Windows users and agreed. Screw 'em!

Insightful Observer Comment:

I totally agree. During my university days I worked in a local fast food [restaurant] to earn enough to pay for my studies and I met a lot of those irrational people. :-)

Yet we have to keep an eye out for people still stuck in the Wintel world, and there are a few, that can benefit from the change to the mac platform... and that will be a nice add to our community by the way.... :-)

Anonymous

Super Intelligent Response from Gary:

That's a good point. We should not assume that just because someone uses a Windows box, they are inherently unreasonable. However, if they refuse to consider change after being shown an alternative that can solve many of their problems, then they are inherently unreasonable.

All together now: "Screw 'em!"

Update:

I was helping a client at home who was at her wits end with her Windows box. Her issues could be boiled down to viruses, spyware, and constant security updates. She was open to getting a Mac to solve these issues. When she mentioned to her family that getting a Mac would resolve all of her issues, her husband, a self-described computer novice, replied, "No way, that's not gonna happen." He knows nothing about computers, hired me as a consultant, and, based on prejudice, summarily dismissed a Mac as a solution. I don't want people like that on my side.

Column 4: iPhoto, iTunes and the Finder

Synopsis:

I wondered, since iPhoto and iTunes are just basically specialized file browsers, if their functionality should be folded into the Finder. The motivation for this came from a new-to-the-Mac friend who was confused when he tried to view his iPhoto library from the Finder. If the Finder presents you with a GUI-friendly version of the bits and bytes on your hard drive and iPhoto presents you a pretty way to view your pics, why is there a way to use the Finder to completely confuse yourself by peeking into your photo or music library?

Insightful Observer Comment:

As for expanding Finder's role, I fear a scene similar to MS Word, where one app tries to be all things to all people, and in the end is so bloated and confusing, it ends up being little use to anyone. An alternative take would be to explore making the file system into a database frontend, That way, instead of remembering where you placed or called a file, you would identify files by keywords that made sense to you. The file system would worry about where to put it, you would retrieve it by retyping those keywords.

Mark Hanley

Super Intelligent Response from Gary:

Basically, this is what I was proposing in my column. Perhaps by redefining how the OS thinks about data, organizational structure as we know it would become obsolete. A scary thought: this is precisely what Microsoft is touting as one of the groundbreaking achievements of Longhorn. Any guess that if this approach is worth taking who will get it right? And who will get to it first?

Update:

Microsoft has announced that Longhorn will be able to intuitively know what you plan to do with your computer and do it for you ahead of time so you never have to touch your Windows machine at all. Microsoft users say the best thing about Windows is never having to use it. Planned release date: 2028.

Column 5: Ten-Four, Good Buddy

Synopsis:

I pointed out that while I love Panther, it is not as stable for me as Jagwire was. So, in the spirit of improving a good thing, I asked you what you would like to see from Mac OS X 10.4 (Tabby). I suggested an easy way to sync data across machines and accounts. Panther does some of this, but there is a long way to go.

Insightful Observer Comment:

Hi Gary,

I don't know if this already exists as shareware but I know I can't do all of it in Finder/Sherlock.

I'd like an improved Finder and Sherlock that can encompass all the data/file types on my computer (or have an easy way of adding new searchable data/file types). That would include e-mail, notes, PDFs, text documents, spreadsheets, photos, music, videos, presentations, XML files, HTML files, etc. Maybe only compiled applications would fall outside of this list.

I'd like to leave the item anywhere physically on my hard drive (and removable drive), keep only one copy of the item, and be able to link that file to multiple "projects/keywords." If I begin to delete the one "physical" copy, it would show me all the projects/keywords under which it is linked. If I choose to delete, it would delete all the links. (Today, I can make many aliases and put an alias in each project (folder). However, if I delete the "physical" copy, it leaves me with many broken aliases.) If the item is on a removable drive/disk, it would remember and ask for that drive/disk etc. Aliases today don't always keep track of the original item when they are moved. (Of course, if the item has been deleted from the drive/disk via some other computer, it would update my system.) If I make a new copy with a different name, it should present me with all the links and let me relink to one/some/all of the same projects/keywords.

I'd like to be able to store searchable metadata, including versioning, with any file. Today, iPhoto and iTunes add metadata to photos and music files. Mail applications have metadata associated with e-mail. I'd like to be able to search (all these file types) by date, title/subject, keyword, text in file, and this metadata from a central application (like Finder/Sherlock) instead of using specialized file management in applications like iPhoto, iTunes, and Mail. (I'd like the file management from those apps to be rolled into the Finder.)

For example, I go on a trip to Hawaii, where I take photos, keep a journal, exchange e-mail, conduct business, stored browser pages, etc. I'd like to link some/most/all of those items to "Key Moments During Hawaii Trip 2004", without physically having to move them into the same folder.

It is just getting to be very difficult to manage thousands of files and many different "projects" on my drives. E-mail is always separated from other project documents unless I copy and paste it into a text document. Same for photos and music (so as not to mess up iPhoto and iTunes) unless I make a second copy (and then have to keep track of the copies, and whether copies are identical or modified, etc.) Maybe there are better ways than my suggestions, but I need something...

Thanks,
Kevin Fong

Super Intelligent Response from Gary:

That kind of ties columns four and five together, doesn't it?

Update:

I feel that I was a little too hard on Panther and its stability, perhaps because of a little frustration at the time of writing the column. Since then, I have upgraded to 10.3.3 on my MDD dual 1.25 and have had no crashes at all. And my wife's iBook had a faulty hard drive that was replaced under warranty. After a fresh install, there have been no issues whatsoever.

However, I have to pick on Panther for one egregious interface issue that is related to fast user switching. If there is more than person logged in when you try to shut down your Mac, you are presented with a dialog that says there are others users who could lose unsaved work if you shut down now. An administrator username and password are requested to confirm the task. This seems reasonable. However most people will type their username, press TAB, type their password and hit Return (I have done this myself several times, and watched others as well).

Nothing happens.

In fact, a friend of mine said recently, "It will be nice when they fix that bug. It will save me a lot of time over manually logging everyone out and then shutting down."

The problem is that the default button in that dialog is Cancel, and by hitting Return you have dismissed the dialog after typing in your username and password.

WTF?!?! I understand that they want to make sure you don't accidentally cause others to lose work, but isn't typing your username and password enough? Now who do I have go and slap in Cupertino to get that fixed?

See you next time, when I plan to actually put some effort into the column.

Yeah, but I think that every time.

is an Idiot. He is the co-founder of IWS Interactive, a New York (and now Houston) based development company for Macintosh. Now he spends his time writing about, developing for, and getting clients to buy Macs. Oh, yeah, and he recently had a kid. So his days are filled with taking care of little Jack, then playing with his Mac. He wouldn't have it any other way.

You can send your comments directly to Gary, or you can also post your comments below.

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