More on Mac Blunders

The big lessons I’ve learned during my recent upgrade fiasco have much less to do with Apple than they do with my violating my own rules about computing.

I upgraded my OS to 10.2 not because I actually needed its functionality, but because I was looking for an excuse to rid myself of Microsoft Entourage as my email and scheduling program. I don’t like the Microsoft brand. And don’t like using programs that create giant proprietary databases in order to work. I’ve adopted the philosophy promoted by Mark Hurst at Creative Good and try to keep my bits as simply arranged as possible. I made the change to 10.2 in order to dump this program, even though I’d gotten to serve my life purposes pretty well, and learned to keep the proprietary databases empty by saving my mail as text files. The switch ended up costing me a lot of time. Lesson one: Don’t do upgrades just for fun.

Leaping before I looked, I made the switch to 10.2 from 10.1 without taking into account that this was an operating system change – not a simple upgrade. And I did this without first learning (though it would have been difficult to learn even after extensive research) that there were a few unresolved issues about printing with the new system. (Lesson 1.5: Wait until other people have suffered through the bugs, first.) So, I ended up losing printing capabilities, and then getting told by Apple support and people at the stores that I needed to buy an inkjet printer to replace my laser printer until a fix could be worked out. This bummed me out a great deal, and I wrote a Blog that repeated what the Support and Store people said. Lesson two: don’t believe what people at Apple’s Support Center or Stores tell you – or at least don’t represent it as fact. The folks online know what’s going on better.

I also switched over to iCal and Mail before understanding fully how those programs worked. While this is no great sin, it did require a bit of effort to go back to Entourage once I had made the change. Exports from Entourage were fairly easy to make. Exports from the Mac programs were more difficult. I suppose we could blame Microsoft for not using the import standards that Mac is using – but I tend to blame the exporter over the importer.

I’ve also received a lot of email from sad email address holders, who don’t want to upgrade their service but want to keep their addresses. The big lesson (lesson three) for these folks is simple: nothing is free. And things that start out free often end up costing more than things that start out costing (AOL, for instance. Heroin, too.) The fact that Apple appears – feels like – they have done a little switcheroo has been particularly disconcerting for some who considered themselves loyal. They – and I – began to experience Apple as a company trying to develop ‘sticky’ solutions.

What I wonder now, in the long run, is if Apple’s actual programs – or anyone’s – will ever be able to compete effectively with those of Microsoft, even on the Apple platform? Will Mozilla work as well on the Mac as Explorer? Will iCalendar work at a brisk pace? BBedit seems to. Lessons four: use the best tool for the best job until something proves itself otherwise. Experiment with new programs before committing to them. No one does everything the best. Brand loyalty and brand hatred are distractions.

I’m also interested in the Mac’s change in aesthetic, from the simplistic elegance of older systems to the new softness and animation of systems 10. True – as has been mentioned in the comments field – it’s a whole lot less garish and distracting than the new MS system. But does it make for a more efficient and less encumbered work environment? I don’t know. It still feels a bit squishy to me.

(Thanks for all the notes and suggestions to the post, below. I did buy an Epson printer so that I can print in 10.2, and am sticking with Entourage until I hear better things about mail/address and iCal. It would certainly be fun to live in an entirely Apple Macintosh. But, so far, it wouldn’t be the best thing for my work.)