Sunday, July 23, 2006

PC, Mac and iPod


According to a digg.com article this week, 50% of people surveyed inside an Apple store were PC users looking to change. That's a big warning bell for the PC market. Don't get me wrong, I've been both a PC and Mac user since 1984, and in most of that time, the PC's have sat in a corner turned off unless they were needed. 95% of my computing would have been done on Macs, for all the usual reasons - ease of use, user-friendliness, and above all, reliability. If you haven't experienced Mac yet you have no idea what reliability is. Oh sure, all the 'experts' go on and on about how everyone uses PC's because there are more programs, because Macs are priced too high, etc etc ad nauseam. None of these excuses holds any water. The fact is, the PC market is a self-feeding school of piranhas, and most computing retailers sell PC's because there is more profit in them, both from the initial sale and from the endless and constant updating, error fixing, OS re-installing, etc.

Take, for example, 6 people this year who have bought a new computer and asked me for advice. Three went Apple, three went PC. The Mac buyers have had nothing but fun, all of their systems are working perfectly, and all they had to do was take it out of the box and plug it in. Of the PC buyers, all 3 have had to reinstall their OS multiple times, and 2 of the 3 have had catastrophic hardware failures which required replacement of their brand new computer. Ouch! And this seems normal behaviour, unfortunately. Most PC users I ask say they feel no sense of permanence, that whatever they put on their computer this week is unlikely to be there next month. The diametric opposite is true of the Mac users, though - many of them have never reinstalled anything, lost a file or felt like they might. In general, they trust and believe that files put on the computer this week, will be there in 2 years time. That's a major difference in attitude.

But let me point out one of the major failings of Apple - iTunes. What is it about iTunes? Could this program be any worse, or is it just me? It is a great program for music, which was its original purpose. Even the integration of the Music Store was done reasonably well. But here's an acid test. Buy an iPod, a video one of course. Download a bunch of cartoons from Channel Frederator. Now synch them onto the iPod. Great. That'll keep the kids happy, now trash them from iTunes, and next month, when you download new cartoons... all your old cartoons will be wiped! Yes, because Apple cannot imagine that you would ever want to clear space on your drive. You have virtually no control over videos, pictures, or text files residing on your iPod. When you get those new episodes, the iPod content will be synched to the iTunes playlist, and that means if you have deleted any of the old cartoons from iTunes (and why would you bother keeping them, they are already on your iPod!), they'll be gone from your iPod too now.

I bought a 200 gig Western Digital IBM drive and installed it in my Mac. I went on a holiday to Melbourne and took about 600 photos of the kids and myself on our two-week trip. Transferred them to the iPod on the go, and when the hard drive failed, the only copies I have of those photos are on the iPod. Sure, I can use some of the public domain hack utilities to copy my photos back to the computer, but I have yet to find one that works with the videos. And the point is, why the hell should I need to use one? Why on earth doesn't Apple have a proper program for the iPods which handles all media, copying to and from the iPod? Frell your Digital Rights Management, you can encode things I buy from you with whatever you want to, but I have every right to be able to get my own photos and my own videos back from my own iPod to my own computer.

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