Sunday, April 13, 2008

From The Desk of the Jeremy Crow R&D Department - Volume 7

I have this amazingly worthless iPod that I have tried to pawn off on all of the kids, and finally have had to give up on it. It was a gift actually, and it has kept me from getting a good MP3 player for too long really. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them how horrible iPods are, but what can I expect? The computer world has been like this ever since the beginning, and now it is some sort of full circle event that has come home to roost. I’m sure that the iPod fills a wonderful void for people that don’t care about what they are doing, but in general that has been the whole Apple crowd in a nutshell for as long as I remember as well.

It started with a maniacal dictator, preaching to his subjects from a golden tower from the moment he was given any sort of power. Nobody in the computer industry will give Steve Jobs any head space because he is what he is. If you need a monopolistic, ego maniacal dictator to lead you around by a collar, then stop pointing your fingers at Bill Gates and go right to the source. The man who created Bill Gates was standing at the end of the hall during the Technology show that started the PC revolution holding his newest Apple computer and didn’t think that IBM would be standing at the door heading the consumers in another direction, and he never really got over that. Apple had actually owned the Personal Computer industry until their ego got in the way. IBM was at the time the cooler kids on the block, and the consumer market shifted really hard. Microsoft was just a tool in all of that by providing the operating system.

What knocked me out in the beginning of the desktop wars was when Apple stole the Xerox operating system in the 80s and then, in the interest of getting even with IBM, gave it to Microsoft in the hopes of getting Microsoft to stop making software for the PC. Ranting and raving about how Microsoft stole the operating system did them absolutely no good, and to even consider Windows to be in the same league as the Mac OS was laudable but what happened from there? 10 years of apathy on behalf of the people at Apple had basically nailed it into the ground. Apple purists {like any other cult} had pecked and poked at Microsoft for years with no real improvements to its own platform despite the insurmountable head start that they had, and in the end they had one thing going for them which I am still seeing to this day. Macintosh is the computer for stupid people. A wonderful niche in general, but it seems to achieve the slated objective of a cult, to keep people blissfully ignorant to everything else.

I had thought that Apple was finally going to die off, when they fought back with the invention of the iPod. It was pure genius really to simply attempt to dominate a market that was floundering, yet had the opportunity to come into its own relatively quickly. The iPod, I am assuming was a great little toy when it came out, and thanks to the lack of competition of a “caviar style” MP3 player it has been a huge success. There was a time when the world was desperate for a “caviar style” personal computer too, and it reminds me of the Apple II which filled that niche for a couple of years. Almost 30 years later I am seeing exactly why I had sworn off of Apple computers and went to Commodores, and then why I had gone to IBM compatibles when Commodore went the way of the Pterodactyl. Apple will never learn from its own mistakes, because their need to be incompatible with everything else becomes infuriating to those of us that usually know what we are doing. Their need to force people into “repurchasing” every year seals the deal.

The whole Apple strategy of convincing people that “plug and play” functionality is the zenith of computing comes at a cost, and anyone that has ever used a Macintosh knows this. You generally pay 40 percent more for a comparably equipped Macintosh, you pay up to 3 times as much for inferior add ons, and in the end they will make their own computers obsolete within 2 years. It works great for things like Schools and radio personalities that have unlimited funds, but how does that translate to the real world? I have rarely met anyone who went out and purchased their new Apple product, bragged about it for a while and maintained a level of happiness about it a year later. Most of the people that I have ever known with an Apple product are jealous about what their things can’t do and mine can, and either resort to complaining about the “Microsoft Monopolistic Machine” or leaving Apple.

Now I have managed to keep most of my PCs running for 5 years minimum on 20 to 100 dollar upgrades now and then. When they have finally demonstrated that they are sick of being upgraded in the Microsoft path, I have always been able to convert them over to Linux and have wonderful new computers for another few years to compliment the new PC I purchase or build. The Apple computers always require a 2000$ upgrade every two years regardless. Apple purists will jump all over me {seriously, a cult} and tell me that this is not true, but those are the amazingly miserable slogging around with a truly “old” computer. I am sitting here with my 6 month old iPod {generation 3 nano} and grabbing my old IMEE and loading it up with audiobooks because I have had enough. I am sick of iTunes, I am sick of the iPod refusing to work if I tag the MP3s, and I am sick of the stupid thing having to be reset every few weeks.

The only thing about it that I will miss is that it could be plugged into my car radio. This form of indoctrination has managed to hold onto me for the last month of this ordeal, but there is nothing worse than being into an audiobook on the way to work and then not being able to listen to it when I get to work because it won’t play through the headphones. Apple technicians have stated the obvious old Apple line of “You should be editing MP3s with iTunes” or else they can become corrupted. Pointing out to them that they work with everything else after I edit them with MediaMonkey makes them downright indignant. Mostly because I am using other things I am sure. In the end I had hacked the thing open significantly {formatted the disk inside the stupid thing, and re-emulated it to think it was a Phillips MP3 player which required a bit of C+ … the fuckers} and now am just happy that I hadn’t paid 200 dollars for what is a 40 dollar MP3 player. Needless to say, when Apple makes this iPod obsolete and incompatible with its own software, I will not be paying for the 300 dollar upgrade to the generation 4, or generation 5 that will probably be out 4 months later.

Fortunately I have a Linux machine that I can do these things on because the big secret that Apple tries to hide from its masses of Zomacs is that Windows is every bit as much “stupid people” compatible these days too. I was reading articles about laptops the other day {trust me online reviews are very enlightening} and some of the comments are hilarious if you translate them a bit. “I bought this laptop for my sister who isn’t very bright. I wanted to get a Macbook, but it was too expensive” {note … My sister is an idiot so I immediately thought “Apple”} “She needed it for college, and I was impressed that for half the money she was able to use this Acer with twice the power!” {note … even my total idiot of a sister who is lucky to be going to college to begin with can use this Vista computer} “I am thinking of getting another one of these for my 5 year old son” {note … any idiot can use Macintosh or Vista, but I would rather give my son hope of overcoming that} and so on and so forth.

Even those Mac commercials with the Bill Gates looking guy simpering, and the guy who looks like he would trade his computer for some weed are starting to play the Microsoft angle on their commercials. “The new Microsoft Office for Macintosh is out, so now you can do all of your office applications on a Mac” {note … I thought Mac did everything better? How about you get a Linux computer for about a quarter the price, save the 500 dollars you pay for office and get OpenOffice.Org which can do all of that for FREE!} but who really cares? I think in all reality there are two types of computer people. Those that want to do things and those that want things done for them, and how each one gets there can vary a lot. Assuming that we aren’t taken in by the glitz then it takes a little time to figure it out.

My solution for all of this was to take some advice of a computer illiterate but MP3 savvy young lady that lives upstairs from me. I bought her a Zune two years ago because it had a few feature that the iPod didn’t have at the time {even though what she had originally asked me for was an iPod} which was a large screen, FM Radio, and Wireless G. She had looked at her new Zune initially with that look of “Oh My God, how will I be able to show my face in school without an iPod!” and later on with the other loser in school that got a Zune instead of an iPod started realizing that it was quite a bit better. She happily used it for the last two years, and has enjoyed sharing the secret of being able to wirelessly beam songs between her Zune and all of her friend’s Zunes. Yeah, the two losers with Zunes were able to get the whole gang to get rid of their iPods and get Zunes because it was obviously better, and I asked all of them what they thought. “Awesome” was the usual reply.

Needless to say I was at Wal-Mart tonight looking at a new computer for my Aunt for her birthday. Her old one just tears the network down and hasn’t got the strength to run a decent antivirus so I finally gave up and assumed my usual responsibility of spending my money to make my life easier. I was eying out the Zunes while I was there and decided that it was too expensive to purchase one right now, but I also decided that the computers that were there were a bit too pricey for me to simply purchase to make my life easier. Staples was my next stop because I knew that they had computers there for 300 bucks {as opposed to the 500 at Wal-Mart} and I walked in there and pointed to the computer I wanted. “Staples” is a candy store to computer dorks like me, and I have to do my business and get out! It was going to take 10 minutes which of course was a sign from God that I should look around, and low and behold there was a pile of 30gig Zunes sitting at the end of an isle with a sign saying “Clearance 90$ each” on them.

To make this horribly long story short, I am sitting here with my new Zune charging, and the Zune software compiling all of my music for me into a library. This is no easy task because I am only up to the Ms and it compiled 742 artists, 2379 albums, and 29139 songs so far. The total ended up being 1142, 4428 and 76709 in case you are wondering. I know this because the Zune software displays it all in a very eloquent triple pane view that is extremely easy to weed through. It also synchronizes everything with a simple “drag and drop” interface that is very good. It doesn’t change the format of everything on the fly {often making MP3s ruined in the translation} like the iPod does and more to the point the whole package makes the iPod 10 times more pathetic then what was obvious just using it without knowing how much better the other players are. The fact that it comes with a rubberized anti-shock casing instead of polished stainless steel and delicate glass paneling like the iPod makes me think it looks like Apples to Apples all over again. When iPod falls to the usual 5 percent market share that Apple always ends up in, I think we should just take all of the people crying about how unfair it is that Microsoft always wins, and neuter them. Perhaps it will finally end the vicious cycle of Macinwhining that I have had to deal with since my school got its first Macintosh back in 1985. We all went to a PC class on Kaypro IBM compatibles but the Macintosh was in the library so people could use the “paint” program during study hall. That hasn’t changed much either. I’m just glad I knew better then to expect anything from an iPhone and got a Centro instead ;8o)