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ATPM 7.09
September 2001






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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Evan Trent,

Takin’ Care of Business (and Workin’ Overtime)

Am I the only one who has noticed that PCs are always broken? Apparently not, given that IT has become an industry unto itself. Take a look around the corporate world and you’ll find that every company with sufficient financial resources has contracted the services of a company whose sole purpose is to fix broken PCs. Some companies even have their own IT geeks on staff as full-time employees, presumably because hiring an outside firm would either be prohibitively expensive or inadequate given the frequency of problems. Scary isn’t it?

On the other side of the map, we’ve got the Macintosh. Ever notice how IT geeks don’t even know how to turn a Mac on? “Oh—that’s a Mac, I don’t know anything about those.” Could that be because Macs don’t require a dedicated team of around-the-clock IT monkeys?

Now given that one of my jobs here at ATPM is to field help mail, and resolve the various problems our loyal readers are having with their Macs, I’ll be the last person on the planet to argue that Macs are trouble-free. On the contrary, they can be a royal pain in the neck. Let’s face it—computers are universally problematic and Murphy’s law is perhaps never demonstrated with greater clarity or more pristine timing than in the case of the computer. Not only will something go wrong if it can, but it will go wrong at the worst possible moment in time. Ah…computers: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

The aforementioned paradox notwithstanding, there is certainly a lot to be said for the Mac. Macs may crash more often than Wintel boxes, although it’s worth noting that I’ve got a room full of Mac servers that haven’t been rebooted in months. And they may not be faster in every case (although as we’ll soon discover the marginal speed increases don’t pay off as one might expect).

But when was the last time a Mac owner said to you “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t fax you that document because my sound card and fax modem are incompatible,” or “Gee I didn’t get your e-mail because Windows won’t recognize my modem [or Ethernet card] and I can’t get onto the Net,” or “I had to reinstall Windows and my laptop lost the driver for its trackball so I have to find a mouse somewhere here at the office and then get the driver for this thing installed.” Actually our very own editor, Michael Tsai, remembers having seen a similar problem occur in front of him at a demonstration, and worse yet Windows had lost the driver for the laptop’s internal CD-ROM drive, making reinstallation of most anything highly unlikely!

There truly is an infinite supply of inexcusable and comical problems from which your run-of-the-mill Wintel box might suffer. Comical, that is, until you realize that you bought your PC because everybody told you that it was the machine of choice for business. After all, Macs are toys. They’re for kids, classrooms, first-time computer-using moms, grandmas, sissies, etc. Real men use PCs. Businessmen use PCs. Why? Because they’re faster and more powerful and you can do more with them. Wow, thanks Mr. Gates—I’ll keep that in mind next time I want my e-mail program to trigger a macro in my word processor that erases my hard drive. Yep that’s mighty impressive, all right. Look at that inter-application communication—simply astounding.

I recently had a corporate contact tell me that his entire e-mail archive had been deleted, along with his address book, because of some silly macro virus his e-mail client (Outlook) triggered. That’ll boost your efficiency rating right through the roof. Where do you want to go today? How about to a world where e-mail programs and word processors don’t know how to erase hard drives—is that too much to ask?

I recently started a new company here in Chicago called Symphony Sound, and it specializes in high-end audio products for the home. My fellow ATPM staffers have known for a while that I suffer from audiophilia, but until this moment I haven’t shared my condition with the general public. I welcome you all to check out my Web site and to give me a holler, even if you’re not in Chicago. I’d love to hear from readers, wherever you are.

In any event, I had to make some decisions about my record keeping methods in the process of starting this company. Was I going to cave and get a PC, the official [broken] machine of the business world? Heck no. My Mac can do everything I need it to and more. I’ve been conducting various small business ventures on my Mac for ages now and there’s no reason for that to change, just because this is the first time I’ve actually, officially, incorporated.

I do my bookkeeping in QuickBooks. It does everything I could want from A to Z. It prints my checks, invoices, and purchase orders. It handles my inventory and makes pretty bar graphs and charts—it does it all. And there are plenty of other choices out there as well. For contact management I still use TouchBase. For personal contact and time management I have switched to Now Contact and Up-to-Date, since the folks at Power On Software have done a nice job of updating it, and because it syncs with my Palm-based Smartphone. But no contact manager I’ve ever used has such a rich library of templates as TouchBase. It can print labels of every shape and size, it does a great job with form letters, envelopes, contact lists, etc. And for my business contact management, that’s what I need. I go through envelopes like Kleenex, and flexible printing is a higher priority than HotSyncing for my biz contacts.

For DTP I use PageMaker and Quark, and Photoshop for image work (big surprise). My spreadsheets are in Excel. I’ve never had a problem, lost any data, or suffered any sort of inferiority complex as a result of using my Mac to conduct business. What I have experienced is a sort of euphoric state of bliss, resulting from the fact that my computer, and hence my ability to conduct business, is chugging along full speed ahead.

Best of all, when I get on the phone with a graphics professional, like an offset printer, they’re all Mac users. In fact the company I sent my business cards to specifically instructed me only to send them Macintosh files and fonts. Same with the folks I’ve sent all my advertisements to. None of them have ever complained that they didn’t get my fax or e-mail because their computers were down. It’s really a joy working with Mac users.

On the other hand, every other business contact I’ve spoken to recently functions on a PC. Most of the companies I deal with are small—very small. They don’t have the money to hire IT pros, either as independent contractors or as full-time employees. So when their PCs break they go to Best Buy and Circuit City and try to get them fixed there. Not the best course of action given that these places tend to take a long time to “fix” your computer, and generally they don’t know a SCSI card from a tea kettle.

I don’t even know where to begin, really. I’ve had so many small businesses tell me that their fax modems are down, e-mail is down, computers are down, etc. In one sense it’s funny, and reassuring to me personally as a Mac user. But in another sense it’s highly unprofessional and just plain obnoxious. Anybody who lets their computer rule their life, and dictate when and how they can and cannot conduct business, is a victim of the Microsoft empire. My supply of sympathy is running dry, and I have grown tired of banging my head against the wall as I listen to yet another PC-based excuse for failure to perform or communicate.

If you want to increase your productivity, get a Mac. If you want to reduce the number of hours spent debugging hardware and software conflicts, get a Mac. If you want to stop making trips to the local bonehead PC repairman, get a Mac. If you want a machine that never forgets how to talk to a modem, mouse, Ethernet card, etc.—get a Mac. If you want a perfectly reliable PC with a full support policy from a major PC vendor…well, you might as well get a Mac and save some money. You see PCs are only cheaper when you throw them together from a bunch of pieces you bought at or Best Buy. A real PC with a real support policy is more expensive than a Mac, and it doesn’t do all that much more for your business, other than cause an awful lot of unnecessary grief and frustration. Sure it can run a host of business applications, many of which are not available for the Macintosh, but a PC can’t run much of anything when it’s broken.

There’s a five-minute solution to all of these problems—it’s called the iMac. You buy it, you plug it in, you do the Jeff Goldblum thing and giggle at the lack of Step Three, and poof—you’re on the Internet, cruising along without a care in the world.

How many times do you have to reinstall Windows before you realize that your PC is limiting your business’ potential by distracting you, or your employees, from your corporate mission?

Get a Mac. Get a life. It’s that simple. Of course I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, given that ATPM’s reader base is staunchly in favor of the Mac. But feel free to send your IRQ, BIOS, DOS-prompting, task-managing, Control-Alt-Deleting, Windows-reinstalling PC jocks over this way and maybe they’ll realize that they’ve spent a significant chunk of their lives mastering a worthless body of knowledge—namely Windows survival tactics. I’m green with envy. I wish I knew how to write a Windows batch file with one hand tied behind my back (and no mouse driver—haha, I truly am a PC God!).

Sheesh. ’Nuff said.

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Reader Comments (2)

Wayne Barrass · August 21, 2002 - 04:29 EST #1
Yeah, right. What planet did you say you were from? I liked the Mac once upon a time, but got rid of them for all the reasons you think you know about PCs.
Sell your Mac if you can and, with what you get, buy yourself a life.
Phil 'O Sophic · April 16, 2003 - 12:26 EST #2
Well, I use them both, but I have that life without selling my Macs. I use my PC less often--even though it's got a faster CPU--because of the virus nonsense I deal with and because of the things my Mac has in it that your PC doesn't. iTunes--better than any Windows Media Player. Open Transport--way more stable and easily set up than the Modem/TCP/IP/Dialup Adapter crap in a Winbox. And, you blew over the part about sound card and modem difficulties. No Mac I've ever owned has had an IRQ or DMA conflict problem with sound/video/modem. Then, there's the sheer quality and speed difference of older SCSI-equipped Macs-versus-PCs. Have you tried emailing with an 8088 lately!? It's totally doable on a Mac Plus with a 68000 CPU at 8 MHz. Really, where getting a life is concerned, you, Mr. Barrass, and the others who think as you do, are far from lively. Those who know, use Macs. Those who don't, just love the grief, I guess.

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