One Mac Myth Debunked

20 May ’06

A few weeks ago I made the switch from Windows to OSX, and bought a MacBook Pro. I’m delighted with the system, and it’s radically changed the way I use a computer. Which is to say, now I spend more time using a computer, and a lot less time not using it, because (for example), I’m reinstalling Windows after spending fruitless hours scanning support forums looking for a fix to the latest glitch that’s bedevilling me. It’s been a problem with every Windows machine I’ve owned, at least in recent memory, and I made the switch after finally deciding that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for Bil Gates. Oh, and after the umpteenth intractable system hang that hit me just as I was starting a busy day in the office.

One of the attractive features of the Mac, of course, is its reputation for reliability. It’s pitched hard by Apple, including in its latest campaign, which takes a pointed shot at Windows’ reputation for crashing. The ad and the copy that accompanies the campaign coyly (some might say deceptively) avoids any clear statement that the Mac doesn’t crash, but drives hard at suggesting exactly that, while at same time making the lawyerly point that nobody’s perfect.

Before I bought I did my research, and quickly found tons of resources that made it clear that Apple’s marketing savvy has managed to suppress awareness of what are many reasonably common tech support problems. Main takeaway: the support boards are full of frustrated Mac owners. And I found specific resources, like Russell Beattie’s excellent summary of Mac criticisms (see #1), that brought me up to speed on what I could really expect.

I bought warily, but optimistically. And so far, things have worked out well. But, a couple of weeks into my Macbliss, it happened. Application hangs. Systems hangs. Reboot. Hang. Reboot. Hang. And finally, hang, not rebootable. Confoundingly, the hang of all hangs happened at 9 am the Sunday morning before mesh, as I was sitting down to do final prep for the next day. Throughout the process, I reinstalled the OS multiple times, and to Apple’s credit, this is a remarkably painless process. But still – to some extent the utility of any tool – hammer or computer – is the trust you have that it will work when needed, and my trust in the Mac was badly shaken. So – one more Mac myth falls by the wayside, and another one – the potency of Apple’s marketing power – is elevated. I think I would have preferred it the other way around.

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