Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I am not an iSheep, I'm a free man

I've been meaning to write some stuff about Apple products, why I like them and the two different types of Apple Mac users. So here we go, I hope it'll shed some light on the subject and why I don't consider myself (and many others who started using Macs or iPhones in the last few years) as iSheep.

I'll start with my own perspective on the subject. For many years I worked in IT in a University Computer Centre and had to deal with users of many systems, including DOS, Windows, Unix and Apple Mac. For most of my career, I managed Unix systems, and used DOS and Windows machines on my desktop quite happily. I saw Mac users as a little weird, cliquey and narrow minded who'd use nothing but Macs because they were best, were pretty and did their work.

Now these people were arts or media based and to be fair, most applications in these fields were only written for Macs. Nonetheless, I saw these people very much as to what these days would be described as iSheep, always utterly and completely devoted to Macs, despite the fact that the machines then did tend to be unreliable, slow and very quirky. I tried to use the machines several times, but really found them too odd and the fact that you couldn't connect them easily to standard networks, filestores et al made me leave them alone.

Then about six years ago, maybe seven, I can't quite recall, Apple's strategy towards operating systems changed and with OSX it introduced the standard and highly reliable Unix system at its heart. It had a pretty graphical interface on top of that which was also more intuitive and usable so I started to have a look and got myself a Mac for the office to see if I could work with it again. And I found it a totally different animal. If there was a problem I couldn't fix by pointing and clicking, I could open a 'command shell' and type in a Unix command and make it do what I wanted it to do.

And because it was a Unix system and my main job was managing Unix servers, it made life very easy having a system on your desk on which you could test server applications without mucking about with the server and annoying users. From around then I used Windows and Macs on an almost equal basis.

Then the next big thing happened; Apple decided to make all their machines Intel based, rather than the quirky (though it was pretty advanced and good for its time) PowerPC architecture. What this meant was the it was possible to run Windows on the same hardware, thus meaning that you could have one computer that ran both systems and rather than owning two machines you could just have one and run your Windows programs on one part and your Mac programs on the other... Or even with some clever software at the same time!!

This was the real turning point which made Macs a really viable choice for normal people. You could buy a basic Macbook for not much more than a high end Windows laptop and these 'basic' machines were dual core processors with large amounts of RAM and hard drive.

I bought my first iMac in Summer 2006 and as my ancient Toshiba laptop was nearing the end of its useful life bought a Macbook in the Autumn of that year. So I now have two nearly 4 year old machines which are still my main productivity tools. With Windows machines you would be thinking of changing them around now for the latest. With mine, I've got the latest MacOSX, oodles of free (and paid for) software and the whole thing still runs as fast as ever. Must admit I did increase RAM in one and Hard Drive on the other, and that was a marginal cost.

Moving onto phones, I bought an iPhone to replace my brilliant Nokia N95 quite simply because it does everything I want a phone to do and is effectively a small pocket computer where I can even manage remote systems easily from wherever I may be. And it does have the best and most responsive touch screen of any mobile I've played with.

So what this piece is saying is that I, and many other 'new Mac' users (rather hate that term, as it's reminiscent of 'New Labour') choose their products not due to some iSheep desire to buy it just because it's a Mac, but because it's the best fit for what we want it to do and does the job easily and well.

But what of the old pre OSX users of Macs? Well some of them hated the new system because it wasn't the same as the old and also hated the fact that others who weren't in the 'Mac Clique' were starting to use 'their' systems. They also found the new capabilities too confusing and retreated into their shells.

Others welcomed the new systems and remained iSheep, believing that anything Mac is good and anything not Mac is bad. And they wouldn't acknowledge the faults that some of the devices or systems had (cf iPhone 4 signal problems, issues in too quickly released versions of the OS etc)

People now use Macs (and iPhones) who would never have dreamed about using them in the past. But they (and I include myself here) also use other systems when necessary if they are a better fit and don't have a 'religious' zeal for only using Macs.

Well, gulp, this has been a very long diatribe, sorry if it went on a bit and I hope it's explained the points I set out to explain.... or at least shed a light on them.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, 12 July 2010

So many blog sites

So here I am not having written here for around 8 months wondering whether I should look at another of the many free blog sites available. tumblr looks interesting. But it makes me wonder as to why there are so many of these....

Surely the inline adverts can't make Google et al that much money? Maybe they do.

Or maybe they're trying to tempt us onto 'premium services' (are there any for blogger?)

Or are they just here providing a 'service' to the internet community... yeah of course!