Friday, March 02, 2007

I don't want a mac anymore!

I'm cured!

In the past, I've griped about my Windows XP machine and how I sat and stared with envy at those with their sleek Apple iMacs, but I think that's over. For a while. Until I get sick of Windows again.

Yesterday, I was fed up. Last year, I spent some decent coin on a Dell so that I could edit videos. Nothing fancy, just stuff for YouTube. You know, messin' around.

My experience with my Dell has been less than stellar. There was a problem where I couldn't play back DVDs because it shipped with an outdated or screwed up video codec. I'm not sure which, because even after 20 hours on the phone with some dude in India named "Larry", we never got to the bottom of the problem. In fact, it sorta fixed itself, but I have no idea how.

This has not been the only problem (of course). My DVD drive likes to disappear sometimes. That's right. It uninstalls itself. Then it comes back. Perhaps it is moonlighting as someone else's DVD drive for extra cash? I don't know.

It's pointless for me to list all the annoying things about living with a Windows machine, we already know what they are. Needless to say, I've looked to people with Macs, with their great hardware/software integration, with a mixture of awe and jealousy.

So this takes me to yesterday. Frustrated at the lack of control in Windows Movie Maker, I dreamed lazily about the blissful nirvana of iMovie. It looked so easy and elegant!

"Screw it, I'll get one!", I thought.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and I realized I should probably try one out first, before plunking down all that money on something I would be stuck with for years. I asked around and my friend Jake was nice enough to lend me his black MacBook for a very reasonable sum.

I went over and got it and instantly started playing around on it.

"This is great!", was my reaction. Everything was so shiny and new. You moved the mouse around and things popped up and animated themselves. I was impressed.

I took it home and jumped right in. I plugged in my video camera, fired up iMovie and voila! It started digitizing right away!

I was very impressed with this. My camera is a little tricky. It's a cheaper Sony Handycam and it does not play well with most video editing software. Getting it to work well with Movie Maker was no easy task. iMovie was another story.

As I began to work with my video clips within the program, I started to have vague recollections of my brief Mac experiences from the past. I hate the way the mouse moves.

Please don't send me an angry letter explaining how I am an idiot and that acceleration lets users have more precise control of the mouse, blah blah blah. I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. It might seem like a nitpicky point, but it's the way you interact with the computer. Everything else starts with that. If you're not happy at the start, how can anything after that be any good?

I called my friend and asked him how to turn off the acceleration. The short answer is: you can't. You used to be able to, I remember it. The nice folks at Apple have decided that you shouldn't, so that's that. Which leads me to my big gripe: They know what's best for you.

Just like every Mac FanBoy who is penning his hatemail right now while you read this sentence, Apple is so convinced that they have "the right way" to do things, they remove your choice to disagree.

Now, Jake was nice enough to find me an application on a website that would turn off the acceleration, except that it didn't. It added a layer of software to the mouse's own way of doing things that emulated non-accelerated movement. What?? As you can guess, it didn't work too well.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain: On a PC, when you move your mouse, the movement on the screen is roughly equivalent to this in a linear fashion. If I move my mouse 1 inch, my cursor on screen it moves about 5. If I move it two, then the cursor moves 10. This does not change with the speed of my movement, it just takes less time to do it.

On a Mac, if you move your mouse slowly 1 inch, it will only move maybe 1 or 2 inches. But, if you move your mouse quickly over that same 1 inch, it will cover much more ground because it has been accelerated. I am told that this is helpful for people who need precise control over small details, people who edit photos professionally, for example.

I like the PC way. On my computer, if I want my mouse to accelerate, I can turn that feature on. Why isn't it the other way around?

So I was already frustrated when I started getting a headache. I don't have the greatest vision and the MacBook comes with a pretty high resolution on a smallish 13 inch screen. This means text appears pretty small.

I opened a help window in iMovie and had to struggle to read it. The window was very small. I tried to resize it, but the little policeman inside wouldn't let me do it. I went to change the font size and this worked; the letters got bigger. But the window stayed the same size and I had to scroll back and forth to read each sentence.

This is when I gave up!

Yes, I am a baby. But I spend a lot of time on my computer and I like things to be the way I want them. My friend has offered to come over and help me customize things to my liking, but I think it's gonna take me a few days before I can even look at that thing again (the computer, not my friend).

It gives me knots in my stomach. Does anyone have any advice for living with a Mac? I don't want to give up on this thing. Am I going to have to pay 20 dollars to buy some shareware to "fix" this problem with the mouse? Is there a way to resize the help window that I don't know about? I would have looked in the help files, but as I had no way to resize them, the thought of all that frustration sent me back to my Dell.

I have a sinking feeling that this kind of "we know what's best for you" control that they exercise over you at every step of the way is exactly what makes them work so well.

They don't let hardware manufacturers do what they want either, everything has to be to their exact specifications, which is why when you plug in a camcorder, your clips download into your computer perfectly. But does it really screw anything up if they just let me use my mouse in a normal, intuitive fashion? Can't I have a program take up the whole screen if I want to?

Am I just wildly ignorant of how these things work? Is there a simple solution for all these (admittedly minor) quibbles?

I want a computer that has useful software that works well and can get things done right out of the box. That is what drew me to the Mac. But I also need a computer I can live with, that doesn't drive me crazy with its quirks, which is why, for now, I am sticking with my PC.