MacBook Air — Picture by K. L. Zolnoski
Despite the amount of writing I wanted to get done yesterday for War In Flesh, and the fact that I was very excited to let you, gentle reader, know that I had set up a Tumblr account, my laptop decided to lock up once again. What follows is my account of the events that led me to get this gorgeous and sexy new MacBook Air that I am currently using.
I’ve been a PC girl since, well since PC’s got affordable. While it is true that my first PC was an Amiga (which I loved by the way), since that faithful machine went to PC heaven I’ve had a variety of Dell’s, an Alienware laptop, Vaio and other machines that have served me well and made my computing experience pretty much what it should be. I got things done and I surfed the web with a minimum of fuss or trouble.
That all changed when my Alienware laptop, after years of service, simply gave up just before Christmas this last year. Due to it being Christmas I used a loaner Vaio to save some money rather than rushing out and buying a new laptop. There was another consideration for me trying to limp by as long as I could without my own machine. Win 8 had been released into the wild and I wanted no part of it.
From my experience, the Windows OS, much like Star Trek movies, only gets it right about every other time and I had unfortunately purchased my Alienware when Vista had just been released and got stuck with that. It was a pain in the behind but not impossible. From what I had been hearing about Win8 I feared it was the next of the less than stellar OS’s that Microsoft was releasing. Unfortunately it is difficult to get out of the cycle once you buy a computer with one of the questionable Microsoft offerings for an OS because the time to replace a computer invariably falls during the next round of undesirable systems.
Unfortunately I reached the point where I simply required my own machine to work on. To that end I went to a local Best Buy to see what they had to offer. Now I only require one thing from my computer: Stability. I’m not a huge gamer and I don’t edit a lot of videos or anything like that. Sure I like to have a dozen or so web browsers open, some of them to sites that might make things a bit busy but it’s not like I’m playing WoW in one window and editing videos for YouTube in another. Ok, ok, yes I will have two or three word documents open and word is a pig but that shouldn’t tax a modern machine. (Yes I had an Alienware. Yes I was like the little old lady driving a Maserati.)
Now the sales kid was very friendly and helpful and directed me to an Acer laptop that seemed pretty ok. I know Acer in the past has had some platform stability issues but the latest write-ups had indicated they had solved those problems and were well on their way to being the next reputable thing in laptops. Thus began my 6 weeks of computing purgatory.
Win 8 is completely unlike any interface I’ve ever used and, worse in my opinion; there is nothing intuitive about it at all. It’s all flashy icons (charms w/e the h-e double hockey sticks they call them) and no substance. Worse, every time I tried to move my mouse from one side of the screen to another, say during the editing process of writing an article like this one, the stupid charms sidebar would immediately pop up, overlay what I was doing with the time and date and I’d have to get out of that before I could continue. Also, and no less annoying, if I let the mouse sit on an app for too long it would decide that I meant to select it and open it without my express permission. This resulted in having to close a lot of apps and windows I never wanted open. And yes I watched it, it did this when I wasn’t even touching the touchpad at all.
The mouse jumping and selecting things I didn’t want was also responsible for resizing my WordPress blog such that it was almost unreadable for me and I never did figure out how to change it back. Thankfully the migration to the MacBook has corrected that issue.
The main screen was full of icons for things that they wanted me to buy from their store, apps they wanted me to buy from their store that I didn’t want because I have the apps I like on my iPad where I like them. The start button was gone and the menu that allowed me to easily find things was also gone. It was awkward and I presume they were trying to simplify things for people but they went so far that I actually felt the OS was actively working against me.
If I want Cylon level of malevolent intelligence in a computing system I also want it to be Cylon shaped and at least have that nerd cool factor going for it. And I can’t even say the system was malevolent, it was just unbelievably stupid.
Add to that the mouse jumping around constantly and clicking on things I never clicked on and it was an exercise in annoyance just to touch the stupid thing. Now I know that was the settings from Acer, or at lease I presume so although that is not the only pc I’ve used where the mouse jumps around so maybe it’s something to do with Windows. I honestly don’t know at this point.
All I know is that the Acer machine locked up completely, to the point where it wouldn’t let me log in or even show the desktop twice in a 6-week period. Each time I lost a full day of work, not to mention the stress of wondering if the last thing I did was lost forever and my new laptop was now a pretty paperweight. Oh and the mouse driver just gave up one day and I spent half a day Googling (on my iPad) for answers, finally downloading the drivers again and getting it to work. So yeah I was running into complete work stoppage every 2 weeks on average with that machine. Added to that the unbelievable hassle of trying to work around Win 8 and I had just had it with that machine and Win 8.
True it wasn’t all Win 8’s fault but I wasn’t happy with it anyway. So we went back to Best Buy and I was irritated. Laptops aren’t cheap and I had something that was unusable. I had asked for one thing and one thing only: Stability. And they hadn’t come through. Plus I was outside the 15-day return window. I was angry.
This is where my story takes a happy turn. The gentlemen at Best Buy didn’t even hesitate, they took the Acer back although they were quick to tell me the best they could do was some store credit because I was outside the return date, they didn’t quibble about giving me some store credit and because they were so helpful and professional I upgraded. I went from an Acer to a MacBook Air that cost easily twice as much.
Now I’m only on my first full day of owning my MacBook Air but already I’m liking it so very much better. The mouse doesn’t jump, and I type fast! The user interface seems very intuitive to me. I love it when I can jump right in on a computer and figure out how to use it. Win 8 assumed that is how it should work, then made an interface that actively got in the way of getting done what I wanted to do. My MacBook is the opposite. I was having a tiny bit of a snag downloading Windows Office for the Mac and I went to the dropdown menu in the upper left and within seconds found something that seemed to me to be what I wanted. I clicked on it and ta-dah!
That is how a computer should work. The only thing I miss is the left click on the mouse bringing up spell check for a single word in Word. That is a small price to pay for a laptop that works reliably and a user interface that gets out of my way and lets me do what I need to do, more than that the MacBook user interface is actually helpful. Now if it just works with the consistency and reliability of my other iDevices I’ll be a Mac girl from here on out.