Coffee heat rising

Noodling Around: 5 reasons why I prefer a (Mac)/(PC)

Infographics! I love them for their sheer sassy silliness. Here’s an entertainment I ran across on Mashable: Mac vs. PC People. Herein we learn that Macinoids are likely to be older than PC lovers; PC enthusiasts are more likely to live in the suburbs than Mac cultists, Mac fans like modern art while PCites prefer impressionism, and on and amusingly on.

What’s your preference? And how do your other preferences, lifestyle attributes, and personal quirks align with the alleged characteristics described at Mashable?

Pour moi, I prefer the Mac for some of its traits and the PC for others. Wish we could have a computer called, say, the Wallaby, that would blend them both.


What’s so great about the Mac?

Customer service. The world’s most awesome customer service!

Fewer virus issues. Daring Mac aviators sometimes even fly naked: no virus software at-tall.

Fewer crashes. Many fewer crashes.

Fewer update hassles. It just does its thing. And when Apple publishes an update, it rarely requires a vast learning curve.

Classy style. Oh, I love the look of the beautiful minimalist iMac!

OMG! It changed my life!

And what do I love about the PC?

Speed. I think the PC runs faster than the Mac, especially for multitasking. A Mac really, truly does not like you to run more than two or three programs at a time.

Keyboard commands. Garrrrrhhhhh! Word for Mac is still relatively user-friendly compared to the PC versions with the accursed “ribbon.” BUT…all your beloved keyboard commands? The damn things are Mac system commands. Write macros at your peril. Basically, this means point-click-point-click-point-click-point-click ad infinitium nauseum. If you’re used to speeding things along with keyboard commands, making the switch to Word for Mac means a real cut in productivity.

Cheaper. But…uhm…you get what you pay for.

Compatibility. Most people have PCs. Some programs for the Mac, such as Quicken, don’t translate to the PC platform.

Availability: Lines of buyers never stream out the purveyor’s door, wind around the building, and extend out into the parking lot.

Quirks? I live in the city (but wish I was back on the ranch), like impressionism and some modern art, can’t afford to throw parties, prefer real news (the Times) to play-nooz (USA Today), love Rachel Maddow, love Jon Stewart, and wouldn’t be caught dead on a Vespa.


Apple iMac. © Matthieu Riegler, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons.
IBM PC 5150 with keyboard and green monochrome monitor (5151), running MS-DOS 5.0. Boffy b. GNU Free Documentation License.



So! Yesterday I scored a new 15-inch MacBook from the Apple store, at an educator’s discount slightly lower than the one offered at GDU’s computer store. Not only that, but they threw in a wireless Epson printer, free!

Actually, I upgraded the freebie to a printer/scanner. I’m interested to see how the Epson does: it appears to be much better made than the HP, less flimsy and far more elegant in design. It was only $50 more; I figure I can resell my hulking HP on Craig’s List for that much.

They also threw in a 50% discount on next year’s Mobile Me subscription, a little extravagance that I figure The Copyeditor’s Desk will have to pay for, assuming it earns that much in the future.

In addition, I got a year’s worth of one-on-one coaching. First thing they’ll do for me, they said, is synch up my iMac with the laptop and, if I wish (for a slight extra fee), they will upgrade the iMac to Snow Leopard. The salesman claimed they also would load the $65(!) MS Office for Mac I bought at the GDU bookstore, though I doubt that: normally anything with the letters MS attached to it is as water to oil for the Apple Genius crew.

Snow Leopard is really inexpensive, especially compared to other operating systems. It’s supposed to be the wave of the future, so I think I may spring for the modest cost to do that.

What a beautiful and elegant machine it is! Smooth, rounded, pretty…just like its operating system.

The Mac is such a creature of the Internet! The instant an infant Mac breaks out of the egg, it wants to get online. It’s chirping to be connected to the cable router, but since I don’t know how to accomplish that, it’ll have to wait till M’hijito can come over and set it up. {sigh} Much as I want to play with it, I have no idea which of the half-dozen potential connections that come up is mine. It “sees” all the neighbors’ wireless stuff, but without a little encouragement, it doesn’t see the router. At least, I don’t think it does. If it does, I don’t recognize it.

For $150, I can get an AirPort Extreme, which is said to be superior to the cheapie we bought at Fry’s Electronics. I suppose I can afford it, although we’re pushing the limits of what CE Desk can pay. And anything that’s not sitting in the corporate account is money I’ll have to use for groceries and running the house.

However, it looks like I’m going to spring free of Quicken, whose onerous requirements for upgrades are past due for me. So that will save seventy or eighty bucks.

Uh-oh! La Maya on the phone with an intelligence alert: Estate sale in Richistan! w00t!

Gotta go: we hit the road in 20 minutes.


“We Value Your Business”: Reaching a person at a company that doesn’t want to be reached

As we saw in yesterday’s encounter with Qwest, many companies—often those with a vested interest in customer service—do not want to deal with the unwashed masses with whom they are forced to do business. They make it as difficult as possible to reach a human being, because they don’t care about their customers and do not wish to waste time speaking with them.

There are several avenues to get their attention.

You can often get through to a live human by calling a phone number listed at Get Human. This useful site lists telephone numbers and strategies for getting past the punch-a-button maze.

Failing this, try googling the company’s name + “corporate headquarters.” This often will bring up a snail-mail address and a viable telephone number; sometimes a working e-mail also will appear. Invest in a stamp to send your comments or complaint by snail-mail. This was how I got an address for Steve Jobs, during the late, great MobileMe fiasco. I printed out my post, “An Open Letter to Steve Jobs,” and mailed it to Cupertino. Interestingly, an underling in Apple’s corporate offices telephoned me –several times! –to discuss the matter. Didn’t succeed in fixing things, but at least he pretended he cared, which was comforting.

Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA

A search for Qwest’s corporate headquarters gives us this intelligence:

1801 California St.
Denver, CO 80202
For general inquiries: (303) 992-1400
or (800) 899-7780
Fax: (303) 896-8515
Customer Service

Investor Relations
(800) 567-7296

Qworst’s customer disservice link takes you to another infinite loop, wherein you have to register and reveal private information before you can wander through an off-putting maze in your attempt to get some help. However, in a past experience I learned you can reach a high-ranking P.R. officer by contacting investor relations. So, that’s where I sent a link to yesterday’s rant about the company’s execrable DSL customer service.

When you believe you’ve been treated unethically or actually cheated, think about what regulatory agencies and trade groups govern the offending corporation. For example, banks and credit unions are regulated by a national banking commission. Insurance companies are to some degree regulated by state agencies. The U.S. Attorney General is interested in frauds and scams that cross state lines. The state attorneys general in your own state and the state where the company is based also may be helpful. Even if they can do nothing, management in general does not enjoy receiving a telephoned or written inquiry from an attorney general’s office; often a simple notice from a regulatory or law enforcement agency will spur a response to your issue.

Also consider contacting companies whose employees have to do business with a wide variety of vendors. Your complaint probably isn’t the first; if you get in touch with agencies or companies serve as intermediaries, you may find a way through the maze.Your credit-card issuer, for example, may have a telephone number that will reach a person at the problem company.

It takes ingenuity and persistence to get past the ramparts erected by megacorporations, which are specifically designed to repel all comers. But keep at it: if you can’t get through, try to enlist the aid of an agency that can.

Lessons learned from a computer crash

First: Don’t believe a Mac is any more reliable than a PC. It’s not.

Second: Never believe what Apple’s sales staff tells you. When I bought the Mac, I specifically asked if the Quicken data the Apple Geniuses obligingly converted to Macintosh format could be converted back to PC format, in case I didn’t care for the platform. They said there would be no problem. That turns out not to be true. A Mac-compatible Quicken data file can not be converted to a PC-readable format. Thus, if you’ve faithfully backed up your Quicken data every time you enter transactions and you own only one Mac, after it crashes you may never be able to retrieve your data-especially if your version is out of date and a newer version of Quicken won’t read it. (Remember, this is one of Quicken’s devices to force consumers to keep buying new, unneeded software: if you decline to buy each bloated new version, when you go to buy a new computer and have to install the current version, you may find all your old data is unreadable.)

Third: However, you can save a Quicken file to PDF format. You can do this with transaction reports and with entire account registers. I don’t know if it’s a function of Acrobat Professional, which resides on all my terminals, or if Quicken will make PDFs on its own, but I think it’s the latter. The process is very easy: simply print to a PDF.

While a PDF of course has no functionality, it does at least save your data in a format readable on both platforms, and PDF files are extremely stable. As such, they provide a last-ditch back-up. If everything in Quicken crashes and for some reason (there certainly are reasons!) you can’t get back into your QDF files, you at least can get at the data so that you can re-enter it in a new version of the program or into Excel.

Fourth: The relationship between Intuit and Apple is tenuous, and Mac-compatible versions of Quicken for Mac are pale (often annoying) shadows of Quicken for PC. Although Intuit alleges that it will come out with a spectacular new Mac version so ground-breaking it must be rebranded “Quicken Financial Life for Mac,” believe it when you see it.

Consider using Excel for bookkeeping. This requires you to forego the swell online communication with your bank and investment brokers…but really. How necessary is that, in the large scheme of things?

Fifth: The capability to back up Quicken data files to MobileMe is dubious. For one thing, it’s unclear whether the file is stored with a .qdf extension, and so it’s equally unclear whether the file can be used to reconstruct lost data. Then there’s the alarming fact that one of Apple’s online support gurus told me flatly Quicken cannot be backed up to MobileMe. The store’s manager denies it, but given the contradictory tales that have come at me from all directions, I believe it’s smart to put that bit of intelligence somewhere other than in the circular file.

For this reason, all QDF files should be backed up to an external hard drive and also to a flash drive. If there’s any chance you will not have access to a second Mac loaded with Quicken, also back up your account registers in PDF format.

Sixth: iWeb’s blogging function is resident on your computer and only on your computer. Thus if your computer crashes, your blog is gone. Gone for good. Unless you’ve backed up the content of your site, it can’t be retrieved; the Genius who revealed this gem was unclear whether saved data can be imported into iWeb on a new computer. If you start anew on a fresh computer without having imported your old posts, even if you can access your blog site (a matter that appears to be questionable), the minute you publish a new entry you will erase all your blog’s archival content.

Never, ever do a blog on iWeb!

What’s going on here?

Funny about MoneyatiWeb is down for the count, the Mac presently residing in Apple’s ICU. I’ve been planning to migrate funny to WordPress for a while, anyway, so this little headache presents an opportunity to get moving on that project.

It’s huge, and I’m still not convinced I want to do it. The amount of work involved is daunting–just capturing most (but not all) of the posts from the Net into Word takes about an hour for each month’s worth, and Funny has been around for seven months. Once I have the copy out of the Macintosh, it still has to be stripped of all the weird Microsoft tags and reformatted for republication. Augh!

Then I have to figure out how to migrate the domain name to WordPress, a complicated-sounding process,and then pay for the privilege, one that was included in the cost of .Mac. I wonder if this is worth the effort.

WordPress has some huge advantages, foremost among them that it’s accessible from any platform. With iWeb you have to be on a Mac, a killer of a restriction, since I can’t afford to own more than one Mac. Then you have to set up the Mac so that iWeb will access your site, and that is something I have no idea how to accomplish.

On the other hand,inserting graphics in an iWeb page is extremely easy, which can’t be said of WordPress; there’s no problem with pasting copy from Word into iWeb; and you can design your own page without having to know CSS. WordPress wishes to charge you if you put ads on your site; there’s no charge for that at Apple. While Apple charges for the use of its servers, in addition to space for your website you also can back up your data there. Alotof data. Taken together, all those are almost as big as the accessibility issue. Bigger, maybe… I don’t much care for the WordPress template I’ve selected, but I don’t see anything else that makes me happier. Plus–speaking of access–you don’t have to memorize passwords to get into your iWeb pages.

So the decision is not yet taken. If the Mac can’t be fixed, obviously I’ll have to go to WordPress. But if it comes back up…well. This is certainlynotthe path of least resistance.

Dear Apple MobileMe team

An e-mail exchange, in the usual e-mail sequence:

Dear Jeremy–

Thank you for your response. I’m sure your entire team has been endlessly harassed! I appreciate the amount of work the Apple MobileMe team has had to do under stressful circumstances.

The Quicken backup to MobileMe is now working, although I’m also backing up to a flash drive and, as soon as I can afford it, will get an external hard drive and start using the interesting Time Machine feature.

iWeb is also working as well as iWeb works.What would be REALLY nice is if iWeb 09 could gain some of the functionality inherent to programs such as WordPress. In particular:

  • A decent hit-counting system would be really nice. Over the past four days I’ve had a surge in hits on the homepage; I assume someone must have Stumbled or otherwise flagged a post, but I have no way of identifying which post that might have been. It would be useful to know what content works effectively.
  • It would be even more useful to be allowed to install Feedburner. I’ve been afraid to try, after the failures with Technorati, Google, and StumbleUpon.
  • It would be nice if I could get the StumbleUpon widget onto posts and have it work correctly. Ditto all the other widgets out there that would help boost readership.
  • For that matter, it would be good to be allowed to register with Technorati and Google.
  • It would be excellent if “tags” and “category” features existed.
  • It would be good if when you went to enter an internal link, the list of “My Pages” would appear with the most recent first, instead of making you scroll (forever and ever world without end, amen) all the way to the bottom.
  • It would be good if navigation of the published blog resembled that of more standard blogs, so that readers would not complain about navigation issues.
  • It would be mighty fine if the RSS feed button a) were larger and more obvious and b) could appear on every page.
  • An easily accessible “preview” function in Inspector would be hugely appreciated…one that would show how the site will look online, not on PDF pages!!!!
  • And it would be good if the blog did not lose functionality in some versions of Firefox on some platforms.

Can any of these issues be fixed?


On Jul 24, 2008, at 6:33 AM, wrote:

Dear vh,

I’m very sorry for the delay in our reply. As you can imagine, we have been quite busy since the launch of MobileMe in both email and chat support. I will be happy to address your concerns about your website and your Quicken backups.

We did experience some issues with website access and publishing during the transition to MobileMe. All of these should now be resolved. I’m glad to hear your site is functioning as expected again, and I see that you were able to publish the blog entries from July 17 when you wrote in last, and several others since then.

About the Quicken backups… I apologize if the information we provided previously was not entirely accurate. Quicken did backup to .Mac and should continue to backup to MobileMe. I understand you have performed successful backups since the transition.

You can verify that your information appears on the iDisk by visiting your MobileMe iDisk ( and viewing the file in this location:

iDisk > Documents > Quicken > Backup Files > yourID.dmg

That disk image (.dmg) should be your Quicken backups.

The previous MobileMe support agent was correct in saying that MobileMe support does not provide assistance with errors related to the Quicken backup to MobileMe. Because it is a feature built into the Quicken software, you will need to contact Quicken if you receive any error messages in the course of backing up your Quicken data.

A quick way to isolate if the issue is with Quicken or something larger affecting your account is to attempt to access your iDisk directly in the Finder (Choose iDisk > My iDisk from the Finder Go menu). This will show if your computer is able to connect to your iDisk. If it can connect directly, the issue is occurring within Quicken.

I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for being a part of MobileMe. Have a great day.


MobileMe Support

2 Comments from iWeb site:

“I assume someone must have Stumbled or otherwise flagged a post, but I have no way of identifying which post that might have been.”

I stumbled your “Open letter to Steve Jobs” on July 14th (10 days ago).It was so sad and funny, I had flashbacks to a defrag debacle.I can’t find any way to search the Stumble database for your other entries. A six day lag before seeing volume seems unlikely to me

Thursday, July 24, 200806:18 P

Funny about Money

Thanks so much, AMD!

It’s true a lag of that length seems unlikely. At StumbleUpon I could see that someone had stumbled the post about the layoffs at the Arizona Republic [can iWeb read HTML? we soon will see]…but that also was a while back, I think

Maybe it was Steve Jobs himself, and all his minions! An Apple executive actually called me and left word on my voicemail while I was at work this afternoon. This could get more entertaining yet! ;-

Thursday, July 24, 200809:48 P