posted by Dr Rubaiyat Haque MA, MBBS, MRCP on Thu 4th Mar 2004 07:48 UTC
IconI purchased my first Apple Mac in October 2003, having been a Windows user for many years. It was a new iBook G4. I previously wrote an account of my early experience with this machine along with some of the problems that I encountered. A common criticism that I faced at the time was that I had written the article too early.

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I should have taken more time to get used to the new operating before making any judgements. This is a criticism with which I now completely agree. The reason for this is that after four months of daily use, I have grown to appreciate the wonderful qualities of the iBook G4 / OS X Panther package. So much so, that I rarely need to sit down at my desktop PC these days.

So what is it about my Mac that makes it so special? To me, the iBook is the perfect example of what mobile computing is all about. It’s small, yet can accommodate an optical drive. Battery life is exemplary. You really can use this machine away from the mains for a good four hours. And we’re not talking about using huge capacity batteries that double the size of the machine. The iBook is whisper quiet in use. The advantage of using an archaic 800MHz G4 processor is that it hardly ever requires active cooling so there is no obtrusive fan noise. You can start up the machine in the quietest of environments without drawing undue attention to yourself and without annoying others. Finally, the instant wake up from sleep is a revelation. This may sound like a trivial point but not having to wait for your laptop to wake up when you open it really does make a difference to usability.

So, I’m now a proud, badge-carrying, thinking different, bona fide Machead, right? Well, that’s what I thought but maybe I’m not. I’ve noticed that whenever a Mac versus Windows flame war occurs in a computing forum (there was a particularly good one recently on Geek.com), I find myself cheering for the Windows users. I derive a rather perverse pleasure from Mac apologists being shouted down and humiliated. This was a sentiment that I didn’t really understand, given that I’m both happy and proud to be an Apple user. Then it dawned on me that there is something about the Apple experience that I really dislike: other Mac users. Before I go on, I ought to qualify my statements by saying that I know that all Mac users are not the same and I’m sure that vast majority are perfectly normal and pleasant people. But anyone glancing through almost any Mac-related forum is likely to see a considerably more extreme representation of the Mac community – the much maligned (and deservedly so) Mac zealot.

In both my professional and personal life, there is a type of person that really frustrates me. This type of person holds unshakeable beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is the type of person that believes that Princess Diana was murdered by the British intelligence agencies; that the MMR vaccine causes autism and Crohn’s Disease; that the film JFK was a balanced and honest representation of events surrounding his murder. This type of person runs their life according to what they are told by their astrologer and shuns conventional medicine in favour of the healing power of crystals. Unfortunately, the Mac zealot has similar characteristics. To the zealot, Apple and Steve Jobs can do no wrong and any criticism of their Messiah is tantamount to blasphemy. When a fellow Mac user tells the zealot of how their iBook logic board failed 3 times in the space of 12 months, the zealot’s reply will be “you’re obviously mistreating your iBook”. When told about white spots on Powerbook screens, the zealot will say “you’re seeing things”. When told that a 500 MHz G4 simply doesn’t cut the mustard when compared to a 2 GHz Pentium IV, the zealot will scream “megahertz myth!” (that was until the introduction of the G5, after which even the zealots admitted that the Motorola chips hadn’t been up to the job). When informed that the iApp upgrades would no longer be free, the zealot would cheer, “Hail Steve. We rejoice in lining your pockets and increasing Apple’s cash mountain to even more astronomical levels.”

It’s not just some Mac users that get on my nerves. I find certain aspects of Apple’s behaviour in the field of customer care rather disturbing. When a company that has close to $5 billion dollars in the bank and a slick-talking CEO who happens to be one of the highest paid in the world refuse to acknowledge serious flaws in their hardware that are causing recurrent problems, then I’m left with a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth. The threat of legal action should not be required for customers to get good customer care. I could go on to talk about deteriorating quality control, previously free OS X features for which you suddenly have to start paying and expensive OS upgrade fees which you are almost forced to pay due to lack of adequate support for older versions, but we’ve heard it all before.

I’ll end my rant with a heartfelt request: fellow Mac users, abandon zealotry and start holding Apple and Steve Jobs to account before their eagerness to exploit the Mac faithful completely destroys the once magical experience of Mac ownership.

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