Charles Moore's Mailbag

Computer Elitism, Cars, and Online Retail Woes

Charles Moore - 2002.02.14 - Tip Jar

Computer Elitism

From Bob Friede:

Yikes! Every time I think that - just maybe - I'll try out OS X pretty soon after all, someone like you comes along and shows me how happy I am with what I've got in my various Macs: 9.1 and before.

Nevertheless, it would be nice to be able to do something else on the computer while, for example, processing/copying a series of huge files. It's too bad that, besides the multitasking feature, OS X has nothing to offer me either, really.

Nice article!

Bob Friede
Malcontent in Massachusetts

Hi Bob,

See my OS X Odyssey 51 on Applelinks.

Charles

Computer Elitism

From William Plowman

I found your recent article on Low End Mac interesting; I am a big fan of the Mac OS platform, if not always Apple itselfUmax J700 (I suppose that that is a little bit of a factor in my main computer being a much loved Umax J700). I have no love for Steve Jobs, I remember how 5-7 years ago it was the Apple clones setting the standard for speed in the computer industry, but Apple didn't really figure out licensing, and Steve didn't like his OS running on some other hardware.

So out that went.

But I own and drive a Ford, my first and only car (I am only 18), and if I wanted to get another car I would probably get another Ford. This is really where the cars and computers analogy starts to break down; my particular Ford happens to be a 1964 Fairlane. It does have a 1969 302 engine (I'll spare you the details), but there isn't really anything on that car that you couldn't have put on it in 1969 except the stereo. I estimate the top speed at 120 mph, I get 18-20 miles per gallon (the motor has around 100,000 miles on it; I would get more if it were new). This isn't really too far off from what a new car it's size would do, yet a computer only three years old is often considered outdated.

This summer I plan to put new seats and air conditioning in it, and somewhere down the line I'll put a new motor and transmission in; this would perhaps compare to putting a G4, 1 GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon 8500 in an LC. I can really do whatever I want with my car - I could put a diesel in, I could put the body on a 4x4 truck frame, for an extreme example.

Really, where the cars and computers analogy starts breaking down is with cars that deviate much from factory. I may never buy a new car, whether I have the money or not; they are not better for the money, they are all too similar (unless you have plenty of money), and, perhaps most of all, any old fool can buy any new car he wants if he has the money.

Unless I am selling though, no one can buy the '64 Fairlane with the VIN number ending 111515 (I have it memorized). My car is unique, in a beat up way, yes, but when I get all the work done and get a good paint job it will still be unique. This brings me right back to the point of your story: I drive my car because I almost never see anyone driving another one and certainly they are still quite different - plus it works fine (yes, thing do break, but there are only so many thing on the car to break). I use the Mac OS because it is different and it works great for everything I do.

Windoze is partly like the Dallas Cowboys of 6-7 years ago or the San Francisco 49ers of 10 years ago. They had all the numbers in their favor, and it only made them all the more hated for 90+% of football fans. The difference is that Micro$oft does not make a very good product anymore; perhaps they were a good option at some point, but now their only reason for being so popular is that they are so entrenched. That's the other side of the coin for why I hate Windoze. AOL is different, they are a little bit of a right place, right time company, and they are not near that dominant, certainly nowhere near being a Monopoly. I could go on and on.

As far as your question of "would we really want Apple to dominate the market?" Obviously no, as you point out. I do not think that the Mac OS running on PC hardware is a bad idea; it would still be a distinctly different choice from Windoze. However, were Apple to take over the market it is quite possible that within five years (which they obviously can not do using their current strategy), around half of the original Apple users would be running something else, at least on the side.

Microsoft is stagnating in terms of development; they are focused on being the dominant OS, where Apple is focused on developing new ideas and changing things, just as they have always done. It's the same story with PC suppliers: None of their hardware is anywhere near as interesting as Apple's hardware, and none of it catches your eye. I maintain, however, that Apple's hardware catches the eye, whereas the Mac OS holds the discriminating user and convinces him that this is indeed a better choice. Yes the new iLamp may look pretty funky on your desk (or not), but that doesn't mean a thing unless you can do something with it (otherwise, wouldn't there be a company selling funky Mac shaped pieces of plastic?); that's where the OS takes over.

Anyway, that's part of my two bits. With how long this email is I almost wonder if maybe I shouldn't be a columnist; I'd do it on the side if I could swing it. I do usually find your writing interesting, by the way.

William Plowman

Hi William,

Glad you enjoy my columns, and the Mac/car analogy is really just a bit of fun, although I note that a lot of computer folks are also car-freaks.

I remember the '64 Fairlane from back in '64, when I was a bit younger than you are. I liked it well enough that I bought an AMT 1/24th scale model kit, which I built with a big 427 CID mill stuffed in. I still have it. ;-)

I also had one of the scariest rides in my life in a '64 Fairlane with a 289. A seriously crazy friend of mine had one, and I foolishly went for a drive with him one evening when he decided to see how fast it would go. I was literally down on the floor in the back seat wondering if I was going to live. That must have been in '69 or so. BTW, my friend is still living, somewhat miraculously. He never crashed the Fairlane, but he seriously wrecked a Dodge Super Bee that he subsequently owned several times.

You sound like a serious gearhead, as is my 19-year-old son. He just traded his '69 Chrysler Cordoba (360) for a very cherry '68 Chrysler Newport Custom with no serious rust and a 383 (50,000 miles on the car). We also have a '67 Imperial LeBaron with a 440 that he is building into a hot rod.

I agree with you about used cars. I've owned about 50 cars, and the newest was three years old when I bought it.

Charles

Re: Computer Elitism

From William Plowman

Sounds like you and your son have quite a bit of interest and knowledge in cars. My older brother, by the way, has a 1973 Dodge Coronet. It's not too bad; it was bought new by my late great aunt and had about 65,000 miles on it when he started driving it in '97. Now it has about 120,000 miles on it from driving to school, etc. It's a four door, 318 auto, by the way. My brother just isn't a gear head like me, though; while I was cutting my teeth on oil changes, water pump and valve cover gaskets (not fun or easy to do on a 1990 Ford van), my Dad has to remind him to keep the oil checked.

I have thought about building a Thunderbolt clone out of my car - that's what the guy I bought it from was going to do - but I could never do it. Building a Thunderbolt clone would cost a lot, and it just wouldn't serve my purposes. I hope to eventually build a 302 making about 300 horsepower with a five speed and some suspension, brakes, and steering upgrades. I'd just love to put a million miles on it (I think that that's one of my life's objectives; a million mile car).

I have a cousin who's into computers (Macs, of course), and I asked his sister if he had a girlfriend. She said, "No, he has a computer." I am kind of that way right now with my car. I have an older friend who helps me with a lot of stuff, and if ever the subject of women comes up, he says to forget them and fix up my car instead. I guess quite a few things are taking a back seat to my car right now. Of course, when my car needs something, it always gets it first; my J700 just has to wait (I lived with 32 MB of RAM for six months before I finally bought some more).

So yeah, I guess you could say I'm a gearhead.

Will

P.S. How fast did you friend's Fairlane get going? I've never been dumb enough to try it; maybe I will some day. The salt flats in Utah aren't too far away - of course, nothing is "too far away" for a Montanan who loves to drive and commutes 80 miles to college and back every day.

Hi again, Will,

To be honest, I don't think I was looking at the speedometer that night of the Fairlane speed run back in the late 60s. Most speedometers are wildly inaccurate at those velocities anyway. It was faster than I was comfortable going (no seatbelts, etc.). I used to drive pretty fast myself at times, but I didn't have a whole lot of confidence in this guy's abilities.

Bonneville would be a lot better venue. BTW, are there still no speed limits in Montana?

Charles

A request for help

From Steven Collicutt

Hello Mr. Knight and Mr. Moore.

I have been a daily reader of Low End Mac for some years now, first looking up specs for my absolute piece Power Mac 5200of crap 5260 to now reading every article posted every day. (I own a B&W now.)

I have found some disturbing trends going on with online retail stores such as tigerdirect.com that need to be brought to many people's attention to save them a lot of headaches and was hoping that you may do an article or at least link to my post at DealMac that breaks down my infuriating experience with Tiger Direct and how this has got to stop.

I remember seeing a nice article by Mr. Moore some time back about his experiences trying to buy RAM, and I can totally relate. Please read my post and see if it is worthy of adding it's contents perhaps to an article as a heads up.

I can write something different if you like, but my only goal here is to make online retailers start acting like a real business and stop treating patrons like garbage. I reside in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and I know from another post on DealMac that other people had ordered their drive after me but still received theirs. I think this is because I am Canadian that I got the shaft, putting my order at the bottom of the pile.

I would greatly appreciate your help in any way to bring to light through your site that there are many crooked online retailers out there and the only way to stop them is to inform the public of their crooked ways. If you have any questions or would like me to rewrite my piece on this issue, I would be glad to.

I hope to hear from you.

Thanks Very Much
Steven Collicutt

P.S. Your site rocks! I used to work for a company that supported many ISPs and use to go around and change all of the homepages on all of the machines in the building to Low End Mac. That was early summer when you were reporting problems financially. I hope it helped some. Keep up the great work.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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