My Turn

Why I Wish Apple Were More Like Microsoft

- 2006.05.18

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I'm a self-employed IT guy. I support Macs and PCs in PC and Mac environments. I've used Macs since 1984 and was a Mac bigot until about 1996. That year I was told to learn PC or get another job. This made me very sad, but I liked getting a paycheck, so I learned PC.

When I learned PC, I learned how much I knew about Mac - and exactly what I loved and what hated about it.

They say you don't really know English until you learn Latin. Well, I didn't really know Mac until I learned PC.

Even though I had been playing with ResEdit since forever, learning Windows allowed me to put all the Mac knowledge I had acquired in all my years of playing into context. (My Macs usually said, "Welcome, Jamie" instead of "Welcome to Macintosh" - if you know what I'm talking about, you understand my Mac adulation.)

My first real PC experience was with Windows NT 3.51 and NT 4.0, which I slogged through getting my MCSE. That was a real chore and no easy feat. But along the way I picked up some neat info. Things like the 7 OSI layers of networking, what "true" multitasking operating systems were, why virtual memory wasn't just an evil thing that slowed down your computer, and how different drive formats had their pros and cons (and not all were limited to 31 character filenames).

Each time I learned a new fact, I realized I already knew it. Things were all new to me - and yet not new. As I learned how NT handled network host name resolution, I learned what made AppleTalk so great. I also learned what made AppleTalk so infuriating when things didn't work they way you expected them to.

Troubleshooting Support

...I couldn't learn more about how Macs worked.

The more I learned, the more frustrated I became. Not because Macs didn't work like PCs, but because I couldn't learn more about how Macs worked. Here's what I mean. Compare Microsoft's knowledge base and technical library to Apple's. If I need to know how XP handles user authentication, I can read all about it. The information about Active Directory, SIDs, SAMs, and user tokens is available for all to read. It's not exciting reading, but it exists.

In comparison, Apple's tendency is to put software out there, provide some very fluffy help files, and that's it. Apple doesn't provide detailed documentation about operating system modules or how OS X handles multiple network cards. Well, some of that information is available - certainly more than there used to be - but providing access isn't Apple's style. And what is out there is written for developers, as if they're the only people who need to know how to fix boot loaders!

My job is to make people's computers work for them. When it comes to Windows, I've got great resources to learn how things are supposed to work which lets me figure out what's wrong when things don't do what they should. With Apple, I feel like I'm being told that I shouldn't need to know these things; it should just work.

I agree, it should just work, but sometimes it doesn't. And when people call me in a panic, I need a better answer than "reformat your hard drive and reinstall the system."

Why are we still dealing with corrupted hard drives after 20 years? With NTFS on Windows, I can count on one hand how many times I've lost data due to a corrupted hard drive. And I don't think I can recall a single instance when I've had to reformat an NTFS formatted hard drive to resolve directory corruption.

How many times have you had to do that on a Mac, even with Mac OS Extended (Journaled)? Let me make that question easier: How many times have you had to do that on a Mac this year?

I want Apple to realize that they need to provide training and certification and detailed OS architecture information for us support folks. I'm tired of rebuilding the desktop, verifying permissions, and archiving and reinstalling my OS.

Be like Microsoft. Offer real solutions for real problems.

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