Welcome to Macintosh

iPogue: David Pogue on Macs, Music, and What's Really Important

- 2007.06.01

Bong! . . . :-) . . . Welcome to Macintosh!

In the world of Macintosh, there are many different kinds of people. There are artists, musicians, and teachers, just to name a few.

Then there are writers. I last interviewed the multitalented Andy Ihnatko. As with Andy, the writer interviewed this time needs no introduction.

David PogueBut for those who'd like to know: This man is the author of several popular Mac books and is a New York Times technology columnist. Yes, friends, I present this interview with none other than . . . David Pogue.

I recently interviewed him via email:

Tommy: After numerous accolades and a loyal fan base - not to mention being considered the de facto standard in regards to Macintosh journalism - how does it feel to be the famous David Pogue?

David: I kind of like it, actually. :)

I'm just barely famous enough that I get recognized about five times a year. Not enough to be annoying, but just enough to massage my ego.

Tommy: What's the difference between the David before and after fame and taxes?

David: More interesting: What's the difference between the public David and the family man? Truth is, I split my time pretty evenly. My family is awesome - my kids are brilliant and photogenic.

Tommy: What's the weirdest thing about you most people wouldn't even imagine as being part of your persona?

David: See above!

Tommy: Your columns and books have a quirky, edgy sense of humor . . . does it come naturally, or is it something requiring finesse and three meals a day?

David: I think it comes from having been the youngest of three children (translation: the one most likely to be ignored). The last-born, according to The Birth Order Book, tends to be the class clown, the funny one, the showoff. Sure was true in my case.

Tommy: What in your mind would you consider your crowning achievement both personally and professionally?

David: Well, the Emmy was nice. Getting my own TV series was pretty cool. But professionally, I'd have to say landing the New York Times column was the height of happiness for me. What an awesome gig.

Greatest personal achievement was reeling in Jennifer, my wife - a brainy, hot plastic surgeon.

Tommy: Annoying things about writing columns and books . . . what's in your top 10?

David: The trouble with computer books is that they get stale so fast. Some of those damn Apple software books I have to rewrite every single year to keep up with the new software versions!

The trouble with the columns is having to pack up everything I review and ship it all back. Major pain in the butt.

Tommy: Do you get mobbed by crazed Mac fans wanting autographs or their MacBooks signed?

David: Nope.

Tommy: Who do you consider your lifetime inspiration?

David: They tend to be musicians (my first career). Stephen Sondheim. The Whiffenpoofs. Whoever does the orchestra arrangements on American Idol. (Just about everyone gets credits at the end of each episode, including the vocal arrangers, singing coaches, song-permission-getter, and camera operators. Why not the arrangers?)

Tommy: As per your bio on davidpogue.com, you once aspired to become a piano player and composer. Do you pick up the urge to play these days?

David: I actually play quite a bit. At home, for example. And I usually conclude each of my speaking engagements with a few song spoofs at the piano.

Tommy: Have you considered writing your memoirs? iPogue: I Lived To Tell It All anyone?

David: At 44, I'd hope that I'm not far enough along in my career to write a memoir!

About Apple & Microsoft

Tommy: Back to the Future moment - What drew you to the Mac?

Mac 512KDavid: It was 1985. Senior year at Yale. I'd never owned a computer. So I asked around, and all the smart people said, "Get a Mac."

Apple used to sell Macs at half price to college students - they really ought to do that again - and so I was hooked for life.

Tommy: What about Apple has captured your attention most over the years?

David: Steve Jobs' return. Does anyone remember how boring Apple was while he was gone?

Tommy: Successes and failures of Apple . . . what's on your Top 10 list?

David: Probably the same as yours. :)

Tommy: Looking down the autobahn, what do you see in Apple's future as a whole?

David: The entrance into consumer electronics is pretty cool. They made over the music player and the cellphone, but that leaves about 400 other categories wide open.

Tommy: What are Pogue's most recommended commercial/shareware/freeware apps for both Classic and OS X?

David: I like TypeIt4Me, which saves me millions of keystrokes a year. SuperDuper for backup. Keyboard Maestro for macros. Snapz Pro for capturing screenshots and movies.

Tommy: Favorite tips, tricks, keyboard shortcuts for Classic and OS X . . . what are your recommendations?

David: I've listed them in a tidy book called Mac OS X: The Missing Manual. Check it out!

Tommy: If someone were to say the word Microsoft, what would come to mind?

David: A seething mass of genius and incompetence, spread halfway across the galaxy.

Tommy: Do Microsoft and innovation go hand-in-hand or out the window?

David: Some of each. There are some truly great ideas in Windows Vista. Presentation mode. Speech recognition (including Mousegrid, which lets you click and drag with pixel accuracy, all by voice). The ability to launch programs with a keystroke, which Mac OS X still doesn't have built in.

Tommy: Your thoughts on Vista . . . will it catch on?

David: Of course. You don't have a choice - it's what you get when you buy a PC. So that's 400 million computers a year with Vista preinstalled; I'd say that's pretty good odds that it will catch on.

Tommy: In the years ahead, will the Zune phenomenon catch on? Will we be jammin' with a stylish brown (affectionately known as poo poo) Zune hanging around our necks?

David: Nope, I think the Zune has bombed.

Tommy: Would you ever become a technology consultant for Microsoft if they asked nicely?

David: They'd have to ask nicely with an absolutely enormous check in their hands.

Fun Questions

Tommy: What's Pogue's at home Mac?

MacBookDavid: I basically walk around with a black MacBook. I don't use the ol' Power Mac much anymore except for video editing.

Tommy: What would one find in your living room on a visit?

David: These really cool oil paintings of my kids. They were computer-generated from a photo by a company called PhotoFiddle, but they really look authentically painted.

Tommy: Your Top 10 favorite websites . . . what do they consist of?

David: nytimes.com, davidpogue.com, missingmanuals.com, digg.com, macsurfer.com, macintouch.com, dilbert.com, google.com, weather.com, amazon.com.

Tommy: If you had to pick one Mac you considered your all-time favorite, what would it be?

12" PowerBook G4David: 12" PowerBook, hands down.

Tommy: Where can one obtain an autographed photo of Pogue?

David: Hm. I don't know of any that exist, actually.

Tommy: What advice would you give to aspiring youngsters no matter what direction they take in life?

David: Look for the holes. That is, look for projects that nobody else is doing, or that nobody else is doing well. (Look how well that's done for Apple!) Hit 'em where they ain't.

And don't be afraid of failing. As Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."

Wrapping Up

It was a pleasure to interview David. I have a few of his books and have always loved his sense of humor. He really knows his stuff.

If you'd like to drop me a line to let me know what you thought of the interview, feel free to send me an email to thomas (at) lowendmac (dot) com!

Stay tuned for the next Welcome to Macintosh. LEM

Go to the Welcome to Macintosh Interviews index.

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