I’m Becoming Bi

Bi-processorial, that is.

I told myself when I finished my associates, I would buy myself a present. I’d get a Mac. This is not the first time I’ve made such a promise to myself. When it looked like the writing career would take off, I told myself I would get myself a PowerBook. Obviously, that was a long time ago, but its successor, the MacBook Pro, is still on the agenda if I sell a book for something more than a faint promise or Amazon sends me a check for $4000 from ebook sales, whichever comes first.

Since we’re still waiting, I’ll focus on the degree, which finally came in the mail this week. (I did not attend commencement. I was too angry with the school over something that happened last year.) I also received a large payment from another source. Degree + money = Jim’s new Mac! To teh Intrawebs!

I Googled a few places and decided a used Mac was a good risk. Mac Heads tend to take care of their machines a little better. I found a site that sold nothing but used and refurbed Macs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Awesome. They had a 20″ iMac, the all-in-one unit that’s essentially an LCD screen over top of the computer guts, for roughly $550. I started to place my order and then…

The operating system is five years out of date. This is fine for a PC, where XP will run on just about anything, and Microsoft really needs to keep Windows 7 around a lot longer. On a Mac? Yeah, you try to install the latest iWork or Office on OS X Stray Cat when Werecougar is out. Not happening. It also had an anemic 1 GB of memory and no keyboard.

No keyboard? Every computer I’ve ever bought, even the used ones, came with a keyboard. I’m paying $550 for a desktop computer and not getting a keyboard and mouse?

“But, Jim, you’re getting an Apple.”

With no keyboard, bud. It’s still a desktop computer. Desktop computers ship with keyboards. If they don’t, you’re getting ripped off. But no worries. OS X runs with a Windows keyboard and mouse. I can pick up both for twenty bucks and be off. But that’s $20 I shouldn’t have to spend. I swallow my pride and looking at my shopping cart total. It says “Shipping: $80.”

To eBay!

My eBay search took me less than ten minutes from search to order. I found a 20″ iMac with 2 GB of memory, a camera, a 250 GB hard drive, and a keyboard!!! Same price as the used machine site. Best of all, I’ve dealt with this company before. When you’re employer is as cheap budget conscious as Medishack, you buy used machines. This company has sold us a few Dell computers that arrived clean, undamaged, and, I can’t stress this enough, with a keyboard. Did I mention this storefront regularly ships all makes of computers with a keyboard and mouse? Oh, and shipping?

$30.

Wham. Bam. Thank you, ma’am.

The machine should arrive tomorrow, and then the problems begin.

No, not the Mac itself. I’ve used them before, and while I’m not a convert, the first thing I’m going to have to deal with is the Mac Head contingent. A couple of friends are all excited that I’m getting a Mac to the point of telling me the best places to get rid of my Windows boxes. Granted, the HP box is living on borrowed time, but that’s HP’s fault. They build crap machines anyway. Beyond that, this is not going to happen. The HP will get replaced by a Dell. Why? Because they work.

This is exacerbated by my boss at Medishack, who is anti-Microsoft and anti-Google. (Fortunately, we’re both anti-Oracle, so we get along great.) His work machine is an iMac, though it runs a virtual machine running Windows 8. (Why? That’s a horrible desktop OS, though it looks great on tablets.) Here’s the kicker: We’re a Windows shop running Dells. Go figure. But he is constantly trying to rationalize why anything wrong with Apple is your fault and that Microsoft and Google are sinking ships. But it gets better, folks.

AJ hates Apple. He says Macs are “not intuitve.” And yes, he uses them everyday at college. He hates the interface. He hates the Apple and Command keys in place of alt and control. He just hates Macs. And if you are a Mac Head, like my boss, don’t bother trying to “correct” him. He uses them regularly and will simply see you as a misguided idiot. Never let it be said that my stepson doesn’t have a mind of his own.

My view is this: If you are dogmatic about the subject, you’ve already lost the argument. Pretty much any computer you own these days has an intuitive interface (Yes, even Windows 8, even if I think its desktop interface is the stupidest thing Microsoft’s come up with since Vista). The keyboards and mice are the same. Everything you do is on the Internet anyway. Hey, guess what. The Internet really doesn’t care if you use Windows, a Mac, or Linux (though Linux will make you work harder to get there.) I’m buying a Mac because I always wanted one. I’m buying it because there are three mobile platforms out there: iOS, Android, and Windows 8. You can’t write iOS apps on a Windows box. It’s really stupid, but it’s reality.

And besides, who says I must remain loyal to brands or platforms? I treat political parties as disposable. What makes you think I want to get tribal about my computing equipment.

OK, enough of that rant. The machine comes out of the box this week. Once I get Snow Leopard and iWork installed, I’ll let you know what I really think.

So Long, CompUSSR… Er, Um, CompUSA

The two worst jobs I ever had were a Burger King I worked at for about three weeks in 1985 and CompUSA. Looking back, Burger King was not nearly as bad, the bi-polar assistant manager with delusions of grandeur notwithstanding.

CompUSA? Well, let me put it this way. When I received my offer to come work for BigHugeCo, where I’d been laid off in 1997, I followed the Dotcom Boom mentality of “I need to think about it.” I thought about the more civilized work environment and 35% salary increase long enough to go buy a pair of dress shoes. Then I spent three weeks trying to get fired from CompUSA.

They wouldn’t bite.

Now comes word that CompUSA is closing its doors. Good riddance. In its heyday, CompUSA might have been geek central, the place to go when you wanted to build your own box instead of paying outrageous sums to Compaq, Dell, or Packard Bell for one. By 1998, when I worked for them, it had become a monument to customer abuse and employee discontent.

We are talking about a company that regularly put it’s customers on hold for 45 minutes and punished employees for clocking out one minute late. (“Overtime is not permitted nor tolerated at CompUSA” was the corporate mantra.) One coworker I know was asked to help the general manager use those new-fangled CD burner thangies in exchange for burning copies of any software off the shelf my coworker wanted.

Microsoft and Adobe got a little upset about that. So was the GM fired for allowing this? No, he fired my coworker. Within a month, 3/4 of the technicians had moved on to other, better-paying jobs with better work climates. Initech in Office Space would have been a major step up from there.

I left CompUSA for good on New Year’s Day, 1999, vowing never to return. And for the next seven years, I made good on that vow. When I finally did re-enter the store, searching for cheap speakers for laptop, I was shocked. While gone were Packard Bell, IBM, and most of the Compaqs, the store itself hadn’t changed at all. Well, yes, it did. I was the only customer in the place, and I still had to wait to get service.

There was no reason CompUSA couldn’t compete with Best Buy. While Best Buy has everything under one roof, CompUSA’s focus made it just geeky enough to find a niche. Instead, America’s one-time “Computer Superstore” had a cold corporate climate that inspired customer frustration and employee disloyalty to the point where some called it “CompUSSR.”