Last week, I realized that we needed an Apple Mac for SitePoint’s upcoming Photoshop Anthology book.
Being a PC-centric office, the poor old G3 that we use for browser testing was looking more like it belonged in an antique shop than up for the challenge of rendering a 300 page full-colour book, so we purchased a brand new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini for the task instead. It was all very exciting — the package was so tiny and exquisite, the instructions minimal and simplified, the design of the tiny white box so refined and sleek. My mind began picturing all sorts of geeky scenarios, mostly involving Boot Camp, and I immediately became the envy of the office.
Unfortunately it wasn’t long-lived. You see, basic functionality is not related in any way to how sexy your computer looks.
Here’s the thing that really surprised me though: it wasn’t any under-the-hood meddling that got me into trouble, it was basic conflicts with run-of-the-mill standard software. What’s one of the very first things you would do when purchasing an Intel Mac Mini? That’s right, you would install the latest software updates from Apple, as well as the Adobe CS2 suite. Unfortunately, that combination of software (in particular, the May 11 update from Apple and Adobe Version Cue CS2) will cripple any Intel-based Mac (I experienced all manner of freezing, horizontal bars across my screen and random characters being echoed to my screen). The Quicktime 7.1 update also seems suspect, for which a patch exists. But Adobe don’t plan on releasing CS3 until next year, so what is one to do?
Of course, I didn’t discover this until I had wasted far too much time installing, uninstalling, reinstalling, booting, rebooting, running hardware diagnostics, resetting firmware, booting from CD and swearing a lot in between.
Now, I’m lucky enough to have access to a second computer that I was able to use to trawl the support forums to locate the source of my problems. But all along I just kept thinking “there must be thousands of people wasting hours of time scratching their head wondering why this doesn’t work, without a second computer on hand to search for a resolution”.
Indeed, this is an issue that is affecting a good number of people. Frustrated customers have posted their experiences with trying to get support from both Adobe and Apple on this issue, with the outcome always the same: one insists it’s the other’s problem.
After two days of frustration, I ended up reinstalling OS X (without the updates) and Adobe CS2 (without Version Cue). The problem disappeared, and I was finally able to begin work on my book… that is, until I came into work the next morning and discovered that my new Mac now no longer wanted to boot. It just made that cute little chime sound over and over in an endless loop, without starting the operating system.
In a classic situation that Apple’s marketing executives must drool over (long-term PC user trials Mac for work-related tasks, with an open mind about possibly making “the switch”) I was enormously disappointed and have become extremely skeptical. Instead of purchasing an Apple, I was lumped with a Lemon, and my machine’s woes (faulty RAM?) were compounded by basic software that just didn’t work. Alex summed the whole experience up well:
Never trust a computer that looks like a handbag.
Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and sitepoint.com. He is the co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world.