Now, it’s not often that you’ll find one of my posts tagged with the keyword ‘technology’ but this is really less of a technological issue and more of a psychological, emotional, financial and general well-being related post. It takes the form of a letter.
[EDIT: Steve Jobs resigned as head of Apple Inc. on the same day as I published this, and especially since his early passing away I feel a little bad about the timing of this post. Please just remember while you read that at time of going to wordpress, he was still alive and kicking as CEO.]
Dear Steve Jobs,
It has recently come to my attention that your company sucks. I am aware that I am late in coming to this conclusion, and am slightly embarrassed that all those times I defended it against the remarks of my boyfriend I was tragically wrong. So, so tragically wrong. Now, I’m a reasonable person. I’d love to send this to you or one of your lovely and naïve employees who truly believe they are working for the best company in the world, and let them know exactly what you are doing wrong. Unfortunately, though, I can’t because you don’t provide any email addresses on your website. Perhaps I will write it in a letter. For now, it is going on my blog on the offchance that a Genius may come across it (I know the mother of an Apple employee has popped by more than once, but other than that I’m not sure). So, without further ado, Mr. Jobs, here is the list of what is wrong with your company. (Note: readers of the blog are more than welcome to comment with their own additions, or to attempt to defend the company if they so desire).
1. Your weird interface. Yes, I know. The weird interface is why so many people love Macs. I don’t: I think it’s shit. And no, I don’t just need some more time to get used to it – I’ve had this MacBook for over two years now, and I get the interface. I just don’t like it. I don’t like how I have to open most types of applications to have easy access to the documents they contain. I don’t like how things are organised within the ‘Finder’. I don’t like that the little blue light is always on under the Finder, either. What does that even mean? It makes my Dock untidy, and it’s dumb.
2. On that point, I don’t like not having the freedom to roam around My Computer. That’s right. In Windows, everything is organised neatly into folders and folders within folders and everything is under My Documents, My Computer and My Pictures. It’s simple. It’s easy. But with your products, there are far too many ways to find stuff, and I always get lost trying to navigate within the damn Finder. Ironic, you say? Yes, I quite agree, Mr. Jobs. Why can’t I go into my Finder and Find the images on my hard drive? Why do I have to go to the sidebar and open up iPhoto just to view the files? Why aren’t the images stored in an orderly manner in a folder on my computer, instead of all lumped into one ‘.lib’ document? It’s stupid and it’s annoying. For a while it didn’t bother me because all I was doing was importing and uploading photos. But then I had too many, and I had to put some on my external hard drive, and I discovered that all this time I wasn’t free. Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved? Yes. Yes he is, and even if he weren’t, I know now that I am enslaved, Steve, and I don’t like it.
3. The reason why it really stings to be enslaved now is because I recently reformatted my hard drive. Why did I do such a reckless thing, you ask? You’ll see. But reformat my hard drive I did. And I had everything backed up. Everything was backed up neatly in my Seagate external hard drive, and everything was peachy. Until I tried to get my music back. Now, I’m no Windows expert – as I said, I’ve had this notebook for two years and it’s all I ever use – but I do know that in a Windows computer I would go into my backup folder, find my music cache and my ‘iTunes Library’ would be full of folders named after artists. And in each folder named after an artist, I would find the files for all the songs. And I would simply copy these files and paste them into My Music in my Windows. Or right click and select “Open with iTunes”. However. What I have in my external hard drive right now is a file named ‘iTunes Library’. That’s it, one file. Can I find the original files for each of my songs? No. Can I open this ‘iTunes Library’ file using, say, I dunno, iTunes? You bet your sweet jacuzzi I cannot. What I can do is Google (another company I admire, other than Microsoft) the problem, and find an ‘answer’ on your very own forums: Open iTunes whilst holding down the Option key, and choose a library for it to open. Well, I looked for the Option key in vain for several seconds. A second Google search led me to the explanation that the Option key is the one that says ‘Alt’ on it, and contains a picture of what looks like half a bathtub. Okay, I hold down the bathtub and open iTunes. As promised it offers me the choice of iTunes libraries. Or, should I say, the illusion of a choice. For in this list of ‘choices’, you have helpfully demonstrated to me which files and folders are and are not available to me, by fading every library save one into grey. Where is the choice there? (FYI, I filled that folder only moments ago by connecting my iPod and selecting ‘Transfer Purchases from iPod Touch’, so it only has a couple of albums on there). Result: the files are supposedly there, but I can’t see them (and besides, the ‘iTunes Library’ file is only 200MB or so, so I have my doubts that it’s all there); and I certainly can’t access them. Cheers.
4. My iPod doesn’t show up in the Finder. Thus, I cannot find the files from there and add them to iTunes. Whether or not this would be different on Windows’ OS is uncertain; either way, since the iPod is an Apple product, the fault lies with you. Those are my music files. They were stored in three different locations in my hardware: in my laptop, in my external hard drive, and in my iPod. And yet, when one of those pieces of hardware was compromised, the files suddenly became unusable. Why can’t I go into my hard drive and retrieve the files? Well, that was Complaint No. 3. Complaint No. 4 is that I can’t get them from my iPod either. They’re still on there, thankfully, which means I haven’t lost them completely. But now in order to listen to them I have to sit at my computer with my headphones in (which I don’t like because it makes me feel like I’m not part of the world around me, I’m always stressing out that someone is calling me and I can’t hear them, and I can’t eat when my headphones are in because of the noises that reverberate around my skull); or plug my iPod into my computer and play them through it on iTunes (which I don’t like because as far as I’m concerned, the fewer cables coming out of my computer, the better; there’s a reason I didn’t buy a desktop). Quite apart from this inconvenience, I just don’t understand why my iPod is hidden in every facet of my computer except in iTunes and iPhoto. Actually, I do: you don’t trust me to use it responsibly as a device for storing music. You don’t want me to be able to go in there and get my music and spread it all around the place. Well here’s the thing: I don’t pirate music. It’s not that I don’t know how, or that I’m scared to get caught, or that I don’t like the quality of torrent music. It’s that I don’t like stealing. I don’t want to steal anything: I want to get back the music that I got from real CDs, the majority of which were my own. But instead of trusting me not to pirate music, your hardware makes me have to trust you not to lose my music, because I don’t have any control over it myself. And you have violated that trust, Mr. Jobs. And I’m not happy. And if I want to get my music back, guess where I’m going to have to go? You better believe I’m going to download every last song from Pirate Bay.
5. The reason all this started. As I’m sure you’d figured, there was a pretty serious problem with my computer, which is why I reformatted the hard drive in the first place. Numbers 1-4 were just a secondary can of worms. Why oh why would I do something so drastic as to reformat my computer? a) Because I mistakenly thought I would be able to retrieve all the backed-up files that were on my external hard drive, and b) because my computer was failing to connect to the internet. My computer had what I believe, from all the forums I’ve visited on the subject, may just be the equivalent of a death sentence for a Mac’s connectivity. It is called a ‘Self-Assigned IP Address’, and boy is it bad. It’s happened a couple of times in random locations, for example in my university library (handy) and in my office at MUSADE (again, so convenient). Basically, I turn AirPort on and it finds a network. It asks me for the password, I give the password, it accepts the password, I get four bars of signal. Then, if I’m lucky, I get 20-40 minutes of internet access. Whoopee!! Then it stops. What? Did I lose signal? I didn’t go out of range… I look at my AirPort symbol and see a wee exclamation mark, which I click. ‘Alert:’, it says, ‘No Internet Connection’. Opening up Network Preferences brings me to the real problem: AirPort has not been able to retrieve an IP address from the server, and has had to assign its own. There are a few levels on which I don’t understand this: a) I had a valid IP address five seconds ago, b) nothing has changed since then, nobody has switched on any new computers so there can’t be an IP conflict, and c) if a self-assigned IP address is useless for connecting to the internet, why would you even bother assigning one? Thanks a bunch.
6. Your customer support sucks. Last time I had a problem with my iTunes, I emailed one of your people and in his helpful reply (the content of which is outshone by his sign-off), he said “Thank you for your request and have a blessed day”. Oh, Stevie, how you’ve changed since that day. It seems that this is quite a common problem, and yet I’m yet to encounter anyone who knows how to fix it. In your support page on the subject, you give detailed instructions of how to turn my airport off and on again, and how to reset my router. Thanks, those were the first things I did, but they didn’t work. That’s why I need help. Only, your site offers none, and the forums I scoured all over the web offer several different solutions, none of which have worked permanently for me. You don’t provide a contact email address, you don’t operate your ‘Fast Lane’ service here in Costa Rica, and you also don’t provide a phone number here for me to call. However, if you have time in your busy day for a meta-list, Mr. Steve, I’d be very much obliged if you’d read on to the Things I Have Tried:
1. Turning Airport off and on again.
2. Putting my computer to sleep and waking it again.
3. Restarting my computer.
4. Restarting my modem.
5. Powering everything down, then powering everything back up again, one at a time.
6. Renewing my DHCP Lease.
7. Switching IPv4 Configuration from ‘Using DHCP’ to ‘Off’ an then back to ‘Using DHCP’.
8. Creating a new Location in network preferences, then renewing DHCP again.
9. Switching my Location to one where I’ve always had signal in the past (I get four bars, Network assures me that I am Connected, but pages refuse to load and I am decidedly not Connected).
10. Checking the ‘Turn Airport Off When Logging Out’ box (I didn’t expect this one to work, but some dude said it should).
11. Booting my computer in Safe Mode.
12. Booting my computer from the OS startup disk.
13. I tried to enter Open Firmware by holding Cmd+Bathkey+O+F at startup but it didn’t open firmware, just started up as normal.
14. Repairing my hard drive from the Disk Utility function on the startup disk.
15. Reformatting my computer.
I’m sure you can imagine my frustration when I restored my computer to factory settings only to find at startup that the ‘Self-Assigned IP Address’ problem still persisted. And as an ex-Genius who posted on one of these forums admitted that he’d been stumped by this problem and had been working on it for years, and as many users said they had taken their computers to the Genius Bar and come away empty-handed; I think it’s about time you worked out exactly what’s going on here. Especially since your own ‘have-you-tried-switching-it-off-and-on-again’ support page states that the Products Affected are Mac OS 9.0, Mac OS X 10.0, Mac OS X 10.1, Mac OS X 10.2, Mac OS X 10.3, Mac OS X 10.4, Mac OS X 10.5 and Mac OS X 10.6.
So. That’s why my next computer will not be a Mac. I like the shiny pictures and the sleek body of my computer, but I’m not superficial: I want a computer that will last me, whose interface I like, and for which I can get good customer service should I need it. Funnily enough, all of the reasons (except the shiny sleek one) for which I bought your product in the first place are now all the reasons why I never will again. Oh, plus, I don’t like the way you try to monopolise everything so that anyone who has one Mac product has to buy the rest too. Oh, plus, where did Pages go? I used to have it, but after the reformatting I couldn’t get it any more, and now I’d have to pay for it only I’d rather have Word but Word isn’t available in your Mac App Store (see previous statement re. monopolising shit).