My wife has a MacBook Air. From a hardware perspective, it’s a gorgeous machine in its slim aluminum case. But as the family IT guy, I hate it: I save files on it and can never find them again. I have a special distrust of the Mac e-mail client: when it fails to send or receive, it just sits there looking innocent, and I don’t have a way of poking it in the ribs to see if it’s actually working. To that end, when she got the machine last year, I installed Thunderbird on it and insisted that she use it. So far, it’s worked.
But for myself, I refuse to use a Mac.
My current business laptop went in service in early 2009. It’s still functional, but getting long in the tooth: time for a new one. The new machine is a Lenovo Twist with Windows 8. I had read bits and pieces about how Windows 8 was hard to deal with, but I thought it couldn’t be worse than the Mac.
I was mistaken.
Like my wife’s machine, the hardware is gorgeous. It’s a pleasure to hold in one’s hand, set it on the table, turn it on. It’a a joy that it boots up in under 30 seconds.
And then the bottom drops out.
While it’s waiting for me to log in, it displays the next appointment from my calendar. Now that’s what I call operational security!
I can log in ‘locally,’ or with a Microsoft account. Why I’d want to do the latter is unclear: who appointed Microsoft to be the gatekeeper for my computer?
After I log in, I’m dropped into the user interface formerly known as Metro. It’s now called ‘Modern:’ apparently Microsoft hadn’t done their due diligence, and discovered, too late, that ‘Metro’ was trademarked by some other firm.
It’s a grid of squares and rectangles that blink, show pictures, and present weather reports, e-mail counts, and other varied data. I get dizzy looking at it for more than a few seconds. It’s a plausible interface for a mobile phone for a hyperactive teenager. But I’m not a hyperactive teenager, and my computer is a working tool, not a toy or a status symbol.
I installed Microsoft Office, which resulted in a pile of little squares being added off the right edge of the screen. I scroll over to the squares, click on one of them, and am dropped into a desktop where I can actually run Word, or Excel, or whichever. In theory, if I wanted to run another tool, I would have to go back out to Modern-Metro-land, click on another square, and be dropped back into the desktop. There is no Start menu as in previous versions of Windows, or in the various incarnations of Linux that I used to run.
And as much as I hated the e-mail client on my wife’s computer, the current version of Windows Mail deserves its own special place in hell. One morning, I answered three e-mails on my new computer. The machine made reassuring noises, and the icon appeared on each of the original messages, indicating I had answered them. When I went to other machines, and other e-mail clients, they all showed the little arrow that indicated an answered e-mail.
The only problem is that the answers never actually got sent out! I found them three days later, still in the outbox. And so ended my use of Windows Mail.
As much as I like the idea of Linux, Microsoft Office is a mainstay of my business for which there is no practical substitute. (No, OpenOffice doesn’t quite cut it. Yes, it can handle 95% of what Microsoft Office does. But that last 5% is the difference between looking professional and looking like a turd.) So it’s either Windows or a Mac. I can’t stand Macs, and now the latest version of Windows is just as bad.
Yes, life will go on. I’ll find an aftermarket Start button to install on the Windows 8 desktop, and ultimately move my other files and programs. It’ll be almost as good as Windows XP.
But it’s another way that I can’t go home again.
Unless I can turn myself into a hyperactive teenager….