Friday, June 6, 2008

The Mac-PC Wars

Going on a trip, when you’re a Mac person who doesn’t own a laptop, is anything but easy. In fact, it is a saga.

I could have bought a Mac laptop, which I desperately craved, but it would have cost roughly $2,000 ($800 more than my desktop) if I wanted any memory at all or even one bell or whistle.

I could have rented a Mac laptop, which seemed like a great idea (it wasn’t mine). My daughter, Leslie, was only too happy to find a Mac rental website for me, the easy part of an otherwise arduous process. After I finally researched and entered all the essential information, I learned that it would cost me $225 a week, times two-and-a-half weeks for this option.

I could have brought my external hard drive and plugged it into Leslie’s laptop. That was supposed to work, but it turned out this particular model of LaCie hard drive wasn’t compatible with a PC. Then, in a fit of rebellion, it even refused to recognize my Mac. So, off I went to my computer guru in a panic. Mike performed his usual magic, making the hard drive compatible with anything I might connect it to; but, somewhere between his office and mine, the LaCie committed suicide.

I could have run out and bought a new one or figured out if it were really dead or just pretending. Back to my guru, who diagnosed the problem and informed me it wasn’t dead (just sick) and all I needed was a new case (long explanation). He bought the case, reinstalled and reconfigured the drive, and made sure it worked. I transferred all my files to the shiny new box. Problem solved.

Then, of course, there was the matter of the teeny-weeny keyboard on a laptop, which I can’t negotiate because of arthritis. To buy or borrow an ergonomic keyboard that works with a PC? That was the question. (My ergonomic keyboard is only Mac compatible. What a surprise.) Leslie offered to buy one, but my friend Bobette insisted that I borrow hers. Another question resolved, though it did take up a lot of room in the suitcase.

A very small issue popped up regarding a PC-compatible mouse. It didn’t occur to me to ask if anyone had an extra one; I just went out and bought a little wireless number. Then, it turned out everyone had one.

When I arrived at Leslie’s, it took five seconds to determine that her laptop didn’t have enough USB ports to handle the keyboard, external hard drive, and wireless mouse. And I had forgotten to pack my little USB extensions, never thinking I would need them. My son in law, Allen, came to the rescue and offered his computer, which is relatively new and replete with USB ports. The only problem was a lack of electrical outlets and surge protector. A little desk moving solved the first part; I went out and bought a surge protector to handle the second.

At last, I was set to go. I felt relieved; everyone else seemed a little frazzled by what it took to make all this happen. Leslie and Allen when off on their long-awaited anniversary trip, and I prepared to work. I had already figured out how to access e-mail, voice mail, and the Web. I had all my passwords with me (farsighted person that I am) but, unfortunately could not open my e-mail address book. A frantic call to Terry (my other daughter) sent her scurrying to my office to send me the addresses. It took a while. Terry is a PC gal and had some difficulty finding her way around my Mac.

When I think about all this ridiculous effort and confusion, I can only conclude that serving the customer has never been a priority for either Microsoft or Apple. If it had been, they wouldn’t have made communication so frustrating and difficult!