Changing my religion

Posted on August 03, 2005 by Steve

The time had come to replace a decrepit laptop. This would be the first time I've bought a complete system, and I didn't see much to distinguish one brand of PC over another. On a whim I checked out some Apple iBooks, and was enchanted with the attention to detail in their hardware. I knew a different OS would take some adjustment, and spent some time in the store patiently trying to figure out how to maximize a window, certain there was an intuitive way. (In fact, you can't. The Apple Standard is to open a new window with the size "best suited" for the job.) After deciding that our portable would be mostly used for websurfing, and seeing that Apple was going to throw in a free iPod mini with my wife's student discount, I went ahead and ordered my first sleek Euro-styled sedan.

The iPod showed up first. As expected, it was a little fetish of design, packaged like a piece of jewelry. Paging through the Quick Start guide, I saw how many things Apple has done right. Recharge via USB as you sync. No power button. Instructions begin like this: "When the song transfer is complete and you're ready to disconnect iPod mini" and you expect "right click on the task pane icon..." but instead you get "squeeze both sides of the Dock connector to disconnect the cable from iPod mini." (The personification gets a little too cute sometimes: "It may seem obvious, but set iPod's hold switch when you aren't using it. This will prevent iPod controls from inadvertently waking up iPod and using unnecessary power.")

The spell was broken by a nasty surprise buried in the troubleshooting section of the guide. From a company that has all but trademarked the word "switch," it was odd to find the line You cannot switch from using iPod mini with a Mac to using it with a Windows PC (or vice versa) without erasing all data on iPod mini. There are aftermarket tools on the net for this purpose, but it doesn't seem like a way for Apple to win converts. Indeed, it has upset some true believers.

I decided to give it a try in Windows anyway, supposing that the iBook might later be able to recognize the FAT file format. Not that the install app explained this. Consistent with Apple's philosophy of accommodating users who are nonplussed by a second mouse button, the install CD got busy as soon as I put it in, with no option for an advanced install and little information about what was being installed. After clicking Next a few times, I faced a bracing choice:

format or cancel

Later, I had no choice but to feed it my name and e-mail address (and it wasn't clear whether it was transmitted anywhere). I'm sure I'll love the iBook, anyway. What other computer was good enough to get the endorsement of Amelia Earhart and Albert Einstein?