Demonstrating the gulf that divides us…

Us and Them

I’ve written long and hard of the battle that goes on every day between the PC camp and the Macintosh camp.

Like any conflict, it all boils down to each side failing to see the others point of view. Each side thinks that the others viewpoint is ridiculous and sortie after sortie is launched (on digg & macdailynews to name but two) in the hope of scoring some advantage.

Myself, being a hardened and battle-weary Mac-user for 15 years (although I started out, and continue to use Windows PC’s to this day), am constantly on the look out for aspects of this battle that simply put the foolishness of the Windows camp into simple, geek-free, easy to grasp terms.

Yesterday this was demonstrated to me in a way I had not experienced before.

As you may or may not know, I run an in-house, Mac-based marketing & design studio, that sits in a larger PC-based company, and we are currently in the midst of a departmental move.

I am to receive a shiny, new, larger office, with an additional member of staff, and my original office is to be converted into a PC-based office for 2-3 people to work in.
However, there is a transfer period that must occur. This has resulted in a PC user and her PC being shoe-horned into my already overcrowded workspace. But, it’s only temporary, some I’m not too bothered.

The PC-setup is not that complex, it’s a PC, running the latest version of XP, monitor, A4 laser printer and a separate fax machine.

Now, I know my way around a PC, (I have a couple of PC’s in the studio to access the Windows XP based stock database), and I certainly know my way around the Mac.

I set up this studio myself from scratch (much to the anger of the Windows PC department). It started out as a simple 867mhz G4 Mac, with monitor, scanner, external hard drives, A3 laser printer, A3 inkjet colour proofer. Since then I’ve added 3 more Mac’s (an 800mhz G4 & 2 G5’s), another A3 printer, and 2 A1 large format printers.

Everything works fine. I’ve had no reason to call in any IT support, and I’ve had 1 days downtime in 5 years, and that was to upgrade to Tiger.

Admittedly, I am an experienced Mac user. I know how to troubleshoot software, and my hardware experience only really equates to installing memory and adding internal hard drives. I certainly don’t know as much about the Mac’s hardware as the PC IT department knows about PC hardware, but then again, I don’t have to – it just works.

So, back to the PC in question. How long do you think it took the IT department to get this PC working?

Not half and hour (which would be my estimate if I were setting up a Mac), not an afternoon, not 1 day, not even 2 days, but 3 DAYS.
3 days.

At first, they brought the PC down to my department and tried to set it up. They couldn’t get the PC to see the monitor. After a couple of hours, the monitor was declared DOA.

A new one was brought in and worked fine.

Next Windows would not start. It would get as far as the log in screen and freeze. After another couple of hours it was removed and taken back to the PC department. I don’t know if they replaced it, swapped something out or hit it with a mallet, but the next day it was brought back and this time it got past the log in screen and to the desktop.

Next – the printer & fax. This took the rest of the day, and they got through half a ream of photocopy paper trying to get it working. At the end of the day it was.

The next day was connecting to the stock control system database. This is located in another part of the company, via a VPN connection.

Now, this VPN connection seems to be some sort of voodoo spell that is cast upon the company. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Our IT department has experienced people in it, but most of the time the VPN connection is beyond them and they have to bring in a consultant to configure it.

They tried to get the VPN connection working, but couldn’t. After 2-3 hours of phone conversations with the consultant it finally worked.

The PC operator can finally sit down and get some REAL work done, and clear up the backlog that has occurred because of this 3 day delay.

The key point to all this is however, is that the IT staff actually ENJOYED it, and got EXCITED about it. The problem of this malfunctioning PC brought joy to their faces. At one point, 3 members of staff were stood around this PC, shaking their heads and actively discussing this latest problem.

They failed to see the wider problem here – the PC should have worked, out of the box in the first place. Their systems should just work, if they are not, then a serious, wider problem is taking place.

Windows, as you all know, is a mess, and I always thought that IT staff saw this as a problem. They don’t. The morass of settings, config files, registry errors, all of which is a nightmare to those of us who do productive work for a living, is the part of the job that IT people enjoy. The chance to be knee-deep in this unproductive, labyrinth of crap that Windows users take for granted makes them salivate with lust – the chance to make themselves seem superior to those of us who have better things to do with our time, like making the company we work for some money.

I admit, this isn’t the norm. However, it’s not that rare either. I hear story after story from my company similar to this. It can take literally days to get any one troublesome PC working.

I’m not advocating a wholesale switch to the Mac, as there are many reasons why this isn’t practical (maybe I’ll talk about that in another posting), but this little anecdote demonstrates the viewpoint of your typical Mac user.

We see a world, in our little design studio’s, advertising bureau’s & printers where this doesn’t happen. Ever. The PC world constantly dreams of computing heaven where there are no crashes and everything just plugs in and starts working.

It’s not a dream, it’s already here and has been here for the best part of a decade now, it’s time for PC users to wake up.


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