My Wife Hates My Mac
First: I LOVE my Mac. It's my wife that hates it. I say that in the hopes of heading off a flood of defensive email. Don't bother to write me telling me how wrong this article is: you would be preaching to the converted. I already know that she's wrong, that's she is just hopelessly corrupted by the Microsoft way. I also know that I'm guilty of not training her in the basics of using this iBook, so yes, it's partly my fault. Or all my fault if you like.
You might wonder why I inflict my poor wife with something she hates. The answer is that I don't. Well, not exactly. The problem is this: at home, we each have our own computers. Well, technically she has one computer and I have a varying number, but the important point is that she has a Windows machine and I prefer my Mac. So while we are at home, she can use Windows and remain happy.
Unfortunately (in this regard only of course), we go away for long weekends most of the summer. We have a "park model" trailer out in the Berkshires and from May to early October we spend three to four days a week there. Naturally, I can't neglect my business that much, so I have a DSL connection there and I bring my iBook from home. While our trailer is spacious as trailers go (37 feet, two slideouts), there really isn't room to have a desktop computer and her 17 inch monitor. Besides, as everyone who goes away on weekends knows, the car is always jam packed full, so we wouldn't have room for it anyway.
Yes, I have offered to get her a Windows laptop. We even have a Windows laptop because now and then I need one in the field. But she doesn't like the one I already own because it is Windows 2000 (she still uses Windows 98 and doesn't want me to change anything) and because she doesn't like laptop keyboards or laptop screens. I could, of course, hook up a regular keyboard, but that still leaves the monitor problem unresolved.
At this point it's important to understand that my wife doesn't really need a computer very much while we are here. Once in a while she wants to look something up on the web or send an email to our daughters or one of her doctors. But many a weekend she never touches the keyboard at all. Even most of the web browsing she delegates to me: "What's the weather forecast?" or "How much vitamin C in a Kiwi?" are requests I can mix in with my normal work.
But sometimes she does want to check email or do some web surfing herself. So I set up her own account on the iBook and now and then she'll be expecting something or want to do some on-line shopping or research and she'll use it. Though "use it" is a poor choice of words: "endures it" or "suffers it" are more accurate.
Let me say again, yes, I KNOW I SHOULD TRAIN HER. There are two reasons why I haven't. First, one of the secrets of a 36 year marriage is that I am fully aware that I have no patience for teaching anything to my spouse. I learned years ago that any such efforts only lead to frustration and unhappiness. Secondly, IT'S TOO LATE. She already hates the Mac. She already thinks it's badly designed, horribly complicated, and if she ever got an Apple software engineer cornered, well, it wouldn't be pretty. I think at this point it is better to just leave things as they are: her softly cursing as she types, and me at the other end of the trailer rolling my eyes and biting my tongue.
Here are her major gripes, presented with editorial comment:
"Why doesn't the Pageup key work?"
I explained that it does, you just need to use the "fn" key with it.
I muttered something about not using ad hominem arguments, but added that it's more of a limitation of the iBook keyboard than the Mac OS.
"I hate the keyboard" was all I got for that.
I did mention that we've been married for thirty six years, right? Really, we get along great. She doesn't hate me, she's just frustrated.
"Why doesn't Control End work?"
Well, because it's Control E.
"Why isn't it Fn-END?".
Fair question, I guess, but I thought you were asking why it isn't Control-End.
"Never mind, I hate this keyboard"
OK, I know that. She's been using keyboards a lot longer than I have, and types a heck of a lot faster too.
"How do I close this stupid Window?"
Click on the little red circle. Yes, I know you were looking for an X in the opposite corner but that's not where it is.
"It should have an X."
Well, it does have an X once your cursor moves over it.
"Oh, THAT'S helpful! What am I supposed to do, move the cursor everywhere until I find what I want? Do these people EVER think about making things easy?"
Tempted as I was to refer her to Apple's human interface design pages, I didn't bother.
It's not her fault: she's used to an X.
"There's no backspace!"
Sure there is, right there.
Yes, but it works like backspace, doesn't it?
"I hate this keyboard."
"How do I send a new email?"
Huh? Use Compose.
"How am I supposed to know that?"
Well, you do know what "Compose" means, right?
Withering look: "Is there something so horrible about NEW MESSAGE?"
"How do I know whether or not I've read this message?"
The blue circle to the left.
"What blue circle?"
I came back from the bedroom where I was softly banging my head into a pillow.
Well, you've read that one so of course there is no blue circle.
"So how do I know I've read it?"
Because there isn't a blue circle.
"Oh, yes, little invisible blue circle: the international symbol for Already Read It. How COULD I forget that? The problem was, I was looking for an invisible RED circle. How silly of me."
No sarcasm there, of course.
"I'm done, how do I get out?"
The blue apple up in the left hand corner, choose Logout.
"A Blue Apple? Oh, of course: the international symbol for Start Menu! Why didn't they make THAT invisible too?"
OK, OK. Invisible symbol, I get it, very funny. Can I have my computer back now so we can pay the mortgage?
I think at some level she doesn't really understand that this is not just another computer, but is completely different. I think maybe she has the idea that Apple has failed miserably at making a Windows computer - which of course they have, but because they didn't WANT to make a Windows computer.
We've had similar results every time she's used it; her fuming and me begging that she not pound so hard on my keyboard. I don't blame her: Macs are no more intuitive than any other OS, and if you are only accustomed to Microsoft, you expect most things to work the same way. There's also the laptop keyboard issue, and the fact that she is used to a larger screen. Maybe I should get that 17 inch Powerbook.. no, probably not.
I just now realized that all of this was completely unnecessary: I have Virtual PC on this machine: I could have just popped her into that and she would have been relatively at home in Windows XP. Duh! That is definitely what I will do the next time she wants to use the computer!
(Later). She's gotten a bit less caustic. There are times now when she browses for an hour or more and the only time I hear from her is if she wants to show me something. But she'd still rather have her Windows.
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About the Author:
A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com
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