Rant: Mac vs. PC

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Microsoft is running these cute new commercials offering to pay for a laptop for some twenty-something who is computer shopping, if they can find what they want for under $1000.  The point of the piece is to highlight the difference in pricing between Mac computers and Windows computers.

I don’t deny that Mac’s cost more – never have.  Or that you can pick up a Windows machine cheap.  I think the commercials are putting the spotlight on a valid point: price does affect who buys a Mac and who doesn’t.  The kid going off to college looks at the price tag on a Mac laptop vs a Windows laptop and thinks, ‘Damn – I could get this and this and this with the money I save…’ and they’re not wrong.

But there’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for.”

I was and continue to be willing to pay more for the Mac platform because of the time I save that would otherwise be spent on total and utter crap.  Case in point: I inherited a laser printer, color and a bit old but still a really decent printer all the way around.  I’ve got a cable modem and router combo from Comcast, so it’s a pretty standard wifi network setup with three computers on it: 2 iMacs and 1 Vista machine (not mine and I rarely touch it unless I absolutely have to).  I wanted to hook my printer up on the wifi network so that all of the printers could print to it.

Now, having said that, let me also say this: the Vista machine has a color printer attached to it.  I’ve shared the printer, I’ve made it so that the Vista machine is supposed to be ‘visible’ inside the network to other computers, but the Macs can’t see the Vista machine and vice versa, nor can they see the printer that it’s sharing.  They can see each other though, and can share files back and forth – not so with the Vista machine – except for iTunes, which can see both libraries on the Macs.  makes no sense, right?  Right.

I remembered seeing something about a wireless print server from Apple a while back, so I did a little research and found the Airport Extreme which, among other things, let’s you share a USB printer, create a wifi network of its own and will stream music from your iTunes directly to speakers that you can hook right into it.  All in all, a pretty cool thing – and it’s small; plugs right into a wall outlet and is out of the way.

I headed out Saturday to pick one up (that was an adventure and a story for another time. Maybe.), came back to the house, took a look at the instructions, which were fairly straight forward, and proceeded to install it.

Took five minutes to plug the printer into the Airport, then the airport into the wall, walk to the first iMac, install the software, download the drivers for the printer, setup the device, then install the software on the second iMac and do the same stuff.  Both computers saw the printer, added it, and I was able to print test pages – everything worked so beautifully.  I was jazzed.

Went to the Vista machine.  Went to download the drivers for the printer, Vista asked me if I really wanted to download the .exe and I said yes.  Installed it.  Put the disc in and went to install Bonjour for Windows, needed for the computer to print to the printer over the Airport Extreme.  That went okay, but then it popped up and said that my user settings were insufficient to complete the installation and kicked me out.  Since there’s only one user account on the machine, and it’s set to ‘administrator’, I tried again – this time it let me complete the installation, but asked me several times if I really wanted to do what I was doing, which is really, raelly annoying.

I followed the instructions to setup the printer, only it couldn’t see it on the network.  I walked in the next room to make sure the Airport was still good – it was, went back to the Vista machine, canceled out of that setup, and started again – this time, it found the printer.  Started going through setting everything up, it error’d out saying that the ‘parameters were unset’ and kicked me out.  Okay.  I was a frustrated, but I continued on.  I tried again – it got to the point where it recognized the printer, saw it on the network, but wouldn’t accept the Vista specific driver I’d -just- downloaded for it.  I tried it with a different one that it had on its list and it took it, but then error’d and told me that it wasn’t the correct driver so I tried the Vista driver again and it accepted it.  Got through the entire setup process and hit ‘print test page’.  Error.

Tried again.

Error.

Tried again.

Error.  It could not print.

So I deleted everything and started over, rebooted and went through setting up the printer, driver, blah blah blah – said it saw it, said everything was fine, hit ‘print test page’ – Error.

Forty-five minutes of this crap.  To get this going I was going to have to start trolling the web and find out if other people have gone through the same thing and if they found any solutions.  I don’t want to have to do that.  I want it to work right the first time.  So, I gave up.  I quit.

This is just one of the reasons why I don’t miss Windows, why I try to stay as far away from it as possible – stupid shit like this.

It shouldn’t be that hard, it shouldn’t take so much of my time.  This isn’t counting the annoyance of all the damned things popping up telling me that I had to approve this or that and did I really mean to do this?  What a load of bull crap!

So yes, little twenty-something’s in M$’s commercials – go, purchase your Windows machine, save a little cash, then spend the rest of your days with that computer toiling away, trying to get things to work rather than doing your work.  And don’t forget the money you’ll spend on virus protection and firewalls.  Money well saved.

~P