Sunday, April 9, 2017

More of Same

For the past few days, my laptop has been very, very slow, making me remember what computers were like in the '90s. It's even brought back buried memories of my days using early word-processors, like Wangs and Laniers, the first high-tech office machines of the early '80s. They had little green or brown screens, and our lives revolved around floppy disks of various sizes. If you didn't remember to insert a floppy disk into your Lanier at the end of a day, everything you'd typed was erased when you turned off the machine. We were always in such a hurry to get out of that office at 5 pm that this sort of thing happened with surprising frequency. But since our bosses didn't understand a thing about our computers, the consequences were minor since they'd accept all sorts of creative explanations.

I've been spending time on the phone with Apple Support Specialists. The last one, who spent more than two hours with me, lives on a horse farm three hours north of Chicago. She confessed that she has never been to an Apple Store and has no desire to visit one, although she's heard they are cool, because cities give her the creeps and she is a "country girl." She told me they have 42 horses, which is more than they'd like since the horse market dried up some years ago. She also has two kids, numerous barn cats, four dogs, two donkeys, and four indoor cats, all of whom were found as kittens near death on the property. We had time for her to tell me all of their stories, and many more. I know that a bale of hay in Illinois can cost $5, but the same bale will cost $20 in Arizona. I also know that her little girl had managed to save $400 by the time she was five, which allowed her to buy her own horse, a miniature one, at auction. Her mother just had to supply another $10 for the winning bid. (Chores pay well for preschoolers on horse farms; I only had a piggybank with coins when I was five, but it seems kid wages have gone up a lot in subsequent decades.)

I think it's great that Apple trains and employs people remotely all over the continent — I've worked with people everywhere from Nova Scotia to Florida. Also New Hampshire. While they are all easy to work with, well-informed, and helpful, they haven't solved the many problems afflicting my machine, and they have caused a few more. For a while the other night, my computer was so slow to start up that, for about 20 minutes, it appeared to have become nothing more than a digital picture frame for my background photo of Harris.

I was able to wake up the laptop and write this today, though, which is an improvement, since even typing a short email is sometimes problematic. (I know a couple of little ways to try to "soothe" this laptop myself now.) I'm still missing 10,000 photos, and so on, despite the best efforts of a small national cadre of specialists, so I have an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar this afternoon. I will probably have to leave the laptop there for some time.

In the meantime, I'll try to post of cat photos, just to cheer myself up. I'll do that as soon as I'm done venting here. Fingers crossed.

My husband is convinced my laptop is on its last legs and wants me to get a new one. It's true that it is seven years old, so very close to the end of a normal lifespan if not beyond it. But I like it so much better than the new ones. Over the years, Apple has removed feature after feature from laptops in the name of making them cooler and sleeker — and more like an iPhone. For example, mine has a DVD player, and a pressure-sensitive magnetic "Mag"Safe" power plug, which has saved its life several times when one of us has gotten a leg caught on its power cord. The new laptops stay attached to their power cord and go flying when the cord gets yanked. They also have super-glossy screens, and glare is a big problem for me. My laptop also has useful ports, which I need to connect various back-up drives, since our wireless one, the Time Capsule, had a change of heart last month and reported that it doesn't like living in the past anymore. It said it wants to every single back-up — years of them — and start fresh. Just when I've lost 10,000 photos. I'm opposed to this.

I'm opposed to a lot of things these days.

I don't think there's much about the new laptops that make them superior to mine. They are faster, but our wifi is so troublesome that I doubt I'd notice. I know they have a touch-screen in place of a toolbar, but I don't care. I know there are other bells and whistles that I'll probably want to ignore or disable. I know the screen is supposed to be brilliant and sharp, but if it's always covered in fingerprints and cat noseprints plus GLARE, who cares?

My husband says I sound like a geezer, but I insist that I have a point. Apple laptops are getting more and more like our phones. It's great to give a phone more functionality, to make it more like a tiny laptop you can throw in your pocket. But I think it's wrong to make a laptop behave more like a tiny phone by removing drives, ports, and magnetic plugs, and by ignoring the advantages of a big screen and full keyboard, which make working on a laptop superior to working on a phone.

It's easy to move a shiny phone screen into shadow — often you just have to bend your head over it. It's hard to prevent glare when the laptop has to sit on your desk or lap. If I have to get a new laptop, I'll need to retro-fit it with an anti-glare screen, a DVD player, an after-market magnetic plug adapter, and a set of ridiculously expensive plastic adapters called "dongles" to serve the purposes of the ports that sit in a neat, unobtrusive row along the side of my laptop. This strikes me as stupid.

I know I have to move on, and adapt, but I resent the fact that Apple is increasingly dumbing-down its laptops and removing features that its customers like and rely upon. I recently had to update my operating system (which has caused most of the problems I have now.) So I had use a newer version of Photos, and I can't stand it. The previous version allowed me to see two rows of large thumbnails of photos in the same batch as whatever photo I was editing. When I take a lot of shots, say of Harris in a box, it's really helpful to see all those other photos as I'm choosing which ones to keep and edit. But that wonderful double row has been replaced with a bar of  tiny thumbnails across the bottom of the window. Now I have a choice of seeing my photos in two sizes:  about the size of my little fingernail, or the size of my index fingernail. (I have little hands.) Those views are useless. But that's how photo editing might work on a phone, which I can hold up to my nose to see. I can't do that with a laptop. So photo editing just became a pain. It's stupid to make a laptop act like a phone.

My husband tells me that my choices are to get a PC (horrors, we've been Apple customers from Day 1) or lower my expectations. I suppose I could experiment a little on his shiny new laptop and see how I like it. But it's in the shop. The spacebar doesn't work.


  1. Yes, you're exactly right: Apple is making its computers more like iPads. But we already have iPads. And iPhones. Why do we need a larger, heavier iPad? Sigh.

    For what it's worth, confronted with what seemed to be numerous equally unappealing options in new computers back in January, I opted to get a refurbished late 2014 27-inch iMac retina display with 16 GB memory, and it has been a dream to work with. It's on a desk perpendicular to a large window, where I get to look out at woods and woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, dark-eyed juncoes, etc., and I never have a problem with glare. I also got a Varier balans kneeling chair to help my posture (though I still find ways to slouch) and I've been very happy with this set-up.

  2. Your post makes me think you'll be waiving your fist and shouting 'get off my lawn' soon enough :D

    I was wondering if removing everything and doing a full system restore and then upgrading a component or two might not help.. but that is me coming from a PC background and working on a PC that is probably five years old, and it is what I'm considering doing because there haven't been major upgrades that are worth it to me to invest in a whole new machine

  3. (I thought I sent this before but maybe not)....anyway, have you ever tried the Computer Loft in Allston? They're an Apple certified shop but (I think) better.....they work miracles. Also, they often buy Apple products that are about to be discontinued so have a supply of harder to find items. Good luck!


Spam goes right into the trash but I appreciate relevant comments from non-spammers (and I can always tell the difference). I do my best to follow up if you have a question. ALL spam, attempts to market other websites, and anything nasty or unintelligible gets deleted instantly. The cats and I thank you for reading — and please feel free to comment on what you read.