Charlie Brooker bashes Macs again

Microsoft’s grinning robots or the Brotherhood of the Mac. Which is worse? | Charlie Brooker | Comment is free | The Guardian

Charlie Brooker, of TVGoHome and Screenwipe fame, wrote this column for Monday’s Guardian, about how he prefers the insufferably unreliable Windows Vista to getting a Mac. His main gripe about Macs seems to be Mac fans. It’s not the first time; back in February 2007, he wrote a similar piece called, simply, I Hate Macs, for the same section of the same paper, to which I wrote this reply. His gripe this time is less to do with the system itself as with the fans.

His first ten paragraphs (admittedly, four of them are less than a line long) are about Mac fans. Not about Macs. Here are a few of them:

Seriously, stop it. I don’t care if Mac stuff is better. I don’t care if Mac stuff is cool. I don’t care if every Mac product comes equipped a magic button on the side that causes it to piddle gold coins and resurrect the dead and make holographic unicorns dance inside your head. I’m not buying one, so shut up and go home. Go back to your house. I know, you’ve got an iHouse. The walls are brushed aluminum. There’s a glowing Apple logo on the roof. And you love it there. You absolute MONSTER.

Of course, it’s safe to assume Mac products are indeed as brilliant as their owners make out. Why else would they spend so much time trying to convert non-believers? They’re not getting paid. They simply want to spread their happiness, like religious crusaders.

Consequently, nothing pleases them more than watching a PC owner struggle with a slab of non-Mac machinery. It validates their spiritual choice. Recently I sat in a room trying to write something on a Sony Vaio PC laptop which seemed to be running a special slow-motion edition of Windows Vista specifically designed to infuriate human beings as much as possible. Trying to get it to do anything was like issuing instructions to a depressed employee over a sluggish satellite feed. When I clicked on an application it spent a small eternity contemplating the philosophical implications of opening it, begrudgingly complying with my request several months later. It drove me up the wall. I called it a bastard and worse. At one point I punched a table.

And there’s the problem. I use Vista as well. I also (occasionally, now) use a Mac. I mainly use PCs which run Linux. Vista is terrible. I find it mind-numbingly frustrating, because you need anti-virus software which requires updating regularly, and frequently requires a restart to finish updates or anti-virus updates when you’ve only just finished the lengthy process of starting the thing up. I recently tried to install Vista’s Service Pack 2, and it took ages, only to abort and waste more of my time while it rolled everything back. The actual desktop experience is not the problem, and never has been. If it had been, Linux users would complain about its wholesale copying on that platform. The problem with Vista is, well, just about everything else.

Macs, when I bought mine in 2004, were good value. These days, they are anything but, as I have complained many times before on this site. They are underspecified and overpriced, and use standard components from the same manufacturers which produce PC components. They are simply PCs with a different operating system and one or two chips which PCs don’t. There is the lack of upgradeability in anything except memory and anything you can’t plug into a Firewire or USB port. And there is the stupid packaging, form-over-function design, giving the impression that Apple has bought its own lifestyle marketing and really believes that a Mac is something more than a tool.

Not to buy a Mac because you cannot justify the cost for a machine as miserably specified as the Mac Mini is one thing. Not to buy one because you don’t like Mac fans is insane. I’ve managed to avoid the obnoxious Mac fans for the five years since I bought mine. Microsoft itself is notorious not for obsessive fans but for planted advocates on forums known as MicroDroids. He also concedes:

OK, OK: I know other operating systems are available. But their advocates seem even creepier, snootier and more insistent than Mac owners. The harder they try to convince me, the more I’m repelled. To them, I’m a sheep. And they’re right. I’m a helpless, stupid, lazy sheep. I’m also a masochist. And that’s why I continue to use Windows – horrible Windows – even though I hate every second of it. It’s grim, it’s slow, everything’s badly designed and nothing really works properly: using Windows is like living in a communist bloc nation circa 1981. And I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I’m an abject bloody idiot and I hate myself, and this is what I deserve: to be sentenced to Windows for life.

Now, I’ve used Linux (the principal “other operating system”) since 2002 and, as with Mac fans, I’ve mostly managed to avoid the creepy and snooty ones. Yes, there are a lot of Linux geeks who lack social skills and are harsh towards people who disagree with them or who are less knowledgeable, but there are also friendly forums with people more than willing to show a less experienced user the ropes. What Brooker has produced is just an outdated stereotype. It’s true that there is a lack of commercial applications for Windows, but it comes with an office suite and various other applications as standard, and it’s free. It’s also vastly more secure and does not require anti-virus software. My Mac, when I bought it, offered the security and stability it shares with other systems running Unix-type operating systems, like Linux, with a range of supported commercial applications, including Microsoft Office.

Admittedly, there are some good reasons to use Windows, among them that there are some commercial applications which don’t run on the Mac or Linux, but avoiding the Steve Jobs personality cult (you know, the sort of people who will line up round the block from the Apple Store overnight on the eve of a new Mac OS X release) and the obnoxious Linux geeks who tell newcomers to RTFM (read the f***ing manual, which often doesn’t exist) aren’t among them. Most Mac users are perfectly normal, ordinary people who wanted a system that worked and was secure and were willing and able to pay more for it. Sadly, the idiots who run Apple think Mac ownership is a lifestyle, and that only those with money deserve it, and that doesn’t include me.

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