I fixed a Mac today

Tea

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30-odd years I've been fixing computers, and up until today I have never, ever fixed an Apple. (Well, OK, Brother Tannin fixed the odd Apple IIe and a couple of those Apple IIc things back in the day, but not counting Apple IIs (which were real computers) neither of us has ever worked on, used, admired, or fixed a Mac (or any other variety of that devil's spawn kit).

I was at the office today doing some non-computer work - adding the finishing touches to the new outside wall and repairing the back door which had rotted a bit in the bottom corner and needed a new bit of timber cut to size, glued in and sanded back ready for painting - when a customer rang me. She was standing outside the shop (having arrived not knowing that we are not open on Wednesdays) and rang to see when she might bring me a computer. Since I was there, I told her to hang fire and opened up the front door. She had a laptop in a bag so I took her into the workshop, opened it up .... oh. A Mac. We don't do Macs. Never have. Never will. Tannin only likes real computers. He doesn't like telephones either. (Neither do I.)

What the hell, she couldn't get onto a website. How hard could that be to fix? Why not? I explained that she undoubtedly knew more about Macs than I did; she asked who fixes Macs in Ballarat, I said no-one I've ever heard of so why don't I have a go anyway? OK.

It's quite an interesting mix of the routine and the utterly strange working on a completely unfamiliar computer. The lack of a right mouse button is really really annoying! You can't do any bloody thing the obvious way (i.e., if in doubt, right-click and look for something useful). Nor can you navigate with the trusty never-fail keystrokes (ALT-TAB, CTRL-ESCAPE, CTRL-INS, SHIFT-INS, and so on). And one missing key quite beyond my comprehension - there is no bloody DEL key! The only "delete" key is a backspace!

Then there are the window controls. How are you supposed to close a window? Or minimise one? Or minimise all (what modern Windows in it's bubby language calls "show the desktop")? Anyway, I figured that stuff out (eventually), sometimes (I admit) by using a real computer to look stuff up on Google.

Her trouble was that she used her system to log into her account on a company website (I gather that she is a franchisee or commission reseller for a line of girl-type products such as perfume and soap) and on login it gives an error instead of letting her log in. Turned out to be a failed HTTPS connection. Checked it on a real computer; worked fine. Checked the date and time settings. (Had to hunt for that, not hard to figure out though.) Checked another HTTPS connection (fake an Ebay login attempt) and that timed out with no error message. Hmmm. Wasted five or ten minutes trying to figure out how to make bloody Safari update itself (in case her certificate store was out of date). Couldn't figure that one out. Google said "go to the App Store" but the App Store offered me 5301 rubbishy add-ins and movies and nonsense, nowhere could I find a useful link. All bloody toy stuff. Thought I'd double check and tried a third HTTPS connection to Facebook or somewhere (didn't matter where, just any HTTPS page) and it worked. Hmmm ... not that then.

It was really weird knowing, for example, how an HTTPS connection works and what a IP address mask is ... but not know how to switch tasks or minimise a window! It's like being able to read a Dostoyevsky novel without effort but struggling to distinguish street signs or between "ladies" and "gents".

So it wasn't the time or the certificate store. OK, what about the browser? Checked the problem site with Chrome on a real one. (Chrome being also Webkit based and thus the closest match I had to Safari. ) Worked fine. Customer said that she has a friend who can access the problem login no worries; friend also uses a Mac, couldn't say which browser. What's a browser? The error message says you have to clear the browser cache. OK. Buggerised about finding out how to do that, following Googled instructions. A bit of a weird way of doing things but easy-peasy. No dice.

OK, so let's try a different browser on the Mac. Do Apple even let you load third-party browsers these days? I know they have been squeezing the competition out on telephones and tablets, let's try it an see. Downloaded Firefox. Double-clicked on the download, clicked OK on "this will rot your teeth", comes up as a rectangular little window (more of an icon really) with three symbols on it, one of them being Firefox. Clicked it. Double clicked it. Nothing. Clicked the other icons. Double-clicked them. Tried futile right-clicks just because they should work even though I knew they wouldn't. Doesn't matter what you damn well do, it doesn't work. Downloaded it again. Same deal. Asked Dr Google. Turns out you have to drag the Firefox icon past the middle icon onto the right icon. Why? Don't argue, just do it.

Firefox is now installed. Navigate to desired site, test, everything works.

Explained that a browser is a program for showing different websites. Explained that you can use different browsers but they all go to the same sites. (Gosh!) Set her up with that page as her Firefox home page, explained how bookmarks work, explained the difference between a search term and a web address and where to type them both in.

Very happy customer! How much did she owe me? Nothing, it was fun, never played with a Mac before. No, really. No charge, glad to help. No, I have to pay you. OK, twenty bucks. She went away happy, I returned to the back office and sanded the rest of the door down.

So there you have it. I am now officially a Mac Technician. Over the 20-something years Tannin and I have been running this place, we have earned the grand total of $20 or, on average over the journey, no less than ... er ... $00.0023 cents per day repairing Macs. If we can stay in business for another five years, with decent management we will get that average down to $00.0019 cents per day.

PS: just as well it was me on duty today. Tannin couldn't have done it. Well, OK, he could have fixed the thing, he's quite good at figuring stuff out when he has to - i.e., when I'm not there and he is left with no choice. But there is no way known on this or any other planet that Tannin could have done what I did today: completed the entire transaction without once even hinting anything rude, condescending, or bigoted about the horrid little machine. I'm very proud of me.
 

blakerwry

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Thanks for the (empathetic) laugh. My primary machine at home is now an iPad. I also use a macbook air if I need to do something that requires much typing. Photos are processed on a PC just because I like the software I happen to have installed there. However, the same software would run fine on a mac.

Incidentally, many of the learning challenges you mentioned are spot on with my own experiences; Your reference to Dostoyevsky is not far off the mark. Incidentally, the welcome tutorial is a big help for a new mac user and well worth the time.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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Something I will say is that El Capitan addressed one of my biggest complaints on OSX: a lot of system preferences used buttons that had no contrast against the background, so you could very easily miss that they were buttons at all (e.g. the + symbol on the new printers window). They've made the symbols darker, so it's much more obvious that it's a button. Yes, that's something that counts as an OS improvement.

Apple LOVES to gate important functions behind nonverbal symbols. There are great examples of this all over the place and in many cases there's no reason for a human being to guess what functionality lives with each icon. The current iTunes interface is a particularly ripe example. It's definitely a matter of form over function and I have no doubt that it would give Tannin or even Tea fits.

On the other hand, hairy Aussies all, be glad you didn't have to take one of those fuckers apart.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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You can also tag files and folders with colors in Finder as a way of grouping data. You can set up ad hoc libraries for projects. OSX does a great job of hiding where data actually is, but that's something every file management tool can use.
 

mubs

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This is astonishing, considering the maker prides itself on being user-centric and its user interface. In the past few years, many in the extended family have abandoned windows and gone completely over to the dark side - Macs, ipads, iPhones. Sadly, there is one in the immediate family: daughter has been an Ipod user for ~ 15 years, now is getting an iPhone.
 

Tannin

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^ Interesting. I have only recently got over missing that very feature (which was part of the OS/2 Workplace Shell); as you know, I ran OS/2 for 20-odd years. (Still have one ECS machine, seldom used these days.) Did Apple steal it from IBM? Or did IBM steal it from Apple? I'm not sure what OS/2 version was the first to have it. It was certainly part of 3.0 (1994) and I'm pretty sure it was in 2.x (1992); don't know about earlier versions as I never used them. The first colour Mac (Wikipedia tells me) was in 1987; whether the colour folder tagging was introduced then or later it doesn't say.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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^ Interesting. I have only recently got over missing that very feature (which was part of the OS/2 Workplace Shell)

I don't remember that feature being present in OS/2 2.1. I couldn't say if it was in 3.0 or not as I barely used it before moving on to FreeBSD.
 

Tannin

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I probably have the 2.1 install discs around somewhere. I could find out.

If I had a floppy drive.

Well, I do. But then I'd need to waste a couple of hours feeding then in, and more hours looking for a SCSI controller and a drive to match (2.1? Might have been VESA SCSI cards back then, I wonder if I still have one - ought to, they used to cost about $600 per, and in those days a dollar was worth 90 cents, possibly more) and then I could refresh my memory with the delightful on-screen message REMOVE THE DISKETTE LABELED DISKETTE 21 OF 23, INSERT THE DISKETTE LABELED DISKETTE 22 OF 23 AND PRESS ENTER TO CONTINUE followed by the even more delightful endless loop DISKETTE 22 NOT FOUND, REMOVE THE DISKETTE AND INSERT THE DISKETTE LABELED DISKETTE 22 OF 23 AND PRESS ENTER TO CONTINUE.

Ahh, those were the days.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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mubs

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Which bit is the astonishing bit, Mubs?
That the Mac is so bloody difficult to use. I knew about the single button mouse but not the other issues you wrote about. The lack of a middle button is why I hate using laptop trackpads. How bloody hard would it be to add a third middle button?
 

sedrosken

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Believe it or not, I have had virtual machines of OS/2 working for me to play around with. I don't have them anymore, but I can set more up fairly easily.

Doing so on a phone is asking a bit TOO much though. :smile:
 
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