by Mike McNamee Published 01/10/2009
Frustration with Vista reached breaking point this week, we went out and bought a Mac! Before casting jibes in the direction of your editor, please ask yourself if you were around before 1977, the time your editor bought his first Apple II and hitched it up to a microscope to perform automated image analysis of ceramics (if you have a replacement hip joint you might even be feeling the benefit!). The dates are a bit vague, we also had a Commodore PET (right) and, as it was reputedly one of the very first into the country, it too would put the date around 1977. The little monitor you can see was a Hitachi nine-inch, a little green thing with fabulous resolution for its day. The whole rig cost many, many tens of thousands of pounds even in those days when we had just paid £6,400 for our three-bedroom home. As a company we switched over to IBM soon afterwards and eventually adopted Windows as it became available, more than a decade later. For its day, the rig shown was performing miracles.
Although it took 20 minutes to load the software (from an audio cassette) it then did a whole day's work with one bash of the keyboard. We complain here today about waiting for Windows to start up, but we then had to wait another 20 minutes while the software reloaded so it could take a second measurement!
The box below the yellow monitor was used to adjust 'levels' in the same way as we now do so in Photoshop, except that it cost over £5,000 back then. The PET on the right had the endearing habit of only working once the lid had been banged shut. This became progressively worse as it aged and just after we had graduated to banging it bodily on the desk, to coax it into life, it went on fire and that was that!
So the switch is more of a return than a switch and, of course, much has changed in the intervening decades. You are not going to find, here, the fervour of a convert. Computers in general are a pain in the butt and the Mac has its failings. For one thing Apple seems to have abandoned its original base-user group (graphics professionals) and gone chasing big bucks by selling phones, gizmos and other bits of fashion techno-paraphernalia. The current range of cinema TV screens and Mac Book pro have shiny screens that cannot be calibrated. They are also a pain to use on location in daylight. A graphics-oriented matt screen is now available as a special in the 17" Mac Book Pro only.
Similarly, none of the Mac Book Pros has a CompactFlash card reader built directly to the chassis - hello Apple, are you out there? Most of us
use CF cards!
Having said that, Windows is a complete mess. Vista has driven the switcher migration better than anything Apple could have hoped for. The quote from the Texas Legislative Budget Board says it all. Our final straw came when we installed the Western Digital MyBook and it typifies the trouble Windows gets you in to. Noting that the file transfer was very slow we tried the same USB external drive on Windows XP, Linux and Mac. Horrifyingly, when we Googled for some help in regards to slow operation, we came across a little gem on the Microsoft site, blandly announcing that files from Canon EOS RAW images may be lost or corrupted during file transfer to external devices. Just the thing to make the blood of a wedding photographer run cold and explaining (perhaps) why we had spent hours helping a colleague in a failed attempt to recover his lost EOS RAW files (he never found them).
Once we had recovered from that little shock we read that everybody has trouble with Vista transfer rates and there seemed little we could do about it. The advice from the geeks included tweaking the CONFIGSYS file and messing about in the BIOS, just the sort of thing your average techno-phobic photographer likes to get involved with - what the hell is a CONFIGSYS!
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