Switcher Profile: Joshua Kors has no idea how to use a Mac, returns it

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Chris Rawson
December 14th, 2010
In this article: Mac, Mac OS X, switcher, VLC, Windows
Switcher Profile: Joshua Kors has no idea how to use a Mac, returns it

Investigative reporter Joshua Kors recently switched to the Mac ... then switched right back. It turns out that he and his iMac weren't a good fit for one another. That's potentially understandable; switching to the Mac is easier for some people than for others. If a switcher doesn't have anyone there to walk him through the process, he might get so frustrated by the little differences between Windows and Mac OS X that he may wonder why he bothered switching at all.

On the other hand, some of the more minor difficulties and situations that crop up in the first days of Mac use really shouldn't have been beyond the grasp of someone with Kors' impressive credentials. Those of us who are experienced in using Macs may read through Kors' piece and either laugh or shake our heads in wonder, but someone who knows nothing about using a Mac may read it and take it at face value.

To anyone who's read through Joshua Kors' account of his nightmare experience with the Mac, here's a disclaimer you may be familiar with from commercials: results may vary. In fact, if you have even basic computer literacy skills, you'll likely find switching to the Mac a far more pleasant experience than Kors did. Click "Read More" to see how Kors' poor switcher experience could have been improved at several points, and why switching to the Mac is nowhere near as difficult as he's made it out to be.

Kors claims that before he could boot his iMac up for the first time, it insisted on taking a picture of him for "identity purposes." While Mac OS X's initial user account setup asks if you'd like to take a picture, it is by no means a requirement; you don't have to "register your iMac with Match.com" as Kors jokes. If you don't feel it's necessary to run to the bathroom and tidy your appearance before using your computer as Kors did, you can simply pick a generic photo for your user account; Mac OS X provides dozens for you.

Next, Kors writes that the only text editor he could find on his Mac was TextEdit, which he calls "a stripped-down version of Notepad." I haven't used Notepad on Windows in several years, but from what I remember of it, that program had nowhere near the capabilities present in TextEdit. Admittedly, TextEdit is very basic as word processors go, but it's nowhere near as basic as Kors claims when he writes that "bigger" and "smaller" were the only font choices available to him.

If he had bothered to look around for more than a couple of seconds, he would have seen that by going to Format in the menu bar and drilling down to Font > Show Fonts, another window would have popped up with a dizzying array of font options. If he still found TextEdit too basic for his needs, he could have downloaded or purchased a more fully-featured word processor from a third party. Since he came from Windows, I can think of at least one word processor that works on the Mac that he's probably already intimately familiar with. Also, as commenter Steve512 points out, there's a 30-day trial of iWork downloadable as needed.

Kors laments the way the Mighty Mouse on/off switch "scraped" along the mahogany of his desk -- something a $2 mousepad would have prevented, even if it weren't highly unlikely due to the mouse's riser skids -- and decries the fact that WordWeb, a Windows-only thesaurus that he calls "every author's best friend," doesn't work on the Mac. First of all, I've been writing in various disciplines for well over a decade, and this is the first time I've heard of "author's best friend" WordWeb. Second, Mac OS X has a built-in thesaurus, which you can access via the Dictionary application, and at least two third-party alternatives in Nisus Thesaurus and Fogware's Merriam-Webster. [As it turns out, WordWeb is available for the iPhone. –Ed.]

The other "headaches" Kors experienced were just as easily solvable. He claims that, "unlike a PC, I wouldn't be able to connect one computer to another and transfer over my documents. Instead I had to use my external hard drive, like a makeshift canoe, to migrate my articles, music and videos from one computer to the next." This is patently false; although the process may be confusing to less savvy users, Apple's online support has a page dedicated to telling people how to migrate files from PC to Mac. Kors somehow missed that page and wound up doing things the hard way; in the process, he soon discovered that by default, Mac OS X copies files to external hard drives rather than moving them. He claimed he'd need a "sharp memory" to remember which files he'd moved already, but all he really needed was 2 seconds of googling "apple move files," where the first result tells you that holding down the Command key while dragging files moves them instead of copying them. [Never mind the fact that moving files off his backup drive is a bad idea -- better to copy them all to his Mac, then decide what to keep and throw away from that secondary copy. –Ed.]

It gets worse. Kors became angry when he discovered he couldn't play .flv or .mkv files in QuickTime -- which has never supported either file type. Once again, Google would have come to the rescue; VLC can play both file types, and it's a free download, as is Perian.

Kors also says, "The font on every email was so small, I was going to need the Hubble telescope just to answer my morning mail" because of his iMac's high-resolution display. While Thunderbird (which Kors was using) doesn't appear to support multi-touch gestures, Apple's built-in Mail does ... and Kors could have solved his "too small to read" font problem with a simple two-finger pinch gesture on his Magic Mouse rather than bumping up the font size or changing the display resolution.

Kors had another dig against QuickTime, saying he wrestled with its inability to create playlists. There's another program built into Mac OS X that's essentially nothing more than QuickTime Player with the ability to generate playlists. I'm betting every last one of you readers has used it at least once. It's perhaps Apple's most used program of all time. It's called iTunes. You may have heard of it.

Frustrated with his inability to work with Mac OS X, Kors decided to attempt to install a virtual machine of Windows using Parallels. But when Parallels asked him for a Windows installation disc, he cried, "where the hell am I going to get a copy of the Windows CD?" Probably at any major US software retailer. You can't run a virtual machine of an OS without installing the OS. Computers run on code, not dreams. [Of course, you can try to run some of your Windows programs without actually installing Windows via CrossOver, but that doesn't support every Win32 application out there. –Ed.]

Kors gave up on the Mac before he'd even begun to learn how to use it and went back to Windows. He's probably better off. Steve Jobs and other Mac users often get accused of being quick to blame the user and not the product in many situations, but in this case, I'm not ashamed to say that the fault, dear Joshua, is not in your Mac, but in yourself. For anyone else thinking of switching to the Mac, please don't be scared off by this tale of horror from Joshua Kors. Apple has an entire series of articles on its website dedicated to solving the sorts of issues switchers may face, and there's a wealth of information available out there for switchers, including tips for switchers and our Mac 101 series here at TUAW.

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