They Really DO Just Work!

On Saturday I had what I could only describe as “a Mac moment”. Yeah, I know some of you PC users are probably out there sighing heavily and thinking, “Here we go again,” but humor me for a bit.

It wasn’t anything one would call stupendous, or even spectacular, but that’s exactly the point. What did I do? Well, to set the scene for you a little, I had just booked my wife and I movie tickets online — “Dreamgirls” was excellent, btw! — and needed to print a copy of the receipt just in case of a problem at the theater. I grabbed my MacBook Pro, went to the PC where my wife was busy answering e-mails, crawled under the desk to get the USB printer cable, (I haven’t exactly figured out the wireless solution I want for our printer yet) plugged it into my Mac, paused just a bit trying to remember what I needed to do next. Then I decided to just hit print. Just like that, VOILA!, my document printed.

Long time Mac users are probably thinking, “…yeah …so what?” But I’m a System Administrator in a Windows PC environment. Part of my work days are spent helping users share printers. The logic alone of having to help someone share something is bad enough, but having to do it repeatedly in 2007 gets annoying fast when there are more important things to be done to the network. It’s not that I don’t like doing it, or that I have anything against the users. Not at all. In fact, I love my job, and I’m fortunate enough to work with a great group of people. It’s that it’s just that there really are more important things my colleagues and I can be doing. Installing printer drivers on a per-user basis in this day and age just seems a bit ridiculous. So when I simply plugged that USB printer cable into my Mac without any pop-up asking me several times if I really wanted to do what I was doing, hit print, and my document came out I was stunned. I immediately thought, “This is how it’s supposed to be,” followed by a sort of melancholy, “… so many years. How much time could I have saved?” It was quite comical.

My wife, understandably, looked at me under the desk as if I was a bit nuts. But she doesn’t have to worry about installing drivers or anything like that because she lives with me. When a pop-up appears, she sweetly calls out the name of her personal 24/7 tech support and I take care of the problem. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help wondering how many printer drivers I had installed as a Sys Admin. All the way back to when I started in a Windows 3.11 environment.

I shared my moment with Erik the Red, and he was happy for me. Then he sent this very fitting video clip. It made the moment complete. Ironically, — and you’ll get this after you view the clip — my camera did exactly the same thing.

Life is good.

Laterz.

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4 thoughts on “They Really DO Just Work!

  1. I am afraid I do have to stall your mac moment.

    First of all it is not really comparable what we do at work and what you do at home. When a security policy (at work) mandates that users cannot install drivers you lock the system down so they can’t. So if the driver was not pre-added to the image you deploy the users will not be able to install it without an admins help. And you never know what printers will be deployed a year from now, so you can’t always add those drivers in advance.

    Now for your home PC running windows, it can do much of the same as your mac did. If the printer driver is part of the windows driver repository, it will install in the same “magical” way it did on your mac. The default settings in windows might give you a taskbar balloon or pop-up asking you what to do. But if you know your windows tips and trick this can all be disabled. What the default settings should be is another discussion, let’s just say this geek has it disabled…

    So my point is, I do not think mac and windows handles this much different as long as it is a commonly used printer.

    To put on my work hat for a sec. When reading your blog entry, the skeptic in me reached for the “red flag” and screamed SECURITY RISK!!. πŸ˜‰

    But the geek in me asked: “What on earth would he want a paper copy of his booking for?” Myself I would just use the option I believe SF has on their confirmation page to email me a copy. Then reach for my Fabulous Nokia E70 and retrieve my email via WLAN (of course, do not want to incur a gprs charge.)

    To share a geek moment. I just came back from traveling this weekend. Had my eTicket, itinerary and hotel booking safely stored on email in my phone, so when I checked-in to my hotel and they asked for the reservation number I just reached for my phone!! πŸ™‚

    V

  2. Not really. The Mac moment remains exactly what it was. I wasn’t asked to confirm a single thing. Not a single pop-up. It was plug-in-play in the truest sense of the phrase. Not plug-in-confirm-multiple-times, or plug-in-pray. I plugged in my printer, looked at printers to select from and there it was. But most importantly, it worked. So while both Mac and PCs may handle this process similarly, there is a difference, and that difference is time saved, and we can all use some of that.

    To me the Apple approach is the more logical approach of the two. When I plug in something, I want it to work. When I plug in my coffee pot, I don’t want a little voice popping up asking me, “Would you like some coffee?” Of course I do! That’s why I plugged it in. We’re only talking about a printer! And, let’s be fair, Microsoft has had just as much time as Apple to simplify and make this process more secure.

    In my experience, while I totally understand Microsoft, from a security standpoint, needing to warn folks time and again about what they’re choosing to do, I’ve also noticed that pop-ups have a tendency of confusing users as well. It’s gotten to the point where they, rightfully, call for the simplest pop-up. And the pop-ups in the Windows environment are unlike any other, so I can’t blame them for being a bit shy about pressing okay when doing so under other condition could mean infecting the entire network. I didn’t really understand just how annoying this was until I used another OS. Maybe, just maybe other OSs manage to get away with fewer pop-ups because they’re built better. I’m no programmer, but the ones I know all tend to agree this is the case.

    Regarding the security risk, my red flag went off as well. But then, and maybe foolishly, I thought, “this isn’t a PC. Maybe I can actually relax on this issue.” As I’ve said before, Macs aren’t known to get as beat up as Windows PCs when it comes to security. Yes, I know Windows is much more popular than OS X and every other OS which makes it a bigger target, but I’m also starting to see just how much stronger other OSs are compared to Windows. I’ve made this argument myself.

    Nevertheless, it’s hard to explain my position to someone who hasn’t tried (for at least a month straight) something other than Windows. It’s sort of like trying to explain living in Sweden to my American friends and family. They’ll never know until they try. πŸ™‚

    Laterz

  3. Well as I said in my previous post, at home I have configured windows to do just that, no pop-ups. The fact that you have to know windows, and actually configure it to behave in that way is the only difference. There was a time when windows did this as well (but then it really was plug ‘n pray). And in my opinion it was changed due to corporate pressure, it was too easy for a user to just plug some device in and cause damage. That this in time has made it more tedious for home users to install i.e. a printer is of course a definite drawback. But you can’t please everyone. And the corporate market is by far the largest, and will always dictate most of the rules. I do agree that windows have too many pop-ups, but some of them are good. I don’t think it is a bad thing making the user think twice about what they are doing. I don’t know how many times I have had to help friends fix a problem they have caused due to a software/driver they have installed. If you read the pop-ups they sometimes tell you about possible conflicts that might occur if you continue. But to humor you, if you think Windows XP is bad, wait until you try Vista, then we are talking pop-ups. When I first used it, it got to the point where I was almost surprised that I didn’t get a pop-up asking me if I was sure I wanted to open the start menu… πŸ˜‰ (but of course, it can be disabled if you just know how)

    When windows 2000 came out one of the biggest complaints the corporate market had was that it was wide open by default, so I can’t blame microsoft for trying to accommodate this. Just look at most flavors of linux, where the model of lest privilege really is applied. And you have to specifically open/enable components to make things work. No wonder it is considered by many (including myself) the most secure OS by default. Now I am a firm believer that windows can become as secure when configured correctly. And windows 2003 was a leap forward for microsoft in that aspect. Mac’s OS X is to my knowledge one of the few flavors of linux that does not apply this model. So to me this really comes down to the balance of ease of use and security. They very seldom go hand in hand. I personally prefer a few pop-ups too many to a wide open system by default. Of course there are fewer know security risks for OS X than windows. But I think this is just a question of popularity and time.

    V

  4. If there’s one thing I’m not going to argue about it’s Microsoft bowing to corporate pressure. And I do understand the bottom-line reasoning behind it; however, what I don’t understand is them selling something as a home version, that has the same annoying habits of the corporate product.

    Regarding the ability for people to disable the pop-ups, well that sort of defeats the purpose. The user is then left with the choice of remembering exactly what he or she did to disable it, or reading every pop-up that pops up. And that leads to the bad habit of ignoring pop-ups that need attention in the future. For something as simple as printers and cameras, I believe Microsoft has had more than enough time to supply their users with a usable solution. But they’ve had security problems for year now. We’ll just have to see if things get better with Vista.

    BTW, for the sake of the other folks reading the comments, I have to correct you on a mistake you made, but I know you have mentioned correctly in the past. That would be about OS X being Linux-based. As you well know, it’s actually Unix based. But I’m not going to try and explain it when the Apple folks do it so much better: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/unix/

    Laterz.

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