Karl Strieby

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Apple and Me

I've had a rather long relationship with Apple. Back in the dark ages before I owned a computer, I taught Jr. Hi Band half-time for 1.5 school years. During a teachers' "in service" session, I saw an impressive demo of music software running on an Apple II.

Then I made the mistake of asking how much it cost. The machine plus the software totaled about 10Gs! Woah, I couldn't afford that on a half-time salary!

I ended up (several years later) getting the first of many PC Clone boxes. They ran MS DOS, OS/2, and every version of Windows from 3.0 on forward to XP. I ultimately turned what had started out as a hobby into a career by taking a series of Novell Netware training courses and turned computer support professional. (That was my “F the Music Business” move, not easy, but well worthwhile.)

My last home desktop PC was an off-the-shelf at Best Buy HP box that started becoming unreliable (sometimes failing to boot up, crashing for no reason, etc.) roughly two months after the warranty ran out. Facing a looming project deadline, I was in a bind.

iPod Shuffle

But not long before that, a little piece of Apple technology followed me home from Future Shop (now gone, absorbed into Best Buy). That little iPod Shuffle was the proverbial foot in the door! (The “reality distortion field” may have also seeped into my brain around then...but there's no looking back now!)

When my home PC started acting up badly and HP wouldn't help, I was more than a bit perturbed about it. (Danger!) A thought occurred to me...

Mac me!

My day job was PC or nothing. Home was too. I don't even remember how many beige "PC clone" boxes I went through after 1985, when I landed my first computer with a 12" amber-on-black monochrome display, a dot matrix printer, and a 300-baud phone modem.

Fixing Windows and related problems for my workplace collegues, was, well, WORK. It did have one advantage: job security <LOL>.

  • For what it's worth, I hear Microsoft still provides plenty of that to IT professionals everywhere.

For home, having grown very tired of the PC experience, I jumped at the chance for a serious hardware upgrade: a dual-quad-core Mac Pro. My first Mac software purchase was a copy of Parallels, with which I was able to "clone" my dying HP box into a Windows XP virtual machine running inside Mac OS X. I have to admit, I still maintain a Windows virtual PC for some high end software that I am either unable find a Mac version of, or too cheap to buy.

In my last two day jobs, I used to open up computers all the time. Before that, I built several of my own PCs myself. And I built dozens more for the computer labs at U of M Downtown back then.

PC and server hardware I worked on were no fun at all to troubleshoot. Sharp edges, burrs, poorly fitting drive bays, screw holes that didn't line up, you name the danger factor. Hint: drops of blood are no good for electronic circuits that get badly frightened even by invisible static electricity...

That Mac Pro was by far the finest piece of computer hardware I have ever owned or worked on. Unlike my day job's PC junk, the "fit and finish" was exceptional. I had the case open a number of times, to add a hard drive, install a DVDRW drive, and to add more memory. What a joy to work on! There wasn't a sharp edge or burr to be found inside, and no screwdriver was needed for most tasks.

By contrast, the last workplace HP server I worked actually robbed my left hand of several drops of blood that luckily did not land on any electronic parts. The air in that server room turned violently blue...

Superior customer service

The other thing that really makes me happy with Apple products is their customer service. My first call to Apple tech support was a shockingly great experience.

The phone rang twice, and I heard "Apple Canada, my name is James, how can I help you?" I barely managed to locate my jaw after it hit the floor and had to scrape my eyebrows off the ceiling.

I asked my question and got a quick and very professional answer.

  • No voice mail jail.
  • No broken English as a Second Language on a static-filled, low-fidelity phone line from the other hemisphere.
  • No brain-dead non-technical person reading from a script.
  • No throwing software solutions at a hardware problem.

Yes, HP, Dell, Computer Associates and every other IT company's excuse for "customer service" I ever dealt with, I'm talking about you...

Other service experience

A couple years after I bought my Mac, I discovered that the G, H, and R keys on the keyboard were producing gibberish characters instead of the expected letters. To be sure that this wasn't some sudden software bug, I connected the keyboard to a USB port on my old Toshiba Windows laptop. Yup, same thing...

I had purchased the extended warranty “Apple Care” with my Mac, so I was covered. I went online using the old laptop, and signed up for a "Genius Bar" appointment at our then brand-new local Apple Store. I was out the door with a new keyboard less than five minutes after arriving at the store. No questions asked.

I still buy Apple Care for all big-ticket items...well worth the peace of mind.

My current Mac came along many years after Apple discontinued the beloved “cheese grater” Mac Pro and never (until this year) really replaced it. I considered the so-called “trashcan” Mac Pro as a replacement, and even drooled on one at the NYC Grand Central Station Apple Store in May 2014. After a few more months, I decided against it.

So I'm now using the cheapest available 2017 iMac model with a 27" screen, which to this day qualifies it as the nicest display in the house. I just recently performed a RAM upgrade on this machine, and it was nowhere near as easy as it was on the old tower Mac Pro. (To be fair, that's just my own fat-finger problem...) And last year, Santa delivered a new 16" Macbook Pro, which gets used all around the house a lot. (Safari on Mac is still nicer to use than it is on an iPhone or iPad, in my opinion.)

I don't know what else to say about my experience with Apple. Since my first iPod, I have added a variety of other Apple gizmos to my collection of techie toys, and every one of them deserves its "you'll pry it from my cold dead fingers" feeling. Not much different than the way I feel about my MINI Cooper...and that's high praise.

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Last site update started 02/20/20. Page last updated 7 March 2020