, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I went to get the oil changed in the car today. I had been thinking, lately, of getting a Mac Mini. Mostly because I want something that I can use as a server, leave on all the time, and not have to worry about it catching on fire or shooting my electric bill through the roof. Further through the roof. Unfortunately, I’ve also found a reason to get the 27″ iMac. Even worse, I found out I can buy a 12 bay NAS on the cheap (cheaper than the iMac). Since I was in the area (sort of) I decided to head over to the Apple store.

The closest Apple store is in a place called The Domain. The Domain is marketed as a mall. When someone says the word “mall” to me I think of a big building with lots of stores and fast food places. What The Domain is, really, a small town. The only ‘inside’ is the interior of the shops and restaurants. There are streets and walkways. There are also apartments. It’s big enough that if you park on the wrong side of the place you want to go, or section, then you might find it more reasonable to go back to your car and drive closer. You may as well call it “Little Manhattan” despite being harder to navigate than New York City.

The place is also a concentration of pretentiousness. If you aren’t rich, you don’t belong in this little town. If you aren’t rich you should feel privileged to be able to walk through the place. Which is funny, because you won’t be seeing people all dressed up or a car more expensive than a Porsche. Unless they hide the things.

It seems that living in the apartments there is the way to go. Once you’re in Little Manhattan you can shop for expensive stuff, go to the movies, eat at restaurants that won’t even acknowledge the existence of Burger King, and do whatever it is the super-rich do. Seriously, how many shopping malls do you know of that have valet parking?

After getting lost, I found the Apple store. I walked in and was greeted by a friendly fellow who wanted to help me. I asked about the Mac Mini, got my answer, and walked out. It was a lot less traumatic than I thought it would be.

For the sake of completeness, and because it’s practically next door, I decided to stop into the new Microsoft store. Speaking of the real Manhattan, I’m the type of person who rode the subway, walked the streets with a expensive computer equipment, and even walked around with an entire paycheck in my pocket in cash — all without fear. Walking into the Microsoft store made me nervous. Not because I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong, but because a swarm of MS Drones grouped around me, complete with robotic smiles and pre-taped sales pitch.

One them beat the rest of the drones and asked if I was interested in the Surface. Being an honest person I said, “no.” She assured me that I should have a seat and play with one for a while. It would, she assured me, “blow you away.”

At this point I realized there were two directions I could go with this. I could be truthful and say something like:

“Honey, I’ve been using computers since before they had color graphics. I’ve been using them since before you were born. Computers aren’t sexy, cool, or edgy; they are either useful or not useful. Tablets, pads, laptops are all just computers and I know them. I understand them. They all do the same thing. The only difference between them is how they’re displayed. The Surface couldn’t ‘blow me away’ unless it sprouted arms, unzipped my pants, and did unmentionable things to me.”

Instead I took the polite route and said, “I’m sure it will.” I touched it for about three seconds just to see how the keyboard was. Then I tried the cheaper keyboard and was reminded of the Atari 400’s membrane keyboard, except not as good. For the record, if you’re thinking of getting a Surface you want the more expensive keyboard.

Speaking of Microsoft, I did upgrade to Windows 8. I suspect it’s going to become a large part of my working life so I figured I should go ahead and do it even though I didn’t care for the preview versions.

After using it for a few hours I’d say it’s not that bad. The Start screen is kind of clunky, but it’s got some interesting stuff. There are a number of things that I think are wrong, but that’s not surprising. Microsoft doesn’t care about usability and they don’t appear to have a sense of what would be a good idea or not.

For instance, I have three monitors. After the upgrade it messed around with the screen ordering. I spent about fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to change it (mostly because right-clicking on the desktop caused the ‘circle of infinity’ to spin but not show the context menu until I rebooted). After I got that sorted out, it still decided that the monitor to the right was the main screen. Which it isn’t. You can’t specify where the Start menu appears from what I can tell. You also can’t keep the Start screen up if you’re using the desktop. It disappears, which is kind of a shame. With all the ticker boxes and crap, it would be nifty to have it stay up if I’m not actively using that screen for something. The Time/Date section only appears on the far right of the right side monitor which makes it difficult to check easily. It’s kind of a mess, but Windows 8 was never designed to be used on a desktop, much less one with more than a single monitor. Also, I can’t have something like VLC play in full screen and use a program on a different monitor because when you do that the task bar takes up the bottom edge. Which is why I’m typing this using my MacBook.

In fact, it may be that Windows 8 is the reason why I’m considering getting not one, but two Apple computers in the future.