Lessons from an iBook named Stinky

The best way to accelerate a Macintosh is at 9.8m/sec/sec.
~Marcus Dolengo

I never really bothered with the Mac vs. PC debate. It never really interested me. I like video games, PCs play the video games I want to play, so I have a PC. I’ve always run Windows on my machines. I do get the occasional headache, but for the most part it’s the devil I know.

Now, I run Windows 2000 Pro on my desktop. I’ve been running it since the first time I tried running Windows XP and had it fail on me massively. I have both Firefox 3 and Thunderbird 3 installed and running fine on 2k. I’m the type of person who finds an OS they like and then runs the poor thing into the dirt for as long as possible. I do not like to change my OS.

One day I mentioned to Mike that I’d like to maybe get a laptop to take with me on vacation so I can at least occasionally write a post while I’m away. He mentioned he had a very smelly Mac laptop that I could have. I figured why the hell not? Free is good, even if it stinks.

And stink it does. But that’s not the story. The story is that I’ve never paid much attention to Macs. I figured the laptop was built after the original incarnation of my desktop was built, and therefore would have a newer OS. And it does.

Stinky runs OS X 10.3, aka “Panther.” Those of you more familiar with Macs may be seeing where this story is headed. Panther was released in late 2003, three years after the release of Windows 2000. I didn’t really think much of this at the time. At the time, I was thinking that Safari was pissing me off and that the version of Firefox Stinky was running made my email give me error messages. So I figured I’d update it.

Firefox 3 and Thunderbird 3 aren’t available for Panther. Nor is the latest version of SeaMonkey available for it. I thought that was kind of weird. And it turns out that Apple has a very very fast turn over rate for operating systems. Panther’s predecessor, “Jaguar,” was only released slightly over a year beforehand. It’s successor, “Tiger,” was released eighteen months after Panther. Tiger, according to Wikipedia, is “the longest running version of Mac OS X” at 30 months in between it’s release and the release of it’s own successor, “Leopard.”

What this sounds like to me is that Apple puts out fucking operating systems about as fast as they put out new versions of the iPhone. And then they quit supporting older operating systems, which means that third-party software (Firefox and the like) no longer support them. Which means you have to go buy a new OS. And they aren’t cheap.

You can only take planned obsolescence so far before it just becomes ridiculous. A thirty month lifespan for an OS? No thanks. The release of XP came out right on the heels of 2k, but XP had a lifespan of six years. A millennium by Apple standards. And the span of time between the release of a Windows OS and it becoming unsupported is just as great. If it weren’t for my video games, I could probably make 2k last another couple of years.

Stinky does what he needs to do (get online). And at this point, that’s all he can do, really. For anything else, I have to turn to my desktop and trusty old Win2k. Which will soon be replaced by Windows 7. With luck in 2020 people will again be telling me “It’s been ten years, Fox…you can let go now.” Too bad I can’t say the same for Panther.

Sorry, Apple, but until you increase the longevity of your products, I’ll never be interested in paying full price for them. I’ll stick with free laptops and $20 iPods off Craigslist, thanks.

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8 Responses to “Lessons from an iBook named Stinky”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Time between OS releases is one thing, time supported is another. Microsoft OSes have a history of continued support around 10 years after release. On that, I predict another couple of years at least before XP is unsupported. Apple, on the other hand, tends to cut support for old versions pretty quick, necessitating the upgrade. Admittedly their individual OS upgrades are cheaper than Windows OS upgrades, but over time they tend to run about the same.

  2. It’s just another way of screwing money out of people.

    I’ve had no interest in the PC vs Mac debate. I use a PC because I can take it apart to fox it myself, and if I need to I have access to an array of free operating systems. It’s cost effective and it works.

    There’s an Apple store across from the coffee shop I haunt, and it boggles my mind that so many people spend money on a product that doesn’t last (not because it is junk, but because of how easy it is for Apple to put there older products on the scrapheap).

    Ramble over.

  3. Apple is a leading-edge technology company. Of course they’re going to be pricey and have short support lives. It has its target market, and honestly has been doing a pretty decent job keeping and expanding it.

    We are not their target market.

    Also, Stinky could get a linux upgrade in theory.

    • In theory?

      I do have to admit, they have done an amazing job at creating their market and selling themselves. The iPod especially was a brilliant product. So they do have their good points…I’d just really like to see at least longer support for older software and a little less ruthlessness when it comes to pulling a Nintendo-style “The same thing…only better!” marketing strategy. Or maybe it’s the other way around and it’s Nintendo copying Apple’s strategy and thus we’re on the…third, fourth? generation of the DS. Really. My original DS works just fine, even after it was dropped from four feet onto concrete.

      • In theory, as it means possible pains in the ass in setup and upkeep, and might really not be worth bothering with.

  4. To be more precise: Apple is a company that caters to people who want the glamour of having leading-edge technology but couldn’t actually be bothered to use it or understand it.

    Between the paranoid closed-tech vanity-based-obsolescence business model and the constant inexplicable failures I’ve suffered when we had to use Macs in high school, I’ll never be interested in performing any act that would result in the company getting money, or which would express condonation of such an act.

    But I digress.

    (Also, Windows 2000 ftw – my mother’s computer originally ran XP when we bought it, I replaced it with the 2k installation disk that came with the computer for some reason, thing runs beautifully and we haven’t looked back.)

    • I loves my 2k…it just won’t play Fallout 3. (Which is crap, because it plays Oblivion with hardly a hiccup.) Granted, it’s less 2k’s fault and more the fault of “Games for Windows,” which has DLL files that aren’t available on 2k.

      And I totally bought a third-party cord for my $20-on-Craigslist iPod. :P

    • It sounds like you have a beef with the company personally, and that’s cool, but the point I was trying to make is that the products they turn out have a lot of overhead in development and manufacturing, and despite this they’ve built themselves a market that allows them to toss out things experimentally. People are willing to pay the premiums.

      They -do- make decent, useful products, though. They’re just not really made to be long-term because the company is built around, and depends on, that idea of the “next cool thing.”

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