Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lion or Tasmanian Devil?

I have to confess that I have been following stories about making the move to OS X Lion with more interest than I usually give to technology stories.  My reason is simple enough:  It has now been about a week since I made the operating system upgrade on my MacBook Pro;  and, in terms of my day-to-day activities of the reading and writing I do on my computer, I would have to say that it has been the most painful week of my life.  I should clarify this by observing that I have a benchmark, which is the purchase of that MacBook Pro in September of 2010 after well over a decade of doing all of my work under the Windows operating system (mostly under XP).

About a year ago I realized that it was time for me to buy a new laptop.  Initially I considered getting a new Lenovo model and migrating my working environment to Windows 7.  The problem was not just that Windows 7 did not support a fundamental part of that migration (a consistent partitioning of the hard drive).  It was that Lenovo would not help because it was a Microsoft problem, and Microsoft would not help because I had not installed the operating system.  I realized that if I had even the slightest dream of effective customer service, I needed to get out of that box;  and so I turned my thoughts to Apple.

The transition went relatively smoothly.  I had been a happy Mac camper about twenty years ago, but most of those old habits were obsolete.  Nevertheless, I had little trouble learning the ropes;  and, while there were a few annoyances, it was not hard to get beyond them.

Moving to Lion was quite another matter, beginning with initiating the process.  I was not particularly happy about having to download such a large file, but there were plenty of things I could do while that happened.  On the other hand the interface of the App Store left more than a little to be desired, and this was a problem that could only be resolved by calling the Help Desk.  That turned out to be the first of many calls for any number of reasons;  and all of these calls included my saying, somewhere during the conversation, “Are you actually trying to drive your customers over to Microsoft?”

Each problem felt like the biggest crisis at the time (of course).  Most of them were resolved;  and I have settled back into a relatively contented state for most of what I do, even if that has led to living with Firefox crashes that occur without any warning.  My greatest concern is that there is not yet an iAntiVirus for Lion and Sophos, the only alternative, was woefully inadequate when it came to resolving the problems it claimed to have detected.

The real irritant, however, is that help desk support has gone down the tubes in potentially destructive ways.  I discovered this when, after a restart, the MacBook would not recognize that my backup server was connected to it (a USB connection to a Toshiba terabyte drive).  It had not been difficult to make this my backup driver for Time Machine, but I did not want to go through life without backup support.  Unfortunately, the help desk operator claimed that the only “solution” would be to repartition the drive, which, of course, would lose all of the backed up data, thus defeating its purpose.  Fortunately, I was on my way out to cover a concert;  so I decided to leave things just sitting there.  I had remember a previous occasion of having to wait a long time for the Toshiba drive to be recognized.  If waiting over three hours did not work, then I would hope for better competence from the Genius Bar.  Fortunately, the wait was all that was necessary.

The bottom line, however, is that, in Lion world, good help is very hard to find.  The database for the Help menu has not been adequately updated;  and, apparently, the same can be said of the minds behind the telephones at the call center.  It looks like a lot of the design changes had to do with making laptops look more like iPads;  and my immediate reaction is, “Why would anyone in their right mind want to do that?”  Perhaps that is the problem.  The iPad has become so popular that there are no long any right minds left to see to the needs of “the rest of us” (as early Apply advertising used to say).

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