Bonus Bonusbarn

Work has had a desktop calendar printed for customers and clients, advertising a different service for each month of the year. January’s is for educational videoconferencing content and features the face of a schoolchild reflected in an astronaut’s visor as he peers in.

I don’t know who the astronaut is but the schoolkid who posed for the picture is none other than my stepson, the one and only Bonusbarn. Except that he’s no longer one and only, we had 1000 of the things printed. All my close-by colleagues have one on their desks. I walk around the office and I see him everywhere. Please, roll on February.

At least I’m not at the BETT show this week, where our stand includes a 10ft high image of the same glowering down at the public. [Shudders]

It’s a Mac trap, and we’ve been caught

There are occasional advantages to IT Support’s geological speed of response. It’s been a full four months since I was forced to submit a request for a Mac. Now it’s arrived, it took me a full four minutes to decide we weren’t going to get on. My gay trill of laughter when it looked like my email files (a) hadn’t transferred to the new system and (b) wouldn’t be compatible if they did made the windows rattle. (My recent discovery that, even though I can still use Firefox to compose this, the keystroke on my PC that made the cursor jump between words here just closes the tab has had a similar result.)

Fortunately that little giggle seems to have been resolved. After a morning’s acquaintance I have decided we can have a relationship, as long as I can go home at the end of each day and tell my PC at home all about it.

The “genie” effect, whereby a minimised application seems to be sucked into the dock, made me queasy and I’ve replaced it with the good old shrink effect that Windows uses (which, I know, it got off Apple). The fact that there’s only one toolbar regardless of the application is an annoyance but I’ll get over it. What fool thought it would be neat to swap the ” and @ keys around, and why, I will never guess.

Sadly, my biggest and loudest complaint about the Mac isn’t actually Apple’s fault. This one is all Microsoft’s. In using Word 2008 for Mac I’ve regressed over a decade. Ever since I switched to PCs from my old Amstrad, ever since, I’ve recorded a macro to swap two misplaced letters around. The commonest spelling mistake, as you may recall me saying before. On early PCs I used the Windows macro recorder. Then Word grew up enough to record its own macros and so I used that instead. Every time I have moved to a new computer or got a new verison of Word, that is the first change I’ve made.

No more. Word 2008 for Mac doesn’t let you record macros. I am flabbergasted. What do they think they’re doing?

(Answer, courtesy of my manager: they know exactly what they’re doing. They grudgingly admit that there are Microsoft users who use Apples, and they cater for the market, but they don’t make it easy in the hope that said users will see the light and switch to PCs. Easy)

You can still assign keystrokes to existing menu commands. All is not lost. And in some ways, the return to the classic Word interface after months of struggling with Office 2007 [spit] is a relief. Maybe we’ll call this a draw.

I’ll try to be positive. The overall look of the Mac is nice. I will gladly bow to Apple’s ability to make technology attractive; to slip into your life and be part of it, rather than a beast growling in the corner. The downside is of course that you do it Apple’s way or not at all. To make my point I’ve changed the wallpaper to <geek>a screen shot of the TARDIS console room</geek> (<ubergeek>specifically the secondary console room as used in series 14</ubergeek>), that being the ultimate machine where the user’s requirements are paramount.

Most satisfying of all is that once you’ve got your head back on you notice a certain strange sense of familiarity. The CMD+Tab combination to cycle through applications, which is almost like ALT+Tab … oh, and the keyboard. The keyboards of early Macs were truly alien beasts. This has a forward-delete key; the funny Apple key is labelled ALT; there’s a CTRL key too. The overall effect is … Windows-like. Okay, so it’s about as convincing as Del-Boy’s attempts to appear classy by speaking French, but you recognise that it’s trying.

Note this well. The two systems did not meet halfway. They came to us.


Share the pain

With a heavy heart I report that circumstances have forced me to make the following formal request to my manager.

“Dear R,

To increase my ability to interoperate with N’s work and to maximise conformity in the department, may I request that my computer be switched to an Apple.



I hope my choice of words silently expresses my feelings on the matter.

N joined us a year ago on condition he would get a Mac. And he’s very good with it; but he will go and design stuff with all those fancy Apple fonts that I can’t match. Meaning I can’t work on it myself.

And R has now upgraded changed over himself. He has had a full 24 hours with his Apple and not yet head-butted the screen. I am really out of excuses.

The phrase “glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults” continues to come to mind.

At least the version of Office I’ll be getting – I’ve checked – still looks like the old type. I take consolation where I can.