Electronic Design

What’s All This Mac Complaint Stuff, Anyhow?

Obviously, when I make serious complaints like these, I have to check them within an inch of their lives—and I did. These are the problems with my MacBook, which I bought on March 14, 2009. Its operating system is OS X, or 10.5.7, also code named “Leopard.” These are also problems and errors in The Missing Manual (“The book that should have been in the box…”) by David Pogue, copyright 2007 and 2008, ISBN 978-0-596-52952-9, about $40. Importantest things first…

AA1. The computer refuses to “Save as Draft” if it is not connected to a server or if the link is down. I was losing important, carefully crafted documents. Very annoying. The only thing I really need my computer to do is to save what I type, and it has been failing to do that—at least twice.

AA2. The computer fails to warn you that “Save as Draft” is NOT going to save.

AA3. David Pogue’s book and five other computer books on this specific computer are unable to tell you how to turn off that “Save Drafts to Server.” They are not even aware of it.

AA4. Books do not tell you why you may want to “Save to Server.”

AA5. Books do not tell you why you may not want to “Save to Server.”

AA6. Hint: If you are on a beach, or up on a mountain, and you need to save, it probably won’t work. You couldn’t even recover information from your recent draft.

AA7. The path to turn it off is Byzantine: Mail/Preferences/Accounts/Mailbox Behavior/X Save Drafts on Server. It is way down on a sub-sub-menu.

AA8. My son did not know about this and couldn’t find it.

AA9. My wife could not find it for the longest time.

AA10. Apple’s search engine was unable to search it up.

AA11. Apple’s Spotlight was unable to spot it.

AA12. Apple’s Finder was not able to find it.

AA13. Apple’s Help was not able to help.

AA14. The computer expert I talked to in Cupertino does not know about this “Save to Server,” nor how to turn it off.

AA15. Finally my wife made a lucky guess, a lucky find, and asked me sweetly, “Is THIS what you are looking for?” I shut it off.

Now when I ask for “Save As Draft,” it saves to my hard drive. At least it seems to....

BB1. Mr. Pogue and the five other authors all omit the same information in their books, because...

BB2. They only print what Apple tells them to print. Circumstantial evidence proves this. And…

BB3. They do not check to see if their instructions work—or not! They print bad, obsolete instructions that don’t work. And all the books use the same phrases.

BB4. The books all have mediocre indexes. Even if there is good info in there, you may not be able to find it.

CC1. Apple keeps making nice improvements in its computer, but...

CC2. Apple doesn’t document these changes, and…

CC3. Apple neglects to give up-to-date information to the “authors.”

CC4. Most of the books are bad. Heck, all of them are bad because they are so deficient and wrong—wrong with the same phrases!

CC5. I wish I could tell you that Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard by Robin Williams is better, but it’s not. It’s made from the same bad advice as the others.

DD1. I tried to figure out how to use fonts. The instructions were too vague. Useless.

DD2. I kept looking for a “Just Do It” command, and there isn’t any.

DD3. The procedure is disarmingly simple: mark the desired text, go to Fonts, indicate the font you want, turn it on, and then turn it off. The marked text is converted to the new font. It’s marvelous, but utterly inobvious, undocumented, and not in the books.

DD4. I think this is different from what my son tried to tell me. Again, Apple “improved it” until the older published instructions that used to work now do not work.

EE1. I was getting .pdf files from my editors. The print was too small to read. Pogue’s book gave advice on how to zoom in, and it didn’t work.

EE2. My son tried to tell me what to do, by phone, and that didn’t work.

EE3. When my son came over, he showed me four elegant ways to zoom in, and they were all slightly different from the book’s instructions. All you have to do is double-click on the document, and then you can zoom in. But the books don’t tell you that you have to double-click.

FF1. I tried to find info on how to block the arrival (over a dialup line) of very large e-mail files, such as 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 Mbits. The books have zero info.

FF2. My son was able to provide a good way to do this.

GG1. IMAP is a good way to run an e-mail system. Why? Books may have a quarter page on this. Skimpy.

GG2. The books have minimum info on why you may want to and why you may not want to.

GG3. In IMAP, your e-mails and mailboxes are stored on the server. They are not saved on your hard drive. So in case your computer crashes, you may lose access to e-mails or your address list for hours or days. I did.

HH1. Modern books brag that a Mac can run reliably for months.

HH2. Mine has to be turned off and restarted (rebooted) about once a week, on average. This does not correlate with anything I am doing.

HH3. Sometimes my Airport (wireless) link has to be turned off and on, every three weeks.

HH4. Sometimes my Safari gets turned off, every week or two. I have to beg it to restart.

I I 1. I wanted to be able to make subscripts and superscripts in e-mail. The index was so poor, it took me an hour to figure out that there was no mention of them—and the Mac can’t do it.

I I 2. When I bought a cheap Coleco ADAM 25 years ago, it was able to write and print subscripts and superscripts.

I I 3. I wanted to be able to count the number of words and/or bytes in a document. The index was so poor, it took me an hour to figure out that there was no mention of this—and the Mac can’t do it.

I I 4. If the basic Mac can’t do this, it would be nice if a book could tell me what to buy so I could. 

I I 5. Should I get Open Office? I once tried it and it crashed and disappeared. Should I try it again? I’m nervous.

OO1. I discovered a nice new feature. If you do a “Save to Draft” and then start typing on the draft, there is a nice Autosave for the text, about 15 seconds after you type.

OO2. If you like this, the books still do not tell you about it.

OO3. If you do not like Autosave, you get no warning.

OO4. If you figure out that there is an Autosave, you can do a workaround so that your text is not Autosaved; or it can be; or both; but only after you figure out that there is one, which the books are utterly unaware of.

PP1. I found a place where if you go to a saved draft of a document, and you type in the wrong place, the memo seems to disappear. Maybe it does disappear, and maybe it is just hidden. And it can be tricky to find.

PP2. My wife says, “Well, it has to be somewhere. Look in the Trash.” It’s not hidden in the Trash.

PP3. If you think a memo is lost, you may decide that you had better retype it, which is more wasted time, even if it’s not completely lost, but just misplaced and you can’t find it.

QQ1. The auto-complete for e-mail addresses usually works pretty well, but…

QQ2. Sometimes when I would type in “robe,” it would sometimes finish up at Robert.A.Pease and other times at [email protected]. It would not give me any consistent response. I had to rip up my address book, which is....

QQ3. Not well documented.

QQ4. I asked my son how to get rid of a false address, and he gave me a useful path that works some of the time, but not all of the time.

QQ5. I apparently can’t add a nickname to the address book. Not sure why, but it’s not documented. Like, typing “ = ” could give me my e-mail address. I used to do that in some other systems.

QQ6. If the autocomplete quits working, that is, I have found, a warning that the computer will soon lock up and crash.

RR1. Pogue’s book does not tell you how to shove an e-mail or document into a thumb drive or memory stick or flash drive.

RR2. The book does not tell you how to pull an e-mail or document off a thumb drive or memory stick. It just says, “Just do it,” but it doesn’t explain how to.

RR3. I tried to carry a memory stick over to my wife’s computer and plug it into her USB connector. She has OS 10.4.11. I could not move any files in either direction, to or from the stick. So much for Apple’s “compatibility.”

VV1. One day I had four documents “Saved As Draft.” The next day it told me 104. The next day it told me 22. The next day it told me five. I really don’t need confusion like that.

SS1. My son absentmindedly gave me Thunderbird. I can’t exactly get it to work right. But if I have an important document, I can copy it into T’bird and do a save. After I get the Mac running right, I can go over and rescue it. This has saved my bacon several times when Apple’s Mail refused to Save.

KK1. These are all, above, related to Apple Mail.

KK2. I don’t run a lot of programs, just e-mail to receive and send. And to search the Web on rare occasions, maybe twice a week, using Safari. I don’t do spreadsheets. I don’t do a lot of other wonderful programs because (i) I don’t need them, (ii) I don’t want them; and (iii) I can’t figure out how to use them.

KK3. Below are a couple related to the Safari Web browser. One day, the address line (the place you are supposed to type in the URL) disappeared. Pogue’s instructions to restore it were vague and did not work.

KK4. My son tried to tell me how to do this by phone, and his instructions were out of date and did not work.

KK5. When my son came over later, he figured out a workaround, and that did work. It was slightly different from the obsolete instructions in the books.

TT1. I have three ways to get to www.dogpile.com. One of them is to ask for my home page, and it sends me to dogpile.com. Don’t tell me I typed an error. No typing was involved in getting that bookmark. I just clicked. It used to work. Now it’s botched. Bad memory.

TT2. I don’t think Pogue’s book tells how to get rid of a bad or unwanted bookmark. No, it does not.

WW1. This unhelpful computer sometimes does not do what it’s told. It does not always give the same answer.

WW2. I have wasted so much time on figuring out how weird it is. I should sue Mr. Pogue for loss of consortium. My wife says, “Come to bed,” and I tell her, “I have to figure out what is wrong with this dratted computer—or this book.” Sue for tearing out my hair. Loss of sleep.

WW3. Maybe a class action suit? Do you Mac experts think we should?

WW4. I have regularly been driving my son crazy with strange pleas for help. He is so helpful, but it’s a darned shame he has to put up with all these changes and discrepancies. It must drive him nutso when he hears another plaintive call from me.

WW5. I always knew IBM or Microsoft users needed a buddy system, but I didn’t know Macs are just as bad.

WW6. This is perhaps getting to be a good computer, if I learn all the workarounds. But it has been one hell of a struggle to find out how to do it and stop losing memos. I have put in many dozens of frustrated hours, even with expert help.

MM1. I tried to use iCAL to set a reminder on its calendar, and the instructions in the books did not work. 

MM2. My son tried to tell me what to do, by phone, and his instructions did not work.

MM3. Of course, my son figured out a workaround. Pogueman says you just type in the colored space. Maybe that used to work, but now you have to type in the not-colored space. Damn the undocumented “improvements.” Apple has so many “nice” features that are so well hidden, you cannot guess where to find them.

XX1. There is a useful program called iGarageband, which sounds like a neat way to record music. But Pogue’s book makes no comment on the specific type of connector you need. It turns out to be a 1/8-in. mini plug.

NN1. I have been taping a lot of reminders to the top cover, because I don’t trust the computer. I used genuine Scotch brand tape.

NN2. My wife told me it looked awful, so I tried to peel off the tape. For an hour it was a horrible struggle.

NN3. After calling my son, he told me to Google up “Remove Tape.” The solution turned out to be butter. No kidding. You still want to peel off most of the tape, but reasonable solvents do not remove the residue. Butter (or lard) does.

LL1. I asked several polite questions of David Pogue, “author” of The Missing Manual, (“The book that should have been in the box”), and got no answer. I did this again and got no answer. After three more weeks, I sent him a strongly worded memo.

LL2. He gave no apologies and no answers to any technical questions. He just said I would not get any response with (nasty) memos like that.

LL3. I assured him that I will definitely get responses on these topics, and I’ll be publishing to 125,000 readers in January.

LL4. Pogueman seems to think if he just ignores me, he can stonewall me, and I will get frustrated and go away.

LL5. But as a muckraker, I don’t work that way. We buy our ink by the barrel. We try to get out the truth.

LL6. Why do I say “pogueman”? Pogue has an e-mail address of [email protected], so I’m only calling him what he calls himself.

LL7. Pogue claimed that he volunteered to help me with my computer programs. I say he did not volunteer to help me. Ask me about my rebuttal letter.

LL7. I am asking all readers of my column to comment on these and any other unfortunate errors they have found in this pretty good computer or in any of the disastrous books that are supposed to help with the Leopard operating system. Send your comments to me at [email protected].

UU1. I think this computer is jinxed. It’s unreliable.

UU2. I think this computer hates me. But that’s not a surprise. Most (digital) computers do.

UU3. Maybe I should get it replaced under warrantee. It is not reliable.

YY1. Electronic Design extends an offer to Apple Inc. and to David Pogue to comment and reply on anything published in my January 14 column.

ZZ1. That’s okay. I am going to criticize Microsoft and IBM-type PCs next month.

ZZ2. So what’s my point?

ZZ3. I will insist that anybody printing a book about an Apple computer must see that all the commands and instructions do actually work before they push the “start printer” button. I do plan to send all this criticism to each of the other authors. And...

ZZ4. I sure hope Apple can put in a little less effort at changing and “improving” its  computers until they don’t work right. And...

ZZ5. Put in more effort at documenting what the computer is really doing, and the “improvements,” so we poor users can use those “improvements.”

*** Comments invited. / rap/ Send to [email protected]

P.S. 1: Recently my son recommended that I store my e-mails in folders, rather than “mailboxes,” but he could not exactly explain why I should.

P.S. 2: It turned out that folders and their contents are (apparently) stored on the hard drive, whereas in this IMAP system, the mailboxes are saved on the server and may thus be inaccessible in case of crashes. So now I have one address list in a mailbox, where it is convenient, and a copy in a folder, where it may be more crash-resistant. Good thing—my computer crashed three times yesterday.

P.S. 3: I used to be able to request a new folder, and the computer would ask me what I would like to name it. Fine, but now the computer has stopped asking me to name it and just lists the new folder as “untitled folder 3” or “untitled folder 4,” and I can’t find any way to change the “title.”

If we find more problems, as I am sure we will, we will find a way to post them somewhere. Maybe right below here?

/ Best regards. / rap /

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