Last night my wife had a meeting with a bunch of other designers for a small volunteer publication. All had Macs, of course.
Two had Macbook Pros (my wife is still on a G4 Powerbook) and were commiserating about the overheating and noise issues (some weird whirring every now and then). They weren’t unhappy. They loved their Macbook Pros, actually.
Well, then, our router started acting up. Recently, it had been dropping our connection off and on, but last night the drops were particularly bad—our connection was going every five to ten minutes, and even the wired connection to my desktop was going. So, I did some online research (while the connection was working) and found out that sometimes a firmware upgrade helps to give more stability. Sure enough, a firmware upgrade helped (the currently installed firmware was from 2004; the latest upgrade available was from 2006). Even though the router was stable, only Ubuntu seemed to play nice with the connection. The wired Ubuntu desktop connection worked, of course. And the wireless Ubuntu connection on my Dell laptop also worked fine. But my wife’s Powerbook kept saying it was unable to join our wireless network. I kept trying and trying. I turned the Airport off and on again. I tried changing the network settings. I tried rebooting. All to no avail. The only thing that ended up working was changing the encryption from WPA2 to WPA.
So much for “just working.”
Just as in my last Macs aren’t magic post, I’m not trying to bash Macs. I’m not trying to say Ubuntu is better or always functions better. In fact, there are many ways in which Ubuntu lacks the functionality or compatibility Mac OS X has (multiple monitor configuration or commercial application support, for example). I just get tired of people saying that Macs “just work.” Last night’s experience just cements further for me the idea that no computers or operating systems “just work.” They are human-made machines that sometimes give us problems. Ubuntu, Windows, Mac—it doesn’t matter. There is no computing panacea.