Where science and tech meet creativity.

The astronomy community is rich with Macintosh users. Many of us have them because they can be forced to play like a Linux/UNIX box and run all our astronomy software that was developed for Solaris or similar. Now the thing about Mac is they have super powerful touchpads that can do all sorts of scary stuff like scroll and zoom, right click and double click, etc all depending on how people have configured them. This leads to the fascinating realization that we can’t fluently use one another’s computers all the time. This gets even more interesting when you throw in the occasional international keyboard (I made Chris’s computer misbehave in fascinating ways the other day). Now, we the Mac users, know this is a “feature” of our computer that is actually an expression of its power and glory.

Hand a PC user a Mac, however, and within 30 seconds the touchpad and lack of double-button leads to bitching.

Now, the thing is, Macs work *really really well* with two and three button mice. Scroll buttons work beautifully. The righ-button and scroll wheel just aren’t part of the default hardware system. Mac recognizes (and they take it to the extreme with the Mac Mini) that people have very personal ideas of what they want their mouse or trackball to feel like (I for one, only use Logitech, symmetric for right or left handed use, marble track balls and Goldtone ergonomic keyboards when I have a choice). Thus, Mac keeps it simple and pretty with their laptop.

PC users have this fascinating misconception that Macs just don’t have two button capabilities, and they also don’t know either the cntrl-click, right button surrogate option or the touch pad “gestures” that act like right click. This means that while I made fascinating mis-clicks and motions when using Chris’s computer, I at least knew how to fix what I did using keyboard controls while the poor innocent PC user would just get frustrated and curse Steve Jobs’ genetic ancestry.

I’ve seen many many examples of this, “[expletive] Mac, no two button, [expletive] touchpad doesn’t work normally” behavior at this meeting.

I’m not sure why but I find this highly humorous. Perhaps this is a bit of an obnoxious, arrogant sense of schdenfruende amusement. I can use a non-Vista windows system. I can use a Mac. It all just goes.

I just watched a very brave and somewhat MacIntosh confused presenter from the World-Wide Telescope work very very hard to do his presentation on a MacIntosh that clearly knew he was from Microsoft and clearly resented that it was booted into Vista. He was nice, the software was clearly powerful, but the computer simply would not acknowledge his non-fluent attempts to use a right-click surrogate gesture on the touchpad. He tried hard. It said “no.”

There are reasons I won’t do demos on computers other than my own unless under extreme duress.

An aside…

I really really wish that the World Wide Telescope had an OSX native version, or had been coded in something like Adobe Air (not that Microsoft would do that) to allow it to function universally. I have Parallels and will boot into Window’s XP to use Peranso to reduce variable star data. I won’t do it when connected to the internet, however, unless it is for a brief moment to register licenses or to check a website *I created* to make sure it works while on an ethernet cable behind a switch/hub with a firewall. I switched to OSX after having my beloved Sony VAIO twice in 6 months have a virus swim up one of its ports and kill my hard drive. In both cases, I was one of the first 50 folks Symantic identified with a new form of electronic evil doer they hadn’t known to block when I could have used their protection. I strongly suspect the programmer worked in the building where I worked. The experience left me windows weary, and a bit bitter and nervous about PCs and the internet.

So, I guess the OSX versus Windows emotional angst is alive and well, with a sense of wistfulness on both sides. I want more software, and they want a two-button+scroll wheel touchpad. To each his (or her) on desires…