René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Before my Mac, I owned the ugliest Notebook in the World

Last Saturday, I did it. After a few years of consideration, I seized the moment of agony for my Fujitsu/Siemens-Microsoft-Vista-Notebook, went into the Apple flagship store in San Francisco and got myself a MacBook Pro. Life has changed -for the better. I am still getting into the nitty-gritty about the Mac, but I am getting there, especially with more and more enthusiasm. The same enthusiasm which I so far observed with suspicion from the other side of the fence owning and using a PC for almost 20 years.

The final nail in the coffin to get a Mac was that my last notebook, a Fujitsu Siemens Celsius in the vicious combination with Microsoft Vista. This evil package was the biggest piece of shit in technology which I’ve touched in my whole life. And I never belonged to those predictable Microsoft-bashers; I was indifferent as long as this thing quietly did its job, rather in terms of a hygiene factor. Maybe that’s in Microsoft’s proportions anyway the highest Zen of praise.

But with this monster, which I bought, some 15 months ago, everything started to change. Have a look:

My ugly, shitty PC-Notebook

Frankly, have you ever seen something more ugly, clumsy and less elegant than this grey brick containing chips and processors? (If so, please send me pics and links). I am actually sure, that the spec for this notebook said this had to be ugly. I imagine a conversation at Fujitsu/Siemens during the design phase, when the engineer presented the first prototype to the team getting a reaction like: “Oh no, no. Back to the drawing board, that’s way to beautiful, it has to become, really, really ugly.” After seven iterations or so the engineer finally comes up with something that looks like this insult to fundamental human aesthetics.

Anyway, I decided myself to buy this thing, and I was not looking out for a piece of postmodern Andy Warhol art, but a fast and powerful computer. But what ultimately amounted to my deepest despise for this thing is that it terminally crashed four times in these 15 months of my ownership. To be fair in giving shit: It was equally distributed between two identical crashes of Vista and two identical failures of the hardware. So, do we start to see patterns here?

I think so. And it brings me to the conclusion that the hardware-software model of the last 20 years for the PC is broken. Sadly and luckily. The model went like this: Faster machines allow for more powerful software where Moore’s law doubling processor speed every two years allows for even more powerful software and so on. The problem: The duo of MS Windows and MS Office suite, sitting centrally on your machine, have become heavier and heavier, cluttered with useless features that were built in order to keep the release cycles and its underlying license model spinning. Who lost out? The consumer, the user.

Just to deep dive into my case, which I don’t see as just an outlier in terms of, well, I was just unlucky with my particular PC-unit. There is a system of collective disregard for the customer:

  • I bought the computer in Germany, but wanted the software for the operating system Vista and MS Office in English. Guess what, not that I could not just change the settings in the software or at least handily download a patch from Microsoft’s website. No, this language kit had to be ordered from Microsoft UK. That took 6 weeks to get physically shipped. Hello?!? In which millennium are we living?
  • With the installation of the first pieces of software when I got started, in particular a standard driver to run my PCMCI-card for wireless connectivity in India, Microsoft Vista froze during re-booting. Froze without any chance to bring it to life. Terminally dead such that I had with the help of my dealer make a mirror of the hard-drive to save the data and run a complete fresh re-installation of the software. The same happened a few weeks later. How can that be? I believe it’s in line with all the anger and complaints that have been around since Vista was hastily released without sufficient testing.
  • Last November then in India, I tried to start my computer. Nothing happened, apart from three sounds: short – long – short and a black screen. Calling in Fujitsu Siemens they let me know that the sounds were for remote diagnosis and said that the motherboard had gone. During one of my visits in Germany the technician had to replace it and mentioned something like “it happens quite often with this model as it tends to get hot which strains the motherboard to death. “

This “getting hot” is a charming euphemism for this super-heavy-ugly thing on my lap being able to either fry eggs (or my balls alternatively). And where the fan was making sounds of a sick old steam engine whose time had come.

Maybe this picture of a “steam engine” illustrates best how outdated and of yesterday this model “bigger, higher, faster, centralized” has become in a time where we are moving towards distributed computing, software-as-a-service and lightweight netbooks.

I see parallels to what the U.S. car industry is going through. Innovation at GM in the last 50 years largely consisted of building even heavier, even bulkier and even more fuel-guzzling monsters who are in fact nothing but dinosaurs – too heavy at some point to carry their own weight, collapse and perish. And that in a time where we require “The Power of Less” (as the meaningful conference title of Web 2.0 Expo went last week. )

What the car industry needs is something like Google or Apple in technology to fix the entire model. Start from scratch with new paradigms which fulfil the demand for cost-effective mobility and balance the impact on the environment.

But back to my computer. With these three incidents I had really started to loath my notebook to the point to co-addiction. When I booted it in the morning and it went slower that usually, I held my breath (“Will it resurrect?”). I became hesitant to install new software because it could risk the freezing. Not to mention that the battery for this energy-guzzling beast lasted for some 25 minutes, whereby it took already 5 to get it running. All in all: A total, complete and utter failure on every possible front.

Finally, thank god finally, last week in San Francisco at the conference, on Thursday morning during the keynote I tried to boot this piece of crap. There they were, the three sounds: short – long – short. The motherboard again, just 4 months old. After 10 seconds of changing temperature between cold and hot, I just felt deep relief as it was clear: This was it. Never again. Over and out. Now the shit will see the trash-bin. Liberation. No more self-betrayal of the sort: “OK, I don’t like my notebook, but still: I bought it last year and I should keep it for one more year.“ (Maybe you realize that this blog-post carries traits of a self-therapy ;-)

I was immediately geared towards buying a Mac, but needed more confirmation. And it seems that this is how it works with Apple-products: The community of enthusiastic users is the best evangelist. Within 48 hours I consulted three trusted people whom I hold in highest esteem and who were already Mac-users: Anju Rupal, Sören Stamer who were also at the conference, and in good Web 2.0-fashion via Twitter (and e-mail) Lars Hinrichs who had made the change to Mac only recently.

After they had given me a thumbs-up for all the apprehensions I have had, I went into the hyper-cool Apple-Store and started my own journey with the Mac learning what it takes and having fun with it. Anyway, also to prevent lethargy from age, it is always good to be drawn out of the comfort zone by having to adopt something different. A great start for a new beginning.

 

Comments

  1. April 11th, 2009 | 10:02

    Slogans for mac.
    “It just works”
    “Powerfully Simple”
    “mac users: smarter, happier, and better looking”

    Now you’re super cool Seifertinger :-)

  2. April 13th, 2009 | 12:58

    I made the change in October 2007. This black Macbook I am tying this on is actually one of the most beautiful notebooks I’ve ever seen so far. And so are the other Macbooks. Wise chose. You won’t regret it. It can be a little hard in the beginning to find good alternatives for all your Windows programs, but you’ll not just find similar alternatives — you’ll find better alternatives. Mac has changed my life. And so it will change yours… ;) Amen.

  3. April 13th, 2009 | 4:59

    AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    noooo… please … not another mac user. why are you paying almost the double price for the same hardware?

    ok this is just the first thing that came in my mind while reading this post. actually I hate Windows too .. ok wait. we have to differentiate between hardware and software.

    hardware: fujitsu/siemens notebooks are crap and everyone knows this. this is why no normal person buys these and they have to offer them with special prices.

    software: windows is becoming worse and worse with every new release – thats a fact. but there is hope! please give Linux a chance. I’ve swichted to Linux about 2 years ago when I bought my new laptop, a Zepto 6214W.
    Its far away from beeing a geeky operating system… I’m using a distribution called “Ubuntu” and their slogan is “Linux for human beings”. And it is fucking easy to use, easy to maintain and free of any costs.
    I cant understand why so many people dont give linux a try.

    If you are sick of windows and thinking about changing your operating system you should try Ubuntu first. You would be suprised!

    Actually there is a new release in 10 days!

    :-) If you have any questions you can mail me!

    Matt

  4. April 13th, 2009 | 5:12

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your passionate involvement and I think we agree more than you think. First and foremost that you also believe that Fujitsu/Siemens and MS Windows suck. Thanks for that one :-)

    Second, you won’t believe it: I have a notebook with Ubuntu which I installed a year ago. Although I consider myself a semi-nerd, I couldn’t really warm up to it. In full praise of open source and seeing the web as the platform, I thought for using leight-weight stuff through the browser, it might just be good enough. But still when I had to install some software on the machine, it felt kind of awkward. So I tried a few times, but I couldn’t relate to it …

    Maybe it might take another 2-4 years that the stuff that we can do via browsers or Adobe Air and the such are so experience-rich that the differences in usability between the platforms Windows, Mac and Linux/Ubunto beneath will converge to irrelevance.

    Best regards from Bangalore
    René

  5. Ben
    January 9th, 2010 | 6:12

    what is really needed in the world of computers is not going to be solved by buying a macbook or installing unbutu or what ever that linux os is called….what will be needed is a notebook that is resistant to human ignorance and a complete lack of gaining or learning the most rudimentary lessons on maintaining any OS and computing in a secure environment not to mention a casual vacuuming out of environmental contaminants such as cig smoke and household dust. Not sure if you or any of the vast web audience is aware but 70% of all PC or Mac crashes is not due to bugs, viruses, Trojans or spyware..it’s simply due to some person dumping as much crap as possible ( junk downloads, left over software and plain ol junk software like PC doctors and registry fixer’s) and the NUMBER ONE biggest culprit id programs running in the background and way more tasks than a machine can handle. It’s as simple as that amigo…