After settling down into a long and generally stable relationship with Macintosh computers, I have gradually switched everything in my studio to Mac OS X, giving me new bouncy graphics, pre-emptive multi-tasking, an almost crash-proof OS — and inevitably, a lot of new frustrations. Why is it that while new technology makes everything run faster, it still takes longer to access anything than it did on the hand-cranked eight-bit computers we used 20 years ago?
My sequencer of choice now takes so long to open a track that the musical style of the song I'm working on has usually gone out of fashion by the time I've actually got it up on screen. To add insult to injury, I can't just shut the computer down any more — it has to undergo some sort of obscure ritual involving rotating cursors and the self-checking of files before I can finally pull the plug. Even my new mobile phone seems to have picked up the habit — hit 'Off' and you get a mind-numbingly dull screensaver comprising orange blobs on a slightly more orange background that runs in an entirely pointless fashion for around 30 seconds before it finally concedes and turns itself off!
I mean, what is going on here? In the early days of electricity, when you wanted something that was electrically powered to stop doing whatever it was that it was doing, you simply turned it off!
My daughter's PC (which, for my own peace of mind, I operate using a bargepole with a porcelain insulator) seems to require you to fill in a form of tax-return complexity before you can switch if off. Admittedly, this is usually because she's forgotten to take the thing off-line or left some document unsaved — but now Macs appear to have caught the same disease. Only the other morning, I came down to find my computer still running and my studio boiling hot, simply because I'd clicked 'Shut Down' and not waited around to respond to the 'Are You Sure?' dialogue! If I wasn't sure, I wouldn't have switched it off!
If starting up, shutting down and loading songs winds me up by wasting time, what annoys me even more is the arcane system of access privileges and passwords that have been foisted on us by modern operating systems. When I import an audio file from a CD-ROM into one of my songs, I don't want to see a message that tells me I don't have sufficient access privileges to do it — I paid for the wretched computer, it's mine, I should be able to do what I want with it! The vast majority of computer owners are private users, so why on earth can't we simply be spared all this nonsense when we first set up the machines so that nobody is ever asked for a password or denied access to anything, other than perhaps to root-level stuff that could wreck the OS? Is it too much to ask that I can drag any file into any folder without having my authority challenged? Maybe a scanner or camera input that would allow me to show the computer its receipt with my name on it would convince it?
And while I'm at it, why does the Mac OS open iTunes every time I insert a CD-ROM with audio files on it? If it had any sense, it would look back in its electronic records and realise that I never, ever use iTunes, I don't ever want to convert things to MP3s, and in most cases, I'm simply trying to import some audio into Logic. The same thing happens when I plug in my digital camera — all I want do is copy the files onto my hard drive, but no, iPhoto steps in and tries to hijack the proceedings. By all means allow the user to decide that iTunes is a suitable default program to open audio files or that iPhoto is a suitable default for digital photos, but please don't go making that decision for me, because I'll only have to take time off from the job in hand to figure out how to turn it off — and in all probability, get a message telling me that I don't have the required access privileges!
Paul White Editor In Chief