AMITIAE - Monday 19 October 2015

Cassandra: Changing Times - More Macs in the Office

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I walked into my office this morning just in time to see the arrival of a MacPro. Not a new machine, it was one of the slab-sided aluminium devices that use the same body as the earlier G5 Power Macs. As much as I like the specifications of the latest Mac Pro, these older machines look like real computers: certainly on the outside.

Mac Pro A few years ago we had a couple of the G4 PowerPCs here as part of a project I tried to set up. The money for those came from a World Bank program. However someone cancelled the CRT iMacs I had asked for and the project was dead. It turned out to be a benefit for me as I was able to learn the basics of OS X: the G4s came with System 9 as standard and could boot into OS X 10.1.

What I liked particularly about the G4 was the way the side would open and hinge down to expose all the insides. I learned a lot there too. The G5 would also open to expose the clean design of what was inside - perhaps even tidier than the G4 - but the panel was not hinged. It had to be put somewhere while work was being carried out. I later had a G5 at home on test for a couple of weeks and a friend commented on the inside: so clean; unlike the untidy wiring of most PCs.

Back around 2002 when that G4 had first arrived, I was like a voice in the wilderness. So few people used Macs or OS X in those days. It was not easy to persuade the Bangkok Post to take a column on Macs (although there had been contributors in the past), but I was allowed some space every two weeks. That changed to a weekly column after a few months.

SGi 2100 At the university, the idea of Macs was so unusual that I was asked to introduce computer engineering students to the platform. The idea was that, even if they only used PCs, they might as well know about other operating systems. By the same token I also introduced them to Unix using a collection of Silicon Graphics computers bought and hardly used.

I had tried a few years back to persuade the (then) head of Computer Engineering to buy some Macs, especially as they could boot into several operating systems, so would be economical in that area. He always laughed, so I gave up in the end. Last year, the Computer Engineering Department set up a lab (with government help) that has several Mac mini computers for a Computer Forensics program.

Next year, the same department will purchase enough machines for an undergradaute lab. "They can boot into several operating systems, so would be economical in that area", I am told. I have also been asked to prepare an outline for teaching OS X to students unfamiliar with the operating system.

Computer Forensics Lab
Computer Forensics Lab

Around 2012 I began to see some changes with iOS devices becoming more evident and an increase in the number of Macs being used by students. Some of those were running Windows for at least part of the time because certain engineering applications have no Mac versions. Also widely used is Microsoft Office: the university has a licence, so students are not using pirated software, at least not in the case of those Redmond products.

I don't particularly have anything against Microsoft products. I do have one or two niggles about the way Office, for example, works on the Mac; but I always ask, What is the point? I do as much with no Microsoft (or Adobe) products installed. There are usually alternatives. I object to Word, for example, in terms of creativity: that onscreen display is a barrier; a blank screen, with no concern for formatting allows thinking.

Colleagues also began using Macs. A couple of them had returned from studies in the USA and had become familiar with OS X there. A number of MacBooks and MacBook Pro computers could be seen. One or two others changed from PC use to Macs for office work, with the arrival in the last couple of years of three Mac mini computers. One colleague also has an iMac, adding to that with a used MacBook Pro and more recently one of the three Mac Pro machines. Being a department of electrical engineering, one of my colleagues also uses (and teaches with) a Raspberry Pi: these are now available here.

Mac mini These latest Power Macs to arrive were at bargain prices, particularly when compared to online sources, such as Mac2Hand, where quoted prices are reasonable up to a point. The two machines that were bought last week, became three, when the department technician, who has never used OS X joined that little club and the device arrived this morning.

I first played with a Mac in 1985, the year after they had appeared on the market. A professor at Illinois State University who published a book every year was delighted with the way they could handle fonts, something that could not be done by a PC then. When I first looked seriously at Macs in the late 1990s, they were considered elitist here. Prices in Thailand reflected that, as did attitudes in the few stores that existed then. There was some erosion of prices and attitudes by the time I bought my first (CRT) iMac in 2003 (it still works, by the way), but the expansion of sales and stores between 2005 - 2010 changed the market and the target consumer.

I now teach some classes where every student has a Mac; and my colleagues are beginning to catch on.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



Made on Mac

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