It’s been done! Some boffin has managed to get Windows XP to boot on an otherwise perfectly good Mac. Whoopee! Finally I can sleep soundly again at night. Bob and Bono can concentrate on World Poverty once more. Congratulations to the code genius who got it working – he (I’m presuming women have better things to do with their time) is now $13,854 richer (minus the price of an Intel iMac and copy of XP Pro) after online site OnMac.net raised the grand prize for this Odyssean quest via individual donations. The near-900 donations ranged from a whopping US$1,400 from media cataloguer Delicious Monster to a bunch of stingy 1¢ pledges from needy nerds.
Seeing Windows XP run on an iMac or MacBook Pro is like seeing Steve Jobs give a Macworld Expo keynote dressed in tan chinos, with button-down plaid shirt and chunky knitted Apple logo jumper. I’d pay £100 to see that!
The success of the ‘Windows on Mac’ contest (see page 16) could spur similar projects. There are tons of things I’d like to see fixed that I’d gladly donate a few pounds to see realised.
A crisp tenner to the person who fixes it so that Microsoft Word doesn’t always default to English (US) spelling. Despite an often-seen pop-up box that asks me whether I’d like to make English (UK) my default language, it always seems to revert to favouring ‘favor’ and underlining in color my spelling of colour. It’s constant tut-tutting at my native tongue makes my hair go gray. I quickly lose my sense of humor. My Mac knows I’m based in the UK, so all my software should as well.
Another fix I’d gladly pay for is Word’s smarty-pants formatting that thinks it knows better than me about the type of document I’m working on. I might start a little numbered bullet-point list, and Word suddenly takes over, helpfully adding in the next number without me asking – in fact despite me forcefully shouting “No!” at the screen.
Then there’s Excel, Microsoft’s ubiquitous spreadsheet tool. Why when I want to quit it or merely close a document does Excel suddenly think I’ve made numerous changes? I might have expanded the size of the window or zoomed in to 125 per cent to get a better look but I haven’t altered the data in any way. Yet come closedown I’m asked if I want to save the changes that I didn’t make to the file. This is a time-waster that I’d gladly splash a fiver on to see removed. And an extra 45p never to be asked again if I appear to be writing a list, so would I like Word or Excel to start mucking about with my formatting.
Another Office app that makes my blood boil several times a day is Entourage – a program that even includes the word ‘rage’ in its dumb name. When I’m searching the Inbox for an email from a colleague, I use the “From contains…” option. But if I want to locate a message I sent to someone else things go stupid. I flip to Entourage’s Sent folder and tap in the name of the person I emailed. Duh. The search option is still “From”, and I have to manually switch the drop-down menu to “To”. Isn’t it bleedingly obvious that when I switch to searching my Sent folder I’ll be looking for emails that I sent “to” people, not ‘from” them? I’ll give £5.50 for that one to be rubbed out.
Don’t think that I haven’t moaned at high-ranking members of Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit about these Office stupidities. I’ve been asking for all these fixes since Office 2001, and groaned through Office v.X and Office 2004 when I saw that they doggedly remain. It took Quark eight years and three versions of my tearful begging and pleading to alter the gigantic Tab Palette in XPress, so it’s possible my Office prayers will one day be answered.
It’s not just Microsoft and Quark that make software mistakes. The imperious Creative Suite from Adobe is full of howlers that make me curse umpteen times a day. I’d empty my wallet and wife’s purse to get some of these fixed.
Have you used InDesign’s spell-checker? It has the vocabulary of a 5-year-old, and operates in the most bizarre fashion. ‘Check Spelling’ and a box appears in the middle of the screen. Click Start, and it will pick some quite common word that it has no idea is common parlance at nursery schools across Britain. So you decide to add it to the woeful Dictionary. Click Add. Another box is immediately plonked right on top of the first one. Click Add again in this box.
Then drag the second box off the first one so you can continue spell-checking. Realise that InDesign still doesn’t recognise the word you’ve just added, so you have to tell it to “Ignore All”. You can’t even “Ignore All” for grammar inconsistencies that InDesign finds for you. You have to “Ignore” exactly the same grammar changes each and every time they occur if it’s actually a style you’re happy with – £20 for the genius who makes this spell-checker become at least half usable.
InDesign sucks up each and every megabyte of memory as soon as it’s launched, thus rendering low-level tools – such as the aforementioned Word and Entourage – virtually unusable on my three-year-old PowerBook G4. Hello spinning beachball/cursor. Goodbye productivity. These everyday apps are forced by InDesign’s RAM hogging to constantly access their data via the glacial hard disk rather than the super-speedy memory. Adobe Illustrator is even more of an application menace – often ignoring its fellow Creative Suite tools in favour of total processor domination. I would mention Adobe Acrobat here, but it’s so slow that I stopped using it years ago.
I haven’t used Tiger’s much-lauded Spotlight search engine for ages, either. There’s no “match this phrase” search, several bugs with non-alphanumeric characters, and incredible slowdowns with find-as-you-type. Would my donating £1 help Apple along?
Another quid to the Apple engineer who makes the Finder’s folders update faster than the time it takes to sigh and move on to another application. I’ll give £2 for web browsers to realise that I didn’t mean to type a comma instead of a full-stop in a web address – just change the damn thing, Safari, and don’t pathetically whine that you can’t find the page. And while you’re at it I’ll toss in all my spare change to shoot down Safari opening PDFs in the browser – even when I’ve told it to desist such practices immediately.
Then there’s my Canon PowerShot camera. I love it, but I could quite easily dash it to pieces with a rock when its default flash goes off ruining my first photo. Why isn’t the default setting either no flash or automatic flash? That’s another £2.50 of mine in the kitty.
These problems are going to cost me a fortune if they’re all to be fixed, so please join me by donating a few pounds, pence, dollars, euros and cents to these noble projects. If we can get Windows dual-booting on a Mac mini, surely we can do anything if we put our minds and small change together. MW