Sunday, June 05, 2005

Macintel - Apple leaves IBM for Intel - Or can I use a green hammer the purple one doesn't work the same

As a Mac head, one of the interesting things to watch online is how feverently the mac-web reacts to the news that something on the grape vine might impact the core of their beloved machines (for the record, I love my Macs as much as the next mac head, for me it's the best tool to get the jobs that I need done, done). If you go onto Spymac (one of my favourite online haunts), you'll see a thread over 130 pages long discussing how the world will end because of the rumours that are out there now about Apple moving it's low end machines to an Intel manufactured chip. I think it's unlikely yo happen, but what if that chip is a flavour of PPC? Does it have to be x86? Regardless of what it really is or if it's even going to happen, the entire event reminds me of what happens when people experience (or in some cases re-experience) for the first time, our iBook Mobile Lab. They are often tentative about using the new OS and some are moreso than others are unwilling to try to see that the system is essentially the same as the Windows OS that they have had more experience with. More often than not, they will see that Word is Word, browsers are essentially the same and other than the window control widgets being in the right hand corner, they are in the left. But for those few who are unable or unwilling to make that switch, these small changes are just enough to make them completely lost when using the computer. I believe the reason for this is because they never really learn to use the computer as a tool, rather they learn a lock-step process that will achieve a result when they are needing to complete some task. Granted not everyone needs to know how to go between WinXX, Mandrake, Free BSD Unix and OSX, but there should be the basic literacy (especially for those in charge of teaching future teachers) to see where programs have common features and use them with some success and to know where to find help. To get to this point, we (as those charged with helping get faculty and staff up to a spec that a grade 2 student won't be able to "out computer" them) have to ensure that the way that people are exposed to computers and the way that they are encouraged to make use of computers as tools in the classroom is as comfortable as possible (Comfortable Computing). If we succeed in getting people to the point where they can move between OSes as easily as they can move between makes of cars, then we will have had achieved a great deal in terms of computer literacy. Once people are no longer afraid of the technology layer between themselves and their goal, they are empowered to use the computer as a tool. We should also not be afraid of promoting the use of help tools, so that even if something is confusing, the user knows that there is a chance that they can get themselves back up and running. For preservice teachers, this means that they can start to make use of the wide variety of equipment that they may find in schools to at least cope with the administrata of teaching. So what does this all have to do with my fellow members of the "Cult of Mac"? To me, it seems that the processor that is behind the OS is really not much of an issue, the widgets are still where I know to find them, and the software that I use to do my work will remain the same. So I'm not sure what the big deal is. For proof - just look at all the skins that are out there for WinXP to make it look like OS X. It's Intel inside with a helping of WinXP - it just looks like something else, but will likely get the job done just the same. And just for fun, but in the same vein - Get Fuzzy.