Feb 26

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Part 2

She said …

I was sitting at my desk, drumming my fingers on the textbook I had just finished reading. It was the beginning of the awkward few weeks of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was bored. Life was going to get insanely hectic with finals in a couple weeks, but for now, I was still trying to talk my body out of its post-Turkey Day haze and enjoy a week of peace before madness took over. So, I did what I always did when I was bored; I strolled across the lounge of my suite to the room diagonal mine and flopped down on the floor.

I spent a lot of time on the floor of Emilie’s room. With me strewn out across the small floor space and Emilie perched on her desk chair, we always had our best talks. Emilie was so used to me letting myself in and taking my place on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, that she didn’t even look up from pulling her hair back into a ponytail.

“I’m bored.” I started counting the ceiling tiles.

“Well, I’m just on my way out to go watch a movie with some friends. You should come.” Emilie turned toward me. Still counting the tiles, I weighed the options. Stay in my room all evening, or go watch a movie? The choice was simple.

“Hmm … alright. Lemme go change.”

A few minutes later, we were stepping out of the bluster cold and into the Bible Building. Because guys and girls are not allowed in each other’s dorms, the prime movie-watching locations were the small Collaborations Rooms on campus, complete with wall-mounted widescreen monitors.

“Who are we meeting, anyway?” Before Emilie could answer, she pushed the door open. The guy closest to the door turned and looked up at us. His brown eyes looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place where I had seen him before. But then again, it was a small campus. I’d seen pretty much everyone before. Even so, as he offered Emilie and me seats, I couldn’t shake the notion that I knew him from somewhere.

 

He said …

“Have a seat, Em. Hey, I’m Alex,” I said, extending the hand of friendship to the foreign creature. She timidly introduced herself as Jess, and I offered her the seat between Emilie and me. Ryan tipped his hat to her, Gabe gave her The Friendly Eyes over the magazine he was reading, and Dave grunted in her direction.

“Pinball’s the game. Emilie and I are left and right flipper; you can be the launcher.” Jess stared at me blankly, obviously completely lost. Emilie and I rolled our eyes at each other—so naïve.

Emilie was leaving for the NAIA National Volleyball Championship in Colorado tomorrow, so those of us relaxing in the Collaboration Room were trying to absorb as much Emilie Time as possible. It was no time at all before Emilie and I were frustrated with Jess (she was really struggling with the Pinball launcher), I had bitten Jess’ finger at least once, Gabe had read through his entire magazine, Ryan and Dave were fed up with studying, and the Bible Building was closing for the night.

“It’s closing already?” Emilie questioned. “But we never even watched The Goonies!” But there wasn’t any sound of remorse in the tone of her voice. She was just smiling in Jess’ direction.

The security guard kicked us out of the building, and we huddled around each other like football players at a pep rally … or maybe volleyball players. Our voices carried into the night as we hooted and hollered, shouting sports-related words of encouragement to Emilie. We each gave Emilie a hug, shook hands with Jess, and left the two girls at their dorm.

“You know,” I pondered, as the four of us guys headed back to our dorm on the other end of campus. “We’re going to have to find other ways to amuse ourselves for the next week.”

“That’s true,” Gabe continued. “Without Emilie and Kylee around, two members of our Wolf Pack will be missing.”

Dave and I pushed open the door to our room, threw our backpacks on the couch, and plopped down into our respective chairs. “What are your thoughts on this Jess character?” Dave asked.

“Well, I think she may be a pretty good stand-in for Emilie while she’s in Colorado,” I responded. “But I’ll get back to you on that.” I spun around in my desk chair and opened Facebook. Jessica Rathburn, I typed into the search bar. She was holding a light pole and wearing a black peacoat in her profile picture.

Jess' Profile Picture

My mouse hovered over the “Add Friend” button. Not knowing that she had been at Pyhäinpäivä, I thought I had only just met Jess tonight. Did I really know her well enough to “Friend” her?

I clicked the button before allowing myself to dwell on a few strange notions that were beginning to surface. She must have been online, because she confirmed my request almost immediately. Still feeling particularly forward, I opened up Facebook Chat and clicked on her name.

Alex Laird: Hey. We’ve met, like, once, which practically constitutes a friendship. Emilie is cool, and she seems to think you’re alright, and I thought you were pretty alright when I met you tonight. So, I added you. Thus ends the story of how we became Facebook Friends.
Jessica Rathburn: Well, “Hello” to you too. Thanks for the offer of friendship. I guess I accept … Well, I already did.

The quickest way to my heart was through sarcasm, and Jess proved to be sarcastic and amusing over the next hour and a half. We bonded over our mutual friendship with Emilie, plans of bank heists and car thievery (we needed money and transportation to visit Emilie in Colorado), and the proper technique for attaining invisibility (which we thought might come in handy during the bank heist).

Alex Laird: I have a proposition for you.
Jessica Rathburn: I’m not interested until I get an apology for you biting my finger.
Alex Laird: We can skip the pleasantries for now. Here’s the deal: you need new friends, and we need someone to replace Emilie while she’s gone this week. You seem like a pretty alright person, so I’m speaking for the group and requesting that you join us for dinner tomorrow night.
Jessica Rathburn: Still waiting on that apology …
Alex Laird: Alright, fine. Dear Jessica, I’m sorry for biting your finger. In all honesty, it didn’t even taste that good. I don’t mean that in a rude sort of way, because I don’t think fingers are supposed to taste good, so don’t take offense to that … This apology is going south. Anyway, please forgive me for biting your finger. Love, Alex.
Jessica Rathburn: Apology accepted. And the dinner invitation as well.

It took a lot to muster a fake apology out of me, but this girl I barely knew managed to do it. It was strangely easy to talk to her, but I hated the barrier of a chat client. For some reason I was feeling oddly selfish—I suddenly wanted to get to know her without the rest of the group around.

Alex Laird: Also, I’m probably going to be studying in The Hive tomorrow afternoon before dinner. You’re welcome to join me, if you like.
Jessica Rathburn: Maybe I will. Oh my word, it’s almost 1am! I have class in the morning. I should get to bed.

I logged off Facebook and got ready for bed. I had just spent several consecutive hours hanging out and chatting with a girl I barely even knew but had a lot of fun being around. I knew I wasn’t looking for anything more than a friendship, but Jess seemed like a unique and genuine individual; someone I’d love to be friends with. Of course, I could never let her know that. I’d be sure to play it up that she was merely a stand-in for Emilie for the next week. Who says girls are the only ones that can play Hard to Get?

Feb 19

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Part 1

He said …

It was Thursday, November 6th, 2008. The season was autumn. The weather was cold. Thursday night, ritualistically, was the night on which my friends and I gathered to watch The Office … you know, back when The Office was actually a show worth watching? On this particular Thursday, however, Dave, Gabe, and myself were feeling especially antsy—we wanted to do something, but it was too cold for outdoor antics.

“What if we throw a party? Griffin, can we throw a party here tonight?” Dave suggested. We were pretty used to inviting ourselves over to Griffin’s apartment.

“Uh, I guess. Halloween was, like, last week.” Griffin … he always was the voice of reason.

I quickly chimed in, “Just get on Wikipedia. It has that What Happened Today in History thing. See if today is a holiday somewhere.”

As luck would have it, the day was Pyhäinpäivä, the equivalent of All Saints Day in Finland. Or something like that. At any rate, we had an excuse for a party. We sent out a quick message to our friends informing them of the impending festivities that night. Luckily, since we were already planning on watching The Office together, everyone was available. It was already late afternoon, so with the few hours we had until the party commenced, we decided to abuse Wikipedia some more and make up bogus traditions.

As our friends started piling into the all-too-small apartment (there were over twenty people crammed into a living room that was smaller than an average dorm room), the Party Planning Committee had a quick Party Planning Council. We determined that, in order to get everyone into the spirit, one of us would have to do the first tradition. Naturally, I was game.

 

She said …

“I don’t know about this …” I said nervously to my friend Emilie as we hurried off campus to the apartments across the street. I pulled my jacket closer around me to shield the November wind and tried to feel more excited about the Halloween party I was about to attend. “I’m not going to know anyone there.”

“You’ll know me!” Emilie encouraged. “Come on, you’ll like them—I promise.” She linked her arm through mine as we crossed the parking lot of the overpriced gas station next to the apartments we were heading toward.

I wasn’t so sure. I had only been at Cedarville University a couple of months, and so far the closest friends I had were the seven girls I lived with, (of which Emilie was one) and the guys that I played soccer with in the field across the street from my dorm. But it was getting to be too cold for pick-up soccer, and even though I suddenly found myself feeling uncharacteristically shy about the party we were about to walk in on, I desperately wanted to find a group of friends to call my own. Emilie had wanted me to be meet her friends for as long as I had known her, and the Halloween party they were throwing seemed like the perfect opportunity. So, resolving myself to be intentional about making friends with these people, I took a deep breath and we opened the door and stepped inside.

The room was full of people who obviously all knew each other and were having a good time. A few were in costumes, but most were just in casual clothes. They were piled on couches and bean bag chairs, and were laughing and joking as they passed around bowls of chips and plates of cookies. I slid nervously down the wall to sit on the floor next to Emilie. A couple people in the room looked familiar, but most of them were new faces. Suddenly, the music playing in the background quieted.

“Attention, ladies and gentlemen!” A tall guy with shaggy brown hair stood up. He was obviously in costume, dressed in a long black leather jacket and black pants, but I had no idea what he was supposed to be. The room quieted and the tall guy, who introduced himself as Dave, began to speak.

“Welcome to Pyhäinpäivä! The party where we celebrate the little-known Finnish All Saints Day, which just so happens to be today, because we’re tired of Halloween. So get ready for crazy a night of games to reenact the traditions of those Fins!”

I glanced quickly around the room, expecting everyone else to look as confused as I felt. To my dismay, everyone else seemed to be totally tracking with Dave, and I was clearly the only one wondering what sort of party I had just walked into.

I shot a look at Emilie. “I thought you said this was a Halloween party?!” I whispered. She just shrugged and smiled, looking slightly sheepish. She opened her mouth to respond, but Dave had begun speaking again.

“For our first tradition, we need the oldest male present to step forward, who we have determined to be my roommate, Alex Laird.” A guy who had been standing to the side of Dave, a guy I had never met, stepped forward.

“And here he is!” Dave turned and began rustling through a plastic bag, as the other guy, Alex, stood grinning nervously. From my spot in the back of the room against the wall, I studied Alex for a moment. Unlike Dave, Alex was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and had his hands in his pockets. His light brown hair fell a little above deep, brown eyes, and his big, nervous smile made me smile in spite of myself. I couldn’t help but think he was cute.

“Alright, Mr. Laird.” Dave’s voice jerked me from my thoughts. “Long, long ago, in the Finnish blight of 1728, the Fins had to ingest their bedding and pillows to survive. To commemorate this sad time in history, you must eat one cotton ball.” Silence fell over the room as everyone tried to determine if Dave was serious or not.

I turned to Emilie in alarm. “He’s not really going to eat that, is he?” She shrugged and laughed. I tried to think back to high school biology and wondered whether or not a cotton ball could be digested. Cute or not, this guy was crazy to try and eat it. If he didn’t choke, he’d have a heck of a stomach ache tonight.

 

He said …

I stood next to Dave, confidently awaiting my cotton-ball-sealed fate. Dave fished around in the large bag of cotton balls, trying to find “just the right one,” which I later learned meant “the biggest one in the bag.” Finally, he whipped out a cotton ball and held it in front of my face—everyone in the room gasped and then laughed. I took the cotton ball, studied it intently, and then popped it into my mouth like an oversized gumball. It did not taste like a gumball. It did not chew like a gumball, and thus I could not get it down to a manageable size like a gumball.

I salivated as much as possible, trying to soak the cotton ball enough to where I could at least be confident in swallowing it. Unfortunately, it was a very large ball of cotton, and it was not soaking well at all. I grabbed the counter, trying to stabilize myself, and I gave my best effort at swallowing. For a second, I felt confident with this decision. Right up until the cotton ball was half way down my throat, where it effectively lodged itself and refused to budge.

I darted a big-eyed look at Dave. Everyone in the room was quiet, waiting for me to show some sign of victory (or maybe it was death). Frantically, I looked around for any form of liquid. I grabbed the nearest cup, threw my head back, and downed its entire contents: Mountain Dew. Much to my relief, this was finally enough for the cotton ball to slide down into my stomach. I could breath again!

 

She said …

Alex finished the last bit of Mountain Dew and raised his arms triumphantly, to the relief of the rest of the party as a shout of joy went out in the room. I folded my arms across my chest in disgust and amazement. What a weirdo. At least I could just sit in the back of the room and not be a part of all of this. I was suddenly feeling less motivated to make friends with these people.

“And now, for our next tradition!” The guy sitting next to me, dressed head-to-toe as Spiderman, handed me a carton of eggs and through his mask, instructed me to take one.

“What? I-I …” I turned to Emilie jabbing me in the side.

“Just take one!” Her eyes were excited and mischievous. Reluctantly, I reached in the carton and pulled out an egg, regretting ever agreeing to come to this ridiculous party.

An hour later, I was completely convinced I was sitting in a room full of crazy people. I had played some strange rendition of Never Have I Ever using spinning eggs and lost miserably. With every eye in the room on me, I had been forced to describe to a guy dressed in a karate outfit, who I had never met, what I would give him for Christmas, all while holding a stick of butter. In honor of some Finnish king, we all stood up and sang the theme song of The Fresh Prince Bel-Air, a song that I didn’t know, which meant I just awkwardly mouthed the words. It had been the most ridiculous night I had experienced so far at Cedarville. If nothing else, at least I could rule these insane people out of my options for a group of friends. Just when I thought the party had to be over, Dave stood up again.

“Our final tradition! The conga line!” Before I could protest or even comprehend what was happening, I found myself being dragged into a wild, dancing line. After circling the apartment a couple times, we burst out the front door and began winding through the parking lot, and finally into the door of the neighboring gas station. I ducked my head in dismay and hoped no one there recognized me. We were definitely attracting a lot of attention. I was relieved when the party finally ended.

“Wasn’t that crazy?” Emilie asked excitedly as we headed back to our dorm a little while later. I rolled my eyes.

“Crazy? That guy who ate the cotton ball is lucky he didn’t choke. I can’t believe he’d do that on a dare.” I answered smugly.

“I meant the party.” Emilie said, amused.

“Oh, that. Yeah, it was pretty crazy. Your friends are kind of … well, strange.”

“Yeah, I know.” Emilie said matter-of-factly, “But you’ll grow to love them.”

I laughed to myself at Emilie’s last statement. I had no plans of growing to love a bunch of crazies who parade around gas stations in celebration of obscure Finnish holidays. In fact, I was pretty sure I would be just fine going about the rest of college without hanging around a bunch of cotton ball-eating weirdos.

 

He said …

For the record, Jess was right—I did have a horrible stomachache the next day. If you care read of my suffering, or if you just want to know more about the party at which Jess and I first met, click here to read the blog I posted the day after the very first Pyhäinpäivä.

Feb 14

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Preface

We Said …

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of the Day of Love, we (Alex and Jess) have decided to totally rip off Jenna and Joey’s idea from a few years back and write out our gushy love story for the entire world to see. It’s a lengthy story that dates back to way before we were dating, so we figure most of you haven’t actually heard the entire thing. We’ve decided to post one entry each Saturday leading up to our wedding, May 14th, 2011. Consequently, our story will be in 14 parts—the final installment appearing on the morning of our wedding, three months from today.

“But Alex and Jess,” you may say, “there are only thirteen weeks until you’re wedding! Your math is off!” Don’t you think we realize that? Don’t you think we have lists and chains informing us as to exactly how many days and weeks are left until our wedding? Well … Jess does. Alex doesn’t, actually. He just keeps track in his head. But anyway. The thirteenth part will actually be posted on Friday the thirteenth, the day before our wedding.

Two names in the following story have been changed: Sid and Ted (in order of appearance). Their characters would have been omitted if they had not played such a significant roll in the development of our relationship—really, we owe to them that we’re even got together in the first place. All that to say, we never mean to paint either of them in a negative light—they are both actually nice people—we only mean to show how their involvement contributed to our story.

That’s all the information you’re getting for now. Naturally, we assume you’ll be looking forward to the first installment this Saturday. Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

Feb 07

Java: OS X Dock Icon and Name

For as long as I’ve been developing in Java, its lack of native support for OS X has always bothered me. This is more than likely an issue with Apple’s proprietary interface rather than Java, but, for the sake of being loyal to my Master, we’ll pretend the fault is on Java.

I don’t want the default Java icon–I want my applications icon to appear in the dock! And why does setTitle not actually change the name of my program in the menu bar? It still remains the name of the Java package that the main () method is contained within. I don’t want people to know the package layout of my software.

Of course, Apple’s “solution” to this is contained within Xcode … Just make an .app wrapper for your application! Native dock icon, native dock name. But then that’s just the problem–the application now appears to be native and is no longer portable. There has to a better solution …

Well, there isn’t. There’s no real solution to this problem, but I can offer you a slight hack that works for the dock icon and name, at least. Unfortunately, it only works for the dock icon, and the actual application icon in Finder will still remain the Java default.

First, we’ll look at the snippet of code that allows you to change the dock icon …


com.apple.eawt.Application macApp = com.apple.eawt.Application.getApplication();
macApp.setDockIconImage (new ImageIcon (getClass ().
 getResource ("/path/to/package/icon.png")).
 getImage ());

You’ll find that there are actually quite a few cool things you can do to the dock from inside the Application class. Unfortunately, none of them are changing the dock name of your Java application. You’ll also notice that, while your program now compiles and runs beautifully on OS X, it is broken everywhere else … Apparently com.apple.eawt is a missing package on anything but OS X. What happened to portability?

Never fear. Apple has been kind enough to give us stubs that can still be called (and ignored) from platforms other than OS X. You’ll need to include the stubs JAR in your project for your application to be able to compile and run on other platforms again.

Download AppleJavaExtensions

Okay, so what about the OS X dock name then? Sadly, there’s no good solution to that. Here’s the best work-around that I’ve found–put your main () in a class by itself in your applications default package. I know, the default package is evil … That’s why the first and only thing you’ll do is call JFrame.setVisible () from within this function.

This does mean that, as far as the menu bar is concerned, your application title cannot have any spaces. It will be the exact name of the class your main function is in, so, for instance, Get Organized shows up as GetOrganized. My GetOrganized class immediately launches MainFrame from deeper within the package system, but the average user no longer has to see the package layout.

A lousy work-around? Definitely. But it’s all they’re giving us. And considering Apple seems to hate Java as of late, I doubt they’ll ever give us anything more.

Sep 04

Booting Linux from a USB Drive on Apple Hardware

After hours of frustration and failure, I finally set up a USB bootable Linux distribution that worked on both a BIOS-based PC or EFI-based Apple system. Ten minutes later, I repeated the process with a second distribution.

I’ve been perusing this fine internet of hours all day, reviewing and attempting to complete step-by-step tutorials that were supposed to allow me to do this. Unfortunately, none of them would actually work on my MacBook Pro, as they promised they would. After finally acquiring a resolution, I decided to post my own step-by-step set of instructions that also claimed to work for a BIOS system or an EFI system. Hopefully it actually works for you as it did for me :).

 

My System, My Recommendation, and My Disclaimer

The systems I was trying to get this work was in conjunction with my out dated, 2008, 2 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro with a measly 2GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. I dual boot between OS X Leopard and Windows 7 using Boot Camp. I plug into a 24” Samsung display and use a Bluetooth Logitech MX 5500 keyboard and mouse set at my desk. Using Slax, all of this was compatible and immediately recognized!! I had absolutely no problems with hardware, so I highly recommend using Slax as your portable Linux distribution. I had success with DSL after initial frustrations (the track pad is not recognized, so I was forced to plug a USB mouse in), and it’s simply not as clean or power of a system as Slax is.

Doing all of this in no way effected positively or negatively the booting, reliability or functionality of OS X Leopard or Windows 7 on my system or Windows XP on any of the BIOS-based systems I ran this on. However, as always, proceed at your own risk.

I recommend the 4GB flash drive from Amazon below, as it is cheap and reliable. Though you don’t need a full 4GB flash drive, if you ever want to throw a larger distribution of Linux onto the flash drive at any time, or if you’d like to use the drive for other storage at a later date, this is a good size and a great price.  Also … it’s hard to find a smaller drive than 4GB these days!

 

Setting Up an EFI System

Boot into Mac OS and follow these steps:

  1. Download and install rEFIt.
  2. Restart your computer.

Complicated, huh? The initial restart after installing rEFIt will not show a boot loader, but all following restarts will display a boot loader if multiple bootable systems are attached to your Apple computer or other EFI-based system.

rEFIt will essentially overtake Boot Camp. Before installing rEFIt on my system, when I wanted to boot into Windows 7 I had to hold down the Alt-Option key when booting. Once rEFIt is installed, the boot menu is shown whenever the computer is booted. After a given number of seconds, it will boot into the default operating system, which is usually OS X.

 

Setting Up a BIOS System

Your BIOS must support the ability to boot from a USB drive. Follow these instructions on a BIOS-based (any standard Windows-based) computer:

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. At some point your computer will inform you that you can press some key to enter the BIOS setup (probably some key like F8, F12, or Del). Hold that key down. If you miss it, restart and try again.
  3. Unfortunately, every computer is different in the BIOS menu setup. Do not change anything you are unfamiliar.
  4. You may need to enable the ability to boot from a USB drive.
  5. You will most likely need to change the boot sequence, moving your USB drive higher than your standard HDD.
  6. Make sure that you save your changes to the BIOS before restarting.

 

Setting Up Your USB Drive

NOTE: Generally speaking, the instructions given on a portable Linux distribution’s website will tell you to run some bootinst.bat file that will configure your USB drive to boot properly. This will work for most BIOS-based systems, and may work with some distributions on some EFI systems, but it generally would not work for me. The solution given below, theoretically, works on all systems.

In a Windows environment (it’s just easiest that way, trust me), follow these steps:

  1. Download and extract Syslinux. Since we’re in Windows, it’d be most beneficial to download the zip file. Extract it to a convenient location like C:\Syslinux.
  2. Download your favorite portable Linux distribution. It has been verified that this works with DSL (I can’t spell it out … My Mom reads this!), DSL-N, and Slax.
  3. Plug your USB drive into your computer.
  4. Backup any data on the USB drive you wish to keep! Right-click on the USB drive and select “Format.” Format the drive to either FAT-16 or FAT-32. I recommend FAT-32. A quick format will be fine.
  5. Extract the contents of your favorite portable Linux distribution onto your USB drive using your favorite decompression program.
  6. In Windows XP, click Start then Run, type “cmd,” then press Enter.
  7. In Windows Vista or Windows 7, click Start and simply type “cmd.” Click on the Command Prompt icon to launch it.
  8. From the Command Prompt, navigate to the win32 folder of where you extracted Syslinux. So, in my case, type “cd C:\Syslinux\win32\”.
  9. From the win32 folder of Syslinux, type “syslinux.exe -ma :” where is replaced with the drive letter of your USB drive. Most commonly this will be E or F (it does need to be followed by a colon), but you can verify this by checking in My Computer.
  10. Assuming you don’t receive any errors, your USB drive should now be set up for booting.

 

Conclusion

In theory, you should now be able restart your system and it will notice that you have a bootable USB drive in the computer (assuming, of course, that you do). If rEFIt opens, use the arrow keys to navigate to your USB drive and press Enter. If your on a BIOS system, you may need to press a key (if it tells you to press a key for the boot menu), but most likely it will pop up with a message telling you to press any key to boot Linux. If you don’t press any key, it may continue into your standard operating system, so you’ll want to strike that Enter key.

I hope this works as well for all of you as it did for me! It’s always handy to have a portable, friendly, and compatible version of Linux in your slacks that you can whip out and use anytime, on any computer.

Dec 03

Hotel California

Joe Kmetz and I were on our way to Krista’s house over Turkey Break and I had designated Joe as the DJ for the trip. At some point during the drive we ended up listening to “Hotel California,” probably the best song the Eagles ever wrote and performed. This spawned a discussion as to the meaning of the song. Unfortunately, neither of us knew for sure, but I promised Joe I would investigate the song as soon as I had time.

Though you can play “Hotel California” on Guitar Hero by yourself and sound surprisingly similar to the original track, there’s nothing realistic about that. On the Hell Freezes Over album, the Eagles used eight guitars to perform this song. In the original studio mix, only five were used. Still, this should give you some measure of the caliber of this song. It is an amazing piece for guitar, and I never tire of listening to it.

Musical melodies aside, the lyrics of the song span quite a bit of controversies. The interpretations of this song range from the drug use, cannibalism, Hotel California being another name for the Camarillo State Hospital (a psychiatric hospital), to devil worship and the Church of Satan.

I’m going to have to go ahead and debunk all the most popular rumors, as none of them are even remotely close to being true (except possibly the drug use one, though indirectly). Let’s lay out the most popular rumors and look at why they aren’t true. For your convenience, you can find the lyrics to the song here and you can listen to the song here.

Background on the Eagles

The Eagles are one of the most successful American rock bands of the 1970s. The Eagles were founded in the early 70s in Los Angeles, California, by Glenn Frey (singer, guitarist, songwriter), Don Henley (singer, guitarist, drummer, songwriter), Randy Meisner (singer, bassist, songwriter), and Bernie Leadon (singer, guitarist). It’s also worth mentioning the former member Don Felder (singer, guitarist, songwriter), as he helped write “Hotel California” and performed part of the guitar solo. The band has five number-one singles and six number-one albums so far. Their fifth album was Hotel California.

“Hotel California” is a song by the Eagles on the rock album of the same name, Hotel California, released in 1976. The theme of the whole album is essentially that of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream and the rise and falls in-thereof. The album isn’t exactly a rock opera, but it does seem to follow a common theme: it starts with “Hotel California” and comes to a culmination with “The Last Resort,” a song that narrates the demise of society as the conclusive warning to the theme of the album.

After its release, Hotel California received a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1978, the song has been considered by Rolling Stone to be the 49th greatest song of all time, and Guitar World Magazine ranked the guitar solo as the 8th greatest of all time. “Hotel California” reached 20th on the Billboard Top 100 in 1977.

It’s a Real Hotel

It turns out there’s a real hotel in California! A few of them, actually. Unfortunately, there is no hotel in California that goes under the name of Hotel California. There is, however, a hotel in Todos Santos, Mexico, just across the border, that goes by the name of Hotel California. The hotel also went under the name of The Hotel Mission (“I heard the Mission bell”). The name of the hotel changed several times after the popularity of the song grew so as to attract tourists. The problem is the Eagles never actually stayed there, and that location is not what the song is referring to.

It’s an Insane Asylum

“Next thing I remember / I was running for the door / I had to find the passage back / To the place I was before / “Relax,” said the night man / “We are programmed to receive / You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave.”

People who believe this rumor may simply be getting confused by the fact that the Eagles’s record company for the album before Hotel California was Asylum Records. The song isn’t actually about an insane asylum; there is no asylum anywhere in California or even the entire United States by the name of Hotel California.

Some still insist that the Hotel California is a nickname for the Camarillo State Hospital in Camarillo, California. But since the Eagles said in an interview in 1995 that it wasn’t in reference to a particular location, and since it wouldn’t really make much sense to take the pictures for the album artwork at the Beverly Hills Hotel if the song were really about the Camarillo State Hospital, the song probably isn’t in reference to an insane asylum. Though the imagery in the song does seem to describe states of insanity at times.

It’s a Hospital

Still, people insist that the Hotel California must be a real building somewhere, so they conjecture that perhaps it is a hospital somewhere. The rumor further claims that the song is actually about cancer.

“My head grew heavy and my site grew dim.” It could be a reference to the pains of the cancer that is evidently killing the body. “There she stood in the doorway” is alleged to be a reference to a nurse, and “And she showed me the way / There were voices down the corridor” is the nurse leading him down the hallways of the hospital, other cancer patients calling out to the narrator as he walks by. “They stab it with their Steely knives / But they just can’t kill the beast” could be a reference to repeated attempts to kill the cancer.

The song could be a metaphor for cancer, if you chose to interpret that way, but that wasn’t the intention when it was written.

It’s About Steely Dan

The line “They stab it with their Steely knives / But they just can’t kill the beast” is a reference to Steely Dan, an American rock band that had a healthy competition with the Eagles around the time Hotel California came out.

The Eagles were apparently impressed by the fact that Steely Dan didn’t require any rhyme or reason to the meaning in the lyrics of their song. The Eagles decided it would be pretty sweet to mention Steely Dan in their song, even though the rest of the song has absolutely nothing to do with them. Steely Dan had previously mention the Eagles in their song Everything You Did with the line “Turn up the Eagles the neighbors are listening” in 1976.

It’s About Cannibalism

Apparently the references to a secluded hotel with corridors and hallways that were an endless maze that entrapped anyone who entered reminded too many people of H. H. Holmes and the Murder Castle. I guess he didn’t eat his guests, but his story probably set people up for paranoia.

One theory that got spread around via chain mail muses that the reason “You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave” is because the only way to truly leave is to be stabbed by those “Steely knives!” Apparently the hotel in the distance enticed you only to serve you up for dinner the following day. There’s really not much evidence of this in the song, and the band members have denied it.

It’s About the Church of Satan

Probably the most well known (and most misunderstood) meaning for the song says that it is a reference to devil worship and the Church of Satan. Such lines as “I was thinking to myself / This could be Heaven or this could be Hell,” “We haven’t had that spirit here / Since nineteen sixty-nine,” “… they just can’t kill the beast,” and “You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave” apparently solidify this claim. Additionally, the album artwork has a bit of an eerie feel, and people claim that the photographs were taken at the same place where the Satanic Bible was written. “The Beast” referred to in the song is alleged to be Satan.

Anton LeVay finished the Satanic Bible in 1969, three years after founding his church. Supposedly ever since the bible was finished the Holy Spirit hasn’t been present at the Satanic Church (as if he was before?) and that’s what the line in the song is referencing. This claim falls short when you recognize that the line directly before this clarifies a reference to the spirit of wine, not the Holy Spirit. Additionally, once you join the occult you are apparently unable to get out. Considering the previous claims fall short, I’m going to entertain the thought that “the beast” must be a metaphorical character referring to something other than Satan.

The artwork for the album was actually shot at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Eagles say that the reason for the shadowy figures is due to poor lighting and a poor camera. The ghostly figure in the window who many claim is supposed to be either Satan himself or Anton LaVey is actually a publicity guy from Asylum Records. Any physical similarities to LaVey or the Devil himself are purely coincidental.

Further claims state that the Hotel California is a reference to a hotel on California St. in San Francisco which the Church of Satan purchased and converted into their headquarters. The building in question was called The Black House and was actually an old Victorian mansion, not a hotel. It was the headquarters for the Church of Satan used by Anton LaVey in 1966 until his death in 1997. The Satanic Church lost custody of the house after LaVey’s death, and it was torn down in 2001.

It is also rumored that the Eagles were members of the Church of Satan and that they were disciples of LeVay. While a very unreliable source claims that the Waco Tribune-Herald interview Larry Salter, the Eagle’s manager, and he admitted that the Eagle’s were involved with the Church of Satan, the interview was apparently back in 1982 and the original can’t be found …

Then there’s that whole bit about playing the song backward to hear a satanic message. That’s a bit of a stretch. Especially considering sites like that try to say the same thing about Metallica, Megadeath, and Kiss songs and, let’s be honest, you don’t need to play those songs backward to hear a Satanic message. Anyway, if you listen to the entire song backward yourself, you’ll find that it’s quite bogus.

Some have said that the Church of Satan is registered in California under the name “Hotel California,” but there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

It’s about Sex and Drugs

“Warm smell of Colitas / Rising up through the air”
“I saw a shimmering light”
“There she stood in the doorway / I heard the mission bell / I was thinking to myself / This could be Heaven or this could be Hell. / Then she lit up a candle / And she showed me the way”
“She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys / That she calls friends / How they dance in the courtyard / Sweet summer sweat / Some dance to remember / Some dance to forget”
“And still the voices are calling from far away / Wake you up in the middle of the night”
“Mirrors on the ceiling / Pink champagne on ice / And she said, ‘We are all just prisoners here / Of our own device’”
“You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave”

This theory has the most overwhelming amount of evidence straight out of the song, and it’s also closest to the true meaning.

Probably the most explicit reference in the song is that of Colitas, a Spanish term meaning “little tails,” which could be a reference to the Cannabis plant (marijuana). The rest of the imagery in the song is a very strong implication that the narrator may not be entirely sane (or lucid) while he’s telling us his tale. A shimmering light and a vision of a hotel? Voices echoing down the hallways? Mirrors on the ceiling (seeing many things from many angles, which would happen when you hallucinate)?

It’s usually said that the song is warning against the use of drugs, given it’s generally negative view towards the subject, especially considering the narrators regret that he can’t seem to get out of the lifestyle he has become trapped in.

So What’s it Really About?

And now we come to the true meaning of this song, which is only slightly disappointing after reading all the wild previous possibilities!

Well, Henley and Frey claim that Colitas is a desert flower that smells good. Well, it may very well be a desert flower, but it’s still most likely slang for Cannabis. In their defense, I did read somewhere that a Mexican translated the words “little bud” to “Colitas” for them, neglecting to mention the marijuana reference, so they may not have completely understood what they were saying.

That being said, they explained in an interview in 1995 that the song is about the dangers of hedonism and greed, specifically as it applies to the American Dream and their own achieving fame and fortune in the worlds eyes. They wanted to warn not only California of this, but the entire nation. Unfortunately, due to a poor choice in the title of both the song and the album, it’s most commonly only associated with the Californian mindset.

It’s not a reference to any type of building, it’s not about cannibalism, and it’s not about the Church of Satan. The Steely Dan reference was, in fact, true. The song was the Eagles’ look back at their own lives, realizing how they had become caught up in the famous lifestyle (“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted / She got a Mercedes-Benz”), a lifestyle which has trapped them and isn’t turning out to be everything they had wanted (“We are all just prisoners here / Of our own device,” “You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave”).

It makes sense if you consider that the song is the first on the album that addresses the issues of drugs, temptation, fame, relationships, and the American Dream.

 

There you have it! That’s the true meaning of the song Hotel California. I’m glad we had this discussion. I was sick of hearing comparisons to the Church of Satan.

Nov 19

The Question of Music, Meaning, and Life Project

After viewing a few John Cage videos on YouTube (like this one, this one, and possibly this one), I thought to myself, “What the heck … I could write this crap.” And so, using his song 4’33” as my deepest inspiration, I proceeded to do just that. In fact, I made an entire album, with philosophical song explanations and artwork to go along with it.

If you’re going to download the album, just realize that it probably won’t actually make much sense unless you read the liner notes (which are only provided on the website at the link below). If you don’t read those, you will basically miss the point of this project.

People make money off this stuff. I just do it for fun. I apologize if you actually like John Cage, but that is not music. The following is meant for satirical purposes and not meant to be taken seriously … At all.

The Question of Music, Meaning, and Life Project

Nov 07

Cotton Balls and Cramps

I was never really good at Chemistry. Better at it than at Biology, but still not exceptional. Granted, I earned an A when I took Chemistry in college, but this was from Kirkwood, which doesn’t have the highest academic prestige, so the A was easily achieved without completely understanding the material. The same goes for Biology. That being said, I may not have the fullest understanding of acids and bases and things breaking down. (In fact, if the previous sentence really makes no sense, that’s probably why. I was just trying to throw the words out to sound intelligent.)

I’m also the type of person that, if you tell me to do something (you don’t even have to dare me, really) and it’s not against my morals and is unlikely to cause a fatality, I’ll probably do it. I’m always up for checking off experiences from my “Things To Do Before I Die” list. That certainly explains my black nails right now.

Last night, we celebrated the Finnish holiday of Pyhäinpäivä (PUH-HAH-IN-PIE-VAH). The American equivalent would be All Saints’ Day, but while All Saints’ Day is always on November 1st, Pyhäinpäivä is on the first Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Last night wasn’t Saturday. That’s very perceptive of you. We just realized this morning that Griffin actually gave us the wrong day to celebrated the beloved holiday of our ancestors, but we will try to forgive him. At any rate, since we didn’t get to celebrate Pyhäinpäivä last Saturday, we decided to celebrate it last night, the 6th, by watching The Office and performing several Finnish traditions with a large group of people.

It was a fantastic turnout. We had seventeen people show up to a celebration that they had never even heard of. During the commercial breaks of The Office, we muted the volume and partook together in the completely made up Finnish festivities that Dave, Gabe, and myself had thought up and planned just an hour before the party started. Such festivities included, but were not limited to the following:

  • As is custom, the host must advise all invited guests to bring their own eggs. At the celebration of Pyhäinpäivä, all guests must laugh at anyone who actually brings their own eggs. This ceremony is in commemoration of King Albert’s (of Mecklenburg) practice of sending out edicts via carrier chicken.
  • The oldest male must eat a cotton ball in memory of our ancestors that, in the Finnish blight of 1728, had to ingest their bedding and pillows to survive.
  • All guests must pass the flaming grease cup. This symbolizes the flame of unity and also reminds us of an old Finnish legend in which a crew of sailors were caught at sea during a long December. The crew was forced to burn their stores of bacon and butter for warmth to survive and was able to outlast the winter. The cup of grease must be passed counterclockwise, each person saying to the person to their right what they would give them for Christmas, if they could give them anything.
  • One volunteer, or victim chosen at random if no one should volunteer, must perform the traditional Finnish dance to keep the spirits at bay for the coming year. Since the traditional Finnish dance has long since been forgotten, the volunteer must improvise interpretively. The person must volunteer without knowing what they are agreeing to do, thus symbolizing the stark bravery of Finnish dancers.
  • A song must be sung to commemorate the coronation of King Valdemar of the house of Bjelbo. The original melody has long since been forgotten, so any song that is well known, radio-worthy, and at least nine years old may be sung. And, in light of King Valdemar’s decree regarding the Great Minstrel Hunt of 1264, the song must be sung a capella by all guests present.
  • There was a chicken virus that went around in Finland in 1355. At that time, whenever someone ate anything made out of eggs, they weren’t sure if the egg had been infected or not. The chance taken in eating things made with eggs is represented by a game of chance referred to as “Never Have I Ever” or, in Finnish, “Koskaan Olen Koskaan.” All guests must form a circle, placing an egg on the ground in front of them. One person says something that they have never done, and anyone in the circle who has done that thing must spin their egg. If the egg stops spinning while it is pointing at the person who spun it, they are officially out of the game. The last person remaining collects all the eggs at the end of the game.
  • The Finnish are known especially for two things: Their love of unity and friendship, and their exceptional hip-grabbing ability. To celebrate, all members present must participate in an impromptu conga line from the party’s locale to the nearest seller of overpriced goods, through their place of business, and back to the party.

I offered Ryan a rolly-polly baby Panda for Christmas, Shannon performed the interpretive dance, we sang Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in memory of King Valdemar, and I happened to be the oldest male present. So I ate a cotton ball. Not just any cotton ball, mind you, but probably the largest one in the bag; it was dark and I just reached in and grabbed one, but it happened to be enormous. After mustering up all my gumption, I stuck the cotton ball in my mouth and started salivating to get it wet enough to slide down my throat. It took me quite a while, but finally I tried swallowing. It got stuck half way. I grabbed the nearest cup of Mountain Dew and forced the cotton ball the remainder of the way into my stomach. There was much rejoicing, and I took my seat again as The Office came back on.

Had I paid closer attention in my aforementioned Community College classes, I might have known that the acids in your stomach can’t actually break down cotton for some reason (which leaves me thoroughly unimpressed with my own stomach), and I may have been more wary of eating a cotton ball. As it was, I simply thought it would digest and there would be no problems.

This morning I woke up with horrendous cramps (on top of an already very upset stomach) and a terrible headache. I tried sitting up in bed, but that seemed to hurt too much, so I just laid there for a very long time, eventually skipping my first class.

So let this be a lesson to all of you! I know Buddy eats cotton balls in Elf, and it looks like fun and that he doesn’t suffer any consequences from his actions. But. Trust me. He does! Your stomach, intestines, and basically any part of your digestive tract don’t get along well with cotton balls.

See what you missed out on last night, Jon McGill?

Sep 25

Browser Reviews: A Brief History

After Al Gore invented the internet for us, we realized we needed a way to walk around the thousands upon thousands (and now billions upon billions) of sites that were out there. Meet the browser. To the best of my knowledge, Al Gore has never claimed part in inventing the browser, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Just for fun, and before we start to really rip apart the benchmarks of Google Chrome, let’s look at some old, failed browsers so we can scoff at them (by order of appearance).

WorldWideWeb (1991-1994) – I actually can’t call this pioneer a failure. After all, it was the world’s first web browser. By the way, it was only released for NeXTSTEP OS. The operating system created by NeXT Computer, a company that was founded by none other than Steve Jobs. The NeXTSTEP OS was quite literally the parent of Mac OS X, and it was also the very first object-oriented and multi-task-ready operating system. (Boy, it’s amazing what that Steve Jobs can do …) However, in 1993 the developers released the source code, thus making the program freeware and allowing for the development of it’s children, ViolaWWW, MidasWWW, MacWWW, and their big brother Mosaic.

Netscape Navigator (1994-2007) – Mosaic/Netscape rose to power and popularity much faster than Internet Explorer did, and since it was owned by Netscape Communications, a successful company that was pivotal in getting internet readily accessible in every home, the browser had plenty of funding. However, Microsoft was simply a bigger, more powerful company, and the beneficial wars between Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer were eventually won by Internet Explorer. While Netscape failed miserably by allowing their poorly coded browser to get disgustingly bloated with features, their ultimate failure was in 1999 when they allowed America Online to buy then. Who cares if they offered you ten billion dollars! Immediately following Netscape’s acquisition by AOL, they lost over 30% of their market share in less than one year.

HotJava (1994-1999) – A very customizable, extensible browser that was built around Java in order to easily execute Applets. The ingenuity of HotJava is that it’s a browser coded entirely in Java, thus making it extremely portable. The downside to HotJava is that it’s coded entirely in Java, thus limiting it to the JRE and leaving it a fairly slow memory hog, and with the presence of Java so readily incorporated into more recent browsers and the growing popularity of Macromedia’s Flash, the project was terminated.

Internet Explorer (1995-Present) – It doesn’t need much introduction or explanation. But Internet Explorer has always been interested in integrating (not outsourcing to extensions) functionality at the expense of ease-of-use, security, and speed. And, let’s be honest, it’s Microsoft … Therefore, a failure.

OmniWeb (1995-Present) – Wouldn’t you know it, it’s another NeXTSTEP OS browser! That being the case, it graduated, along with it’s OS, to Mac OS X, and that is where it resides today. Unfortunately, this is a limit for it. While it was a good browser in the area of speed, and very minimalistic, it lacked key functionality and compatibility with some of the most recent web innovations, so it falls short.

Internet Explorer for Mac (1996-2005) – Wow. It was simply horrible. Probably the worst maintained browser of all time. It went through three updates in one year, went silent for three years, released it’s fourth update in 2000, then was untouched until it’s termination in 2005. It was incompatible, buggy, crashed more than anything, and incredibly slow!

Opera (1996-Present) – I’ve always felt that Opera failed when it came to honesty in advertising. They used to claim to be the “fastest browser” ever made. Well, they’ve since revoked that claim … It claims it’s “faster” on their website now. Faster than what? I’m not sure, because until the most recent release (9.5) I’ve never been pleased with the speed of the browser. Though, even with 9.5, I still think Firefox is faster, and you can’t argue with the speed I get from Safari. Around version 7, Opera bloated the browser beyond belief, thus slowing it to a crawl. They’ve since revamped the interface and it the newest release it’s actually quite efficient. However, compatibility has always been an issue with it.

Gzilla (1997-1999) – The developer was last heard from on August 16, 1999, pleading for help on his very own site. Apparently he could get his browser to compile on anything other than Linux/x86, so he was begging for outside help. It’s rumored the browser emerged a few months later as as Dillo, but that’s just probably not true. I’m guessing Mozilla felt threatened by the last five letters of his browser’s name, so they took him out.

MyIE/Maxthon (2000-Present) – Maxthon’s clincher is that it’s extremely customizable. It advertises itself as an adaptable alternative to Internet Explorer. The negative clincher is it’s only for Windows. On top of that, it crashes too frequently. It’s not slow, but reliability is a big factor when writing a browser, and if your browser crashes on me too often, I’m not going to use it.

Firefox (2002-Present) – The most successful browser to incorporate extensions. Since Netscape completely fell of the face of the planet somewhere around 2003, Firefox has been the most used cross-platform web browser. It boasts speed, elegance, and integrated functionality. Even better, you can add basically any functionality you desire through extensions; this is what has made Firefox so well known. Unfortunately, Firefox loses a lot of security when they allow third-party extensions. More than that, extensions are impossible for the creators of Firefox to maintain, so when the browser is updated, there’s always the risk (and it very frequently happens) of losing compatibility with extensions. Not very convenient for the extension programmers or their users.

AOL Explorer (2005-Present?) – It’s AOL … We already know why it fails: Overpriced, slow, inefficient, and unstable. Apparently the browser is still around, but it’s now a part of the AIM package.

Flock (2005-Present) – Flock’s biggest asset is that it’s multi-platform. On top of that, much like Maxthon, it boasts customizability! It integrates beautifully with many popular websites, including Facebook, iGoogle, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, etc. On top of that, it does allow extensions. It has a main page that keeps all of your favorites and information organized and easily accessible. Unfortunately, it still is rather buggy, and speed is also a bit of an issue with it. It enjoys freezing on it’s users.

Oct 18

I Beg to Differ – A Response for Apple

 

Alright, that’s all for the disclaimer. Below I have listed the fourteen taglines Mac gives for its computers. Below those are Creston’s responses to those taglines. Below that is my opinion from my experience using both a Mac and a PC. Below that are links to some sites that will provide facts to prove my opinions (if possible). Enjoy!

 

#1—It just works

Hmm … Just about every PC in the world works fine out of the box too. This may have been a point back 26 years ago when PCs were kits, but now, it’s standard. As it turns out, the Windows kernel is very reliable, all Windows crashes are caused by people installing bad software. The same thing will happen to a Mac, for the record.

Opinions

Well, that actually depends on what you plan on doing with your system. Personally, when I used Windows previous, as soon as I ever bought a brand new machine, straight out of the box I always did a fresh format. Especially if you ordered your PC from Dell or some such company. It’s just sick how much extra crap comes loaded on the machine. A few extra programs come with a Mac too, however, unlike a Windows PC, all of the programs that come pre-installed on any Mac OS are made by Apple. On top of that, the software that comes on a Mac is actually the full version of the program, not an annoying 30 day trial. You know that if you don’t do a fresh format of you’re PC as soon as you get it, you probably never will. That 30 day trial will run out and the program will just stay on your PC. Obviously, you can’t use it without pay the $150 to get a license, but taking the 5 minutes out of your day to uninstall it is just too much work! Thanks to Apple’s integrated apps, however, if you don’t want that program on there (GarageBand for instance), all you have to do is drag and drop it into the recycling bin. It’s gone in less than 5 seconds. If you think there’s still fragments of that program left somewhere on your hard drive, you can install AppZapper and confidently uninstall all yours apps… but you really don’t need to.

You’re way out in left field in stating that “all Windows crashes are caused by people installing bad software.” If there was one thing I learned in Economics class, it’s that if event A precedes even B and C, even A may or may not have caused events B and C. Not enough information is provided. You can’t drop a statement like that and blame every single crash on the Windows OS from this point forward on the user. Granted, I think a great deal of crashes and errors and lock-ups on a computer are user related, but I’m not taking all of the blame off of the OS. You have no idea how many times my Windows programs would crash in the middle of my work, for no apparent reason. All I was doing was typing! Or maybe you do have an idea… I’m sure it’s happened to you too! A friend said to me the other day after hearing I had switched to Mac, “Is it true that Safari is really unreliable and crashes all the time? I’ve heard that about Macs.” I said, “Safari has crashed on me once since I got my Mac. It was mostly my fault too. Mac apps crash on occasion, true enough, but I wouldn’t say that they crash ‘all the time,’ or that they crash anymore than Windows programs. How many times do you see ‘The program has closed unexpectedly. Would you like to send Microsoft and error report?’ in a day? Too many for me, that’s why I switched to Mac.” So, to state it properly, you should probably say “most Windows crashes are caused by people installing bad software.” But what would a world be like if that bad software didn’t exist in the first place for us to accidentally (or intentionally) download? Welcome to Mac OS! False advertising is against the law; Apple speaks the truth!

Facts

InfoWorld.com – It Just Works
MacNN.com – Consumer Reports for Mac

 

#2—You can make amazing stuff

This advertises iLife ’06, Apple’s suite of software. Most venders will include similar software, if not more powerful applications. Many new PCs include Nero, Pinnacle, photo editing apps, and various other applications that do much of the same tasks as iLife ’06. Windows Vista has all of the functionality of iLife ’06 included in the Premium versions.

Opinions

You can do amazing stuff! iLife ’06 is a beautiful package that comes standard with any current version of Mac OS. Most vendors will include similar software, if not more powerful. Unfortunately, they only include a 30 day trial. It’s also 3rd party software. iLife is made by Apple, so you know it’s good. It’s all a full version for FREE! I can’t speak for Windows Vista, I haven’t seen it yet because… oh, right, it’s not out yet. So it’s really not fair to compare an unreleased OSs features to the features of an OS from last year, is it?

Facts

I don’t need facts on this one. Go onto your Windows machine and open any of the software that came with your OS. It will say “you have 0 out of 30 days remaining on this trial period.” Point and fact.

 

#3—Design that turns heads

Apple computers have interesting designs. However, these designs have major shortcomings. Apple notebooks use soldered processors, preventing upgrades. Socket based CPUs have been the norm since the P4 came out in late 2000. Also, Apple hardware like the iMac have limited space for upgrades and integrated components are more likely to fail compared to independent subsystems. Apple’s design can be compared to some car designs—such as the DeLorean DMC-1 (the famous car from the Back to the Future Trilogy). This car had an amazing exterior design, but the car was an ultimate failure due to it’s lackluster performance and high performance to price ratio. Anyone without unlimited funds would chose something more utilitarian than a Mac.

Opinions

Are we even talking about the internals right now? I was aware this statement was talking about the beauty of the externals on the machines. Even someone who hates the Mac OS and hardware that comes inside the machine will admit that they look beautiful. Anyone who appreciates computers can appreciate the beauty of the sleek, rounded design of the apple laptops and desktops. The perfect white, black, or even silver now.

If you wish to talk about internals, OK, I can do that too. It’s true, Mac’s aren’t as customizable as PCs. Choose your arguments though. Some people claim they just want a computer that will do simple school-related tasks for them and get on the internet. Then they say they don’t want a Mac because it’s not possible to upgrade the hardware. Well, that’s simply not true in the first place. It is more difficult to upgrade a Mac, but it is hardly impossible–especially on the Mac Pro’s. I like to put it this way: “A PC is like a Yugo you can soup-up with lots of extra add-on parts. A Mac is like a Porsche that comes loaded from the factory.” Who doesn’t want a Porsche? If you want to know more about the design of any Apple machine, the bullet proof material they’re made of, the genius thought put into the exterior and interior design of them, click on the link to the Apple site below. I would like to point out that a downfall to all laptops, Apple or not, is that they are highly integrated. The Mac Pro is quite a different story. As luck would have it, PCs have limited space as well–5 PCI slots…

Integrated components aren’t actually more likely to fail, they’re just harder to replace if they do fail. So I guess that’s where Murphy’s Law’s could come in, right? “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” I haven’t had anything go wrong with my Mac yet though…

Facts

MacOSXHints.com – Quote
Apple.com – Design that Turns Heads
Murphys-Laws.com

 

#4—114,000 viruses? Not on a Mac

This argument is flawed. The reason there are few viruses on Macs has to do with issues of user share. Less than 2% of people use mac compared to over 90% for Windows. This is a matter of logistics rather than security. Systematic, a leading computer security provider, states that OS X is less secure than Windows XP. Apple gives its users a false sense of security. Apple users often neglect basic security practices, such as running a firewall, using caution when opening emails, and running antivirus software. Apple computers ship with the built-in firewall disabled, while Windows XP ships with it on by default. Windows also advises users to run security software. As the Apple user share grows, there will be more and more threats and Mac users will not be prepared.

Opinions

The statistic has actually risen to 5% of the world using the Mac OS, and predicted to rise more in the near future due to the release of the Mac Pro. In fact, according to Steve Jobs in his Keynote Address at WWDC in 2006, Apple laptop sales have had a 50% increase this year! I did a search but couldn’t find that statement by Systematic anywhere. To be perfectly honest, there are viruses for Mac just as there are for PC. They’re different viruses, but they still exist. I’ve never actually run into any, and most people using a Mac probably never will, but they’re out there! So to say “there aren’t viruses for a Mac” would be a lie. But the ad clearly states “Mac’s don’t get viruses.” So, obviously, while they are there, you just don’t get them unless you do something completely ridiculous… which I can’t think of anything right now. As the Apple user share grows, there will be more and more threats to Mac users. Thank goodness they do make Norton for Mac. I don’t use it, but maybe someday I’ll actually need to! Right now I’m free to run my OS without an antivirus programming hogging all my memory running in the background!

Facts

TheRegister.co.uk – 90% Windows, 5% Mac, 5% Other
MacNewsWorld.com – Allure of Mac Pro May Move Windows Fans to Convert
Apple.com – Apple WWDC 2006
TheAppleBlog.com – Hardly Any Viruses on a Mac

 

#5—Next year’s OS today

I cannot help but laugh at Apple’s argument here. First off, their widgets are stolen from an application known as Konfabulator, which is available for both Windows and Mac. An RSS reader? IE7 has this as does Mozilla Firefox. Apple did not invent RSS either. Tabbed browsing? IE7. Video conferencing? AIM or Windows Messenger. Parental Controls? I don’t support that kind of software but there are plenty of applications around and Windows Vista will have it included. Easy DIY scripting with Automator? Windows Scripting Host is much more powerful and has been included since Windows ’98. Mail with built-in spam blocking? Outlook Express has this as well. So all of Apple’s “innovations” are just rip-offs of other applications.

Opinions

Konfabulator (now called Yahoo! Widgets) was a program invented in 2000 by Arlo Rose. Ironically, it was originally invented for Macintosh (hmm… ). Later, a Windows version was created. First off, I don’t even know why you brought this up. Mac did not claim to be the original creator of this idea. As a fact, Mac simply popularized it. More importantly, Mac actually integrated it into the OS, that way it wouldn’t be a memory hog running in the background constantly. (It does run in the background constantly, but it’s not a memory hog. So I guess that’s a contradiction… ) If you want to play that game though, what are these Gadgets I hear about that are apparently coming with Windows Vista?

You’re correct in stating IE7 supports RSS, just like Apple’s Safari. But let’s go back to the original statement. “Next year’s OS today.” Right. Well, IE7 was released on… oh wait, it actually hasn’t been released yet. Just a Release Candidate. That was released on January 31st, 2006. Safari 2.0, the first version to include the RSS feature, was released on April 29th, 2005. Well, not quite a year, but close. The final release of IE7 is expected by the end of 2007. Mozilla Firefox? Well, Mozilla isn’t owned by Windows or Apple, so it’s really not fair to compare 3rd party software when we’re talking about the OS right now. Firefox is made for both Apple and Windows. Nice try though. So if Apple had it first… who’s ripping who off?

(Fun fact: People can argue about whether it was Mozilla or Opera who had the first tabbed browsing system, but it was neither. It was a no-name browser (Netscaptor) who first put the idea onto the web in 1997. Mozilla supported the capabilities in 2000, I believe, and Opera didn’t get around to it until 2001. Safari released their tabbed browser in early 2003, and IE7, finally released in late 2006, has tabbing capabilities. Interesting that, once again, Apple released theirs 3 years prior to Microsoft. So, yes, even though Apple and Microsoft have the same features NOW, Apple released it first (but they in no way claim to be the original creators). That’s another reason Reason #5 makes sense.)

Funny that you should bring up NetMeeting. That program is so frustrating! It’s hideous and lacking in features. Not only that, it’s a video client… that’s all! It isn’t meant to be a chat client, so don’t compare it to one. iChat includes the features of an audio/video/chat client. It’s very reliable and user friendly. You’re right, Windows Messenger also includes these features. I can run both Windows Messenger and Microsoft Messenger on my Mac though, so I’m at no disadvantage there. AIM is made for Mac too, but I despise AIM, and it’s even crappier on Mac than it is on PC.

If you do a little bit of research you’ll learn that Apple Mail evolved from a program called NeXTMail. This program ran on the NEXTSTEP OS. NeXT Computers, Inc. was owned by Steve Jobs at the time. Sound familiar? In 1992, Steve Jobs announced the release of NeXTMail. Microsoft release Outlook Express with the release of Windows 95. You do the math, that’s 3 years after NeXTMail. NeXTMail became Apple Mail in 1997 when Apple purchased NeXT Computers, Inc. and also won Steve Jobs as their CEO in the deal.

As you may have noticed, Windows is trying to imitate Apple’s slick design of Tiger OS with Windows Vista. They’re doing a pretty decent job too. It only took them 5 years to release it.

Facts

Yahoo.com – Yahoo! Widgets
Apple.com – Dashboard (Widgets)
Wikipedia.org – IE7
Wikipedia.org – Safari
WordPress.com – Steve Jobs Shows off NeXTMail
Wikipedia.org – NEXTSTEP
Wikipedia.org – Outlook Express

 

#6—The latest Intel chips

WHAT? Core Duo is hardly Apple only. Every major vender carries it. Nice try, Apple.

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True, but Apple didn’t claim to be the only company with Intel chips, did it? No, it claimed to be the company with the latest Intel chips. You must recall back to 2005 when Apple was the first company in history to release a Intel Core Duo processor. Apple had a deal with Intel. Windows machines didn’t come out with the Intel Core Duo chipset until after Apple had released theirs. Of course, now Core Duo’s come standard with almost any machine. The point is, Apple started the trend. That’s where that little word latest comes in. But I see where you were coming from.

Facts

Wikipedia.org – Intel Core
Wikipedia.org – Processor Architecture
Wikipedia.org – Apple Intel Transition
Intel.com – Intel Duo Core Processors

 

#7—Instant Video Chats

iChat AV isn’t the only application that allows video conferencing. It’s not the first either. Windows has had NetMeeting, a
video conferencing app since Windows 98SE (1999) and Windows Messenger has this functionality as well. Many notebooks have built in webcams. Apple forces people to buy a webcam though, even if one is not desired. Users should have the choice if they would like to have one.

Opinions

I already said this, but I’ll just say it again.

Funny that you should bring up NetMeeting. That program is so frustrating! It’s hideous and lacking in features. Not only that, it’s a video client… that’s all! It isn’t meant to be a chat client, so don’t compare it to one. iChat includes the features of an audio/video/chat client. It’s very reliable and user friendly. You’re right, Windows Messenger also includes these features. I can run both Windows Messenger and Microsoft Messenger on my Mac though, so I’m at no disadvantage there. AIM is made for Mac too, but I despise AIM, and it’s even crappier on Mac than it is on PC.

Many notebooks do have webcams… ALL Mac laptops have webcams built it! I do agree about the choice, however. It’d be nice to have that customizable. You might save $50 or something. But I wanted one, so I don’t mind.

Facts

None needed for this one.

 

#8—More fun with Photos

iPhoto is the application being advertised in this point. Again, many venders chose to include this type of software, so Apple is hardly alone in this. One can also download Adobe Photoshop Album for free. Also, a cross platform program is available called the GIMP, which is many times more powerful than iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop. Again, much of the functionality of iPhoto is included in Windows Vista.

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iPhoto is far superior to Adobe Photoshop Album, but it is far inferior to Picasa (unfortunately only made for Windows currently). I don’t use iPhoto, I just open up my Pictures folder when I want to browse my pictures, but it is a decent program. Considering it’s free and if you don’t want it you just drag it to the recycling bin, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s worth nothing that Adobe Photoshop Album retails at $89.99.

Again, many vendors include this type of free software as a 30 day trial version. After those 30 days all the software does is hog your disk space–not that big of a deal with today’s hard drives, but it clutters the start menu.

Facts

Adobe.com – Adobe Photoshop Album
Apple.com – iPhoto
Google.com – Picasa

 

#9—One Click Websites

Computers running Microsoft Office, which nearly every Windows user owns a copy of, include both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Frontpage. These powerful WYSIWYG applications are vastly superior to the included Apple apps. Popular blogging sites such as blog.com and livejournal.com have web-based tools to accomplish the same tasks. All webcams come with easy to use software that records the video to a standard file which can be uploaded. Sorry, Apple. If you need additional functionality over the online blogging tools, then you are an advanced user and likely do your own coding and wouldn’t desire an HTML generator.

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Actually, this is talking about iWeb, but you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t use a Mac, and I presume you don’t and haven’t. Microsoft Frontpage is evil and hardly powerful. Go with Macromedia Dreamweaver, a cross-platform WYSIWYG editor. iWeb is alright, but you have to have a .Mac account to use it and I didn’t want to pay for that. I did a drag and drop and uninstalled it from my machine… that was easy! iWeb’s source code is rather hideous, much like Microsoft Frontpage, so I don’t recommend it.

I’m not sure why you decided to compare a blog to a website, but there is a difference. This is a blog. A website is like Microsoft.com… content, not opinions and journals. If you’re using Microsoft Frontpage to create a blog you might want to ask for you money back :). It was also a bad choice to compare iWeb to Microsoft Frontpage, but that’s ok, you didn’t know. Check your facts before you report :).

Facts

Apple.com – iWeb
Microsoft.com – Microsoft Frontpage
BusinessLogs.com – iWeb Generated Source Code is Awful

 

#10—Amazing Podcasts

Apple is flaunting their GarageBand program, which is cool, but utterly pointless to the average user. This is a classic case of “Bloatware”—pre-installed software which only slows down your computer. Windows comes with a much smaller application, Sound Recorder, which allows for simple recording. A free alternative is Audacity, again available to many platforms.

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I don’t use GarageBand … I went into my apps and moved it to the Trash. It took me a grand total of 5 seconds to erase it from my hard drive. If you forget to erase it, it’s only 100mb, it’s not that big of a deal with today’s hard drives. All that crappy trial software that comes with Windows should be something to worry you if you’re worried about GarageBand. At least GarageBand is a full version of the software that comes with the OS. You want to talk about “bloatware”? Go turn on an eMachine or a Dell and open up the start menu. There’s your bloatware. How much of that pre-installed software are you actually going to use? How much of it do you uninstall as soon as you get the PC in the mail? Most of it.

Audacity is a beautiful program. It’s open source and cross-platform. I use it on my Mac. Sound Recorder is one of the crappiest programs of all time. It has no functionality what-so-ever! You should get on that, Microsoft. If we’re categorizing, GarageBand and Sound Recorder are not even close to being in the same category … No comparison, buddy. But here’s something Windows has one-upped Mac on: Mac doesn’t even come with a sound editor built in to the OS! As terrible as Sound Recorder is, Microsoft would have saved a little face if they didn’t include it at all.

Facts

Apple.com – GarageBand
SourceForget.net – Audacity

 

#11—Rock star tunemaking

Is tunemaking a word? Again, this is about the GarageBand program, which also allows mixing of various loops. A much more powerful (and easier) application is Cakewalk Kinetic, which retails for approx $20. Again, this application would not be used by most people, so including it serves very few.

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Apparently you couldn’t find much wrong with this one since you had to go after the grammatical aspect. Sometimes we as Americans do that. As you may have noticed, Toys R Us does not use the word “are,” but instead puts the letter R on the sign, backwards! It makes things a little bit more fun :).

Again, I don’t really use GarageBand too often, so I don’t relate to this reason for wanting a Mac. Once again though, GarageBand comes with the OS and is a full functional version. Cakewalk’s Kinetic 2 retails at $79.00. I can tell you which one I’d rather have.

Facts

Cakewalk.com – Cakewalk Kinetic

 

#12—Hollywood style movies

iMovie is the application being discussed in this area. A very similar application, Windows Movie Maker, has been included in Windows XP since 2001. Free upgrades have been released over the years, making WMM into a very useful application for the novice. With the Apple solution, as one moves up in skill and desires more features, they are forced to buy Final Cut Express, a powerful, but difficult to use application for the hefty sum of $299. Software venders developed many video editing applications for Windows ranging in price from $20 to upwards of $10^5! Many applications in the $50-$100 range are very powerful and much more intuitive than FCE.

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Actually, they’re probably referring to Final Cut Studio, which costs $1,299 for the fully functional, fully licensed version. iMovie is great for home movies, but it doesn’t even start to compare to Final Cut Studio. iMovie is far superior to Windows MovieMaker! As one moves in skill and desires more features, I promise you, Windows MovieMaker won’t provide! There are no programs that compare to Final Cut Studio for Windows. It is the supreme software for video editing. There are several programs for Windows that compare to iMovie, and they range from $30-$150. (Final Cut Express HD can be purchased for $299.)

Facts

Apple.com – Final Cut Studio
Apple.com – Final Cut Express

 

#13—No hunting for drivers

Both Windows and Mac come with a large driver database, but there are far more drivers available for Windows. Both platforms use PnP technology, allowing for automatic installation and configuration of the drivers. What Apple fails to state is that many devices simply do not work with Mac. A large number of printers, scanners, and modems will not be recognized by Mac, and Mac needs to have Apple firmware on a disc burner in order for it to function. Only the Airport Extreme card works with Macs, other PCI cards will not, so if one needs 802.11a, they would need to buy a (very) costly Ethernet adapter. The process of manually installing drivers can be rather tedious for the average user, but most manufactures will include an installer program to simplify the process. Yes, there is no hunting for drivers on a Mac, simply because there are no drivers for a Mac! Which is the bigger trade off?

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What you fail to state is that most devices do work with a Mac. What devices don’t? Most things these days are Plug ‘N’ Play! Most things that you plug into a Mac will be recognized, just as they are on a PC. The “No hunting for drivers” comes in as soon as you plug it in! When you plug anything into a PC, a little dialogue pops up and tells you a new device has been found, it tells you it’s looking for the device, looking for a driver, installing the driver, then finally the device is ready for use. This usually takes 30 to 60 seconds. When you plug anything into a Mac, you never even realize it searches. A new device appears on your desktop and is all ready for use! The process of manually installing drivers is rarely tedious because I have yet to confront it. I’ve never had to install a driver on my Mac. If a driver somehow cannot be found it will use a generic drive for the device so the device is still at least functional. These are the facts of life. It’s no more difficult on a Mac than on a PC. In fact, it’s easier.

Sadly, you are correct about the Airport Extreme card. However, 802.11a, b, and g cards are expensive for Windows AND Mac–they just come with (most) Windows machines. Furthermore, I’ve never needed an 802.11 card… I’m happy with my Airport Extreme.

Facts

None needed for this one.

 

#14—Awesome out of the box

Read the previous 13 points. Any newly purchased system works perfectly out of the box.

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I agree. Check out my previous 13 rebuttals and I’m pretty sure you’ll be sold on Mac! I am!! After using a PC for 17 years of my life, I haven’t regretted adding Mac to the OS list one bit!

Facts

None needed for this one.

 

In closing, I hope there are no hard feelings. This was all just fun and games anyways, right? I had a lot of fun compiling this list.

I did find it interesting to note that even Microsoft uses a few Mac’s. Check it out!

I’ll leave you with a few more sources of interesting information about Mac vs PC, or just general information on Apple.

An article from back in 2000 by Eric DeStefano comparing Mac machines to Windows based PCs. Written with a bias towards Mac, but from the viewpoint of a previous PC user, much like myself. (LowEndMac.com)
A very interesting site chuck-full of comparison charts and tables. No bias, just raw facts. (SystemShoutOuts.org)
An interview-type article that takes several key areas of computer use and compares Windows efficiency with Mac efficiency. The interview seems to switch back and forth between favoring Mac or PC. (TechBuilder.org)
A very useful article that disproves the myth that Macs are more expensive. Overall, yes, they are. But when you consider the efficiency of software and hardware products you’re getting with your money, you’ll very easily realize you’re getting a better deal. (TechNewsWorld.com)
An article written in 2006 to persuade that everyone should use a Mac. (KenRockwell.com)
A site filled with information on the Intel chipset in all Mac computers now. (MacOnIntel.com)

Finally, a quote I liked a lot from a forum on MacOSXHints.com.

“People usually work on PCs because they have to. People work on Macs because they want to.”

I’d tend to agree with that. In all honesty, anyone willing to limit themselves to one operating system is clearly just a fanboy and guilty of the same arrogant fanaticism they berate Mac users for. Prefer what you will, but be versatile and don’t be ignorant.

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