Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Shame on Apple for leaving technophobic customers in the lurch

Two and a half years ago, I finally managed to escape from twelve years of captivity in Bill Gates’s soulless cellar. He suddenly went all psychotic one day and started ranting about how he and some of his zillionaire pals

were going to get together and save Africa. I took the opportunity afforded by this lapse into fantasy to make my get-away.

I switched to Apple.

No more blue screens of death, no more shouty onscreen orders to “contact your service administrator” (who he? Ed), no more slowing t o   a      c      r       a        w         l   - or freezing altogether. No more programmes telling you’d they needed to close and lose all your work because an unexpected problem had been encountered, no more accusatory shrieks of “serious errors” having been committed (By who? Me? How? What’d I do?). No more defragging (thank goodness – it stunts your growth, apparently). No more accessing the “Help” section only to encounter prose which could only have been written by some fat, malodorous, T-shirted, friendless geek with no interpersonal skills using an impenetrable private language.

Like every other convert, I’ve become a crashing Apple bore. Only the machine never crashes. 

Shortly after the switch to the light side, I tried to access my business website, only to find it had disappeared. Turned out the professional web designer ex-colleague who had created and hosted it had switched service providers and done some major clearing out of his hard drive and had inadvertently liquidated Scott Gronmark Associates in the process. Would he make me another site? And host it? No and no. As I was now an Apple user, he informed me, I could be my own web designer by using Apple’s free iWeb tool to create a new site, and use Apple’s relatively cheap web hosting service, Mobileme, to host it.

A bit miffed, I opened iWeb and had a gander. Within two hours, I had created a simpler version of my old web site. The next day I signed up to Mobileme, and 24 hours later, my new website was available in cyberspace.


Sometime during the next few months, I realised that I could use this set-up to do what I’d always promised I would never do – become a blockhead and write for no reward. For a start, I had the time. Second, my attempts to write fiction after a 20-year lapse had proved fruitless. Third, I was beginning to realise from the way my wife would regularly lapse into a coma whenever I started opining on politics (she’s had to listen to this guff for quarter of a century, and my opinions haven’t changed that much) that I needed some other outlet for the tsunami of prejudices and enthusiasms whirring around inside my head.

Now, iWeb isn’t really a blogging tool. It’s very good for designing a static website, but it gets really clunky when it comes to regularly creating and indexing lots of new pages (it’s not big on databases). But I had no way of knowing this, so I persisted and found various work-rounds to make up for it’s lack of blog-smarts – and over the past 21 months, I’ve grown very fond of the application. Like a lot of Apple products, there’s something very human about it, and, as with any true friend, I’ve learnt to forgive its limitations - and vice-versa.

But in June Apple announced plans to get out of the web-hosting business. Those of us who currently rely on them can go on using iWeb and find a new hosting service for our blogs – but no one would be able to post comments, and the ability to search the site (important to me to make sure I don’t endlessly repeat myself) will disappear. Besides, the chances of Apple bothering to develop or even maintain iWeb now appear slim.

So I need a new way of creating and publishing this blog – and I’m after advice. Far as I can see, it’s down to WordPress or Google’s Blogger. Between them, these two systems seem to rule the blogosphere. I’ve spent the last two days playing around with Blogger – and I’m impressed. It’s a bit harder to come up with a decent design than it is on iWeb, but the professional functionality more than makes up that: the indexing system, in particular, is terrific.  I’ll have to post any self-created music on You Tube and point to it there – but that’s no big deal. Apart from that, whatever I can do on the site now, I can keep on doing. One problem is that commenters – as far as I can see – will have to sign up to a (free) Google account: a drag, but it only takes a few seconds, and they don’t bother you again. The other irritation is that commenters can’t – again, as far as I can see – post comments under a pseudonym, and I enjoy trying to figure out who’s behind various aliases.

WordPress is more complicated to set up – especially on a Mac – but from using other people’s WordPress-created sites, posting comments should be a lot easier.

Something that bothers me about both applications is that they only appear to exist online: i.e. you don’t have a saved copy of your blog, complete with comments, on your hard drive in case the online version goes belly-up, or you do something foolish (highly likely in my case).

Can anyone with any knowledge or experience of using of these systems – or any exciting, easy-to-use alternatives – advise me on what I should go for? Comments on this post - or via email for those of you who can’t post comments – would be much appreciated.

As for Apple – thank you for allowing hundreds of thousands (millions?) of technophobes to start up websites using your system, and shame on youfor then planning to leave us all in the lurch by withdrawing the facility. What people like me love about you is that we don’t have to get involved in all the back-end techno-crap that Microsoft invariably sucks you into. Not only do I now have to take an interest in all that nonsense, but I’ll have to spend up to a week at some stage transferring hundreds of old posts and comments over to a new system.

Congratulations, chaps – you just turned into Microsoft! 

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