Third Party Software Is Messing With My Serenity

May 10, 2012

THE DEEPER YOU move into the Apple ecosystem, the more you appreciate the effortless integration. If you use a Mac, an iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple TV, these things just flat out work and they work together. These devices all talk to each other as if they came from the same family and gee, imagine that, they do. Calendars synchronize over the Net as if by magic, contacts move from place to place and content just finds its way to where it needs to be. Even the technologically challenged can usually make Apple things work as intended, which is generally a far cry from the other kind of computing experience.

I’ll admit to being one of those seriously smug Apple users but I don’t think that Apple is any kind of approximation of heaven on earth. For one thing, Apple kit is expensive, for another the company itself can be painful, but the reality is that I’m more productive when I’m using a Mac and my technological life is smoother on Apple products. I admire their simplicity, fitness for purpose and the overall holistic approach.

The thing is that my smugness, my very Apple inspired serenity, is being jeopardized by a few pieces of third-party software that bring more than a small dose of the whole “doesn’t play well with others” experience that is the antithesis of the Apple world.

Take Trend Micro’s Smart Surfing for Mac, for example. Since 2010, I’ve been using AVG’s Linkscanner for Mac to add a layer of security into my web browsing. It worked well on my 13” MacBook Pro until it started to fall well behind Firefox’s update path and one of the modules was effectively permanently disabled (nice integration AVG – not!). So when my brother offered me a license for Trend Micro’s equivalent to use on my new 15-inch MacBook Pro, I thought that I’d give it a shot.

The installation went smoothly, but then the program informed me that it wouldn’t work on Apple’s Lion OS and that an update was needed. I started the updater, which took ages to download the files, then it went ahead and downloaded them again. Then it asked for permission to make changes to the system and locked up like Fort Knox, before eventually deciding that it was dead. I restarted the Mac as suggested, when the Trend Micro software promptly locked up again, and again and again before I eventually decided to give it the boot and uninstalled it. Of course, we know for sure that some of the program is still living on in my Mac somewhere, they always do, which infuriates me. Why doesn’t the damn installer ask for an update before loading all the way? Why are the Trend Micro forums packed with page after page of issues, hot fixes, problems and crashes? Remind me to never again sully my Mac with some third party security package before checking to see if there’s a list of disgruntled users out there.

Then there’s Microsoft. Theoretically, you have to use MS software if you actually want to type letters, create presentations or work on spreadsheets. Baloney! I’ve been using open source NeoOffice on the 13” MBP for two years and have been very happy with it. Sure, there are some compatibility issues with the rest of the world (most of whom inevitably use MS Office) but the NeoOffice suite of software is free, updated regularly without being intrusive, runs quickly and never crashes. I had the brainwave of installing a copy of MS Office for Mac 2011 that I’ve had on hand for over a year so that I could use Outlook instead of Mac Mail, Outlook being a more powerful program, which suited my five inboxes. I’d also get to use the state-of-the-art in modern Office suites.

Stupid idea! The modern incarnation of Office is akin to a bloated monster that rose, bigger and more obnoxious from the ashes of dozens of big, obnoxious beasts. If you’ve skipped a generation or two, then the interface is as alien as the surface of Venus and just doesn’t seem to make sense. But I can accept that my ignorance of the product’s functionality is at fault. What I can’t accept is the bad behaviour and lousy attitude of the product.

I’m now burdened with Microsoft’s seemingly endless security updates to keep the software from being exploited by every teen hacker under the sun. The updater looks all too much like a Windows program, which is awful to behold on a Mac, but when it starts acting the goat and telling me that there are a bunch of programs or services running that need to be shut down before it can update itself, and then makes me have to search for and shut down the obscure services one by one in the Activity Monitor, then I start to get angry. Surely, once I’ve shut down all the MS programs and any programs that they sync with (iCal for example), then the updater should run? No, that would be way too easy. Bear in mind that this is a new Mac with little extra software installed.

At least Adobe gets it. Adobe’s software has been running on Macs since the early days and it seems to just integrate and get along with the job at hand – not perfectly but close enough. Maybe Microsoft reckons Apple users will get annoyed with the Mac and buy a WinX PC, but it will be a cold day in hell before I assign the blame anywhere but where it belongs.

Perhaps it’s time to boot this mess into touch, install NeoOffice and revert to Mac Mail and Gmail to manage my email accounts. Hell, this damn Outlook doesn’t even seem to support RSS feeds so I can monitor this site.

If only Apple offered a native Mac OS office suite and a serious mail platform, I’d be a very happy camper. Note to Apple – get with it (more so). Note to Microsoft – try harder (much, much harder)!

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