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Common Statements
A feeble attempt to counter-advocacy

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

Look, I realize that the Mac is just a platform. Frankly, I use both Macs and PCs, and have for years. The reason I stand up for the Mac is not just because the computer is better and more fun -- it is because I am a purist that loves good design. The Mac is a good design, designed by people that value design. The PC is a crap, all slapped together by people who value the buck, marketshare, and cheap -- not good design. For many people the bad design just doesn't matter, I understand that -- but I'd rather drive a BMW than a Ford Pinto (whether the guy has put a V8 in the Pinto or not). So I do think that for many the PC is "good enough", and "tolerable", despite a lousy design -- but I will not ignore the lies and myths of people who THINK that it is good design, or who don't recognize what garbage the PC design is (and always has been), or who don't understand what good design is, or why the Mac is better.

Now, with that perspective in mind, lets vivisect another PC-troll, spewing misinformation.

Some wannabe vomited an article at <>, and for some odd reason, I decide to respond-- just to show people the type of negativity and misinformation that Mac people deal with (which sometimes makes Mac people too impassioned and aggressive). I don't really think of his article as advocacy -- that would be promoting something (like information), not feebly trying to tear something down. A few thousand bad articles, and idiots spewing misinformation like this one, can really enrage people who want to defend the truth -- and contribute to the Mac market being a little overly sensitive in some cases, because most of the time we are being attacked. (Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't all out to get you).

The article was titled:

The Art of Mac-aganda (Mac-user propaganda) Common Statements Made by Mac Users and how it just goes to show, they don't know what they're talking about.

Below is a partial listing of the common quotes of the Mac-militia and why they are invalid, plus questions to ask Mac users to make them feel small.

With an intro like that, can there be any doubt as to what this is going to be like?

He quotes what Mac people say, and then tries to respond from a position of semi-knowledge. So I will quote him, and respond from a position of more knowledge.

"DOS is still running in the background" or the more ominous "DOS still lurks in the shadows."

Mac people don't even know what this particular form of slang means. They say it as some sort of incantation that will produce demons on command. DOS stands for disk operating system, and it is a set of basic instructions the computer uses to "operate." Every computer, Macs included, have a DOS. They need it. A computer will not run without it. On the Macintosh, it is formally known as "OS," for "operating system," although it should be called SOS since Apple is a sinking ship. Feel free to retort with "OS is still running in the background." Maybe they'll get it then.

Considering I was probably programming DOS before this kid was born, I think I know what this slang means.

DOS stands for Microsoft's Disk Operating System (known as MS-DOS). Not all Systems are created equal. In the early-mid 70's Gary Kildall created a not-so bad (for the time) OS called CP/M. In the early 80's, Microsoft bought a cheap rip-off from Seattle Computing (called QDOS) and hacked it up, until it worked, barely, and they sold the buggiest release of an OS that I've ever seen (and I worked with the first versions of Amigas). QDOS got a few kludges and hacks (and bugs) as was titled MS-DOS. It was a bad rip-off of an antiquated OS in 1981 -- and since then it hasn't gotten much better.

In 1984, Apple went out of their way to design something dozens of times better, that was 24-32 bit (instead of 16 bit like DOS), they added many features and concepts to design (which MS tried to borrow later). They did it sort of Object Oriented (let's call it Object Influenced) -- which was a decade ahead of time. Apple also improved it in '85 and '86 all the way through 98 (HFS+) -- but it was a far better design to begin with, with whole new concepts like resources and multi-forked files, Type/Creator, Desktop Files and so on.

So the more accurate way of saying this, is that while the Mac OS has evolved, and was better to begin with, Microsoft (Win98 at least) is still built on the same crappy 16-bit OS foundation that they were using in 1981, and some people were using better versions in 1974. Of course MS has bolted more on, but there is a difference between add-on features and design. (Something many MS people, and DOS users want to ignore).

So the complaint Mac users are making isn't that Windows was built as a shell on top of 'a' DOS (though that isn't as good as a nice integrated design like the Mac) -- the complaint is that Microsoft specifically built Windows as a shell on top of a really crappy implementation of 'a' DOS, called MS-DOS!

"The Windows environment is unstable."

Windows 95 is no less stable than the Mac OS. Windows NT is known as a stealth operating system because nothing can bring it down. This is the OS of choice for power users, servers and networks because of its reliability. But even Windows 95 has better memory management than the Mac OS, which is the best defense against system crashes.

When a system does encounter an error, regardless of platform, it usually means you have to force the currently running application to quit. To this day, when you force a quit on the Mac, the entire system will hang 9 out of 10 times, forcing you to reboot. Makes you wonder why they give you the option at all. Windows 95 lets you bring up a task list and end only the stalled application, allowing you to avoid unnecessary reboots and saving you from losing unsaved work in other open applications.

There are different types of stability. While I agree that Macs crash too much, most crashes are mild, and the system can be made very stable as long as you don't add a lot of extensions, and the Mac is far easier to repair / recover from crashes. Adding new software and new hardware is far less likely to destabilize a Mac as compared to either NT or Win95. On the other hand, I've had NT and Win98 go down and take down entire drives and the entire system -- multiple times. The amount of work lost when Win95 crashes, can be far far more. And it is far harder to diagnose problems on PC's, and takes far more time to repair. The crappy bolt-on design philosophy of MS has lead to thousands of little legacy things you need to know that could be what is wrong. Are my IRQ's conflicting, are my COM ports conflicting, is this driver compatible, are the DLL's conflicting, what about the Reg file or the Win.ini, Autoexec.bat, Most Windows people just give-up and reinstall -- wasting hours or days. So even if they crashed the same, Windows would be far less stable (as measured by downtime).

As for the Memory Protection (management) crack -- the best defense is having good software, good testing (QA), good development tools, a good core-OS that is well documented and so on. After all those things fail (and the mac is better at those), THEN the best defense is having memory protection to help protect other apps (and the OS) from the one bad one. It is seriously debatable which is the superior memory architecture (Win98 or Mac OS) -- and if it was that important, all the Win98 people would throw away their OS for WinNT (which most don't) -- and all WinNT people would throw away NT for Unix (which most don't). So protection is important, but not THAT important. Win95 people care far more about games than stability or they would have thrown away their OS a long time ago.

NT stability is a joke. Yes, if you become an NT expert, then you can make NT very stable, as long as you only use a small subset of hardware and software, and you don't let your users touch it or add anything. In the real world, it is a pain, has thousands of security holes, and I've seen the blue-screen of death on dozens of occasions -- and PC advocates just ramble, "that isn't a real crash, since the OS is still running somewhere in the background"... they seem to ignore that users still can't get work done (so is a crash to them). Leave the machine along for a week, and come back and try to type on NT -- and things can get real slow and weird. What's up with that? I've had Apps shutting down for no reason. I find that NT stability is somewhat a myth and NT advocates just choose to ignore all the ways that it is unstable.

The point being that when you look at total downtime, and total operational costs, every study I've ever seen, and every cross platform company I've known (and all experiences I've had), conclude that NT and Win98 requires far more staff and time to keep keep PC's up and working, as compared to Macs. I don't care if a Mac crashes and then just reboots and works -- what I care about is having IS tell me they can't get to me to repair my NT machine for a week (or more) because the backlog of crashed PC's is overwhelming them, and then when my Win95/Win98 machine goes down it often takes the entire drive, or system, with it!

"Macs will soon be available with clock speeds of 533 MHz."

Maybe so. The PC version already exists: Digital's Alpha chip offers clock speeds ranging from 400 MHz to 533 MHz.

I really don't care much about performance -- and certainly not about MHz. I care about productivity (how much work I get done). But I discuss this stuff, just to be accurate and help others learn.

The Alpha chip is not a PC -- it is a totally different ISA (Instruction Set Architecture). It can run NT and Windows software through emulation, just like the Mac can (but Alpha has a bit more NT code that is native). But it is not really a PC, at least not anymore than a Mac with VirtualPC is a PC. If we are going to play this game, then we should probably call IBM's 4-Terraflop supercomputer project, just a really big Mac, since it uses the PowerPC. (In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic). In fact, in 1987 when the MacII's came out, Apple had some really fantastic little ray-traced rendered 3D pictures that they did "entirely on a Mac*". When you read the "*", it said jokingly, "with a Cray XMP peripheral".

The Cray is a supercomputer that Apple had networked to the Mac, and was using to do most of the work. Apple did it as a joke -- I hope that this guy realizes that calling an Alpha a "PC" is also a joke.

More importantly, some PC people naively think that MHz is performance. <Sigh> I've written a lot on this subject to try to get people to think and learn about architectures (beyond just MHz) -- but it looks like I have more work to do. Personally, I'd rather have a 200 MHz G3 Mac than a 450 MHz Pentium II based PC. I'd even rather have the Mac over the Alpha 21264 / 533 for usage (I'd actually take the Alpha -- but only to sell it for 2 or 3 Macs).

"Macs are better."

When someone can tell me what a Mac can do that a PC can't, I'll publish it on this site.

Cross Application Scripting. I can do things like have the Mac go to my website with FTP using Fetch, download last weeks pointer files (links to articles), rename them using the finder, and upload them. I can have it create new link-files using Claris Home Page, extract the links from another file (using another application), I can use the finder to grab the article file and summarize it for me, and put that in the link. It can open Photoshop, apply automatic filters for me, and convert Picts to Gif (or JPEG), save that out to. Then upload all the results using fetch, back to the server. In other words, I automated a lot of my site stuff. It usually takes an hour or two to make a script, that saves me 10-20 minutes a week. It pays for itself quickly.

This would be possible with Unix if I wrote (modified) everything myself (but it would take far longer to write, and I couldn't easily use off-the-shelf software). With a PC, it would not be solvable in this way at all -- there are some cheesy limited solutions, and I can use proprietary solutions like VBA for a few things. But it really can't do what I want. And this isn't even delving into the scripting advantages in publishing houses.

Of course there are 1,000 other examples I could have chosen. But the point is that most PC people don't know Macs -- and they don't know the ADVANTAGES of Macs. So they run around claiming that the software shelves in CompUSA are filled, so they must be able to do what I can on a Mac. They never seem to contemplate that Quantity is not the same as Quality. I don't need 5 bad word processors -- only one good one.

"Macintoshes can do multitasking."

Multitasking is a term that first applied to PCs only and has since become muddled in its true meaning. Its true meaning is that the computer can process two tasks simultaneously, like opening a document while printing another. It does not refer to having several applications open at once.

Most computer experts, including those on the Mac side, declare that even the latest Mac OS - OS 8 - is still not a full-fledged multitasking environment, while some users believe the Mac can indeed multitask. I have an example, as submitted to a Mac magazine by a Mac user employed in an MIS department. He said:

"In addition to typing this in QuarkXPress, I'm also downloading a 6MB file from the Internet, reading my CC Mail, and editing my three Excel spreadsheets simultaneously."

The problems in the above statement should be obvious. Primarily, how does one type a letter while reading something else? You would need a dual-processor brain. Next, who cares how big the download file is; it isn't an issue. The fact is, you are downloading. Now, this person is doing the dual-processor brain thing while editing three spreadsheets? Perhaps, like most Mac-militants, this devotee is a bit overzealous. Cut the crap, multitasking wannabes. And hey, if you don't understand the big words, don't use them.

Whew, another wannabe tries to explain things he doesn't understand -- and misses the point. The point is that on a Mac you can be doing many things at once, like downloading and printing in the background, and working in the foreground (the most common need for Multitasking) -- and the Mac works fine. The PC-simpletons want to argue schedulers and types of tasking, when the user shouldn't have to care, and on the Mac it works just fine.

Is the Windows tasking model a little better? (Meaning that it degrades a bit smoother, if you are doing lots of things at once)? I've never noticed that on Win95. It degrades about as poorly as the Mac (better in some cases, worse in others). The tasking model isn't significantly better -- it has cooperative tasking like the Mac if you are running 16 bit Apps (most legacy Apps), and it was another crappy bolt-on implementation that is common with Microsoft.

NT is better than Macs at tasking a little bit -- but it only runs a fraction of PC hardware and software. Honestly, though, it would take a stop watch to really notice most stuff -- and you have to work like a real geek to notice (dozens of things open and going at once). I occasionally get there. But the reality is that the setup time for NT, and maintenance time, and all the time adding the security patches, can far far outweigh any mild tasking advantages it has. And tasking is just not important enough for most users to throw away all the productivity gains they get from the Mac platform.

Honestly, if you want to know how important tasking is, start talking to PC people. Ask them to throw away Win95/98 and go to NT (and give up all their games). Most will go pale at the thought. Ask NT weenies to throw away NT and go to the superior tasking models of a good Unix -- they too will start stammering and looking for ways out. Tasking models are nice if they get better in the environment (OS) that you have -- but they are not a reason to switch platforms.

The Mac's tasking is good enough that it doesn't hamper my workflow and productivity (95%+ of the time) -- and it is being improved, and Apple is taking the time to do it right. I look forward to Mac OS X. But these Win95 bigots won't throw away their OS to go to NT, when a superior tasking model is staring them in the face -- notice the irony -- tasking should matter to Mac people, but not to them.

Questions to Ask Mac Users to make them feel small

This is the typical PC idiocy that most Mac users deal with all the time. This is why Mac users are seen as defensive, is because they are attacked / picked on. I call it platform racism -- which is exactly what it is -- usually the uninformed deciding different is worse, and attacking and using positions of power to hold others down.

That doesn't make it right for us Mac users to be overly-defensive, and we shouldn't do the same things. I know they have been picking at us with misinformation, but we have to remain above them, just correct their errors POLITELY and factually, and go on. Just explain to them that they don't know what the heck they are talking about -- but try to remain polite. I try too, but it can get to be too much, and I often throw a few barbs back when I feel attacked -- but we should try not to go to their level.

What is "rebuilding the desktop" and why is this necessary?

Mac users invariably have to rebuild the desktop once in awhile. This is usually due to some system error they have encountered. For instance, when the computer boots up and their icons are missing the little pictures, they rebuild the desktop. Or when they can't print and there is no obvious reason, they rebuild the desktop. Or when something is wrong, they… you get the picture. There are some users who simply rebuild the desktop on occasion as a preventative measure.

The Desktop file is an ingenious database that tracks many types of information for the OS. I can't remember the last time I rebuilt mine.

A good idea is every 6 months or so -- but by then, I'm usually installing a new version of the OS, that has new features and new value to my productivity (so haven't had to rebuild). Windows users get upgrades far less often, and they are harder to install, and so on.

Actually, the closest thing to the desktop file on the PC is called the "registry file". And while the Mac can repair its desktop file on its own, the registry file usually takes an expert, or a lot of manual munging. Or you can erase your disk and reinstall everything like most PC people are forced to do when they have a problem. There are millions of horror stores about registry files and the pain they cause.

There are other issues with PC's that suck, because the don't have a good desktop file, or reasonable file system. Say you want all your text documents (.txt) to open in Word Perfect and then you install Word or some other program that recognizes .txt files, there is a good chance that it will stomp over the old .reg pointer that told the system you wanted to open those in WordPerfect. So you get to fix the registry file. Thousands of little uglies like that litter windows -- but some are subtle, and PC users just accept them as the norm -- then they criticize the Macs failings, without understanding their own.

Which is the bigger issue to you? Having something that works right even after you install other applications, and having something that can self heal -- but you MAY occasionally (very rarely) have to tell to rebuild itself... or having something that just doesn't work right at all, and can cost you hours of time (like Windows)?

How do you remove a floppy if your system crashes or there is a power outage?

The most common way to perform this task on a Mac is with a straightened paper clip. While this "problem" sounds infrequent, it only has to happen once to make a Mac user feel like a complete idiot. It is at times like these when a Mac user will secretly think, "Why isn't there an eject button like on a PC?" Probably because it's a good idea.

Ah yes, the infamous "what if your mouse stopped working" type of argument. Like these 1 in a 10,000 days of operation type of problems, that are portrayed as the norm.

I've heard this one before, and always laugh at this one and think, "if the power is out, why do I need my floppy? My computer won't work -- that is the point, the POWER IS OFF! Duh!" But you can get it out with a paper-clip -- and frankly I don't find this a big deal. My power has been out like once in the last year -- and guess what, I didn't need to use my floppy when the computer wasn't working. Of course I seldom use my floppy at all, and have gone a year or more without putting one in, and I haven't bought a box of floppies in 5 years. I guess this is just another area where PC users are behind the times.

But design is always about tradeoffs. What is the tradeoff of the PC, and having a big fat eject button on the front? How about a user ejecting the disk while it is being written to and having it corrupt the data? Since floppies are quiet this is possible. On a PC you can eject it while things are being read from it, and corrupt the system, files, or crash the computer. I've seen that happen. Most PC users just blame the "dumb user" instead of the "dumb design". But wait, there is more. Because the Mac's disk is software controlled, you can use techniques like write-caching that you can't do on a PC floppy (speeds thing up). On the Mac when you eject the disk from the Finder it actually ejects and the image goes away (simple). The Mac also shows up for you when you insert a disk -- no "abort, retry, fail" error messages. So when you look at real design issues, the Mac's way is far better than the PC's way (which is the norm).

How do you create systemwide macros?

After the Mac-head has stared at you for a few seconds with a look that says "Oh yeah, well you're ugly," you've gotten your answer.

The answer is called AppleScript. It is far superior to batch files, as it allows not only finder scripting, but system wide scripting. Using AppleScript I can script the Finder to do some things, commercial Applications to do others, and they can work together. Windows has nothing like this -- the closes they have is a proprietary VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) that works with a few Microsoft Apps -- but that is about it.

Of course the reason you'd get the blank stares from many Mac users is because you asked the question wrong (in out-of-context terminology). If I asked a PC person how to run AppleScript they would look more perplexed, and it would get worse if I explained the functionality of AppleScript, since the PC has nothing close. The other reason for the blank stare from many Mac users, is that most users just use the Mac -- they don't need to worry about such things. So they are probably thinking, "Why would I need to"? Too bad PC users can't ask themselves those questions as often.

What does it mean when you get "An error of Type 20"?

This is the catchall Mac error, and they see plenty of them.

What caused the crash when you get the message "The application [fill in the blank] has unexpectedly quit"?

Macs crash. PCs crash. Most of the Macs errors are more sensible than the PC's. Like when the Mac said "the Application unexpectedly quit" -- certainly better than GPF (General Protection Fault). For the record, even though I use PC's less, I've seen the GPF dialog far far more than I've seen Application Quit errors or Type 10, 20's and all others on the Macs combined. But this whole thread seems pretty silly to me.

How come your long file names can't come close to 256 characters in size?

Easy -- because 256 character file names don't make sense. It is a file name, not a dissertation! Geeze. 32 characters can be a little limiting, and Apple is growing it a bit, but it is very rarely an issue.

On the other hand, PC's had 8.3 naming for 15 years, and still have to use that with legacy Apps -- while the Macs have had better file naming all along. Macs can handle more special characters, multi-language support and many other things with file naming better than PC's (either flavors of Windows). Try naming a folder with 255 characters on a PC, then stuff a file in it with a name of 255 characters -- many Apps (and explorer) can't handle it. Really the PC has 255 character PATH names (not file names). So on the Mac you can use all 32 characters in the file name -- on the PC you may not be able to have a 5 character (or single character) file name, if it is deep in a hierarchy. So once again, the issue is not what are the specific design issues -- but what are the bigger ones. Which machine works with file names better? The answer is clearly the Mac.

How do you get along with only one mouse button? My right mouse button performs a whole bunch of shortcuts that make my work easier.

I use contextual menus with the control button, or with the 1/4 second delay method. If I cared, I would add a second or third of forth button -- but unlike the PC, I could expect it to work system wide. I have a 4 button trackball, that can do cording for a total of 15 buttons. I don't use it that way -- more is not always better, but it is hard to teach some PC people of that.

Of course, again, instead of asking the very narrow and irrelevant questions (about button count), we should ask broader more basic ones -- like which interface is better, which machine is better with the mouse and easier to use? I can give you thousands of proofs why the Macs use of the mouse is better (and I do in the interface section).

Why do you have to allot memory to an application? How does this work for the inexperienced computer user who bought a Mac because it was "simple"?

You see, on any computer, certain applications require more memory (RAM) than others do. This becomes an issue especially when running several applications at once. On the PC, this is handled automatically, and is one reason why a PC can run several applications at once with relatively little installed memory while a Mac needs much more RAM to run the same applications. The PC is designed to allocate memory to an application as it is needed, whereas the Mac can "run out" of memory simply because of an application's preset "memory allocation" which is a limit as to how much RAM the application can use. What happens when the limit is pushed? The application crashes. To get around this, the Mac user must open an information dialog box and change the memory allocation so the application in question has more to work with. The application cannot be running when this change is made. Now, if you are a novice computer user, how do you know you have to do this? Call tech support, of course!

Hey, all right, finally a semi-valid argument. The Mac has an older way to allocate memory (that is being fixed as we speak). The static allocation can very rarely cause users to have to manually change the allocation. It is a rare problem, but something that should be fixed. Of course in design, everything is about tradeoffs. Windows disk-thrashing (it can go into a loop where the disk is being accessed, and you just have to wait, forever, while it tries to map two different things in the same place at the same time), wasteful sizes, and other problems relating from their mediocre implementation of dynamic allocation is not exactly stellar design either.

Then some people make statements like "the Application crashes" when it runs out of memory on the Mac. Actually not, most Applications throw up a dialog saying that they are running out of memory -- in fact low-memory conditions is something the Mac does far better than Windows as well. (Windows Apps often just go into a continuos disk-thrashing loop and your computer is hung up grinding away).

Then people may make comments like "[users have to] call tech support, of course" to handle something -- something that happens very very infrequently. While ignoring that PC people are forced to call tech support 1,000 times more often as Mac people. Then I went to the Macs superior help system to see if I could find something on this (like many users will try). Not only is this one Mac quirk documented clearly in most manuals, and in magazines and books, but it also was very easy to find in help (many different ways) -- and the superior help system could walk me through the steps of fixing it. So I think that "calling tech support" as the first response, is just another knee-jerk reaction from a PC person that is trained to do that, based on the many complex PC problems that require you to do so. Most Mac people tend to be self-supporting, because it is easier.

Once again if we want to look at the bigger design issues the Macs overall memory architecture is superior to Win95 / 98's -- the latter has things like low-mem, paged memory, shared global pools that can fill up (GDI) and many other ugly complexities that users may come smacking into -- all of which make the Macs one issue seem obvious. But that is just how some advocates argue -- they don't understand the engineering tradeoffs and think that their crap doesn't stink. In almost every case I know, the PC's design is far inferior (overall) to the Macs. Of course if you don't know both, and only know one system (like Windows/DOS), then you often attack from a position of ignorance.


Macs have flaws. Many. PC's have flaws -- many more (IMHO). We don't need to get into religious platform wars over everything. When people make ignorant claims, just expose their ignorance and get on with life. Don't hate them for their ignorance -- more pity them that they don't know any better. If you let anger at them build up inside you, it will eat you alive. Redirect it to pity, desire to teach, compassion, empathy. Don't give in to hate and vitriol -- just fight the good fight (when worth while), and go on. If I hated the person who wrote this, I wouldn't waste my time to respond (or put the link back to the original article) -- as all that could do is give them exposure or teach them something. Instead, I try to focus on the good, and teach others (and maybe them) about the truth of computers, and hopefully teach everyone who reads this response a little bit in the process.

So the point of this article was not to beat up on yet-another half-informed PC-troll.(1) Nor do I want to generate hate and malice for the intellectually vapid people who are running around spreading misinformation, half-truths and lies about the Mac -- despite the fact that their ignorant fluff may be harming my industry (and my career). The Mac is only a platform (plastic and silicon) -- who wants to waste time defending the inanimate? I respond basically to correct the wrongs and defend the truth. The truth has value to me. Teaching has value to me. Helping others choose the more productive platform (and enjoy computing more) has value to me. Defending good design, and taking the time to do things right (instead of making cheap copies of everyone else's stuff and calling it better) has value to me. The honor for a piece of plastic and silicon has no value to me.

(1) I've always assumed that troll in this context means an advocate who is "trolling" for a response (trying to provoke others) -- not the bridge dwellers of mythology.

Keep on fighting the good fight, and don't let frustration at these guys eat you alive. Hopefully my responses can alleviate some of that frustration, and make people realize that the right side does win every now and again. Each time one of these guys makes claims like this guy did, and gets intellectually shredded by the informed, they help us drive our point home about why the Mac is superior. So I say, "Thank you little troll", for helping me to teach others, and enlighten more people as to what is going on in computer platform wars.

Created: 11/07/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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