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Mea Culpa:
An Open Letter

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

I got hit with hundreds of emails over the "RE: Win98 Catches the Mac" article. I tried to respond to most of those emails, but also wanted to write a bit more in response here.

First, let me say that I've never written a single article (yet) that didn't contain at least one mistake. (Of course that might be the mistake for this one). My recent "Coates" article was no exception to the rule -- so let me offer some corrections:

[Mistake #1]

I was trying to stress that there are differences in quality, even when things seem similar. So I said:

"Of course many people can't tell the difference between Porsche's oil cooled opposed 6 cylinder engine, and VW's air cooled flat 4".

Opposed and flat mean the same thing -- I knew that, so no real mistake (though I was given many corrections, and I could have been more clear). The mistake is that, while some Porsches have oil coolers, that does not necessarily make them oil-cooled. Mea Culpa (1). I just remember helping a friend with his, and the 27 quarts of oil (not literally) that the thing drank for oil-changes. I assumed lots of oil, and an oil cooler meant oil cooled -- obviously I know a lot more about computers than I do about cars.

(1) Not to mention that VW-o-philes really don't like comparing their fine automobile with the less that high quality Windows, and I can't say that I blame them. I got comments like, "Hey, my VW is reliable and easy to use, while Windows....". I received a few emails encouraging me to "pick on Yugo", or noting that Volkswagen owns Porsche. No metaphor can survive scrutiny for long.

Fortunately, I don't think that error effected the point I was making in the article -- nor was it likely to hurt anyone or even misinform them to any major degree. This is one of the reasons why I am hard on many members of the press -- when they write a bad article, it may hurt Apple, or myself. (As far as I know there are no consumers that are going to NOT buy a Porsche because they mistakenly believe it is oil-cooled). So I expect the press to be MORE responsible, because their words effect so many. I also expect that they have fact-checkers to back them up, but that may be a myth (I haven't seen evidence of it -- and much to the contrary).

[Mistake #2] - (Bigger mistake)

I was stressing that there are differences in quality, even when things seem similar. My quote was:

The Mac, you can plug in multiple monitors with multiple resolutions, multiple bit-depths, multiple vendors cards, and things just work. In Windows ('98 or NT), you can plug in cards if the vendor supports the special calls with their drivers (few do), they all have to be run at the same bit-depth (lowest-common-denominator), and I think they have to run similar resolutions. It can be a nightmare to set up -- for those few who've tried.

This is true of WinNT's multiple monitor support, and earlier pre-releases of Win98 (which is what I have experience with). According to a few reader corrections (which I appreciate), Microsoft improved some things, and added some hacks, which make things work a little better in Win98. I have little reason to doubt that things have gotten better. But I also have little reason to doubt that their support is anywhere near as good as the Macs -- which was my main point. But it was still a mistake, and I want to be accurate.

According to many, Win98 can NOW support multiple depths and resolutions -- sort of. It still does not support them as well as the Mac (since this behavior confuses most Windows Applications) -- and it will take years (many) before Windows Apps support these things well. So once again, claims that Windows "now supports X" is not completely true. Microsoft supports it a little, and pushed most of the effort on to their developers, and we will see how long it takes for complete support. Like most Windows claims, it will work only under limited conditions, with limited applications, with lots of exceptions, and only if you are careful.

So, to sum it all up, Microsoft seems to have hacked (2) the thing up in other ways to make it behave better (than before) -- but still not as well designed as the Mac.

I said before:

Also when you [use multiple screens] on Windows, your dialogs get centered between the screens (meaning split and hard to use) -- on the Mac they center in your main screen. On the Mac when you zoom a window, it opens to fill as much area as it needs, only on the best Monitor for its task.... On Windows a zoomed window will fill ALL the screens, when it doesn't need all that room, and it will obstruct all your other work. You don't have multiple monitor support on Windows-- you have the behavior of one big monitor, with a line down the center. On the Mac, you can support as many monitors as you want. On Windows I've never seen anyone support more than two, and am not convinced it will actually work.

More details. It behaves like that on NT, or if you were using one of the custom video cards that supports multiple monitors. But it seems a Win98's hack (2), includes the "feature", that when you run a program you get to be accosted by a dialog that asks which monitor(s) you want to run that Application on -- so you can constrain the App to a single monitor, or spread it across multiple monitors (and likely get the split dialog thing, depending on the app). I do not believe you can easily move the App to the other monitor, or span monitors, without quitting the Application and restarting (at least not using zoom). Again, it works on Windows 98 better than before, but it is still a kludge, and it still does not work nearly as well (seamlessly) as the Mac. But it is different than I described. (It only sometimes obstructs both monitors, and sometimes it obstructs only one. But "sometimes" seems to be the caveat of everything one should say about Windows). Multiple Monitor support still only works right with some Apps, some video cards, and so on. It is still Windows (with all the complexities and uglies), but it is less annoying than the last version. Who knows, in 16 more years it may achieve parity with the Mac.

(2) Hack in this context is not just a derogatory term -- though it is derogatory. Hacking, in this context, means adding some thing to a product, in a cheesy way, after the fact (after it is designed and implemented). As compared to designing something in to a product from the beginning.

Apple designed in multiple monitor support from the beginning -- ever since they supported video cards and color, the Mac supported Multiple Monitors. Microsoft is adding it in now, 16(?) years after they supported video cards. Apple redesigned their entire System to support color video and multiple monitors. Microsoft is trying to retrofit, and kludge that feature in. So while hacking is derogatory, it is also the accurate term for how Microsoft implemented this (and many) Windows features.

Was Coates being facetious?

Some people read Coates' article as a jab at Windows and Microsoft. I certainly saw a few prods in there against Microsoft, and I appreciated the accuracy. But I did not, and do not, see the article as a tongue-in-cheek poke at Microsoft only. It was way too bashing of Apple, and had way to many factual errors -- which are what annoyed me. The tone bugs me a little, the content bugs me more.

Coates' main thread appeared to be that Win98 and Mac seem the same, and that is good enough -- and that is why Apple is dead as a competitor. I was stressing that there are differences in quality, even when things seem similar. Either way he did not get the basics of what happened, in User Interface, between Apple and Xerox, and between Apple and Microsoft. Though I do think he does get the very tip of the iceberg about Microsoft ripping off others and calling it innovation. I just think he needs to read a lot more about it, to understand how prevalent it has been.

Furthermore, some other articles with Coates' name on them were far more obvious in their anti-Apple position. So I took this article in the context of his other articles -- and that is why I did not give him the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Why do I care?

So the point is that accuracy matters -- but everyone makes mistakes. My intent is not to blast the individuals (like Coates) personally, just because they make a mistake. I don't know Coates personally -- and he may have the ability to learn, we will just have to wait and see. My intent is to correct the errors and explain the facts, in a somewhat unpleasant way, so that he doesn't repeat the mistake (and fully realizes his error).

I am also likely forgive minor mistakes -- I let dozens of bad articles go every week (it seems). But many minor mistakes can add up, and lead to incorrect premises -- like the implication that Apple got their technology from Xerox, or the implication that MS will implement things as well as Apple (i.e. Win98 is the exactly same as Mac). I think that Coates is being irresponsible or ignorant (or both) -- and that is why I tried to set the record straight.

But I don't think Coates is really deserving of hundreds of nasty emails -- I much prefer the polite (but pointed) emails that correct his mistakes, without insulting him personally. There can be a fine line between attacking his behavior, and attacking him personally. I know I can cross that line at times. But if I keep feeling like my articles inspire others to attack, then I will stop writing them. I also do not give authors email address in articles (any more). I don't intend my articles to be a catalyst for thousands of nasty-grams! Heck, if every time I made a mistake, I got 100's of nasty emails, I'd never be able to get work done.

People have many misimpression's about "the Press". They don't realize that many magazines and Newspapers are usually just a relative few writers/editors, who have to pump out articles, on impossible schedules, and they often HAVE to spin things in ways that will keep readers interested, in order to sell advertising, so that they can keep their jobs. If the writers don't, then the editors will sometimes commit an after-the-fact slash job to get the desired effect -- and can sometimes (but rarely) dramatically change the tone or content of the article.

Being a reporter or writer seem to me like being in politics or being a lawyer -- where you have to whore your principles a little, in order to try to do the most good when it counts. Tough place to be, but the alternative (of not trying to make a difference at all) can be worse. They are not jobs I envy -- but then we all have to do that to some degree. In some ways I admire them their pragmatism -- but, in other ways I am an adversary to it.


So while I think that many journalists ARE being irresponsible, and not checking their facts or knowing what the hell they are talking about, it is not my goal to make it an "us vs. them" all-out war between readers (MacUsers) and journalists. I don't mind if concerned individuals express their dissatisfaction at errors -- in fact I hope people care enough to do so. But I don't want my words to be a tool of "hurt". I would rather them be "a firm tool of education". But it is a balancing act. I think we should reward good articles by telling others about them, and correct bad articles (with emails and complaints) -- but we should not get carried away.

We can try to make journalists into allies or adversaries depending on our actions. I certainly want to keep defending my position on what I think are glaring conceptual mistakes, and keep the heat on those that are wrong. (A little justice by making them pay for the harm they cause others). But too much heat, and too much anger, only causes backlash. Firm punishment can quickly cross the line into abuse -- and then instead of helping others learn, we only infuriate them into hating us (for being right, but delivering the message in too hostile a manner).

I hope this isn't coming across too preachy. It may seem that I am being hypocritical, as sometimes I get a tad flaming in my articles (and may cross the line). I want to offer my DarkSide articles to the Mac Advocates as humor (the cynical kind), to comiserate on bad articles, and offer them to the public at large as an educated counterbalance to the many errors in "the press". However, one flaming article from me isn't too big a price for a reporters' ignorance. Moreover, if my one flame inspires hundreds of others, then it might be. I am concerned about allowing my site (or the Mac community at large) to become too "anger filled" -- or by becoming a person that beats up on well meaning (but ignorant) reporters and writers (far beyond what they deserve for their crimes against the truth). I love that the Mac community FEELS like a community that wants to help each other learn more, and enjoy their platform -- and that will encourage others to use Macs. But I do not want it to become a nasty-clique that brutalizes all that do not belong.

That being said (and meant sincerely), I'm probably going to flame those cretins over at Fortune Magazine for another bad hatchet article!

Thanks, and take it easy...

David K. Every

Created: 05/22/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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