I love my iMac and I love my iPod. In general, I love Apple products but sometimes I wonder sarcastically That Steve Jobs guy thinks he is so smart, so cool that he has the audacity to decide what I don’t need?

No, I am not talking about lack of real keyboard on iPhone. I don’t really know if I would or not as I don’t have an iPhone, and will almost for sure not have one until it is offered for peanuts with my cellular plan. I am talking about my iMac.

I am a hard-core software engineer. I use Linux/Unix and PC regularly at work, and like certain aspects of both. But my iMac at home – I love! There is no question that the user interface experience on a Mac is truly unique and enjoyable. Every aspect of user interface speaks of style and elegance! Using Unix is like driving a simple, spartan looking car but one that is very powerful and very reliable like say German engineering but in a Yugo body. Using the PC is like driving a car which has some gaudy styling to attract masses, but has reliability problems. Many American cars in the last 20 years come to my mind. But using the Mac is like driving a luxury performance car. You got style, you got power and you look cool showing off to your friends. And its pricey with limited to zero discounts. You know – like a luxury car.

But I have a pet peeve about this luxury car.

There is no $%#@! manual eject button for the DVD drive on my pretty iMac!

(or at least I couldn’t find one. No pin hole either which is supposedly there in some models that I could find. If there is a manual thingamajig – it seems well hidden and not meant to be found.)

No $%#@! manual eject button and so the only way to eject a CD/DVD is from within software. Of course, the folks at Apple probably had full faith in their software. But I suspect that the bigger reason is that they thought the manual eject button would compromise the pretty, minimalistic looks of the iMac. May be the button would have made the side of the iMac look less pretty or may be it made it thicker by 2 lousy microns. As we all know, with Apple (slim) looks and (silky) feel is everything! And yes that magic of course mostly works! After all, I drooled over the iMac for a while and I bought one. But …

There is no $%#@! manual eject button for the DVD drive on my pretty iMac.

Big deal right? Well I would agree except …

The other day, I wanted to play a very very important DVD for which we had no other copies. Okay, okay! I should have made copies if it was that important – but we are not talking about me, we are talking about my iMac.

Now it played fine on a cheap $30 DVD player I bought at the next-door superstore with the display to our small TV. But I wanted to see the nice picture on the nice big screen of my iMac. Besides there was editing work that may had to be done.

So I inserted the DVD into the iMac, and it made the nice soft sucking sound to suck in the CD – even that the iMac likes to do in style. But soon I watch in horror as the king of style starts making strange sounds as if choking on a piece of apple. Yes – the supposedly dependable Apple software apparently was having trouble reading the DVD, but wasn’t being smart enough to know this. So it was trying, and trying and trying …

With a PC, most of us know what to do when this happens. Your fingers move faster than Clint Eastwood in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly to the manual eject button! I don’t know if the success rate is 100% with that on a PC but I suspect that it is pretty close. But I couldn’t do that here. Do you know why?

There is no $%#@! manual eject button for the DVD drive on my pretty iMac!

On a PC, if the manual eject when the machine is up fails, you can power cycle and try to hit it early enough and have it succeed. I have done it. No chance of that here! Why?

No $%#@! manual button for the DVD drive on my pretty iMac!

But I still thought Well, let me reboot anyway. Maybe it is just the DVD player application. I am sure that faithful and powerful mac OS Tiger is smarter. So reboot I did, which my iMac started to do – of course with the usual grace and panache. But soon our superstar quickly morphed into super-dud choking on the DVD, neither able to digest it nor vomit it. As it is with every computer, the first thing on reboot is to try to run what’s in the CD/DVD drive as a boot disk. And apparently the problem was with the device driver, which didn’t know it was in quicksand and kept flailing its arms.

By this time I wasn’t a happy camper at all. I think it was nearing dinner time and I get pretty cranky even when I eat on time. It was getting late, and I was having serious problems with my beloved iMac – problems which were making food only a distant possibility. This wasn’t good.

So I called Apple Support – I had paid for the extra support. The lady made me do some standard stuff – all of which I had tried but had to do again for her satisfaction. Magic keystroke combinations to be entered with precise timing during boot-up. No $%#@ cigar! Finally, she calmly tells me Well, you have to send your iMac in for service.

I went almost ballistic. I incredulously asked Are you telling me that a freaking DVD is enough to make your computer so unusable that I have to send it in for service? A DVD which my plasticky 30-buck Japanese imitation player had no problem playing? I also realized that if I have to send in my iMac, then the important DVD would have to go along to. That of course meant only one thing. Fat chance in hell, the iMac was leaving our house. This made me even more mad. All I could think was that Steve Jobs guy in his infinite coolness didn’t want to compromise his pretty iMac with a lousy manual eject button! A button which would have averted this pounding headache, and growling stomach! $%#@!!

Well, it turned out that this wasn’t really that bad. Even though it was making horrible sounds, the iMac apparently was still reading the DVD albeit at a slo…………………wly. I found this out by accident when on one of my umpteen reboot attempts, I just decided to wait. I pretended not to hear the choking sounds, and after about almost 5-6 minutes it booted and I could eject the DVD! The skies opened up and celebrated! Birds started to chirp! (okay, I was delusional with hunger). And most importantly – yes dinner is a possibility! And I knew then and there, that there is a God!

Later, during dinner, I think it was the tiny mac-head in me that whispered Hey! It was really working all along! I think we should try again and see if the DVD player application will still play the DVD. Fortunately, reason intervened and I squashed that thought.

So may be I shouldn’t complain about the Apple designer’s decision for not having the manual eject button and trusting on software. The software did appear to work :). But if the machine can grind for 5-6 minutes, that’s bad and I wonder if there are other situations where it can do worse. Being in the software industry for 17 years, if there is one thing I know, it is that every software has bugs. And Apple’s is no exception. I have crashed Safari, GarageBand and other applications on the Mac. Although, the OS itself has not officially crashed, this one was close and scared the living daylights out of me. Every time I pop a DVD into the iMac, I now hold my breath for a few seconds.

So, Steve Jobs! You may be cool dude – but sometimes you are too cool for your own good!

Advertisements