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Feedback: Letters To and From the Editor -- Mac Sucks

By Charlie White

with Charlie White

Hi Readers,   We're just starting to dig out from an avalanche of mail concerning my recent "Mac Sucks" editorial. Wow! What a difference of opinion! As expected, the EvangeList crowd registered their stern disapproval of any and all statements against their beloved Mac, while lots of other readers, including quite a few Mac developers expressed their agreement and support. While each OS has its faults and strengths, it was enlightening to spark a discussion of the current state of the Mac, especially given the nearly unchallenged recent rollout of the Beta version of Mac OS X. Here's a representative sample of your responses:

You're Right!


I enjoyed your articles on HDTV and the one on "The Mac Sucks."

I've been editing broadcast work since 1978 and have gone through a lot of changes to say the least. I started on old top-loading 3/4" VCR's (can't dredge up the # right now). By 1984 I had a 1" online suite, by 1991 a betaSP online suite, and in 1995 bought my first Mac-based (oh boy that sucks) Media 100 NLE.

The good thing is that my 2 Media 100 systems have turned huge profits (in the first two years I could have actually paid for that blood-sucking $300,000 1" edit bay if I still had it.) Incidentally, on my mac-nle's I probably have gotten my restart frequency down to about 2 times per day average.

However, having seen the powerful performance of a Mac running Linux or Be-OS, I have to disagree, the MAC doesn't suck, APPLE sucks, and believe me, as a long term Mac user, your editorial doesn't begin to do justice to just how bad APPLE sucks.

I was at MacWorld and it was obvious in about 90 seconds that the OS-X demo was a waste of my time and a simple exercise in "marketing madness". I can't tell you how many times I have encountered people who have been sucked into purchasing stuff that won't do the job they bought it for.

Marketing has driven most of the changes we've seen in the video editing world of today, and like most good marketing, it has targeted and attracted new market segments, enticing people who don't have a technical or creative clue as to how to accomplish good results.

I dare you to try to explain a blanking problem, or y/c delay problem, or the old standby, drop frame t/c vs. non-drop t/c. That will raise a eyebrow every time. Consequently, at most video/computer shows you have to wait through hordes of people asking inane questions that prove beyond a doubt that they shouldn't be involved in a highly technical field in the first place. Which brings this drivel to the point, what is APPLE doing in a highly technical field? Now I will sit and cry for a while about my sizeable investments in the dead-ended MAC.

Dennis Colvin, Owner, dcVideo Production, Fresno CA

Charlie, Charlie, c'mon!!

Try comparing Apples to apples! You write that, "There's no amount of marketing that will convince me that for video editing and compositing any Mac can beat a dual processor 800 MHz NT machine with an ICE accelerator board inside." There's no stand-alone P3 that could make that claim, either!

Try ICEing up a G3 or G4, if speed is what you're after. As for digital video editing, it's a risky process, at best, whether you're using an iMac DV, or, an Avid Symphony.

Don't even talk to me about Windows. I've worked in a Windows environment for 10 years, and a Mac environment for 5 years! That's why I have a G3/266 (at home) now. When it was my turn to select a non-linear editor (at work), I chose a Mac based system; and, I'm quite happy with it, as are the folks who use it. Our IT department doesn't support Macintosh; but, that's OK. They can't keep up with their own jobs, while I solve any Macintosh problems without their help.

You mentioned the age of the Mac OS. Surely you know that Windows still operates on a DOS shell, don't you? How old must that be?? Are you really looking forward to d/ling all those patches from M$?

Yes, Windows is capable of multi-tasking; and, the Mac will be, as well. For me, it's worth the wait, though, I think that Macs would have had multiprocessing sooner, were it not for Mr. Jobs untimely departure.

As for stability, I've had more headaches with Windows than I care to count (Windows 3.1; 95, 98, and now, NT). Sure, the Mac OS isn't perfect; but, it's a far site more stable than any Windows machine I've ever worked with.

Downgrade the Mac OS, if you must; regress to Windows, if your soul dictates. I'm sure that you'll find (as I have found) that the grass is not greener on the Windows side of the fence.

Respectfully, Tom Cupp

The Mac Sucks -- been expecting more articles like this


From the dearth of public criticism by video editor users during the last five years, I just thought that the industry as a whole quietly migrated to NT-based systems. I am very happy someone took the time to write something that mentioned what was going on. The Evangelist denizens have probably reacted in the standard way; I commend your work.
Apple has been paying for a gross lack of coordinated management. as a Mac developer, I've been paying for a gross lack of Apple management. The current management team is clearly a lot better than the last several teams (they forced a wholesale change of entire the board of directors, as an example of knowing where the problems were and how they've been dealing with them), and is dealing with the problem. Clearly, recovering from severe competitive shortcomings in your computer's system software is not easy, especially when the damage was done over several years, say 1988 through 1996. Personally if I were in the video editing business at the time, I'd have been very mad at Apple for those first PowerPC boxes they released with the busted bus arbitrator.
Apple currently is fixing a lot of things, but Mac developers as a whole haven't seen much in the way of improvement in revenues and business model. We need to escape the Mac OS legacy hell very much. PMA spoken via the Evangelist notwithstanding, until Mac OS X comes out with the right stuff, developers will stay away.
When I was involved in video editing tools development, we needed slots and isochronous critical resource control. The new OS, Mac OS X, is a preemptive Unix-oid OS in which the first commercial release may not initially provide sufficient isochrony to get your job done. Apple is playing a big game of catch up, and it is taking some considerable time to make OS X nee Rhapsody to conform to the expectations of Apple's greater user base.
I concur. If you've got things to do, and NT does get it all done for you, use NT. Don't feel bad about it. Don't wait for Apple. Don't bet your whole business on a solution that clearly doesn't cut it. A fair comparison of two hardware solutions via simple benchmarks will identify your next edit station. If someone doesn't provide an Apple based station that can compete in simple benchmarks, it becomes a business decision. [I don't mind the choice of provocative editorial titles because how else do you get people to read articles?]
Steve Jobs has streamlined the business in hardware and software to stay afloat, and I think he's going to keep things like the way he has it now for years to come. Specifically, there is no Apple-based chunk of hardware with a lot of bus slots in it any more because it is very expensive to do so, and they think the audience for such hardware is too specific for where they want Apple hardware to go, and they want the video industry to use Firewire instead. I am not in the video edit tools biz any more, haven't been for a while, but I believe that I'd be inclined to switch to Firewire if and when there was a supporting hardware and software cast to allow one to do so, and I'm not aware that this yet exists.
I note a couple of other important details. First, Mac OS X doesn't use ROMs. It will be much easier, I believe, for specialty firms to create a box that runs OS X which does handle your hardware requirements. It may in fact become easier for third parties to do that for OS X than NT.
OS X Mach 3.0 kernel I am told (I don't know this for gut shure) doesn't have the extraspecialneato isochrony support you need to ditch Mac OS 9. You'd have to wait for Mach 3.X anyway. OS X will get in the way much more than Mac OS 9 does.
All of this is a blueprint for future use; current use is driven by business needs, and damn the torpedoes. "Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am master of my fate, and captain of my soul." -- Metamagical Themas, Douglas Hofstadter
ps - I am curious: I know that when the whole system crashes, its the fault of the OS not providing itself with enough protection. When the application crashes, it typically is the fault of the software authors. I realize that the machine crashes as a result, but you're nevertheless using some software that crashes several times a day. What's with the software authors? Why don't they fix the crashing? Are they all working on NT solutions and not going back and supporting the Mac customers? That would get me pretty mad, especially if the bugs stick out like a sore thumb like it sounds that they do.
I realize that Avid is currently trying to support two platforms; they were planning to ditch Apple altogether. However, when they made that smart business decision, they assumed but didn't ask whether their customers were ok with that.

Michael Brian Bentley

You Poor Lost Soul

Maybe you should try Premiere or Final Cut Pro on one of those new G4's. Of course it may not be as fast as a dual 800 NT box but what is the cost of a dual 800 NT box with the extra hardware to do video editing? (FireWire comes on a Mac you know) The ones I have seen are three to seven times the price of a G-4. I doubt that you could get more editing done on one dual 800 NT box than you could on three to seven G4 machines.
As for yor statement that you didn't any real applications running that "fake OS" - you didn't see MS Internet Explorer running on it? I did.
Then you talk about legacy OS's what is Windows? It still is based on DOS! NT has so many security holes in it that the Army switched to Mac servers running OS X Server. Oh I forgot there are no apps running on that "fake OS" so the Army has been duped again. They probably are running some secret OS and just said it was OS X Server.
As for Chip production remember Apple owns part of the PowerPC - remember AIM that's Apple, IBM and Motorola. It is my understanding that they can produce there own chip because of that partnership (or AMD could make them for Apple - speaking of AMD how come they make faster chips than Intel?). But I don't see Motorola cutting off Apple is pays to to much R&D that is useful in there embeded work also.
You poor lost soul. Will you write a retaction when OS X ship on time? Or will you just find another reason why you where right after all.
I love my Mac and if Apple went out of business today I would buy as many Mac's as O could so that one got worn out from use I would have a new one to replace it with.
That's my two cents worth.

Jay Cottrill, Marietta, Ohio

Dear Readers,

For the record, if Mac OSX does ship by January of next year and can actually edit video natively, via OSX and not OS9 emulation, I'll be happy to be the first to celebrate it. Watch this space.

And also, for the record, I'm not too crazy about Windows NT, either.


Here's more provocative Feedback!

Charlie White has been writing about digital video editing since it was the laughingstock of the post-production industry. He's an Emmy award-winning producer and director for PBS, and producer of this Web site.

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