Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: Come Together...Right Now...

Oh, joy, oh, joy! A brand new toy! Something new to play with, at the very least!
Ever since time immemorial (i.e. I can't remember when it started), our school's music department has had on ongoing lease contract with upgrade options for a Mac. As in computer. As in Apple. Over the past eight years, I've seen a modest, little PowerMac evolve clear up to a very imposing G3.
The arrangement made perfect sense at first. All the best professional music composing and sheetmusic design software at the time was for the Mac. The "drooling cyberplegic user" simplicity of the Mac OS was also perfectly suited to Mr. Ogawa, who was and is a notorious technophobe. Even when the school started going Windows all around him, Mr. Ogawa stubbornly stuck to his Apple box for as long as he was able. Still, he was only delaying the inevitable; he was finally forced to surrender to the Empire. There was just no way he could integrate the Mac into the school's rapidly-expanding network (or so he was told).
Gritting his teeth all the way, Mr. Ogawa leased the first NEC laptop and had it wired into the school's network. Getting the hang of it was something he never accomplished (and probably never will in this life), but he actually seemed to enjoy being nursemaided along by me, Mr. Karatsu, or whatever student with cyber-savvy happened to be nearby. As time went by, he and that cantankerous, little machine came to be virtually inseparable. Meanwhile, the Mac came to be used less and less. When he went ahead and upgraded it to the G3, we were wondering what he was thinking. By then, that fancy-looking machine was only being used for duplicating CDs and watching DVDs. Both Mr. Karatsu and I, not to mention several students, all had Windows machines that could do the same thing. It seemed like that G3 was nothing but an expensive waste of space.
Imagine my surprise when the G5 was brought in last week. I've got to hand it to Apple. They really know how to make a computer with stage presence. I mean, there's a typical PC, and there's a Gfrigging5! The main element alone, made of metal that looks like stainless steel (but obviously isn't), would be perfectly at home on a pedestal in an art museum. That nice, wide, flat LCD monitor, set in a transparent frame/pedestal, is beautiful, too. Then there's that OS X system. Talk about a colorful, funky-looking desktop!
I had played around a bit with the G3, which had OS 9. OS X was kind of the same, but totally funkier. Kind of like Windows XP was to 2000, only different. Just looking at it, I could almost hear the animated icons saying, "PLAY WITH ME!!!!!"
Mr. Ogawa also encouraged me to play with the G5...as much as possible. Just to drive home the point, he installed Siberius on it. Siberius is the latest professional music composing/publishing software, made by a British firm but marketed by Yamaha. Mr. Ogawa bought a copy last year (and is still afraid to touch it), and I liked it so much I bought my own (thanking Heaven for academic discounts). I then wound up becoming the chief arranger/scorer/composer/sheetmusic maker for both the school music department and the Kashima Philharmonic Orchestra. I use Siberius on my Windows XP-equipped laptop of course, but the program works best on a desktop model. That's why I was intrigued with the idea of it being installed on the wonderful, new Apple toy.
The first thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no difference between the Windows and Mac versions other than the fact that the Mac version, when started, blends directly into the desktop, as all Mac apps do. Also, whereas the Windows button uses "ctrl" button key commands, the Mac uses "command" button commands, but the associated letter is exactly the same. Ctrl-C to copy, ctrl-V to paste, ctrl-"up" to kick it up an octave, ctrl-Z to undo. Replace "ctrl" with "command" (actually with a weird, percent-like symbol on the button) and it's exactly the same.
Then I noticed something else. One of my gripes about Mac in the past was the fact that it didn't allow detailed file management like DOS/Windows, LINUX, or any UNIX-based system. However, I noticed something on OS X when I went to save a new music file. There was a tag on the file name, i.e. a dot followed by three letters. That surprised me, because it was such a DOS/Windows thing. It also surprised me that it was the same tag used by the Windows version. That gave me an idea. I went and got a CD-R that had copies of all my compositions and arrangements made with Siberius (Windows version) to date and popped it into the G5. The computer read the files, formed the program association, and worked normally. Neat! I can use DOS files on OS X without any extra virtual PC software.
I can also use many kinds of DOS files on Lindows, the version of LINUX installed on some of the computers in the English department, and also on the Open-format LINUX that runs on my wife's little pocket assistant. It would appear that the differences between the different OSes in the world are gradually being erased. The file standard is becoming universal, the programming languages compatible, and the operating approach based on the same general idea. The only really noticeable difference between the OSes is becoming the "funk factor", i.e. the personality and level of customization. There are also issues of speed, reliability, and convenience. Even so, it seems like the whole cyber world is being grouped together to form one, big, co-functional family, if a bit dysfunctional at times. I can understand and accept it all from the standpoint of convenience. After all, standardization can be a very good thing. However, it also kind of takes the fun out of it. If the only really noticeable difference between Windows and Mac is the look of the desktop, one has to wonder why we even need to have the choice. Why do we need Lindows, Red Hat, Corel LINUX, whatever, if it just all ends up being another version of DOS? Or is it all really just various incarnations of UNIX? It's kind of a shame, really. Variety is the spice of life, and all this uniformity is making things kind of bland. Easy to use, just like American Budweiser is easy to drink, but lacking in flavor. Too much of a good thing, even togetherness, can't be all that good.
Speaking of which...
At my son's kindergarten's field day last month a surprise announcement was made. Rumors had been bouncing around for quite some time, but now it's official. Next January, our sleepy, little town of Aso (motto: Who needs roads when there are so many kilometers of driveways?) is going to jump on the consolidation bandwagon. Kashima started it several years ago when it digested Ono village and became Kashima City. Then Itako swallowed up the neighboring town of Ushibori a couple of years ago and became Itako City (giving the residents of the former Ushibori a 38% increase in their water and sewer bills...much to their displeasure). Then it was announced that Kamisu and Hasaki are going to merge to become Kamisu City. Well, rumors bounced around here for a while, but now it's official: next January, Aso and the neighboring towns of Tamatsukuri and Kitaura are going to go through anti-mitosis and become Namegata City. I won't even have to move, and I will become a city dweller next year...if only in name.
The progressives are happy, because now they can say they no longer live in a country town. Businesses are happy, because consolidation reduces certain forms of red tape and makes for an easier infrastructure. The general folk, however, are fuming. Some are practically frothing at the mouth. You see, these towns have a long history, and their populations are mostly rather old. They have a lot of local pride which is threatened to some degree by the consolidation. There is also the no small matter that Aso and Tamatsukuri have long disliked each other, as the strange, little "mall war" that occurred here recently attests. These are mostly very simple, down-to-earth people who live in neighborhoods where there are several dozen households but only two or three different last names. They know who they are, where they came from, and what they want for dinner every night of their lives. They also know that "them folks over across the line" are not to be associated with. But now they're told they're going to be living in the same city. Tarnation, but things like that can get under a man's hide!
I don't know why they're worried, though. I couldn't see the city for the tobacco fields and pig pens...
Hmm....I know the Aso town offices use Windows. I wonder if Tamatsukuri or Kitaura use Mac. It doesn't matter. They're all pretty much the same thing now, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Comparatively Precise:

Quit making things fun and remove the comments! Just kidd....


Don Snabulus said...

As luck would have it, Mac OS X is built on the FreeBSD operating system, a Linux-like Unix variant. FreeBSD has a more business friendly licensing structure allowing someone like Apple to come in and shellack some pretty icons over the top of it.

Mac OS 10.3 has an X Windows package that ought to allow the vast majority of Unix X-Windows programs like GIMP, math programs, business apps, and a zillion games to run on a Mac. I find their print engine to be annoyingly slow and the mail client lacks some important features, but overall it is a nice setup.

Nothing compares to the gee-whiz coolness of OS/2 as it was the most stable PC system until Windows 2000 finally came out. We had a workstation at my old job that we didn't reboot for two years; not a server, but a heavily used PC. I had to turn it off for an OS upgrade and the fan immediately died...apparently run ragged.

Apple has some nice 3D stuff in OS X that transferred well when Microsoft ripped it off for XP.

ElTigris said...

Microsoft never rips off anything ..it borrows without giving credit to ...then tis its own ....another wonderful product..and dont you dare say otherwise...the corporate lawyer office is itching to start a new lawsuit