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naive users suffer

Yesterday I wrote about discovering that my mac became distressingly slow when paired with some peripherals I hadn't used with that particular machine before. I investigated and eventually deduced that the problem was the version of USB supported by my machine's hardware. A naive user, or even a moderately powerful software user, would not have a chance of figuring out a bus bandwidth mismatch. To determine that I only had USB 1.0 support, I looked at Apple's tech specs for this powerbook, which is in itself a challenge, because the powerbooks are differentiated by parenthetical keywords like "DVI" and "Gigabit Ethernet". Again, if I'm a naive user, there's no way I could figure out which one I have. Consulting the tech specs, I found that I had two 12 Mbps USB ports. When I do the math, that sounds slow for disk access: 1 gig = 1000 Mb = around 80 seconds if everything is cruising at top speed -- bleck. But it didn't say "USB 1.0" anywhere. Tech specs of later powerbooks explicitly said USB 2.0. Combined with the observed performance problems, I concluded that the problem was the USB version.
There's no way a naive user could have figured this out. Even if they took the machine into a genius bar, they probably would have left the peripherals home, and the genius would just say, "it's operating as well as we could expect for a machine this old; if you want it faster you'd better buy a new machine."
I'm not saying I'm such a whiz with diagnosing hardware issues; far from it! My point is that many people are subject to sub-optimal user experiences because of subtle hardware and software incompatibilities.
All of which I suppose points to a more general idea: naive users of any technology or discipline suffer from their lack of expertise. My car could be tuned better; my taxes could be lower; my house could be heated more efficiently; my cel phone probably has superpowers it's hiding from me. I'm not sure what to do about this, though. Learn everything about everything? Okay! Good thing I've got another 60 years to live.

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Reader Comments (1)

why not upgrade your IO subsystem then?

Either get an internal drive that's big enough you don't need an external, or get an external that uses firewire.

You could even just get an external firewire enclosure and move your existing external to the new enclosure.

This way you spend a few hundred bucks now to delay buying a new Mac until after Macworld. I think it'll be break-even on cost; new models represent a several hundred dollar discount off current models.

1.5.2008 at 06:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoofusdan

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