Doctor Smoke Interview (Part One)

By Graham K. Rogers

GKR: Why Mac, why OSX?

I always admired Macs. My wife is also a fan . . . and had the opportunity to work with them in a job she had once. When it came time to buy computers for our household, I decided to give the Mac a fair trial. Though I worked for IBM at the time, the employee discount was minimal and I was frankly tired of Windows. Apple had not yet opened their retail stores, but they had a sales office nearby and let me spend a couple of hours there playing with a Power Mac G4 desktop. I fell in love with Macs right there!

GKR: What are the major problems you see?

  1. People encountering bugs in Mac OS X or Mac OS X-based applications. These include flawed code, but I take a broader view of what constitutes a "bug," such as:

  2. Self-inflicted wounds: basically shooting themselves in the foot. They failed to implement backup and recovery, perform the little maintenance required to keep their system running smoothly, or installed questionable software, such as hacks that modify the operating system. Now they're in trouble, often deep trouble. Preventing these kinds of problems is a major focus of my books.

  3. Hardware: a good number of problems are related to broken or incompatible hardware, including peripherals.

GKR: Your book is only available as a pdf download: why?

First, it is an electronic book -- an e-book -- which is more flexible in many ways than a paper-based book. With an e-book, one can search the entire contents of the book, zoom in on text or images for a better look, have the computer read the book to you if you are visually impaired, and address similar usability issues with physical books. E-books are also environmentally friendly: no trees are felled nor paper required to publish them. One cannot get a paper cut from an e-book.

My e-books make heavy use of hyperlinks, both to content within the book and on the Internet. For example, if there's a well-crafted answer to a problem already on the Web, I can provide a link to it in the book. . . . Likewise I can provide related links to additional material on the Internet. For example, there are some good tutorials on the Web concerning how hard drives work. I include links to those in the chapter on Disk Utilities. . . . I'd estimate that if everything in my latest book, including all the linked content, were printed, it would be something in the range of 1,500 pages or more, though the e-book itself is 620 pages. [edited]

GKR: Suggestions for new users and for those having problems?

My approach to troubleshooting emphasizes preventing problems before they happen, and being prepared:

  1. Implement a comprehensive backup and recovery solution . . . and use it regularly. Hard drives fail, albeit rarely, but a backup can save your hide!

  2. Don't panic. I often see posts where people have run into a serious problem and their writing indicates that they are in a blind panic. [This] can often lead to more problems, ineffective troubleshooting, or taking extreme measures (formatting and reinstalling) when just a little time spent taking a breath and approaching the problem methodically will save time and aggravation.

  3. Take good notes. My father was fond of saying "pencil and paper never forget." He was right. Computers are complex systems. Folks install updates, new applications, and hardware only to lose track of license codes, warranty information, and any recollection of what they installed when. Keeping what I call a Mac Diary for tracking this information can be invaluable in troubleshooting. For example, after installing Mac OS X Updates, problems often arise because of an incompatibility between some bit of third-party shareware one installed months ago and the new version of the OS. Having a Mac Diary in which one recorded third-party software installs can help narrow the list of possible candidates when looking for a conflict.

GKR: Are computers magic?

Arthur C. Clarke wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Computers aren't there yet, although there are probably people who would swear otherwise. I have yet to recommend exorcism as a troubleshooting technique.

Continued. . . .

The entire (unedited) interview is now available online.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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