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When Windows Turns Second-Class Citizen

In August, I agreed to help out a good friend–namely Chris Minnick of Minnick Web Services–by tech editing his forthcoming book WebKit For Dummies. Little did I know what profound effects this decision would have on my personal and professional life!

Webkit is a way-cool open source technology that calls itself a Web browswer engine, but is really much, much more. It’s also the same engine that runs under the hood in Mac OS X underneath Safari, Dashboard, Mail, and lots of other applications that enable access to Internet services(especially those based on the HTTP/HTTPS protocols).

In editing the book, I quickly realized I would have to acquire a Macintosh PC because that’s what Chris used to generate most of the screen shots for the software referenced in the book. This was followed by the need for an iPhone, which represented the mobile platform that Webkit so frequently targets–namely iOS 5. In turn, this led to an iPad so I could see what was up with that “insanely great” tablet, and then an iPod Touch, so my 7-year-old son would give me my iPhone 4S back.

Along the way, I realized several things I’d known in theory but not in practice. First and foremost, it’s both interesting and frustrating to wander into a world where Windows machines are tolerated and encouraged, but where they play a distinctly second-class role. Second and perhaps more stimulating is all the learning I’ve been forced to do to understand how the Maciverse (or is that Appleverse) works, and how I can do what comes quickly and easily to me in the Windows environment on the other side of this street.

Some of this stuff comes naturally or simply, but some of it is a real struggle. There haven’t been too many cases of “you can’t get there from here” so far, but I have found plenty of reasons to take the long way around in figuring out how to move music, video, and other stuff from PC to Apple platforms. I’ve also learned of the nearly irresisitible allure of iTunes for the younger generation, which is whacking off hunks of our monthly nut in little but insatiable $0.99 or $1.29 bites.

It’s really great to get into something that’s so well engineering and so attractive looking. I’ve yet to encounter any obvious bugs, either, and so far have had to recover from only one mysterious hardware glitch across all four of my Apple platforms (after shutting down my MacBook Air at a client site last Friday, I couldn’t get my screen to illuminate with proper brightness after a restart at home; a second restart fixed the problem instantly, however).

So here I go again, climbing a massive learning curve. I must say this one is proving to be quite a bit of fun. Now, if only I had more time to really learn EVERYTHING in depth, so that I could ascend to power user status in record time. But that’s not the way the game works, so  I’ll just have to keep ploughing away until I can develop some perspective and useful experience. The funny thing is, my first computer — purchased way back in 1984 at the UT Austin Apple Store — was a 512K Fat Mac, and I was a total Mac bigot until 1994 when I switched over entirely to Windows. Now, I’m trying to straddle that gap again, and realizing how much I’ve forgotten but even more how very much things have changed. That’s life!

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