photo via lakerae on Flickr

I have blogged about many topics since the summer of 2004. I've addressed modern racism in America, Jerry Falwell's meddling with Oreo Cookies, and Dave Chappelle's "theft" of my joke. None of these, however, got as massive an immediate reaction as this morning's post "i hate the smugness of apple." Check out the comment section.

The Situation

I spent nearly two hours last night trying to install a set of software called Final Cut Studio. The process kept getting cut short, though. I'd get these messages that would pop up and say "There were errors installing this software. Please try again." There was no hint of what the problem might be. I was just told to "please try again." I did, and the same useless error message kept appearing. Each attempt to install took about 45 minutes. Anyone can see how this might be frustrating.

I searched the apple support forums as the phone lines were closed at that hour. I became frustrated, and all I could think of were those "Get a Mac" ads. You know the ads. They're very popular. They're funny. They're cute. And, moreso than other advertising, they pissed me off. Those ads basically say that Macs never have problems. They never crash. They "just work." Only idiots would use PCs, according to these ads.

Now, I'm a fan of technology, computers and Apple. I recommend Macs to friends seeking computer advice. I "got a mac" two years ago and have had a better experience with it than with prior PCs. I know computers well. I paid for college with a combination of software testing and advanced technical support jobs supporting PCs and Macs. I built a TiVo before there was such a thing as TiVo. I am not an idiot.

But those damn ads bug me. They bug me in the same way elements of the Republican Party bug me.

The Republican Party attempted and succeeded in identifying itself with religion and morality. To hear them tell it, if Jesus were alive, he'd be their party chairman. This attachment to a certain branch of Christian religion has served the party well. They've gotten ministers to promote their candidates and created a litmus test for purity that keeps all but the most sure-minded and thick-skinned of candidates from seeking nominations.

But there is a cost. As I mentioned in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal:
When you present yourself as perfect, you are asking to be brought down by your inevitable imperfections. The Republicans made morality a partisan issue, and now they are getting what they deserve.

Apple has become increasingly aggressive in its attacks on Microsoft. That's cool. It's a marketing tactic, but the strategy is dangerously arrogant and, yes, smug. When you tell me your products don't crash, and then my computer crashes, or you say "unlike a pc, it just works" while I'm suffering from your well-documented "random shutdown syndrome," that poses a problem. You have set yourself up for an inevitable fall or at least, frustrated users.

Fanboys or Racists and Rapists?

I'm a black dude who grew up in Washington, D.C. with its hometown "redskins" football team. That name is horribly racist and derogatory, at least according to many Native American tribes who have protested its use for some time now. I remember bringing this up in high school, and many of my friends would say, "no, it's not racist." Uh, excuse me, but the Native people say it is. "No, it's not."

Women are sadly familiar with this routine. If a woman is sexually harassed or even raped, often the first questions challenge what she was wearing or "doing there." The implication is that she either brought it on herself, or it didn't happen. "I got raped." "No, you didn't."

This is denying the validity of someone's experience, and I've come across it all too often on lighter issues involving technology. The Palm Treo is a fine example. Search the discussion board for people having problems. If you don't tow the party line, people actually personally attack you and claim that either what you said didn't happen or that it was all your fault. The "redskins" can't be racist, and that woman just misunderstood, and Apple isn't smug at all.

The comments I got on that piece were something else. I'll share:
The ads are what David does to Goliath. If you're with Goliath's crew, you'll find the ads annoying. We David's cheer when they come on.

As for your install, sorry. Macs are computers and sometimes they do fail and sometimes they do frustrate. If you're coming from the PC world, as I suspect you are, you may not yet understand the Macintosh way, which is to not overthink things.

A cross-upgrade? Does this require FCP to recognize the program you're replacing it with? I suggest reinstall the original program, then install FCP.

Best wishes,

Richard Taylor

Oh, now I get it. I'm with Goliath's crew. That completely explains why my installation didn't work. Clearly my mind is not yet prepared, and I must continue to study "the Macintosh Way" until I figure out how to not "overthink things." I would love for you to explain to me just how I overthought things. Seriously. I've been trying to figure it out, but I'm afraid I may be overthinking how I overthought the situation. Richard Taylor, I respectfully ask you to STFU. Are you kidding me? I follow the instructions, insert the DVDs as told, and the process fails. Somehow this is a reflection of my spiritual unworthiness. Oh please STFU!!
I love the smugness of Apple.

I'll go further, I love the ARROGANCE of Apple - that's what it is most of the time.

When things don't work - you're fairly certain it's your own fault, and it's up to you to figure out the solution - rather than screaming to the heavens that the people who sold you the machine screwed it all up.

So much of my ego is wrapped up in the elite cloud of Mac Zealotry that surrounds me that I REFUSE to let something not work on my Mac. I will make it work (or just declare that it isn't worth doing).

With Windows, I'm usually convinced it's a bug right away and give up because I don't have the slightest bit of my self-image wrapped up in whether or not Windows "just works".

- Steve

Steve. It sounds like they got to you, buddy. Because you use a Mac, you assume that all problems are your own fault? That sounds like an abusive, unhealthy relationship. Is this the mysterious "Macintosh Way" Richard espouses? I'll let you in on something, Steve. Sometimes daddy makes mistakes. Sometimes the teacher is wrong. Get some self-esteem and take control of your life man.
Only nerds, professional IT workers (and only the ones that use MS software exclusively), and people who work for MS-centric publications are offended by these commercials.

- Tedious

Ok, so first. STFU. How did you even find my blog? Why did you comment? What are you? Some kind of nerd or something?
Do you mean upgrade? Final cut anything is an Apple only product. How do you cross-grade?

- Joe S.

No. I mean "crossgrade" just like I said. Joe is the second commenter to question the crossgrade. For other uninformed haters who come along and question my understanding of technology. Check your beloved Apple website for an explanation.
One thing you can do is take a look at the various logs including your console.log and the system.log. Many times there is more information than is presented to the average user. You can find the console application in:


There might also be a specific installation log for the application you are trying to install.

The mere existence of these log files shows that Apple in no way believes that their system and application software never has problems. Don't confuse marketing with engineering.

- James Bailey

Thank you James. Really. You make a great point, and you actually tried to help. As for confusing marketing with engineering. Clearly I have done no such thing because the engineering doesn't always work. If I had confused marketing with engineering, I'd be engaged in self-flagellation, blaming myself just like Steve. As mentioned above, I just think Apple is playing a dangerous game with these claims of moral superiority. But really, you're the only one who offered something useful. So thanks.
I hate the smugness of your post

I mean, seriously, who the hell are you? What makes you qualified to criticize Apple? Who cares what you think? Sounds like you're dealing out a fair bit of smugness yourself.

So, ya, those Apple ads are ADS. Just like Microsoft never mentions the constant crashing and continuous onslaught of viruses in any of their ads, Apple doesn't mention that perhaps you might get in a situation you don't understand in their ads. What a surprise.

At least Apple has a basis for their smugness, you on the other hand, I'm not so sure about.

- nope

Who the hell am I? Who the hell am I??? I'm Baratunde Rafiq Thurston!!! This is my blog, fool! The real question is, who the hell are you?!?!?

What makes me qualified to criticize Apple? I'm a damn customer. I've spent thousands of dollars with them. I'm a human being! What is with you people? Why would you say something so retardedly retarded? Are you serious? Do I need to be a certain type of person to share my thoughts? What makes you qualified to criticize my criticism of Apple? Ooooh. Think about that. But please, don't overthink it. Then you'd be violating the Macintosh way.

As for who cares what I think. Clearly you do. You have no concept of the depth of your own irony. Damn.

The Solution

Today I called Apple's phone support and worked with a very nice guy named Shawn. He helped me figure out where the installation went wrong by looking into a "Receipts" folder for necessary packages. While a test was running in the background, I told him about my frustration with the Mac ads, and with the response to my post last night.

"Yeah, those commercials can be really frustrating when things are going wrong."

I couldn't believe he said that. I told him about the flamers and haters who assume I'm some sort of idiot. He went on.

"No, I could tell from the start you knew what you were talking about. We love customers like you."

And I love people like him. He validated my experience!! Thank you Shawn, for not being a racist or a rapist.

Update 2/28/07 @ 14:52: a reader emailed me a link to this Rolling Stone article: Is Apple the New Evil Empire?

Update 3/1/07 @ 16:25: The Wall Street Journal ran a story today about the Mac v PC ad campaign overseas and how Apple had to work to adjust the humor for Japanese and British audiences. I loved this part of the article, proving that the Brits get it :)
Even with the use of local comedians, the ads haven't received a completely warm reception in Britain. One newspaper columnist, Charlie Brooker of the Guardian, mocked Apple for trying to be too cool and delivering a "series of brutal coordinated attacks." "When you see the ads you think 'PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately loveable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers'," he wrote on February 5. (A tosser is a pretentious person.)

A polling firm, YouGov PLC, found respect for Apple fell in Britain after the ads started appearing in cinemas and Web sites January 29. According to a YouGov daily survey of 2,000 people, perceptions of the Apple brand, measured on a scale of 1 to 100, fell to 8 from 14 in the five days after the ads first appeared. "There was nothing else happening that we know of that would have moved the figure," says Sundip Chahal, brand index director at YouGov.