Reading the Manual

by scotslawstudent

I’m going wildly off topic today but I was reading a post by Danny Sullivan about his new MacBook Pro.  Now, I love Macs and I make no secret of this but I cannot afford one.  I also love computers and make it a point of pride to develop an all round understanding of how they work, I’ve dabbled in everything from DIY radio frequency networking (actually not as interesting once it’s finished as when you’re researching the regulations, sourcing parts and generally getting it working) to a spot of programming and now I write a legal blog so I consider my proficiency in most areas to be pretty high.  I consider my proficiency directly related to my willingness to sit down and read documentation, whether that be a glossy user manual or a UNIX man page, if I want to learn something I’ll look it up.

“First challenge. How to get the software into the Mac. See, the Mac DVD player is cool. Nothing slides out. You just shove the disc in. But I wondered if it was working since the disc didn’t get “grabbed” until it was almost entirely in. But nice — it’s a pain having the disc carriers slide out. Ejecting was another issue. I could not figure it out. Totally lost.”

Yes, I understand that this man is indulging in a bit of comic excess here and I’m cherry picking (he later installs an entire virtualised operating system, so he’s not a novice user) and blowing it out of all proportion but the fact remains.  He got a disc stuck in his fully functional and highly expensive laptop and I find that slightly surprising.  Even without owning a modern Apple computer I happen to know:

  1. There’s a key on most, if not all, Apple keyboards since about 1998 marked with the internationally recognised eject symbol*  and pressing it will make the drive spit its contents out. I’ve not looked at the new MB/MBP closely enough remember if it does and I suspect the MacBook Air might not need one but I’d be comfortable assuming for now.
  2. I also know that dragging the CD’s desktop icon to the Trash will make the disc eject.  (Not the most intuitive step, I know but if you’re used to it it’s very fast and that’s just how Macs do it)
  3. Pressing and holding F12 for 2 seconds will eject the disc.
  4. You can even perform a Command-Option-O-F boot and type “eject disc”.
  5. If all that fails you can push a straightened paperclip into the little hole next to the drive slot to trigger the physical button.
  6. The old versions of Mac OS (not checked this way in years, never needed to, see 1-5 above) had an eject disc option in the Special Menu

That’s purely from my computing general knowledge which has been picked up from my general life experience as someone who is reasonably willing to fix a friend’s computer.  I wouldn’t expect someone else to just instinctively know all that, I didn’t – I had to go out and learn it, but I would be comfortable expecting them to know what the quick start guide says about ejecting discs.  They don’t have to read it religiously before the computer is even unpacked but when they have a problem perhaps it’s worth a look.  I believe in trying to help yourself and a good way to do that is letting the manufacturer help you.  Apple knows that most laptops have buttons on the side that makes the CD come out and that theirs are different.

The odd thing is that this post has triggered a surprising reaction of what I suspect is jealousy in me.  I simply cannot afford a MacBook Pro if I factor in ongoing financial commitments like buying food and I understand that.  Instead I use a cherished collection of primarily hand assembled and carefully tuned computing equipment which serves my purposes extremely well and I’d only like a Mac because I used one as a child and the marketing has brainwashed me and they’re nice.

That said, I’d like to think that I’d read at least the quick start guide for my new couple/few thousand pound laptop (if not the full manual) even if only for the sake of checking there wasn’t some feature I didn’t know about.  The reaction of my enthusiastic amateur self to the mental image of someone sitting in front of a shiny new computer that’s out of my economic league and idly poking at it with a murmured “Huh, look at that, it’s eaten my CD” is unexpectedly shocking.  That’s slightly worrying food for thought I think.  I’ll have to seek out a glamour model using one of the high end MacBook Pros to check their MySpace for comparison.

Is this the scotslawstudent admitting he’s a closet sociopath and voracious reader of technical documentation?  Well, kinda actually. But really I’m trying to make a point about the best move a computer user can make if they find themselves in an unfamilar environment is to stop, take stock of what they want to do and dig out some of the paper they previously ignored in the box. It’s often very, very helpful. Also, MacBook Pros are awesome, aren’t they?

The internationally recognised eject symbol

*The internationally recognised eject symbol