Article: Hard a Port: Riding the Rough Seas of USB ‘Plug and Pray’

by on August 9, 2002

Ahh, the wonderful ease and simplicity of the Mac. What’s that then? I just seem to get hassle, as I suspect so many others do too. Yes, my iMac is cute and funky and fluffy and fuzzy, but it’s still not a joy to use. USB ports are a particular niggle of mine. It’s bad enough that the Mac will lock up on me under normal conditions, but its all the worse when a guest has come to visit and is looking at our ‘cool’ PC.

“Yes average Joe, come cast a furtive glance over our Indigo life styled beast, feel the smooth edged exterior and stylized optical mouse, laugh to see that in fact, its no better than your average common or garden PC, then collapse in hysterics to learn that we paid so much for it!”

Our Mac has a special place in its heart for our scanner. All I have to do is cast a glance towards the USB lead from the scanner and the Mac breaks into a sweat. These last few days I’ve been lucky, and the scanner has worked perfectly. Why is this? Maybe it’s because I’ve owned the iMac now for about a year and a half, and I’ve got it ticking over nicely, I’m aware of the foibles and issues that come with operating Mac OS 9, and have adjusted to them.

This is the nub of my problem also. The Mac is advertised to be an easy machine to use, and I only half believe that, because PCs are just as easy nowadays. Back in 1998 when the iMac was first released, the divide between average Mac and PC use was much larger. PCs nowadays have their cables color coded, the software fairly intuitive and it pretty much works. I’m sure they have the same USB issues, but ‘plug and play’ is such a half baked concept, and it makes the whole ‘ease’ thing a bitter pill to swallow.

So many peoples’ problems stem from the fact that they are trying to plug USB powered devices in their Mac keyboard USB ports. It’s not evident anywhere that USB ports can be powered and unpowered. How many times do I come across USB port problems in discussion boards? Countless, and its not because I can’t count past three either.

I would like a page in the Mac book that comes with each new machine, signifying the difference between powered and unpowered ports, and what it means for your sanity. USB should be as easy to use as your home video recorder, and if they tell us how it should be right from the outset, things would be so much easier.

I feel sorry for the poor types who think there is something wrong with their machine, when in fact there isn’t. Just a sentence in that book on USB ports would be nice. I know plenty of people who don’t have the time, or the inclination to visit message boards, or read articles to make their computers run better, or as they should. There are plenty of people who believe the machine should run fine straight out of the box.

My point is that USB claims to be the simplest thing ever, and it just isn’t. Now, how do I open this candy bar wrapper?

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