This Month: March Madness Strikes Again – How to Take Control of the Family Mac
The Lame Excuse
Hello once again, fellow Mac lovers. Those of you that have been readers of My Mac for quite a while may remember a column I wrote this time last year. I included a lengthy self-pity paragraph about how busy I was in the spring. Last March, I had track practices, play practices, band contests, choir contests, and speech contests to attend and prepare for, and also had to worry about keeping my grades up. Well, guess what time of year it is again?
The trouble with being a high school senior is that people seem to expect you to almost be a college freshman at the same time. In addition to the above activities, all of which I am involved in again this year, I am also being troubled with scholarship applications, recruiting visits, financial aid forms, and a lot of other paperwork that needs attending to. Trust me, when you’ve decided to attend a private college instead of a state university, and the annual tuition is roughly twice what I paid for my used Grand Am, there are a lot of scholarship applications that need filling out. Anyway, the point is that I thought I was busy last year, and I’m easily busier this year.
How does all of this relate to my column? Well, this month’s Wall Writings kind of got put on the back burner, so to speak. And stayed there. For a long time. When the middle of the month rolled around and I decided I needed to write something before Tim decided to e-mail the Good Times virus or something equally vengeful, I was greeted with an incomprehensible rough draft of notes, thoughts, and gibberish.
I wanted to write something that was comprehensible, and also wanted it to be original and well-written. I didn’t have any time to start researching a topic, seeing as how by now I was already past deadline. And, after writing about the labor movement’s role in fostering economic justice in the United States or some such essay topic, I was fresh out of creative juices.
So, I decided two out of three wasn’t bad, and forgot about the originality part of my column. What you are about to read originally appeared in the e-zine About This Particular Macintosh, in September of 1995. It was my first-ever published column, and I’d like to thank former ATPM publisher Danny Novo for giving me a chance. (I also would like to thank Tim for inviting me aboard My Mac after my limited success with this article, and, more recently, thank him for allowing me to cop-out and reprint this article this month.) This remains my personal favorite of all of my Wall Writings columns, and I have gotten more positive feedback from readers about this piece than any other. So, I hope you enjoy it. Now, excuse me, but I better get started on my May column, so maybe I’ll be on time next month… (Editor’s note- Good idea, Mike!)
How To Make a Mac Yours (Even if It Isn’t)
Okay, not the best title in the world, I admit. And, this article doesn’t include stealing, either. No, this is for all of you out there that have a Mac in your home that you must share with other members of your family. I, for example, must contend with both of my parents, and my younger sister and brother for time at the computer. However, using a few tricks and a couple of little white lies, I have become the primary – and almost the only – user of our LC 575. This is how I (almost) did it.
First, prey on the technophobes. Most people who have little experience with computers, or those that are just plain scared of machines, are easy to get rid of because they will believe pretty much anything.
For example, my mother and my sister are easily freaked out. When we first got our Mac, they wanted to use it, of course. The catch here was that in the past the machine had always been turned on before they started using it. They never figured out how to start it. My mother had never seen an extended keyboard before, only the small one we had with our first Mac, an original LC. So, she asked what “that key all by itself in the corner with the little triangle” was for. I promptly told her that it was to be used only in emergencies and would delete the entire hard drive. Heh, heh.
Another tactic that works well is to make it very complex. If you want to adhere to this strategy, get a Windows PC. Complexity to the max!!!
To me this is not a satisfactory option. I am a devoted Mac enthusiast, and I had the task of making an otherwise wonderfully simple machine rather complex and scary-looking. This prompted me to install both QuickDraw GX and PowerTalk, add a StuffIt Expander alias and an Important Documents folder to the desktop, and change the desktop pattern. All of this served very little purpose other than to clutter up the desktop and scare off the rest of my family. Adding a slew of control panels and extensions to the system didn’t hurt, either. This added to the screen clutter during startup and also increased the startup time considerably.
By this time, my mother and sister had been sufficiently scared off, as the average technophobe should be. They quit using my dear Mac (uh, I mean my family’s Mac), and if anything needed typing, they’d usually ask me to do it. I, of course, was happy to oblige.
The more technologically-inclined usually will not fall for this, though. They are often proficient enough that they know all the tricks of the trade (or at least enough), and can avoid the previously mentioned obstacles rather easily (holding the shift key down during startup to disable extensions, for example). So, if you start feeling the crunch after you have successfully warded off the technophobes, feel free to delete QuickDraw GX, PowerTalk, and any extensions you can do without. I sure did – my computer only had 8 Megs RAM, and I wasn’t too thrilled about my system software using five of them! My dad was too smart to be fooled my this trick, anyway. He is a computer teacher at school, for heaven’s sake, and the shift-key trick was easily within his mental capacities. Getting rid of him and my brother, or even just your average computer nerd, would prove much harder.
You can still start small in your endeavors, however. My first step was to turn the power off in back, so when the power key on the keyboard was hit, nothing would happen. This did the trick for a while, but not for long. My dad’s school is sadly populated with Mac Classics and such, to the point where the secretary’s LC II is considered a high-end machine. He was used to turning the computers on and off in back. Even if your expert adversary has never used a computer without soft power, don’t expect this trick to work for long.
You can also try to drop subtle hints, and hope that the expert will find it in his heart to listen to you. Fat chance, though. Big sticky notes on the desktop (both computerized and real-life) saying things like “Hands Off” and “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” didn’t work for me. My dad has no sense of humor, much like most experts.
This usually means war. There are a couple of things that can be so nasty, so heartless, that I have my reservations about telling you. But, it is an option. Here is the first all-out war tactic. Take all of your applications that are most-often used, and hide them. Put some in the System folder, put others inside other, totally unrelated folders, others into totally new folders. Rename some folders, and delete others. Switch things around, and now only you know where to find your most useful pieces of software. To be safe, you can even hide SimpleText, disable the “Recent Applications” and “Recent Documents” folders in the Apple menu, and also disable the Easy Open control panel. Of course, any document that had already been saved to disk could be opened, but no new one could be created without finding the program first!!!
This tactic can do the job very nicely for you if you are on equal terms with your adversary. Unfortunately, that was not the case with me. After some searching and frustration, my dad gave me a stern talking-to. Reluctantly, I put everything back in its proper place. Hopefully, this will not be your fate. It was mine, however. Still, I was determined to have the last laugh, and resorted to my ultimate, last line of defense.
This final tactic is only to be used in extreme cases. It is so evil, you can be sure that everyone involved will be scarred for life. If you really want your own Macintosh bad enough, though, this may be just the trick that pushes that persistent expert over the edge. Unplug and hide the mouse. This will make life very inconvenient for anyone trying to use the computer. It is not impossible to function without one, of course, but very annoying. Besides, how many people do you know that have every single keyboard shortcut memorized? Sooner or later, even the expertest of the experts will need the mouse.
I really, sincerely hope that your problems end here. If that is not the case, I can’t help you. This is far as I dared go. My paternal figure found no humor whatsoever in this mouse-hiding endeavor. He, in turn, threatened to take away the one thing that matters most to a just-turned-16-year-old — the car keys. So, I gave him back the missing hardware faster than you can say “Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II.” Whoa, that was a close call indeed. I learned the hard way that you just can’t beat someone who provides for you and owns the roof you sleep under. Bummer.
So, in the end, paternal authority won out in my case. But, that does not need to happen to you. Think about some of these ideas. If they help you out, there’s no need to thank me. I enjoy helping others. 😉 If your endeavors turn out much the way mine did, well, I never promised you an apple orchard. These tactics come without warranty or customer support.
The self-help section ends here, but I thought you might want to know the epilogue to my story. My understanding parents finally saw how much I loved our Mac, and they also saw how much damage I could do if I wanted. Not wanting to go through all that again, they let me have almost-unlimited access to my favorite appliance (except for the fridge and running head-to-head with my stereo). All’s well that ends well, I guess.
Well, not quite. You see, my mother didn’t like being lied to, my father didn’t like all the trouble I caused, and my younger siblings didn’t like the black eyes they received (oops! I didn’t tell you about THAT tactic!). My parents aren’t the strictest in the world, but I still won’t have much of a social life until I graduate… Like I said, there’s no warranty on these tips, so don’t come crying if you get chained to a wall like me!!!
Mike Wallinga is a 16-year old Mac enthusiast and a junior in high school. As he mentioned, he was grounded for his crimes listed above. He is looking forward to seeing his friends again after he is free, which should be shortly after the turn of the century. In the meantime, he really hopes you can brighten his day by sending him feedback at MLWALL@eworld.com. Anyone who thinks that this article was a work of nonfiction should especially reply, because Mike has some land in Florida you might want to buy from him. This article is © 1995 by Mike Wallinga.
There you have it. I even included my original bio paragraph, complete with my old eWorld e-mail address. Amazing how dated the article seems, even after only a year and a half. Well, I do hope you enjoyed this blast from the past as much as I enjoyed not writing anything, and I hope you’ll come back next month, when I promise to have something more timely for you to read. I hope…
Mike Wallinga (firstname.lastname@example.org)