My Book reviews /

The Cult of Mac

Title The Cult of Mac
Authors Leander Kahney
Publisher No Starch Press
Date 2004-10-25
Pages 280
ISBN 1886411832

I have read Leander KahneyтАЩs Cult of Mac and liked it a lot. Even though I am not a Mac user and never owned any Mac gadgets I thought that the book is very interesting. It is describing a unique phenomenon in our culture when lots of people go crazy for a computer.

Being a computer user is not always an enjoyable experience. The software is not intuitive, the hardware is not reliable and so on. In fact, it is quite possible to imagine a society that abandons computers in favor of handwritten book-keeping. After reading this book I got convinced that this would never happen.

Computers are surrounded with eternal love. They are taken care of throughout their life cycle. Their purchase or birth is marked with extensive parties often videotaped. Even their packaging is saved тАУ furniture is built of it. As computers get older their guts are replaced with newer content. There are computers 30 years old and still working. Often, one family owns as much as a dozen Macs. If one of them is not used then it is converted into a Macquarium. People decorate their computers with pictures, place Apple graphics on their bodies and cars and advertise them in hundreds of different ways.

In general, people do not treat each other as carefully as they treat their Macs. A take-home point from this very optimistic book is that beautiful things are not created but rather developed. Everybody is welcome to the exciting world of computing technology!

The book is very detailed and provides lots of URLs. A few of those are simply defunct nowdays others have not been renovated for years. Given the fast pace of improvement of web technology I was surprised with conservatism of Mac web. A structure of a typical Mac web site is largely flat. There are categories, then sub-categories, then actual news stories. It is not Digg-style where there are a few top stories that you got to check out. On Mac web sites interesting content is often at the bottom of the page or buried in the the middle. The rate of adoption of Javascript is very low. Content first, style second. This in fact contradicts with Mac ideology. Each Mac computer has uniquely beautiful style. The Apple web site is also quite nice though. The web of Mac users represents their deeply inter-connected nature. In certain ways, it is the social web rather than Digg technology when lots of people who never met each other are creating gossips.

I have gathered bookmarks from the book using delicio. Each book needs a page with bookmarks and space for notes. It is not necessarily a computer science book. If it is a politics book then it should link to politicians names whenever they are occurring in the text. Semantic web is trying to solve this problem but how to approach it with a paper book? In other words, if there is a printed book do I need to enter all the interesting URLs manually? Electronic book readers is a promising technology but those available today are mostly oriented toward reading rather than Internet browsing. Ideally, upon loading a book to an electronic reader, a semantic Web application should find the names of people, places, events and link them to Wikipedia, for example. The hardware should support Internet browsing. Thus, if there is a link in the book describing certain web site clicking the link should open a web browser window.

All right, I started discussing Semantic web тАУ quite an exciting technology with lots of obstacles though. I am keeping my eye on it for a year now and I am using a few Semantic web sites these days. Instead of describing them in plain text I should convert my blog into semantic blog and let the web mind take over my writings.