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Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I don't ever recall an issue with using the hockey puck in terms of losing direction, location or anything else.
Humans, as we all know, can accomodate and adapt to all kinds of conditions and abuse... but that doesn't exactly make Apple's design conceit a smart idea, nor does it in any way advance either humanity or technology. No, the round mouse was just plain stupid, no matter how hard you try to rationalize or RDF it. It is, in fact, the very essence of form over function and marks the start of the Ive-led decline in human-centered design at Apple.
 


For me, the original iMac round mouse was the most idiotic "design" Apple ever issued. It instantly removed fundamental feedback for the single most important control for the computer and was only usable with the help of third-party add-ons.
That was the last Apple mouse I ever used. It drove me to a Logitech mouse, and I've used them ever since. I re-evaluated when Apple corrected the sin of a circular mouse by releasing the Apple Pro Mouse, but it had an idiotic fatal flaw of requiring you to lift your left finger up while right-clicking to register the right-click. For me, that motion was unnecessary RSI strain.

Similarly, around the same time, a lack of ergonomic keyboard options sent me to Microsoft keyboard hardware.
 


I could tell which way it was pointing (1) because my normal hold on it put some fingers over the edges of the button, and (2) because I'd pay attention to what was going on on the screen. I don't ever recall an issue with using the hockey puck in terms of losing direction, location or anything else. Maybe because it was a genuine Apple product, you were just Holding It Wrong™. ;-)
I'm another who never had an issue with the round mouse - in fact there's one plugged in to the G3 on the desk beside me. The interface change that really irritated me was when ClarisWorks became ClarisWorks. I was (and still am) a big user of ClarisWorks/ClarisWorks can't understand how Apple thought it was more 'efficient' to have fewer large tool icons in a ribbon than a floating palette of 30 or so smaller icons. (And don't get me started on the difference between iWork 09 and the time-consuming hide and seek on the current versions of Pages and Keynote. Even when you have got the hang of it, they are much slower to use than the earlier versions.)
 


I never had a problem with the hockey puck mouse, nor with the much larger, three-button, circular Digital Equipment Corp. VSXXX-AA mice. My kids, 10 and 5 when we got a Rev. B Bondi Blue iMac, took to the hockey puck like ducks to water. They liked it a lot better than the old Apple Mouse on the II GS.
50* years of using first teletype, then terminal, and finally workstation and personal computer keyboards, and over thirty years of using a wide variety of mice, trackballs, joysticks, and mousepads have given me the impression that we all like what we're used to. Some people have physical limitations because of RSI, hand size, limb length, and the like, but most people get used to a new keyboard or mouse in a couple of weeks. Maybe it was my forbidding demeanor (not), but the only used who ever asked for a different input device was a sys admin with bad RSI in one wrist.

*52 if you count IBM 026 and 029 card punches.
You did not mention the Royal typewriter in high school typing class. Did you miss that experience?

As to hide-and-seek interface, I tried a two button mouse from a Windows PC early on -- Right-click worked, and I never went back to a one-button mouse. I have worn out several Microsoft Comfort Mouse 4500s over the years.
 


FWIW, I've never liked any of Apple's mice.
I'm with you on this. I also don't like any of Apple's pens/pencils; they each have their own issues (and, remember, I was one of the original folk working on PenPoint, so I thought about pens a lot).

This sort of gets back to one of the Ive-era problems: the basic form and design was promoted above and beyond function at times. Moreover, reduction in size and simplification of look was predominant. As I noted above, I don't have huge issues here, but so many small pragmatic details got lost along the way while chasing design-centric products.

What bothers me most is when Apple abandons something that was useful, like the charge light on laptops. In Africa at my photo workshops, we charge our computers off a special system we built into the vehicles. The problem? We can't tell when a laptop is fully charged, and we can put a new one on the system (we can't do everyone's laptops simultaneously, as the vehicle doesn't have enough simultaneous juice for that).
 


The mouse that gave me tennis elbow was the Apple single-button mouse of the later 80s, the rectangular-shaped one. Eventually I discovered three-button mice with software that provided a click-lock for dragging/moving. Other RSIs were also alleviated by using better mice. The problem for which changing equipment didn't offer a solution was the cubital tunnel issue caused by text entry. The only solution for that was to do far less typing on a keyboard.
 



I could tell which way it was pointing (1) because my normal hold on it put some fingers over the edges of the button, and (2) because I'd pay attention to what was going on on the screen. I don't ever recall an issue with using the hockey puck in terms of losing direction, location or anything else.
Maybe because it was a genuine Apple product, you were just Holding It Wrong™. ;-)
your milage may vary, of course.
What you did was find a way to get feedback on the orientation of the hockey puck mouse that made up from the lack of tactile information from its shape. Many mobile phones, particularly smartphones, give you little or no shape information to help you place the microphone near your mouth and the speaker close to your ear. Talking to another person gives feedback that helps you put the speaker in the right place to hear the other person, but you may not notice that the microphone is not picking up your voice unless someone says they can't hear you.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Having conquered the hockey puck idiocy with third-party help, it was the evil Apple wedge mouse that actually caused me enough injury that it forced a switch to the opposite hand to control the computer, and it was a few years before I could again mouse with my regular hand.
The mouse that gave me tennis elbow was the Apple single-button mouse of the later 80s, the rectangular-shaped one.
That's the same mouse (i.e. ADB Mouse)...
 


In my opinion, Apple has never produced a good mouse and produced only one really good keyboard (the Extended II). Long ago I started using a Kensington Turbo Mouse (a trackball). I still have a 1.0 sitting around somewhere, and if it had USB, it would still work. They were built like tanks. I now have an Expert Mouse (which is the descendant of the Turbo Mouse) that is in need of being replaced (the scroll ring rubber is disintegrating). It has seen heavy use for a good 13 years. I did have to get a Magic Trackpad a couple of years ago, because Apple insists on requiring gestures for some features. For me, Apple's inability to produce a usable mouse led me to discover that I am much more comfortable with a trackball with four programmable buttons. I spend my days in Pro Tools or Digital Performer creating, mixing & editing audio. The trackball approach just makes my workflow so much better.
 


As annoying as the hockey puck was, I'd take it over some of the huge "ergonomic" shaped mice with red taillights from the 2000's, and those trackball contraptions. For someone with small hands like mine, those were very uncomfortable and would have for sure overstressed my hand tendons if used for any length of time.
 




Other Ive "round-mouse" failures that should be fixed (un-deprecated)...

1) Bring back Save As. Has anyone mastered duplicate, move, expand window, browse to, save; without losing their mind?​
2) Bring back color labels to folders and the Finder. Ive color dots have little value compared to entire folders and Finder using color.​
3) Banish all hover-to-view options and hidden edge scrolling surprises. We can handle an arrow or gear to show advanced options.​
Ive's passion is aluminimum-machining simple shapes, not designing user interfaces.
 


Other Ive "round-mouse" failures that should be fixed (un-deprecated)...
...and the Magsafe, battery charge indicator lights, start-up 'gong', SD slot, etc., etc., etc.—all the things that made a laptop so functional, productive and easy to use without large numbers of dongles and other accessories! One of the many reasons I'm still using my mid-2012 MacBook Pro and will not upgrade.
 



I have a feeling that someone in May of 1987 spoke to my Geometry teacher or classmates. At the beginning of the year our teacher told us "Make sure you keep a notebook, because it will count for one quarter of your grade at the end of the year." I raised my hand and asked the teacher, "May we turn in a notebook of any shape or size, since this is geometry class, the notebook shouldn't be limited to just a cube?" The teacher replied "Sure, you can turn in a notebook any shape you want." At the time I was fascinated by having as little weight in my bookrack, as well as minimalism. So at the end of the year, for another class, I had painstakingly rewritten all my notes three lines to a single line on one sheet of college-rule notebook paper, front and back. This caused of course some attention and laughter when I turned it in for another class. Not very practical of course from a usability standpoint of actually studying or getting work done. But I did have the smallest, lightest weight notebook in that class. Reminds me of the current MacBook Pros.

Back to Geometry class. For this class we were asked to pass our notebooks forward the last week of school, which I did. I had been waiting all year for this, and of course after the one-page stunt, my boarding school classmates were waiting to see what I would do next. The teacher started looking at and marking off in his grade book, who had turned in a notebook. Then he asks where my notebook is. I said "It's right there on your desk, I can see it." He get upset a bit and tells me to come to the front of the room and show him my notebook. I get up from my desk and walk up and stand in front of him and the class and point to my notebook. He exclaims "That's not your notebook, thats an ink pen!" I said, "No that is my notebook in the geometric form of a cylinder. The information is stored in a highly compressed form inside it. If you don't know how to operate it I will be happy to show you." The class starts laughing and the teacher says "OK I'm going to ask you questions and you better be able to answer them." The teacher asked a few questions, such as formulas and other geometry stuff. I asked permission to operate my notebook and extract the information to a blank peace of looseleaf. He allowed me to, and I wrote all the answers down. At that point he told me and the class "You got me this time, but from now on everyone next year is going to have to have a normal notebook." I wound up with an A in the class by the way.

I imagine had I realized there was a market for such behavior, I should have moved to California after high school. Goes to show you sometimes sell yourself short. After all I have bought a 2016, 2017, and 2018 MacBook and MacBook Pro and a few Apple Pencils. Apparently quite a few other people have as well.
 


Apple's user-unfriendly design ethos bites again, though. While earlier iMacs were VESA-mount compatible, Apple eliminated that compatibility for recent iMac 4K and 5K models, except... oh, you could have ordered a special, separate VESA version... if you ever had any clue such a thing might be available and necessary... And, of course, you might want that, because Apple's stand has no vertical adjustments (nor any horizontal swing/pivot)...
Back in late 2017, we had to replace my smarter half's old Mac Mini. We had no way of knowing if or when the recent Mini upgrades were coming (they'd take another ten months), and a standard 27-inch iMac's lack of height adjustment wasn't going to work for her (she needs that screen lower than a standard iMac goes), so I looked for that VESA option and found it.

Posted specs didn't show the unit's weight, and, as I said to the Apple rep during an online chat about this, you'd think anyone considering a VESA iMac would very much need to how much it weighs, so they could match it with a support of some kind.

I was hoping to find a VESA pedestal stand that could somehow support and balance the thing while lowering the iMac to within millimeters of the desk's surface. No such luck. I turned to monitor arms. Hoping that the weight-capacity spec for an Amazon monitor arm would be sufficient, we bought one. It wasn't sufficient. Replaced it with an Ergotron MX Arm, which does the job, but is difficult to adjust.

So, while the computer works well enough, the setup's a kludge. I wish we'd waited for that new Mini. And I'm not looking forward very much to the prospect of trying to sell this thing used, once it needs replacing.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... a standard 27-inch iMac's lack of height adjustment wasn't going to work for her (she needs that screen lower than a standard iMac goes), so I looked for that VESA option and found it. Posted specs didn't show the unit's weight, and, as I said to the Apple rep during an online chat about this, you'd think anyone considering a VESA iMac would very much need to how much it weighs, so they could match it with a support of some kind. I was hoping to find a VESA pedestal stand that could somehow support and balance the thing while lowering the iMac to within millimeters of the desk's surface. No such luck.
Meanwhile, I've been looking for a good adjustable desk that goes low enough to accomodate the stupidly unadjustable (non-VESA) iMac. 1) Adjustable desks get expensive, fast 2) Most aren't low enough, and 3) It's really hard to find one of good quality.

I guess what's needed is a desk with a hole in the middle and an adjustable platform underneath capable of holding the iMac on its stand....
 


To me, Apple has designed itself into one corner after the other. Mr. Ive is part of that problem, but I lay the bulk of the blame at Tim Cook's feet for not reacting sooner.

I found it hilarious to read an article on how Mr. Ive revived Apple with colorful iMacs, eschewing the boring silver aesthetic of other brands only to... that's right, design and ship lots of silver boxes and devices that all follow the same silvery design aesthetic at first, with new colors added over time as the product families grew long in the tooth. Yet, I bet marketing must have had a field day to get "any color but shades of silver" approved.

There is no good excuse for any company as wildly profitable as Apple not to keep investing in innovative designs. The Mac Pro trashcan is a sad joke, and the new design (after 6 years+) also has elements that are inexcusably ugly (the handle/feet, for example). At least the thermal / power aspects appear to have been largely solved in the new Mac Pro... but only after considerable, sustained pushback from the user community that either defected to Windows or held onto their cheesegraters.

The engineering team must have been ecstatic, as for once they won. No wonder Ive is leaving.

As much as I dislike the external appearance of the new Mac Pro, I hope its enclosure will allow Apple to increase the design cycle revision speed for motherboards / CPUs and hence quickly embrace coming technologies, such as PCIe 4.0 and so on.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
The Mac Pro trashcan is a sad joke, and the new design (after 6 years+) also has elements that are inexcusably ugly (the handle/feet, for example).
I was shocked at the ugliness of its back end and wondered how such an aesthetic monstrosity could make it all the way through Jony's design studio and into Apple production. To me, that's far worse than the feet, and the handles are actually a welcome improvement over the sharp edges of the first-generation Mac Pro handles. I think the removable outer case is also a brilliant improvement (but not one worth paying double the price for...).
 


Meanwhile, I've been looking for a good adjustable desk that goes low enough to accomodate the stupidly unadjustable (non-VESA) iMac. 1) Adjustable desks get expensive, fast 2) Most aren't low enough, and 3) It's really hard to find one of good quality.
I don't know what your price range or requirements are, but where I work, we're using sit/stand desks from Ikea. Ones with a hand-crank start at $250 and motorized ones start at about $400. Not a cheap desk, but not as insanely expensive as the Kinnarps desks my previous employer bought.
I guess what's needed is a desk with a hole in the middle and an adjustable platform underneath capable of holding the iMac on its stand....
For unusual desk configurations, you may want to look at furniture designed for music workstations - they have extra shelves/drawers designed for equipment that works best at different heights (computers, mixing consoles, keyboards, rack-mount equipment, etc.). A desk with a lower tier designed for a large music keyboard (which can easily weigh as much or more than an iMac) might work. Rotate it around 180 degrees, so the keyboard shelf is at the back, and put the iMac on it. (You can bolt an aftermarket keyboard drawer to the other side for your computer keyboard and mouse.

But none of that is going to be inexpensive. Professional equipment never is.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I don't know what your price range or requirements are, but ...
A $179 Ikea Bekant adjustable desk costs $99 for shipping on top of the purchase price. Ouch.

Cool idea about music workstation furniture - never thought of that, but I'll poke around at Sweetwater.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
So, struggling to find a cost-effective solution to Ive's idiotic unadjustable iMac design, I realized a few things:
  • People are all different sizes and shapes. A fixed, non-adjustable design is stupid on that basis alone.
  • Ditto for office furniture.
  • But here's what takes the cake: Even if you are Jony Ive's exact size, and you have his exact furniture, a setup for Apple's iMac 4K will still be wrong for the iMac 5K, and one right for the iMac 5K will be wrong for the iMac 4K. Brilliant!
So, when you're calculating the cost of an iMac, don't forget to add hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for furniture to accomodate its unadjustable design. (Or buy something designed for real humans, instead, like any decent non-Apple display, and some other computer to go with it.)
 


I was shocked at the ugliness of its back and wondered how such an aesthetic monstrosity could make it all the way through Jony's design studio and into Apple production.
One explanation could be that the engineering team only had to contend with limited "input" from the design team. The articles linked to here suggest that Ive checked out a long time ago and likely only focused on products he actually cares about (i.e. the Watch, iPhone, etc.)

I happen to like the long, wide open entry that allows PCI card outlets / covers to get shuffled around over time. Making it all-black draws the eyes away from that area and to the milled cover surrounding it. Eliminating the need for case redesigns every time a motherboard is updated will hopefully promote faster refreshed motherboard releases over time.

I concur that the Cheesegrater handles / feet weren't for everyone - they are sharp and could gouge wood. But the Cheesegrater case design allows outer / inner panel removal while the machine is operational - helpful for trouble-shooting / service / upgrades. The new design requires you to disconnect every external cable prior to pulling off the outer cover. Apple likely doesn't expect us to have to open the case more than a handful of times across the life of the product?

I'm still not a fan of the stock feet and having seen the roller alternatives (likely a $$$ upgrade), I reckon that the stock feet are there to help with profit margins while allowing for more visually pleasing alternatives if the buyer is willing to pay for them. That also seems to be the strategy behind the $1000 display stand.

On the plus side, the new power-supply unit seems more accessible than in the cheese-grater design. It's powerful enough to warrant a dedicated outlet / breaker / circuit if used to capacity.
 


Meanwhile, I've been looking for a good adjustable desk that goes low enough to accomodate the stupidly unadjustable (non-VESA) iMac. 1) Adjustable desks get expensive, fast 2) Most aren't low enough, and 3) It's really hard to find one of good quality. I guess what's needed is a desk with a hole in the middle and an adjustable platform underneath capable of holding the iMac on its stand....
I'd recommend MultiTable for adjustable-desk add-ons, but that likely won't address your minimum height requirement. You might find some use in one of the simpler Ikea desks, if its minimum height of 25 5/8" is low enough for you. In your situation, I'd consider having a look at one in person, perhaps with a cardboard mockup of the iMac in hand.

As for quality, I can tell you that my Ikea Jerker desk (discontinued) served me well for many years until I cannibalized its top for use with one of the above MultiTable hand-crank adapters.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I happen to like the long, wide open entry that allows PCI card outlets / covers to get shuffled around over time. Making it all-black draws the eyes away from that area and to the milled cover surrounding it.
Of course, I also appreciate access to PCIe cards. What bothers me is the aesthetics of the back panel design where the holes are bisected by the the card cut-out frame. (If I get time, I'll try to create an illustration of the issue.) I'm also not a fan of all-black panels for connectors, having experienced that with the 2018 Mac Mini — it just makes it harder to identify what you're trying to plug things into.
 


Speaking of the new Mac Pro,
I think the removable outer case is also a brilliant improvement (but not one worth paying double the price for...).
Not so handy if you park the Mac Pro under your desk. The old cheese grater's removable side worked well there.
 


I enjoyed this site's use of animated images to depict design elements of the new Mac Pro.
Arun Venkatesan said:
The new Mac Pro is a design remix
The visual motif that has been receiving the most polarized opinions is the new three-dimensional lattice grille found on the front and back of the Mac Pro and on the rear of the Pro Display XDR. Many think it looks ugly. Trypophobes like my wife can’t even look at it.
Before being introduced to the term "trypophobe", I'd commented to Ric off-site that I found the pattern in the Mac Pro lattice "mildly disturbing." Nice to know that not only is my reaction not unique, but there's a diagnosis.
 


Ideally, a computer workstation should be matched to your body. I solved this problem years ago, by ordering a custom-built desk for my home office. There are many companies that will produce these, usually selling through office furniture stores. Mine was built by Flex-Y-Plan.

This is not an adjustable desk. Just a simple, rugged structure composed from four 1" thick panels. I was able to specify the exact dimensions I wanted: 72 x 31 x 26.5" high. All surfaces are covered in laminate, in the colors I desired (white sides, matte black working surface). The top is reinforced with an internal honeycomb, capable of supporting the heavy CRT monitors in use when I bought it. I also requested plastic radiused edges for the working surface, and a couple of cable drops. The price was a bit over $500 in 1996. I don't know what it would cost now. But it was ceretainly a smart investment. Even after several residential moves, this desk is still flawless. Right now, I am working at it, and my keyboard and 27" iMac are at very comfortable positions.
 


Before being introduced to the term "trypophobe", I'd commented to Ric off-site that I found the pattern in the Mac Pro lattice "mildly disturbing." Nice to know that not only is my reaction not unique, but there's a diagnosis.
I suspect trypophobia is an evolved phenomenon that has protected us from getting too close to giant wasp or hornet nests.
 


1) Bring back Save As. Has anyone mastered duplicate, move, expand window, browse to, save; without losing their mind?​
2) Bring back color labels to folders and the Finder. Ive color dots have little value compared to entire folders and Finder using color.​
These two, in particular, are examples of fix-what-wasn't-broken. As I noted, charge indicators on the laptops, cord wings on the chargers, and several other things all fall under this category, and I'm pretty sure most of the physical ones all derive back to Ive's obsession with minimalism. The software ones are just absurd, as they don't understand what the user was actually doing.
 


So, struggling to find a cost-effective solution to Ive's idiotic unadjustable iMac design, I realized a few things...
Actually, you're right on the cusp of stating the real problem. In Ive's design world, people appreciate the visual aspect and adapt to the use aspect. That really is the best way I can describe the Ive (and to some degree Jobs) vision.

The opposite is also something we want to avoid (appreciate the use aspect and adapt to the visual). That has produced some ugly products at times, so much so that people would avoid those products, too (think of the term spouse-friendly, which came up first in the HiFi world as it went bonkers with size and design).

These devices—particularly the iPhone, iPad, and MacBooks—are carried around and visible all the time. It's good that they're pleasant to look at, but we also need them to be efficient to use. It's a challenging balance to get right. Ive was on the visual look side of the balance line.
 


Meanwhile, I've been looking for a good adjustable desk that goes low enough to accomodate the stupidly unadjustable (non-VESA) iMac. 1) Adjustable desks get expensive, fast 2) Most aren't low enough, and 3) It's really hard to find one of good quality.

I guess what's needed is a desk with a hole in the middle and an adjustable platform underneath capable of holding the iMac on its stand....
Dunno. I think it'd be better for Apple to drop the iMac and have a family of desktops - Mac Mini (same form factor), Mac Midi (somewhat bigger (taller?) than Mini to accommodate it a bit more expansibility and reach) and Mac Pro (the official electric money sink). That way one can decouple screen size/weight/cost/quality from compute/memory.
 



Ultra-thin laptops with wonky keyboards and no charging indicators, silly mouse designs, “sealed unit” devices that can’t be expanded or easily serviced, all have one thing in common: their sacrifices are all on the altar of design. The sole reason for these design decisions was to make the device prettier.

I don’t think the “trash can” Mac Pro belongs in this group. While it was ultimately a failure, it represented a genuine engineering attempt to innovate and solve problems. Making most expansion external instead of internal meant the computer could be much smaller and also improved reliability in the field. With three Thunderbolt 2 controllers, each providing 20 Gbps of bandwidth, accommodating multiple 4K displays and external drive arrays was easy, and connecting them was as simple as plugging in a cable.

RAM and the internal SSD are both upgradeable and easily accessed by sliding a switch and lifting the computer’s cylindrical shell off. The motivated can disassemble the computer to upgrade the socketed CPU.

The only real misstep was the bespoke graphics cards, and I’m sure Apple had good intentions, since even they are technically replaceable. And Apple’s hardly the only company that tripped when going down the “unique GPU form factor designed to be replaceable” path. The PC laptop industry widely embraced the Mobile PCI Express Module (MXM) standard for replaceable GPUs, and that went pretty much nowhere, disappointing those who bought expensive gaming laptops with the promise of future GPU upgrades.

I could pick more nits: why does Apple continue to use their own weird SSD designs instead of M.2 (granted, a $10 adapter from companies like Sintech allow the use of standard NvME SSDs in the Pro)? And why did they route all the PCI Express v3 lines to the GPUs, leaving the SSD limited by a PCI-E v2 interface?

But at the end of the day, the Mac Pro 6,1 represents the best of Apple past: the willingness and ability to take innovative risks with a defined engineering goal. While history shows it was the wrong decision for a “pro” machine, the 2019 Mac Pro indicates they’ve learned from it, a sign of progress I don’t see in any other Apple product line.
 



Add to the list the removal of the SD card slot on the MacBook Pro. What bugs me is Apple's disingenuous justification for the removal, as explained by Phil Schiller in an interview:
Phil Schiller said:
It’s a bit of a cumbersome slot. You've got this thing sticking halfway out.
To which I say,
  • There's nothing sticking out when you're not using the slot.
  • A dangling dongle is less cumbersome?
  • The only reason the SD card sticks out is because Apple designed it that way. Other manufacturers are perfectly able to have the card insert all the way.
 


Other Ive "round-mouse" failures that should be fixed (un-deprecated)...

1) Bring back Save As. Has anyone mastered duplicate, move, expand window, browse to, save; without losing their mind?​
"Save As" is [accessible if you] hold down the Option key to reveal it in the Edit menu.
 


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