Apple no better than Microsoft

Apple no better than Microsoft

I am a Windows user, in case you didn’t already know that. Windows often annoys the heck out of me, but that’s Windows for you.

It’s usually about now that Apple Macintosh apologists start haraguing me and explaining that the Mac is the best thing since sliced bread — no, since ever — and that if I had a Mac, I’d never have any problems with programs performing illegal operations.

Maybe not, but, I always maintain, I would have problems with programs unexpectedly quitting, which more or less amounts to the same thing. What difference does it make that you get a picture of a bomb instead of a big cross? And going by the evidence, Apple software engineers are as clueless as their Microsoft rivals when it comes to writing stable software that does what it’s supposed to.

Dabbling in videomaking, as I do, I have Quicktime installed on my computer, which, of course, is an Apple product. It’s a pain, actually, because a whole load of completely different file types playable in QT — slideshows, panoramic photos, actual videos — all have the same file extension, so Windows can’t tell the difference. But as it turns out, if you want good quality videos on YouTube, you should upload an Apple Quicktime video file at 640×480 resolution.

So, using a video editor (which, despite not being a Microsoft product, is itself not exactly bug-free), I render a Quicktime movie. When the rendering process is finished, it launches the Quicktime player and plays the finished product. At least, that’s the theory.

About one in five times, it first nags me to buy the “pro” version before it’ll launch the player itself. No, thanks.

The next hurdle involves the drives. Woe betide me if, at any point between booting up the computer and the QT player launching, I had ever inserted a DVD, CD, memory stick or SD card and subsequently removed it. Because no matter what, the player would attempt to read from the now non-existent medium and fail, giving me an error message. Correction: About two dozen error messages, all of which I have to dismiss individually. (I’ve had one Apple fanatic tell me that this is a Windows problem. No, it is not: It is a problem with the Apple Quicktime player attempting to read from a drive it has no business reading from at all.)

Of course, I’d been using the same player for a few years, and it was a bit outdated. People kept sending me Quicktime files I couldn’t play, and each time the player would swear blind it couldn’t find the codec on the internet. I tried using the menu option to update the player, but after telling me there were half a dozen updates available online, it would then tell me it couldn’t find the server. (My Apple fan pal told me this was Windows dropping the internet connection. No, it was Apple Quicktime being a pain.

The final straw came with the news that, apparently, YouTube has started experimenting with 720p format, which is exciting news for people who care about high definition and widescreen. I decided to experiment myself. Oh, joy.

First of all, rendering a Quicktime movie in 720p format causes a weird effect. When played in Quicktime, all the blues are red, and all the reds are blues. Something not quite right there.

So I thought I’d try with MPEG-4 format, which YouTube also supports. But when it came to launching a video player, my video editor hung.

Guess what? MPEG-4 files are associated with Quicktime. My Quicktime player was too old to know anything about MPEG-4 files. But did it tell my video player that it couldn't play the file? No, that would be being helpful.

I tried to update using the menu option, but of course that didn’t work, so I had to do it manually and go to Apple’s website using a real browser, which worked. The new version, which promised full support for MPEG-4 files, installed smoothly.

Of course, when it came to launching the player, my video editor still hung, although I hadn’t rebooted my computer, so maybe that had something to do with it. When I have time, I’ll try again. But at least using Windows Explorer to find the file and play it worked.

I say “worked”. The player was still swapping reds and blues. I don’t know if it’s a fault in Quicktime or my video editor (although if I import the file back into my video editor, the colours are displayed correctly), but it’s weird and it only happens with this precise resolution.

Of course, 720p is still not yet officially supported, so I’m still uploading at 640×480. But here’s the thing: The new version of Quicktime is worse than the old. When playing back a movie, it now jumps about and skips frames, leaving me in permanent doubt as to whether my editing is at fault or not until I upload it to YouTube.