Long time no write, for which I have no real excuse, except that I just haven't really had much to say, I haven't felt like writing, and I have been distracted by the job search. Being as how I'm unemployed, I let down no one through indifference to writing. And I'll bet you didn't even notice my silence. I haven't Twittered much lately, either, and yet people keep signing up to follow me. Hi-ho.
So back to the job search. I answered an ad a couple of weeks ago that sought editor types for a temporary assignment. These editors, employed by this certain small company, would edit stuff on deadline using a certain kind of software application. The idea, as it was described to me over the phone during a preliminary interview, was to do a quick read of the text and copy-edit for spelling and so on. I told the woman who interviewed me that I was familiar with this certain software application but was far from expert, but that I had decades of deadline-editing experience. She said great, there will be a minimum of formatting involved, and could I come downtown to take a test?
Downtown I went, and there were four other people taking the test with me. They gave us an instruction sheet. We were to open a document on the desktop of the PC in front of us and do pretty much everything except edit the text. Apply this template, make sure fonts are just so, insert this and that boilerplate content, make sure things fit, etc., etc. Oh, and if you have time, correct spelling and grammar.
Well, I had not used this particular version of the software application. It was the latest Windows version, and I am mostly a Mac person, although I know my way around Windows (NT, 2000, and XP, but Vista not so much). I had messed around with the Mac version of the app before the test to refresh my memory, but that had been a waste of time. The Mac and Windows versions are now quite different. I poked around the menus to see if I could take care of some of the formatting tasks, but learning on the spot was not going to be time-efficient, so I figured I'd take the woman at her word and ignore all those cosmetic things and edit the text, which was in horrific shape.
Time ran out before I could finish, and I knew I had flunked, so rather than waste everybody's time, I promptly left, as did most of the others. While we were waiting for the elevator, someone said, "Was that what everyone expected?" Another replied, "No! I thought it was going to be copy-editing!" "This is so typical," said a person who seemed to be referring to the exciting world of corporate temp work. We all had thought they were going to test our editing skills. But the test they administered was clearly intended to measure our competence with the software.
I fumed about this for a couple of days, then decided I needed to make sure it never happened again. In other words, get up to speed on Windows-based software so there's no competence gap. Coincidentally, Microsoft had just announced that it was offering free training (online tutorials, to be precise) to Washington's unemployed to enable them to prepare for and take, at no charge, the company's certification tests. So I sent away to the state of Washington Employment Security Division for one of these training vouchers and set up an account at the Microsoft Learning Web site.
Only one problem — for me and, now that I think about it, a lot of unemployed people. I didn't have a Windows computer.
I did have an Apple MacBook, however, and that's a Windows machine if you have a copy of Windows you can install. But Vista was going to set me back several hundred dollars, as would Office 2007. So as any thrifty Seattleite would, I contacted a friend who works at Microsoft, and this person bought both Vista and Office for me at the company store in Redmond for a grand total of $95. (If only I knew someone who worked at Adobe, which has a sizable office in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood ...)
So off I went to transform my MacBook, using Apple's Boot Camp, which adds a hard-drive partition to accommodate what essentially is a completely separate computer running Windows.
But Boot Camp told me there was a problem involving files on my drive that wouldn't allow it to do the partitioning. I was going to have to wipe the entire Mac disk and start from scratch with a clean install of Mac OS X version 10.5, in addition to the Windows Vista install.
I had actually been meaning to do this for a while. On the Mac disk there were all kinds of remnants of tried and discarded software — one of my hobbies is trolling the Apple Downloads pages for new programs and trying them out — and I wasn't working on anything mission-critical at the moment, except for installing Windows, so I decided what the hell, I'll scorch the MacBook hard drive with a blowtorch and start over. I regularly back up everything on two external hard drives (different brands, natch), and reinstalling OS X would not be a particularly big deal. Oh, it would be hassle reinstalling all my apps again, to be sure, but no big deal.
All in all, the Mac reinstall took half a day. Much of that time involved downloading and installing all the system updates that have been issued since the system-install DVD was burned. And I had to reinstall all my other apps — PhotoShop, iPhoto, Firefox, OmniFocus, BBEdit, etc., and, yes, Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac — and update them, too. Then I ran Boot Camp, and this time bingo, partition created. Ready to install Windows Vista.
Vista installed easily and without any problems. It took about the same amount of time it took to install OS X, including the download and installation of 49 Vista updates that had been issued since the DVD had been burned. (And this new disk already had Service Pack 1!) There was one more task, however, which I didn't have to do for the OS X install: As soon as I got those Windows updates compiled and I rebooted my MacBook, I promptly installed anti-virus software, and the updates for that. Add $40 to the total cost of running Windows.
Vista runs real good on a MacBook, even at full throttle with Ultimate and Aero, and I've been impressed with it. Windows is still a complicated operating system in its Vista incarnation. But Microsoft has erred on the side of over-explaining things, which is a big improvement over earlier versions. Vista is fast, stable, not ugly, and far easier to use than Windows XP. I have an iPhone, and through Apple's MobileMe cloud (a Windows client is automatically installed by Boot Camp) the iPhone is syncing flawlessly with my MacBook and, on the Windows side, with Outlook 2007, the venerable Office mail and calendaring app.
So I'm up and running with Vista and Office 2007 and I'm about to be matriculated by the University of Microsoft Institute for Explanation (UMIX). Next time I take one of those temp-job tests, I'm going be certified — not certifiable.