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I spy stupidity

As the popular adage says, Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

We’re in Grand Rapids, picking out stuff for a new house, and I took Keagan over to the Apple Store. He loves the “I Spy” games on the demo machines, so I went ahead and got him one, thinking he could play it on the laptop back in the room during downtime.

But it didn’t work out. The “Made With Macromedia” logo on the box should have been my first hint, since that company was acquired by Adobe over two years ago, as well as the fact that the game’s requirements offer compatibility with systems as old as Mac OS 8.5.

But at any rate, I worked through the install problems one-by-one. First, it complained (with a series of dialogs using different look-and-feels) about not having write permissions to its own folder when run from Keagan’s non-admin account, so I reinstalled it to his home folder. Then I ran it again and hit the deal-breaker: the app couldn’t switch to “Thousands of Colors” mode, because the Mac Book only supports millions of colors.

I e-mailed Scholastic support in hopes of getting an update and got a one-line reply: The program is not compatible with or supported on the Intel-based Macintoshes.

Now that’s pretty ridiculous, considering that the PowerPC transition is nearly two years behind us at this point, with all new Macs being Intel-based since May, 2006. And I wrote a duly harsh review on the Apple Store website to warn off potential customers.

But is there anything insidious about this? Can we accuse Apple of nefarious skullduggery! for using its demo machines to promote games that don’t work on modern Mac hardware, perhaps as a means of making the anemic lineup of games for the Mac look better than it really is?

Or is it more likely that the people who run the stores and set up the demo machines just aren’t aware of the problem? Or aren’t savvy enough to realize it could be a problem?

And while it sucks for Scholastic to not update the game for Intel Macs, and not pull it from the market when it’s clearly past its sell-by date, let’s be realistic: they used the half-assed Macromedia tools because they wanted a quick-to-market, cross-platform technology, for an application where the content matters a lot more than the interactivity. It’s not a “real” Mac application, and can’t realistically be updated because the compatibility limitations come from their choice of a third-party runtime, one that’s out of their control. So, insidious? No, just stupid and lazy.

Too bad they’re not interested in hiring competent programmers to write real code for their content, though. The “I Spy” concept would might work really nicely as an iPhone / iPod Touch game.

I haven’t returned the game yet; I want to see if it’ll perhaps run on the Mini back home in Atlanta. And as open-box software, I may be stuck with it at any rate.

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