A Month with a Mac: A Die-Hard PC User's Perspectiveby Anand Lal Shimpi on October 8, 2004 12:05 AM EST
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This is, quite possibly, one of the most difficult articles to write; for starters, it's not a review of hardware, and it's not actually a review of anything concrete - it is a review of an experience. We all go about using our computers knowing that if we don't like something about them, if they are too slow or too unreliable or don't do something we need them to do, then we can upgrade them, or we can swap out the faulty part and put in a new one. Now, it costs us money (sometimes lots of it), but it is possible. But much like the U.S. election system, although there may be the illusion of multiple options for your OS, in reality, there is really only one. If you want any sort of software compatibility, driver support and don't want to be made fun of, Windows is the way to go. There have been righteous attempts by smaller OSes to gain traction, and some of them have (e.g. Linux), but for the most part, we're dealing with a one-party OS system. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing; quite contrary, in fact. I believe that Windows XP is the best thing to ever come out of Redmond and I have very few issues with the OS. I actually liked the XP theme when it first came out and I've been happier with Windows XP than any previous Microsoft OS (except maybe the good ol' DOS days). When installed on the right hardware with the right drivers (and with an eye to be wary of poorly written apps), I found that Windows XP was just as stable as any other OS that I'd ever encountered. My personal machine would go months between reboots without a single problem. It's not that there is anything wrong with Windows; it's that if you want the option, if there's any particular thing that you don't like about the way Windows works, you're straight out of luck.
I think that a bit of me was feeling, after being a strictly Windows user ever since version 2.0 (with the requisite mix of DOS back then), that there were a couple of things that had started to annoy me about Windows, which I would rather do without.
For starters, heavy multi-tasking management under Windows had caused me a lot of grief. Maybe it's just because of the nature of my work, but I tend to have a lot of windows open at any given time. I like quick access to the information that I need when I'm working and much like a messy desk, there is a method to my window-madness that only I know. When writing an article (especially big NDA launches), I'd have around 20 IE windows open, Outlook with another 5 - 15 emails, Power Point with NDA presentations, Word with my article, maybe Dreamweaver if I was starting to put it into HTML, not to mention Acrobat, some sort of MP3 player, Trillian and a bunch of explorer windows as well. After a certain point, the cramped taskbar became difficult to use as a locator tool, and while I could ALT+TAB forever, I just felt like I was idle for too long. I knew what it was that I needed to get to, and I knew I had it open, but the process of getting to it was a pain.
The other issue was with the way Windows handled having so many windows opened; after a certain number of windows were opened, stability and performance both went down the drain. Sometimes applications could no longer spawn additional windows or dialog boxes, requiring me to close a handful before I could continue doing anything, and other times, applications would simply crash.
It's not that I was dissatisfied with Windows and the PC experience in general, but I thought it might be time for something new - to see what else was out there.
I've always been a fan of trying alternate Oses - I was even an OS/2 user (both 2.0 and Warp) for a little while in my early years. So, a while back, I conjured up this idea to try using a Mac for a month. At first, it started as just a personal experiment, but it later developed into the foundation for the article that you're reading now. After doing the necessary research to make sure that I could actually get work done on a Mac, I whipped out the trusty credit card and decided to give the experiment a try.
What you are about to read are my impressions, as a devout PC user, of the Apple way of life.
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GoodWatch - Thursday, October 14, 2004 - linkThank you for so eloquently proving my point. So I guess the 100 million + Windows users are all wrong? Wow!
hh - Thursday, October 14, 2004 - link#178/GoodWatch
> I noticed from quite a number of posts that
> PC users seemingly have to spend a lot of
> time, effort and money to keep...free of viri,
> mal- and spyware....But if you do it clever
> and make sure everything runs on a schedule
> and has it’s automatic update features...
True, although this does require tht you're philisophically be willing to take the risk of incurring incompatibility problems after the latest OS Security patch is installed. If you're still so blindly trusting, good for you (I am not). It also infers that you're willing to pay more to have an always-on IP connection so as to let installs autonimously run overnight.
> All the other financial arguments (a Mac
> is cheaper in the long run) are wasted on
> a silly fool like me. For me using my
> (private) PC is a hobby, not an investment.
> Djeez Louise, amortizing capital costs? It’s
> just a computer! Hobbies cost money, period.
Just because its a hobby doesn't mean that it has to be a financial black hole.
And if money wasn't a factor, then we would have never seen the heralding of the sub-$1000 PC and more recently, the $500 PC, nor would we have ever heard the 'Macs are too expensive' mantra.
In any event, all my point was is that there's more than one way to measure "cost". I'm not saying that my way is the only right way to look at a PC purchase, but just using it to illustrate that there are alternatives to just comparing initial purchase prices.
Overall, I believe that there's surprising financial parallels between PC and automobile purchases: notice how many people today no longer think of a car by its total price, but instead by its $259 monthly payment.
> Now, who want me to sell his 20” iMac G5
> with 2 Gigs of memory :-)
IMO, getting just 1.5GB is a better value: buy the base 512MB model and for $260, add a 1GB chip from Crucial.com). And if you use an Apple Credit Account, your payments can be "as low as $42 per month" :-)
victorpanlilio - Thursday, October 14, 2004 - linkGoodWatch wrote in #180: What I do not understand however is why Mac users always deem it necessary to defend their platform so strongly
'Good enough' works for most people -- at least, until it turns into a spyware-ridden hairball. ;-)
Let me use a travel analogy. As I'd mentioned in an earlier post, what Anand has written is the equivalent of a travelogue. If, say, one has never been to Maui, one cannot grasp the meaning of 'Maui no ka oi' :-) OTOH, people who have been to Maui can discuss the merits of staying in Kihei vs. Lahaina vs. Wailea...
Microsoft announced patches for 21 new vulnerabilities today. Ladies and gentlemen, start testing...
OperaLover - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link(quote from the article)
Having used Opera, I could hardly tell any performance difference in rendering speed in comparison to IE. It was the lack of any appreciable difference coupled with no real application level benefits over IE that kept me from using it on the PC.
Anand, you've written a great review, but I don't understand how you can say this about Opera. Opera has so many more day-to-day useful features that IE simply does not provide, that I have to wonder how long you actually used it for. Perhaps you used it back in the 3.0 days when it was just starting to get its legs, but current versions are a complete dream for anyone even remotely serious about their web browsing. Roughly 90% of the best features of Firefox were in Opera 5 or earlier (including the ability to save your browsing state - no other browser I've tried can do that even now). Pure rendering speed may be pretty much the same as IE, but there are many other speed factors in web browsing, like the speed of switching windows, or reloading cached pages. In my experience, Opera has the "fastest back button in the west", and one of the most responsive caches. I imagine from what you've said of MacOS X's caching, this can only be better. I can't speak for the Mac version, as I've never used it, but I think you should try it out and see if it addresses your speed concerns. Also, take some time to look through the options - some of Opera's best features only emerge with a little configuration.
gast2 - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link"What I do not understand however is why Mac users always deem it necessary to defend their platform so strongly. If it is the best, as you said, then there is nothing to worry?"
I can't speak for all Mac users but personaly I'm not worried at all about the future of the Mac platform. Apple has enough money to stay in business for many years to come. And the company is very profitable.
I admit that I do defend the Mac platform as often as I can but most of the time it is just to correct the misconceptions about the Mac. I argue once in a while at work with the boss of our IT dept. because we switched from Mac to PC 2 years ago and since then we have problems. I was able to do some things on the old PM 9600 233 mhz with 352 megs of RAM that I cannot do right now on our PC 2.2 ghz with 2.5 gigs of RAM. Maybe the problem is not the platform, maybe it is the software that we use. I don't know for sure but one thing that I know is that I have been forced to work on a PC because the new IT boss didn't know the Mac. He didn't choose the PC because it was less expensive, no the upgrade path was the same price for both platforms. Maybe I would have understood if the choice was for economic reason. All I know is that today we are less productive because we have to work on Windows. Am I bitter? Yes of course. I really miss the Mac. Am I a die-hard Mac fan? Yes. Almost everything is less complicated on the Mac side. Is the Mac a religion for Mac users? For a vast majority of them, I would say yes. Should all PC users switch to the Mac? That would be great but I don't think that there is a slight chance that something like that could happen. But what I really hope is that some PC users see the Mac as an interesting option against all the bad things that can happen in the PC world.
GoodWatch - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - linkNice comment, and that from a person who said, and I quote: “Of course, it's much much faster on the PC but I still prefer the slugginess of my old G3”. No, just joking. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is what I wanted to use as a witty reposte, but that will back-fire as well ‘cause those Macs ARE so damn beautiful.
Look, to me my lowly PC is good enough. It performs all it’s tasks with verve and I don’t know any better. I’m used to it and all the quirks (if any) mentioned before don’t bother me. I’m on Windows XP Pro from the start and it is as stable as it can get. But, and this is something I admit strongly, the current PC model poses a bit more of a challenge than perhaps a Mac. There is more ‘under the hood’ that one has to know about. It should be more like your average TV. Simple and straightforward to use. What I do not understand however is why Mac users always deem it necessary to defend their platform so strongly. If it is the best, as you said, then there is nothing to worry?
Nice talking to you,
P.S. I’m from The Netherlands where smoking pot is legal, heh, heh, heh…. En jij misschien ook, gast2
gast2 - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link"You cannot open a Mac magazine, view reports or browse newsgroup posts without reading the same message over and over again: PC’s and Micro$oft are spawned from the realm of evil and the Apple Mac is the Holy Grail."
I must admit that Mac guys are really devoted to their platform but there is a reason for that ... the Mac is simply better.
GoodWatch - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - linkI noticed from quite a number of posts that PC users seemingly have to spend a lot of time, effort and money to keep their “second rate rigs that pale in comparison to even the lowest Mac” free of viri, mal- and spyware. And that is one of the main reasons for not buying such a retched contraption. (This all is mild pun). Agreed, if you experience none of those problems, ever, than there is nothing that can compete with that. Nothing cheaper than free of charge. All the programs needed to wage this unfair battle can be found in some kind of free version, so money needn’t be an issue. Then there is the time and effort argument. Yes, is costs time and effort to install even 1 program, let alone 3 (Antivirus, Firewall and Spyware killer), no argument here. But if you do it clever and make sure everything runs on a schedule and has it’s automatic update features turned ON, the maintenance is no big deal anymore. Set it and forget it, so to speak.
All the other financial arguments (a Mac is cheaper in the long run) are wasted on a silly fool like me. For me using my (private) PC is a hobby, not an investment. Djeez Louise, amortizing capital costs? It’s just a computer! Hobbies cost money, period.
“Someone more open minded than most PC guys” was another pearl I found. You cannot open a Mac magazine, view reports or browse newsgroup posts without reading the same message over and over again: PC’s and Micro$oft are spawned from the realm of evil and the Apple Mac is the Holy Grail. Open minded? Out of the box thinking?
Now, who want me to sell his 20” iMac G5 with 2 Gigs of memory :-)
gast2 - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - linkJust read the article. Some facts are not accurate but it's nice to read the impressions of someone more open-minded than most PC guys.
At my job, I'm working on a PC for 2 years now and I still miss the old PM 9600 on a daily basis. By chance, I have some Macs at home and I prefer to use OS X on a dinosaur like a beige G3 233 mhz than the Windows experience of a 2.2 ghz. Of course, it's much much faster on the PC but I still prefer the slugginess of my old G3. The Mac is so much more easy to use. I don't have to worry about the viruses, the spywares, the malwares and all the junkware of the PC world.
I just hope that more PC guys will open their eyes to the Mac in the future. I'm sure that many of them would never look back once they switched.
hh - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link172 by Digsa:
> I really respected this article for its honesty of approach. I was really impressed.
Same here. My compliments to the article's author: well done and fairly presented.
> I suppose my one crucial point is this - if we all keep open minds about the possibilities for
> innovation from different computer systems, and don't let the zealots on both sides take
> over the asylum, then we are all winners. Because the market in ideas can function without
> prejudice, and a good technology implementation can be seen for what it is - rather than
> through the prism of reality distortion fields or slick marketing.
Well stated. An example of this diversity is within my comments to FF, below:
- - -
151 by FinalFantasy:
> I still say Macs are expensive computers that people pay money for cus it's a "Mac"…
Probably true to a degree, but so what? Afterall, we all often are willing to pay more for 'Brand Name Recognition', and it doesn't matter if we’re talking about PC’s or a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
If you don't want to spend your money this way, then don't - - but please allow me the freedom to spend my own money as I wish, be it a fancy PC or a fancy luxury car or whatever. Please don't advocationally force us all to drive tincan KIA’s just because it is all that you want to drive (or can afford).
> The only way I see a Mac being useful, is if they were a cheaper alternative to a PC...
Please broaden your perspectives: cost isn't everything. (How about happiness?)
And even if "cost" is your only metric, perhaps the Mac is cheaper if you use a different measuring stick.
For example, if we look 12 inches beyond just the initial purchase price, we start to see the lifecycle costs. If a Mac has a longer useful life, then its capital cost gets amortized across more months and it effectively becaomes cheaper. Similarly, if it costs you less time/money to maintain it on a monthly basis (everything from the cost of electricity and waste heat to the value of your labor to stay protected with up-to-date virus definitions, firewalls, spyware scrubbers, pop-up blockers, security patches, etc, etc), the cost comparison numbers change again (and probably again in the Mac's favor...I really hate the amount of time it takes me to maintain my WinXP laptop at work).
The real crux of the question here is if you're open-minded enough to even consider spending more upfront for a product that may be less expensive in the long run, and what factors you include in the lifecycle cost analysis to determine this.
It doesn't matter if we're talking computers or automobiles: afterall, how many of us have paid extra for a car to get it in the color that we wanted? It appears that an intangible such as happiness can even have a cash value assigned to it.
>..in reality Macs should be a lot cheaper than a PC's not more expensive than one!
Incorrect. The unfortunate reality is that mainstream products have advantages in economy of scale in manufacturing: a niche product will always cost more even at the same level of content because they have fewer units produced to amortize their fixed manufacturing costs across. These fundamentals apply to all manufacturing, not just Apple and the PC marketplace.