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I’m a Mac

My romance with the Apple Macintosh began many years ago. Around 1985, I think, when I first got my mitts onto a 512K Macintosh. We had one in our High School computer lab, and I was the only student in my class that was even allowed to use it. I was allowed to use it as I had mastered the Apple II’s we used otherwise, but the irony was that it was much easier to use than an Apple II…and that seemed – to my advantage – to be unknown to our Apple II toting teachers.

Though that Mac 512 had a small Black&White screen, it was far superior to anything else then available…at least outside NASA. The dot-matrix ImageWriter printer with it could produce the best text I’d yet seen, and in all manner of faces, sizes and styles. What you saw on the screen was exactly what would print, and though WYSIWYG as a term has now fallen from use as it’s everywhere, at the time it was absolutely revolutionary.

But what really did it for the Macintosh was the introduction of the LaserWriter, made possible by the PostScript page description language. I really don’t think any single invention has done more for what you could do with a computer than the PostScript laser printer. Before these, you either had a dot-matrix that – while not horrid – didn’t really make nice looking text, or you had a daisy-wheel printer or something similar that worked like a typewriter.

But having a laser printer suddenly let you print all sorts of different typefaces without needing special wheels, at different sizes, pitches, leadings and anything else you might want to do with a bit of type. And suddenly you had this new thing called Desktop Publishing.

Suddenly, anyone with a Macintosh could design complete documents. Anything from books to brochures and advertising and so on. There was no other system out there that had anywhere near the same power anywhere near the cost of a Mac. And you can forget PC’s, those were still for the spreadsheet set back then. Back when an “Amber” monitor was a novelty and Print Shop was the coolest thing you could get on a PC.

What held the Mac back form big-time mass acceptance was it’s price. When you can buy 3 or 4 PC’s for the same cost as a Mac, then if all you need is WordPerfect then you can’t justify the cost. For people that really wanted (or needed) what the Mac could offer didn’t think twice about buying fleets of them, because it was what they wanted.

Consider that while I was doing slide presentations for a living in the late 80’s I could use PixelPaint and PhotoShop on my Mac, and on my PC I had Harvard Graphics and Zenographics Mirage. Harvard Graphics was the standard for making slides on a PC, and Mirage was a high-end app for doing the same thing. And they were both absolutely troglodytic when compared to even the simplest thing you could do in PixelPaint. Heck, even MacPaint could do more. Not many of you will remember PixelPaint (or PixelPaint Pro), but it was really, really good. And when PhotoShop came along it absolutely killed PixelPaint – that is how much better it was. At that time, it was absolutely impossible to do anything that even could be compared on a PC.

Have PC’s come a long way? Oh, yes, they certainly have. But they haven’t come far enough.

I’ve heard (and read) the argument that a newly purchased PC these days runs just as easily out of the box as a Mac. To a fair extent, that is true. It’s also true that PC’s are much more upgradeable than Macs – but most people never upgrade their PC’s. People that do upgrade their PC’s, or build their own (like me) tend to know just a bit more than the average bear about how these things work. And we’re also willing to put up with a bit of downtime now and then when some driver or something carks it.

And I’ll cry shenanigans on anyone that says they’ve been using PC’s for more than, oh, let’s say a year, and never had a problem. I suppose you might find someone that just reads the news in IE and nothing else, but that’s not typical. Endless strings of patches to protect us from endless strings of vulnerabilities, having to run so much anti-virus and anti-spyware software that doesn’t work anyway, bogging down your machine and adding to your headaches. Is this good? Seriously, is it *good* that I’m running an OS that is inherently insecure?

Well, let’s look at Mac OS X. It’s based on BSD Unix. Unix is inherently much safer than Windows, just because of the way it works. Noone has managed to write, not even as a project, a succesful virus for OS X. Not one! Maybe if everyone used it there might be more pressure…but don’t you think some Uni student should have whipped out a virus for OS X by now?

To be fair, there have been vulnerabilities spotted in OS X, and these could have been used to compromise machines. But – still being fair – these have been few and far-between, and usually are patched quite quickly. Certainly, they are patched as quickly as they need to be.

While millions of Windows boxen are zombie spam farms completely unbeknownst to their owners, the MacOS is spotless.

Okay, I’ll mention Linux. Linux is nice, Linux is free, Linux is tough and it’s not for me. Linux is the absolute antithesis of something that just works. Even if you get a nice distro like SuSE, it doesn’t “just work”. The whole deal with KDE and Gnome typifies linux for me. Nobody can agree on the *one* thing that should be done. It seems nobody can even agree on the 100 things that should be done! There are *hundreds* of Linux distributions out there, all of which claim to be the best for a certain segment of whatever fragmented market they hope to serve. Why not just pick either KDE or Gnome, can the other one or roll them both together, pick *one* goddamn file system, *one* way to connect to your printers, etc, etc, and just get it all over with? I think Shuttleworth has the right idea with Ubuntu. But *even there* you’ve got more than one distro, because the KDE people need Kubuntu, and somebody else needs lord-knows-what and so forth. So even from his noble effort to come up with one OS for all to use, you’ve got this spewing maw of further confusion.The thing that Windows PC’s have going for them is that every machine everywhere in the world running Windows XP has the same controls located in the same places, and they all look the same and work the same way. This is an *enormous* advantage over anything Linux currently has to offer, and it’s also something the Mac has. If you know how to use one Mac, you can use them all.If I have to regurgitate one more story about how I couldn’t find some simple bloody thing on a Linux box that was running something other than SuSE (my distro of choice if it wasn’t already obvious) I think I’ll go blind.Just think how good KDE would be (or how good Gnome would be) if everyone that worked on both of them just fucking picked one and put all their efforts there. I think it could be better even than OS X, but as we all know, that’s never going to happen. For as long as there isn’t one person (or even one room of people) that can come to a final decision on this stuff, you’ll get the spew that we see today.There are people that think this is a benefit of open source software. And, to an extent, I agree. But you’ll never get mainstream desktop acceptance based on 500 dofferent distros of Linux. not gonna happen.

So, you’ve got all of that. And then, you’ve got how MacOS looks, and how it works. There are lots of Windows users out there that run docks (myself included) just to get a taste of the interface goodness that is the Mac. Noone that has used it for more than 5 minutes will tell you they don’t like it.

Finally, we come down to software. Well, you can get Office for Mac if you really want it. Apart from that, there are apps available for just about anything you want to do. And if you want to run Windows, you can do that too – dual boot, or in a window – and you can also minimise the window it’s running in while you’re not using it, so it doesn’t clutter your view. Want to play a game? Just boot into Windows and you’re away. And I read that people are working on that stuff, anyway.

And what about the design of the machines? Have you seen a 17″ MacBook Pro? There’s only one word for the thing, and that’s “Awesome”. Why is it that nobody else can make something like that, or invent a magnetic power plug so your lappy doesn’t do the spins when someone trips on the cord? They don’t because the PC market is focused completely on the margin, because all PC makers, with perhaps a few exceptions, operate on very tight margins.

I bought a PowerMac G4 a few years ago and got the 17″ tube monitor with it, as panels were still very pricey. I remember looking in the box – in vain – for the power cord for the monitor. I was sure that it had not been packed, and then I found out that the monitor didn’t need one…it got all the power it needed from the main system through the single monitor connection cord…even USB connections went through it! That the one cord do do everything for me was just amazing, but it also made complete sense. You can’t do that with a PC, because that’s not the standard that everyone has settled on…cords for everything.

Sure, a MacBook Pro costs more than a Dell, but can there really be any comparison? It’s like a 17″ iPod, all sleek and shiny, and the performance is nothing to sneeze at, either.

If what you want is a no-hassles computer that works as well as it looks, you should look no further than a Mac.

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