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Patient dead; operation successful.

By July 2, 2008apple

Picture_6I like Apple computers, but I’m not a zealot. I use Windows (albeit on a Mac), and I can list several things about Apple’s operating system that annoy me. True, I think Apple’s software is better than Windows. Why? I don’t know. One reason is probably because Apple controls the hardware and software, which makes it easier to ensure optimum compatibility. That doesn’t mean that Apple won’t screw things up down the road, but for now things work pretty well.

Before I switched over I had no idea if Apple computers were better or worse, but that didn’t stop me from deriding Macs. Now I know better. I know both systems well enough to compare them, and I know that I can’t live without Windows but I can keep it under control.

So, when I came upon an email yesterday from a Windows user who was trying to give advice to a lawyer who wanted to switch to Macs I had to laugh. Let me explain the situation so you’ll understand.

There is this ’email group’ that I tune into, and it’s inhabited by lawyers who like technology. One of the participants writes in to say he’s tired of Windows XP because it crashes all the time. He says he has no intention of moving to Vista. He hates XP’s vulnerability to malware and viruses. He doesn’t like how long it takes his laptop to wake from hibernation. But he needs to run a Windows program called Casemap as part of his practice. His plan is to get a Macbook Pro and use a virtualization program like Parallels or VM Fusion to run Windows on his computer, but first he wants to know if he’s headed for problems he can’t see.

Of course, since I live in exactly the world he is seeking I could have told him that he’ll probably be fine. It’ll take him awhile to get used to the Mac operating system, but after a few weeks he’ll get the hang of it and after a few months he’ll wonder why he didn’t switch sooner. Of course, it won’t all be perfect (nothing is) and he’ll find some things about the Mac OS that he finds annoying. But he won’t have the major annoyances that he seems to be trying to avoid: i.e. frequent crashes, inability to reliably sleep his laptop, and excessive vulnerability to viruses and spyware. At least not for now. Like I said, who knows what will happen to Apple computers in a few years?

But I didn’t write in because I didn’t see his email. I did, however, see the response from a Windows lover.

The Windows zealot tells him that if he switches to a Mac just to avoid those problems he’s basically ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water.’ Then, after carefully considering the best way to solve all of the guy’s supposed problems, he offers this amazing solution:

“Do a fresh install of Windows XP. This will ultimately be quicker than trying to figure out what is going on exactly. Once installed update Windows until it will update no more.” (emphasis added)

Oh yeah, baby! Don’t waste time troubleshooting (who knows were to begin with that in Windows?) Just reinstall the whole operating system. That’ll take up a good part of your morning and a bit of the afternoon. True, it will probably make the computer run smoother and that will help with some of the reliability issues, but it isn’t likely to make the laptop better at hibernating. Very few Windows machines hibernate well, at least not in the way that Macs do. The malware, if any, will be gone but the inherent vulnerability won’t be.

Yes, it’s true that Macs can get viruses and may face increasing threat as they become more popular. But for now they are less prone to malware than Windows computers. I haven’t run virus protection on any of my Macs and have had no problems on any of them since I started using them in 2003 or so. I have had to reboot my Macs, but only occasionally. For the most part they run great for months at a time.

Oh, say that reminds me: you know what I’ve never had to do on any of my Macs? Re-install the whole freaking operating system. Of course, in the Windows world reinstalling the operating system is considered a routine housekeeping practice. Some people do it at least once a year, and others do it whenever Windows reaches its ‘half-life.’

So, if you are thinking about switching to a Mac just to get more reliability, better sleep mode, and less malware, please don’t. Don’t be rash, and try to keep things in perspective. Just reinstall the operating system.

And quit whining about the goddam viruses.


P.S. If you appreciate my observations, you might want to join my inner circle.

5 Comments

  • VieuxNaCl says:

    We are a “house divided” with both mac and PC. And I am not really a fanboy of either, but owing to tight control over hardware and the ability to engineer to a better, tighter design, mac stuff really does just work. Re 2 button mouse, I plug my (gasp!) Microsoft 2 button + scrollwheel clicker wireless mouse into my wife’s MacBook Pro USB and it works fine. None of that alt or apple key stuff for me.

  • Dave! says:

    @Steven: The mighty mouse sucks. It looks wonderful, but it’s a poor fit in my hand and the ‘wheel button’ is a poor substitute for a good solid wheel. But my biggest grip is that I use a laptop 95% of the time, and I can’t always use an external mouse. You show me the Apple notebook with a 2-button mouse…

    Now, I still wouldn’t trade my Apple laptop, but the Might Mouse does not equate with Apple *really* adopting 2 button mouse.

  • Sophmom says:

    I never got Mac hating, but there’s an odd fear-based defensiveness in some PC enthusiasts who close their minds to the possibility of Macs. The “so much software won’t run on Macs” is a holdover from the last decade (wait, century) that’s just no longer true. Love your post title, Ernie. This post made me think of the following video pointed out to me by Uber Geek Nephew, The Website Is Down.

    Best to you and yours. Hope all is well. See you at RTIII?

  • Steven Vore says:

    What gets me are all the people who – without every using it – swear that Vista’s bad news and won’t come near it. They’ll bitch about XP’s lack of stability and susceptibility to virus/trojans/etc., but would rather stay with XP than move to Vista which is… (wait for it) more stable and more secure.

    @Dave!: I’ve not used a one-button mouse on a Mac in ages, and the Mighty (two button) Mouse has been available from Apple for years now.

  • Dave! says:

    With all due respect, Craig, re-installing XP _can_ take much longer, factoring in downloading/installing service packs and security updates. And *especially* if you highly customize the interface like I do.

    Also, to say that Windows machines run “a lot of third party software that is unable to run in a mac environment” is playing into another falsehood–that there is “more” software available for Windows. There are *tons* of third party apps for the Mac, and almost all *major* software vendors have Mac versions. In the smaller, world of indie software there may be more for Windows–but for 98% of what an average user needs, there is an either an equivalent or the exact same program available on a Mac. Besides, with the great migration of applications to the web–the issue of “more software on X or Y” is becoming moot for anything but game consoles. Or attorney who still cling to Word Perfect, I suppose.

    All that said: I am OS agnostic. I use XP, Vista, OSX and Linux, all fairly regularly, since I work in IT (I also use various “server” OSs- Win2003, Solaris, OSX Server) and I can honestly say they *all* have pros and cons. XP, for the most part, is a nice stable OS. I’ve also been using Vista over a year without a need for a reinstall, and frankly, I like it–even though it requires some beefy hardware to run _well_ (with all the eye candy, too).

    BUT… I *do* reinstall XP fresh about once a year–and it’s not because of third party software. I use very little third party stuff and what I do use is very controlled. XP is just not very good at, shall we say, tidying up after itself. It’s just a fact. And to be fair, I have not had to do that with Vista–yet. But I’ve also never had to do it with my Macs.

    I think Ernie’s point (and one that several others often make) about Macs and malware/viruses is also misleading–and dangerous. I *do* run virus software on my Mac. Just because your paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you. Yes, Mac viruses are rare. But they exist. And a good virus, designed to snarf your personal info, or turn your machine into a zombie–will lie patiently in wait until the day it trashes your system… you might not notice anything wrong–until it’s too late. I buy most of my fruit and vegetables at the local farmers market from organic growers. But I still wash them before I eat ’em.

    Considering all of those factors, I still recommend Macs to anyone who asks, for a few very simple reasons:

    1. No one I have ever recommended a Mac to has regretted their decision and more importantly, no one I’ve recommended a Mac to has *ever* come back to me for “tech support”. That’s a big deal… I have recommended Windows machines (Dell/HP/Lenovo) to people in the past, and I’ve ended up doing tech support. Not a lot, getting a printer or scanner to work here and there, but still. It’s annoying.

    2. Intel based Macs are well design machines which can run OSX, Windows and Linux–giving people a whole lotta choice. Choice is good. I run all three on my Mac laptop. It gives me incredible flexibility to get stuff done.

    3. Of all the machines I have (and I have way too many), Windows is, ironically, the fastest *and* most stable on… wait for it… my Macs! Go figure.

    I just think *both* Mac zealots _and_ Windows zealots due everyone a disservice by not being willing to accept the criticisms which are due the respective platforms (like the idiotic one-button mouse on Macs…)

    Bottom line, Macs aren’t for everyone and neither is Windows, but when comparing the two, let’s at least be forthcoming about the limitations of each.

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