Monday, October 16, 2006

Think Different

I recently bought a Mac. I use a PC every day at work, and haven't really fiddled with Macs much since I was a computer system manager at a commercial printing company in the early '90s. I wanted a new computer, and thought long and hard about the new Intel-based Macs. I'd like to be able to say that I made the decision rationally, but actually, I gambled that the new Macs would just be cool.

I have not been disappointed. There have been years of fighting back and forth between Mac and PC users about which is the best. I'm not going to go there, except to note a few things.

Macs are easier to use. While I have not encountered anything that I simply couldn't do on the PC that I can now do on the Mac, most of what I have done has just been easier. I have downloaded only one driver, and yet I have connected my camcorder and digital camera, and every other thing with a USB or firewire port on it, to the Mac. Worked without any fuss. I was able to do this with my PC only after installing drivers, and fussing. I think I am pretty much at the top end of computer literacy (about half of my professional work involves writing software), and am frankly amazed at how easy setting up the Mac has been.

The Mac OS X is based on Unix. So automatically there is a crapload of free high-quality software available. I use OpenOffice for basic productivity work like word processing. Free. High quality. I have set up Linux on a handful of computers over the past few years. OS X is far, far easier to manage. Not to cut on Linux, because I love it. But OS X is far less fussy.

Development tools are FREE. You can get crippleware versions of Microsoft's development tools for free, but their professional-level tools are very expensive. You have to sign up for Apple's Developer Program, but this is free, and then you can download their development tools. The real stuff. I have been programming in one capacity or another for over 30 years. The process has become quite involved for modern operating systems. The Apple tools are as good as I have seen.

Overall, from the point of view of a computer user, the Mac is great, a very empowering tool. From a programmer's perspective, I am still in the early stages of finding my way around, but what I have seen so far is phenomenally good.

I like my PCs, and there are places where industry software is more available for the PC. I have a lot of programming that I do that uses a plain old serial port, which the Mac lacks (though it could probably emulate this using the USB port). And the model Mac I have doesn't have slots that I can insert interface cards into (though, again, most of the stuff I want to do with data acquisition can be done via USB port these days). On the other hand, my Intel Mac can boot Windows if I need it too.


At Wednesday, October 18, 2006, Anonymous Warren said...

Heh, welcome to freedom.

My pref platform was and remains Mac, with Linux second and MS a distant, lagging third. Between stability and a virus-free life, I'm not sure why anyone would pick anything else.

At Wednesday, October 18, 2006, Blogger ScienceDave said...

Yeah, it is weird, that people would get so partisan about something that is generally demonstrably inferior. It really doesn't make sense. Inertia is my best guess.

I remember back in the day when there were business types who refused to use a Mac because they had so much time invested in memorizing WordStar commands.


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