Miscellaneous Ramblings

What's So Great About a Mac? Plenty!

Charles Moore - 2008.09.25 - Tip Jar

In an editorial posted this week, the University of Denver Clarion's Alex Gallegos asks rhetorically: "What's So Great About a Mac? Alex says he's becoming increasingly "annoyed at the number of people who seem to have become enamored with the Macintosh operating system," further explaining that his annoyance is kindled by most of the arguments he hears about why Macs are superior to Windows machine are, he alleges, "based on an almost complete lack of knowledge about how computers actually work."

Some of these ignorami, he concedes, are "former Windows users who encountered one Blue Screen of Death too many," while others have been convinced into believing that Macs are the simpler yet more powerful cousins to the Intel market," and others think having a Mac is downright cool.

"I just don't buy this argument," he says.

Well fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but with due respect I just don't buy Gallegos' argument.

Real Men Don't Use GUIs

He starts off with a variation of a dismissive trope that reaches back to the "real men don't use mice" canard from the era when Macs had mice and PCs didn't (and didn't have Windows either), calling the Mac GUI a "Fischer (sic) Price" interface, while PC users "can indulge in customization, meddling and fiddling to an extent that would shock a Mac user's socks off."

Well, if "customization, meddling and fiddling" are what floats your boat, they're abundantly available in OS X as close as starting up the Terminal and interfacing with the OS's Unix underpinnings - and on a more sophisticated level than anything that's possible with Vista. Hold onto your socks!

But most non-geek real-world users would rather just get on with their day.

It's the Software, Stupid

As for Macs being "better artistic machines" - another timeworn (albeit true) rubric, Gallego says: "What people don't quite seem to understand is that these are questions of software, not the operating system. Software is software."

Yes, and software has to operate in the context of an operating system, and the context provided by OS X is far more satisfying for graphics work than Windows, not to mention that the software itself is often better. Where are Windows versions of Pixelmator or ToyViewer or GraphicConverter?

Even cross-platform graphics apps look and work better on the Mac - just look at Photoshop Elements.

Malware Doesn't Matter

Gallegos dismisses the relentless malware siege Windows users have to contend with by arguing: "Just because you don't get viruses, doesn't mean that nobody can write one. It's not an impossibility by any means."

No, it's not, but the operative reality is that no one has; there's never been a destructive OS X virus in the wild. As one commentator quipped: "Viruses: Mac OS X - three; Windows - eleventy-zillion."

I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but I've been working with Macs on the Internet many hours a day for over a decade, and I've never bothered with antivirus software, firewalls, or any of the anti-malware tedium and ennui that is obligatory in the Windows orbit. I never felt the need to.

It is difficult to persuade ordinary computer users who have only used Windows that - at least up to now - viruses have been a non-issue for Mac users.

As Why Are There No Viruses for Mac OS X? on Switch to a Mac put it this week:

With today's cyber-threats and focus on computer security, it's no surprise that many people are ditching their Windows PCs for Macs running OS X . . . The requirement to protect Windows installations from viruses, spyware and malware, have prompted many to make the switch....

It's well known that there are no known viruses for the Mac OS X operating system despite it being on the market for over seven years. As of this writing, Mac OS X is virus-free. There have been some attempted exploits in the past but those relied on social engineering....

If they had noticed it, Windows fanboys like Gallegos would have had an "aha!" moment earlier this this year when an Apple Web page encouraged Mac users to install virus and security software on Macs, but the page is no longer linked from Apple's Website (you can still view it in the Internet Archive.

Macs Are For Lazy Folk

As the summary shot in his broadside of Windows-acolyte conventional wisdom bromides, Gallegos casts Macs as having "a very specific set of uses for a very specific niche of users - namely people who aren't really comfortable with computers and want things to be as simple and easy as possible without having to go find appropriate software for themselves."

This guy really needs to get out more - perhaps to a software developers' convention or other geek-fest venue where he could count the high proportion of users running Macs these days.

Why I Use a Mac

Windows is one of the reasons I use a Mac: the clumsy and obtuse angularities, the general clunkiness of PC hardware, the malware plague, and the irritation of having to deal with Microsoft DRM issues.

On top of that, a lot of the software I find "appropriate" to my work as a professional tech journalist is not available on the PC, but that's just poor ignorant "not really comfortable with computers" me.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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