The Practical Mac

Same Stuff, Different Pile?

- 2002.07.02 - Tip Jar

The Mac vs. PC argument is one that could fill this column from now until . . . until . . . until . . . well, until there are no more Macs or PCs! However, we want to share the following discourse, sent in by reader Mike Roy, which tackles the issue with a bit of a twist:

To me XP and OS X are at the same level stability wise. The only difference is that there is more free server software available on the *nix side of things. (If you went 100% MS on a PC, you would pay thousands for the software, whereas on a Unix based system you could get free industrial strength email, www, ftp, etc. services. Mind you there are tons of share/freeware software for a x86 PC too...) Same stuff, different pile.

I'm just very tired of the Mac vs. PC argument. When will people see that Macs do have drivers, they're just called extensions! And they will screw you up just as badly on one platform when they are buggy. I had a brand new G4/400 tower once that shipped to us with a LaCie CD-RW. It wouldn't boot if the thing was plugged in. Why? Buggy driver, errr, extension. A normal user wouldn't know how to fix it, PC or Mac. All it took was to unplug the drive from USB and do some reading and downloading from LaCie's site, but that's all it would take on a x86 based PC too. Both drive and system were brand new, virgin install, same generation hardware. Makes me wonder what LaCie was testing their driver on. Same stuff, different pile.

The other one I hear lots from OS 9 people is complaining about file extensions. When will people understand that all files have an application identifier in pretty much any OS? Some are hidden, some are not. But they are still there. How do people think their Word doc opens when you click it? Because there is a bit in the file, or a table in the OS saying file X was created in Word. Same stuff, different pile.

I reboot my two XP workstations once every two weeks. The reboot has to be done due to the Windows Update downloading the latest fixes and drivers, just like on the Mac. I follow the same schedule with our Linux servers (the apt-get and urpmi commands are godsends) and any OS 9 and X boxes. Same stuff, different pile.

The level of features and sophistication in our modern OSes has brought us to a very high level of stability no matter what platform you should chose. But if you have crappy drivers in there, you will have problems on any platform. That being said, I don't believe that any of the three platforms and their applications has anymore bugs than the other ones. Every week I see patches for all the OSes fixing no checked buffers and memory leaks. No one is better than the other. Same stuff, different pile.

The playing field has been leveled. Software is now ported to all platforms where they matter. You can get the entire Adobe line on x86 instead of just Mac. Apache runs on everything under the sun (including Sun stations, heh). Quark and FileMaker on x86. Even the Mac now has a decent stable of games. For the most part software availability is a non-issue. Supported hardware is a level field, too. FireWire, USB, PCI, AGP, dual CPU. You can get them on any platform you chose. Same stuff, different pile.

The future will be decided by pricing, special services, and customer service. As a whole, I would call this total value of the desktop system. This is the sole place where I believe Apple is still quite far ahead. Their systems may cost a bit more, but with the new G4 bundle there is now more in the box across the entire line of Apple products. I think most people would be happier with the Apple PC that they might bring home.

The iApps are wonderful and ready to go. I'm still appalled that Windows Media Player can't rip an MP3 without purchasing a $10 module. While XP has equivalent apps included (Movie Maker vs. iMovie2), the level of quality of the software is superior on the Mac. A free IMAP email account from Apple is very nice tool. Free online storage space.

Just recently I read their howto on migrating your email, address book, and files from your PC to a Mac using their free services. You don't see MS or Dell doing that, do you? No. Of course, Dell and MS aren't scrambling for life, so I guess they don't have to put in the extra effort.

This is where Apple is different. The amount and quality of software bundled. Apples to oranges. Different stuff, different pile. In this case, thinking different is fantastic. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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