This is, quite possibly, one of the most difficult articles to write; for starters, it's not a review of hardware, and it's not actually a review of anything concrete - it is a review of an experience. We all go about using our computers knowing that if we don't like something about them, if they are too slow or too unreliable or don't do something we need them to do, then we can upgrade them, or we can swap out the faulty part and put in a new one. Now, it costs us money (sometimes lots of it), but it is possible. But much like the U.S. election system, although there may be the illusion of multiple options for your OS, in reality, there is really only one. If you want any sort of software compatibility, driver support and don't want to be made fun of, Windows is the way to go. There have been righteous attempts by smaller OSes to gain traction, and some of them have (e.g. Linux), but for the most part, we're dealing with a one-party OS system. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing; quite contrary, in fact. I believe that Windows XP is the best thing to ever come out of Redmond and I have very few issues with the OS. I actually liked the XP theme when it first came out and I've been happier with Windows XP than any previous Microsoft OS (except maybe the good ol' DOS days). When installed on the right hardware with the right drivers (and with an eye to be wary of poorly written apps), I found that Windows XP was just as stable as any other OS that I'd ever encountered. My personal machine would go months between reboots without a single problem. It's not that there is anything wrong with Windows; it's that if you want the option, if there's any particular thing that you don't like about the way Windows works, you're straight out of luck.

I think that a bit of me was feeling, after being a strictly Windows user ever since version 2.0 (with the requisite mix of DOS back then), that there were a couple of things that had started to annoy me about Windows, which I would rather do without.

For starters, heavy multi-tasking management under Windows had caused me a lot of grief. Maybe it's just because of the nature of my work, but I tend to have a lot of windows open at any given time. I like quick access to the information that I need when I'm working and much like a messy desk, there is a method to my window-madness that only I know. When writing an article (especially big NDA launches), I'd have around 20 IE windows open, Outlook with another 5 - 15 emails, Power Point with NDA presentations, Word with my article, maybe Dreamweaver if I was starting to put it into HTML, not to mention Acrobat, some sort of MP3 player, Trillian and a bunch of explorer windows as well. After a certain point, the cramped taskbar became difficult to use as a locator tool, and while I could ALT+TAB forever, I just felt like I was idle for too long. I knew what it was that I needed to get to, and I knew I had it open, but the process of getting to it was a pain.

The other issue was with the way Windows handled having so many windows opened; after a certain number of windows were opened, stability and performance both went down the drain. Sometimes applications could no longer spawn additional windows or dialog boxes, requiring me to close a handful before I could continue doing anything, and other times, applications would simply crash.

It's not that I was dissatisfied with Windows and the PC experience in general, but I thought it might be time for something new - to see what else was out there.

I've always been a fan of trying alternate Oses - I was even an OS/2 user (both 2.0 and Warp) for a little while in my early years. So, a while back, I conjured up this idea to try using a Mac for a month. At first, it started as just a personal experiment, but it later developed into the foundation for the article that you're reading now. After doing the necessary research to make sure that I could actually get work done on a Mac, I whipped out the trusty credit card and decided to give the experiment a try.

What you are about to read are my impressions, as a devout PC user, of the Apple way of life.

The Basics
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  • raveng4 - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    If you are having difficulty maintaining your Gf's mac you must be doing something wrong. You CAN use just about any non apple hardware for it. Most if not all wireless devices are Mac compatible. Most PCI Cards I've used are just plug and play on the Mac so I'm nost sure why you are having such problems.

    As for this article I find it prett well balanced.
  • victorpanlilio - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    ss84 wrote in 139: So basically, the cheapest mac you can buy, that runs osx decently, costs 1300 dollars.

    No, as one commenter posted above, even the eMac would be suitable for "normal" computing tasks, and it starts at US$799. I just recently showed an eMac user (and his unit was an older 800MHz one, not the current 1.25GHz G4 model) how to turn his edited home videos into a DVD. At home I run OS X 10.3.5 on a G4 tower that's only 400MHz, with a 16MB ATI Rage128, and it's still fine for what I do (Photoshop retouching, a bit of video editing). I also have a 2.4GHz P4 Dell PowerEdge server for testing Win2K3 Enterprise. The Mac has no antivirus software; neither does the Dell -- but the Dell is fully patched, and I don't run IE on it except for Windows updates.

    You also wrote: In an office environment, I cant think of anything that a mac can bring to the table that would offset the huge cost associated with each machine when compared to a windows machine that is suitable for the same task.

    I respectfully beg to differ.

    Re: "I can't think of anything" -- perhaps you might want to try thinking "outside the box" (literally). I derive part of my income from defending corporate Windows networks from malware. The billable hours required to do this are not at all trivial, given the increasing cooperation between spammers and virus writers -- blended threats are now the norm, not the exception. You can literally plug a modern Mac directly into the Internet (cable, DSL, whatever) and it will be fine. OTOH, I have plenty of experience with unprotected and misconfigured PCs in home and business settings, that were taken over by various kinds of nasty malware.

    Even Bill Gates' own home PCs were hit (see ZDNet news story linked in an earlier post), so the Chief Software Architect of Microsoft has declared that MS will do something about it.

    I recall a recent incident at a home building company, where I support the Macs in the marketing department. While the rest of the company was offline due to a worm that had gotten onto the corporate network from a laptop that carried the infection from home, the Mac users just kept working away, undisturbed by the support tech who was dashing madly from one PC to another to load a scan and remove tool -- and I had done exactly the same thing weeks earlier at another, all-Windows office. In short, we should not just look at hardware cost, look at the TCO (total cost of ownership). At C$95/hour for tech support, any price delta between Mac and PC hardware in an office-type environment can be quickly eroded by just one piece of malware running loose behind the defense perimeter. Since there are currently ZERO viruses for MacOS X, antivirus software and tech support to deal with malware intrusions are variable costs a business running on Macs does not have to deal with. Also, see my earlier post about the ratio of support techs to machines -- 1:208 for Macs, 1:70 for PCs, and this is based on my experience in large companies. Do the math. The costs for the "cheaper" PC quickly add up. I say this as someone who has worked in large PC companies (IBM, DEC, Compaq, Fujitsu) for much of his career.
  • ProviaFan - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    I think the whole pre-emptive multitasking thing may be a case of confusing the definitions or concepts in an attempt to explain why both Windows 9x/ME and OS 9 and earlier all could be crashed very easily by improperly written applications, while Windows NT/2000/XP and OS X are much more resilent. While I am not so sure of the proper terminology myself, I _thought_ the problems came from lack of (or improper implementation of?) protected memory, rather than inability to multitask.
  • fxparis - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    victorpanlilio wrote in 135 (among interesting precisions) that our Macs are " inherently more secure than Window "

    I just " fear " that those leeches dedicated to hassle other people work and life have many skills and adaptation potentiality when it comes to "mal-programming"

    I hope HE is right and I am wrong
  • emboss - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Err, oops, sorry 'bout that.

    Actually 9x does have pre-emtive multitasking, and it's dead easy to prove. Write a program like this:

    int main(void)
    while (1==1)
    return 1;

    Under a non-preemtive system, such as Windows 3 or earlier, this will hang the system. Running such a program under windows 9x will just result in a hung program (obviously) but the system will still be fine. On a Cray, of course, the application will finish running in under two seconds ;)

    I have no idea why MS says 9x doesn't pre-emtively multitask, except possibly to try to convince people to upgrade to a NT-kerneled OS (which had pre-emtive multitasking from the beginning).
  • emboss - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

  • ss284 - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    So basically, the cheapest mac you can buy, that runs osx decently, costs 1300 dollars. What about the majority of people who dont have that much money to spend on a computer? Apple gives them no other option. I would not consider 1400 a decent price, especially in a corporate environment, where $800 workstations are more than enough for almost any sort of office work. In an office environment, I cant think of anything that a mac can bring to the table that would offset the huge cost associated with each machine when compared to a windows machine that is suitable for the same task.
  • mxzrider - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    i have both mac and pc (pc has windows and mandrake) i can live with out either. i use my mac (ppc g4) for video editing, but i am getting in premier, media 100 8 is getting really old. so i might sell my mac cuz it is dirt slow compared to my 800$ pc. i got hte g4 right before the g5 came out.(piss me off). but i can type faster the the apple can keep up. so i might go in to my 5 year old cusins room. or sell it for 1500 and get a new pc. i have floated farther and farther away from mac.Maybe becuase i dont do as much video editing much any more.
  • victorpanlilio - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    GoodWatch wrote in #134: I’m just waiting for the first port of OS X to the Intel platform

    *sigh* Don't. Apple still makes most of its income from selling HW, not SW, and though it could be argued tongue in cheek that Macs are just expensive dongles for some really world-class apps, MacOS X is optimized for the PPC architecture -- even though its Darwin OS core is synced with an x86 version, OS X on x86 will likely not be sold to the public as long as Steve Jobs is CEO of Apple. Just imagine the developer revolt that would ensue.
  • bebopredux - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    Being a PC only ( well, OK, Debian Linux too ) user for the past 7 years I always heard the MacHeads claim a superior system. I admit to really wanting a Mac in addition to my PC.
    Luckily I won a Mac G5 with a 23" Cinema Display this past May! I was thrilled to say the least. I have been impressed. Why? Being a "computer guy" I am always getting nagged by friends and family to help with their PC woes. I have been overwhelmed lately with the endless spyware, adware and browser hijacks occuring with Windows machines. A lot of the help is for elderly people who have made the jump to computing. I admire them for this. However, it is an absolute jungle for these people. IE6 is a dog now infested with fleas and ticks. These people have given up surfing the web because of this. Firefox and Mozilla help but, compared with Macs, PC's are a a bitch to surf with lately if you don't have the know how.
    I have taken to suggesting people buy Macs now for this reason alone. iLife is a very simple and easy to master suite that does all they need to do. Safari, IMO is a pleasant surprise.
    Bottom line? Macs make it easier to work and play rather than be under the hood all the time scanning for spyware etc;.
    This was a good article but, I found it to be nitpicking. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE who comes over to my house and tries the Mac wants one now. I do web desing and graphics work on my PC. I am accustomed to it.
    I think it's a smart thing to learn all the OS'es you can! I use Linux, OSX and XP on a daily basis. I am teaching my kids all 3 too ( as well as BeOS!! ). Truthfully, I wish Macs were less expensive. They are very nice machines and the OS is stellar and less prone to Windows assaults which, lately, is becoming a HUGE hassle akin to an epidemic.
    The correct answer is that Windows and Macs are both great. However, Windows seems to be asleep lately with regards to security.

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