Mac Power!

2 05 2011

2 Macbook Pros and a Mac Air...

This blog is created and published exclusively on Apple computers. At home I use a 15″ Macbook Pro hooked up to the monster monitor in the middle. On the road I use my 1st generation Mac Air portable laptop as well as my iPhone 3GS to approve and respond to comments. I retired the 5yr old 17″ Macbook Pro on the left, but it’s still in good shape so Sharon adopted it for checking email and web surfing. I use an old Dell XPS for running a few older software packages that are PC only, but I won’t be replacing that beast. When it dies I’ll just load Windows up on my Mac in Parallels Desktop.

I know they cost a bit more than their PC counterparts, but since I use my computers a lot the more attractive physical form factor and easier to use interface makes it well worth the extra $$. I also don’t miss having all those compatibility problems that I did in my PC days nor having to reinstall the OS and all the drivers on a frequent basis to keep things running smoothly.

I have my criticisms of Apple as a company and how they do somethings [ie. the horror that is the App Store], but my next computer will be an Apple that’s for sure…



18 responses

2 05 2011

If you ever have occasion, you should install Linux Mint on a Parallels, you might find that the Linux experience has significantly improved. Then you could have the best of both worlds, inexpensive hardware, and well designed software.

2 05 2011

I have friends that use Linux and I’ve never seen any reason to give it a try. I don’t enjoy messing around with my computer. I just want to turn it on and get to work.

I also like the form factor of the Mac computers so I wouldn’t buy a low cost PC box/laptop to run linux on so there wouldn’t be any savings.

2 05 2011

Ah, the Mac User Pride! It finds its way everywhere 🙂 He he he, I make living by supporting and fixing Macs and supporting a few hundred Mac users, don’t get me started on the “Mac Superiority” myths, misconceptions and stuff 🙂 And I never understood why Mac users feel so compelled to tell everyone else that they’re Mac users. After all 95% of the computer users don’t use Macs and mostly get their stuff done, including entire corporations, universities, governments, etc. Oh, and me too 🙂 I don’t use Macs at home.

Mac is a closed platform with tightly controlled software ecosystem and tiny market share (so nobody cares about writing malware for it) and very limited choices of hardware and peripherals and most drivers provided by Apple. I mean, that’s good, but there is nothing inherently better about Mac/OSX platform. That’s where the perceived superiority comes from: unification of the platform and obscurity of the platform. This is the blessing as well as the curse. Try doing something non-standard from a third party on a Mac like USB3 (heck, most USB2 cards won’t work in a MacPro) or eSATA RAID or “unsupported” USB camera and you will be in driver hell just like on Windows, with Kernel panics and stability issues. But as long as you stick to the neat package Apple sold you you’ll be fine… for some time.

The hardware in current Macs is exactly the same as in Dell or other PCs, there is nothing different/better about Apple hardware: same CPUs, same chipsets, same drives, same LCDs, even the motherboards are just modified Intel designs. Most of it is made by Foxconn who makes parts for PC OEMs as well. Now and then Intel would make something custom for Apple like the CPUs for the Air. So, Macs break just as often as anything else. They’re PCs in fancy cases. You just pay extra for the fancy case and the ability to run OSX with its cutsy GUI and the right to feel special 😉

Again, I’m not saying Macs are bad, but their advantages come from their limitations. If Mac/OSX had the market share that Windows does and the plethora of software and peripherals it would suffer from the same problems Windows does which mainly comes down to malware and crappy third party drivers.

And vice versa: if MS was able to control the Windows software/hardware ecosystem the way Apple does, there would be exponentially less problems with Windows PCs.

Oh, and before someone says that OSX is safer because it’s UNIX, um… not really. Just read the news about compromised webservers, DOS attacks, online breaches, bank break-ins and user data theft; most of these servers run Linux or UNIX. Any machine can be broken into given enough skill, time and determination and there are lots of unpatched Macs out there, many still running 10.4 and 10.3. OSX has many vulnerabilities that could be exploited by someone determined enough. There is simply not enough to be gained from attacking Macs right now.

End note: Apple laptops and iMacs are a bitch to service, they’re basically not meant to be taken apart and once they’re taken apart they can never be reassembled to the original state. Laptops in particular, once taken apart they will never be the same. The screw holes, latches, etc are thin, weak and bend and wear out quickly. The screws are cheap and soft, it takes little force to strip them. There are parts that have to be forcefully un-snapped and then snapped back in, there are parts literally held by plastic latches, tape and glue. There is EM adhesive tape everywhere that just can’t be cleanly removed and reapplied (most techs just throw it away). And, unfortunately, the designs are so bad that to to replace something as basic as a hard drive, DVD drive or a power supply you have to disassemble the entire machine which increases the chances of something getting broken in the process.

The clean lines of the exterior design come at the cost of structural integrity and serviceability of the interior and the internal structure is quite crappy despite of what Apple wants you to believe. The metal case creates an illusion of toughness and rigidity but it’s just an illusion.


2 05 2011

@Adam – first off I can only work with the data points I have accumulated through my own experiences and that of my friends with whom I interact with. In that context the PC folks are always working on their machines to get something sorted out or reinstalling windows for the X time. The Mac folks I know don’t seem to have those issues and I can’t recall ever being at someone’s place with a Mac and having them tell me about their latest computer issue. OTOH that’s a regular topic of conversation with my PC friends.

I agree that Macs work best if you don’t want to do anything beyond what Apple has designed them to do. I fall squarely into that category with computers as I do with vehicles for that matter. I want them to work – period. I’m not going to start tweaking my Mac nor am I going to fiddle with my F150’s traction control system for “better” performance.

At work I have been slowly converting folks to Macs wherever possible. I used to get daily calls about computer problems from people that I now don’t hear from at all.

My GF had no end of PC problems now and I finally got her to buy a Mac and she has very few problems and the few she does have she is able to sort out on her own because the Apple OS makes more sense for her.

I realize that there is nothing special inside the case of a Mac vs. a PC, but the level of product integration and the optimized OS makes a huge difference.

My goal isn’t to convert you to a Mac any more than my post about a Bike Friday Tikit is trying to convert the world to 16″ wheeled folding bikes. I’m stoked about both items and I post about them. I’ve probably got about 1 Mac related post on this blog/year so I don’t think I qualify as a rabid fanboy quite yet!

2 05 2011

If you are exposed to both Macs and PC enough you will see lots of problems with both. Although, mainly because of the rampant malware, PCs are much higher maintenance than Macs.

We have Mac users that we have to reimage their Macs a couple of times a year because they always find ways to mess them up, often we don’t even understand how 🙂 But I also know a few who are running 8+ years old PCs with the original Windows XP installation!

Taking away admin rights is the only way to prevent Mac and PC users alike from getting into trouble (to a degree) but that takes away some convenience and creates the control freak image for IT people. This would be OK in a bank or other corporate environment but in academia people expect more freedom and these are “their computers” bought with their grants. And you can’t take away admin rights from home users because that will prevent them from running updates and installing software.

But, in some cases when user just can’t stay out of trouble making them a non-admin user is the only way.

I don’t tweak my PCs either but I like to be able to upgrade them gradually rather than buying a whole new machine every couple of years.

I had a MacPro for a while. I’ve gone nuts trying to make an external eSATA RAID enclosure to work with it. Sure, an Apple blessed Fibre RAID would work, but that would cost 10x as much too. Same with USB: Macs don’t have enough USB ports for my needs and I don’t like hubs, I’ve tried 4 or 5 PCI cards before I found one that worked withe MacPro.

I just expect more from a computer. I have too many devices that I want to have connected and a Mac just can’t handle them.

Backward compatibility is also a showstopper for me with Macs. OSX update can easily render bunch of software and peripherals useless just because Apple decided to remove support for them or make some major changes to underlying technologies without providing any path for backwards compatibility, and vendors get fed up and stop providing driver updates. I can run ancient Alien Skin and KPT plugins with Photoshop CS5 on a 64bit SandyBridge Core i7 Windows 7 machine. I was unable to do that few years back on my MacPro running 10.5. And I had a drawer full of USB gadgets and PCI cards and I’ve gone thorough 3 scanners during lifetime of one Mac that were rendered obsolete by OSX updates.

2 05 2011

This topic is so controversial it is too hot for the internet but Adam has hit the nail on the head. People love Macs because they love the interface and the integration. Video guys are the ones who love Macs the most, for that reason. Macs can be easily purchased as video editing optimized packages that you just plug in and off ya go.

I have been using a Mac Pro (desktop) for photo editing and minor ‘net stuff and that thing is driving me to mental health counseling. The Mac operating system is impenetrable and the box itself is designed not to be maintained. I would even go so far as to say it is an environmental hazard because it’s not easy to replace parts as they wear out so the whole thing ends up in the recycling bin sooner than a non-Mac PC.

For the same price as Mac hardware you can find a good motherboard (without the planned obsolescence that a lot motherboards have) and good parts to stick on it and a nice easily-accessible box to put it in and it will last longer than a Mac. I would rather have a nice computer I assembled myself than one assembled by the disgruntled slaves at Foxconn who are in such despair that they commit mass suicide on their lunch breaks. If you like, you can run the Mac operating system on the computer you made yourself.

Yes, I do have to freshen up my Windows PC by clearing off the hard drive at least once a year but reformatting the drive gives it that bracing Irish Spring smell and it keeps me off the streets for a few hours while I reload all the software and curse the cretins who planted the malware on it in the first place. So that is the one time of the year I have pleasant daydreams about Macs.

2 05 2011

I always buy the Apple Care warranty with my Macs. So I get 3yrs of hassle free use.

My oldest one is going strong after 5yrs, but when something goes wrong it will get recycled. I don’t expect any laptop to remain useful past 4yrs given how fast technology changes. From what I can tell Apple seems to be working on far more recycling friendly designs than anyone else.

2 05 2011
Micheal Blue

Well, it seems it comes to “horses for courses”. For people who like to play around with computers there are Window-based PCs. For people who like to buy a packaged thing that just simply works and don’t mind paying a little bit more, there are Macs. Thus both camps are satisfied. I have a Mac Mini that I purchased in 2006. The only upgrade was putting in more RAM. Getting inside the case and accessing the memory slots was a bit weird, but nothing seemed fragile, nothing broke, and the computer works fine. Before that I had a 12″-screen Mac laptop. Recently I needed a webcam for Skype calls.
The only model that was available for Mac (that I could find) was a 100-dollar one. I didn’t mind paying a little bit extra. I just plugged it in and it started working right away, and very well. Video is sharp, the webcam can adjust brightness and focus very well. I also appreciate the beauty of Apple’s design, though I can understand that a beautiful outside may come at the expense of a complex and thus perhaps more fragile inside. When I needed an external back-up HDD, I bought a Lacie one, that just plugged in and worked right away, too. If you need to guard your Mac’s exit door, you can get Little Snitch – it’s a cheap software that allows you to tell it what ports/applications you want to communicate with the outside world and what you want blocked. If anything that is not authorized by you to go out tries to, Snitch gives you a warning a message and a choice to block it or let it go.

2 05 2011

One more thing: what makes OSX more desirable for the artsy types is global support for drag-and-drop between the OS and the apps. You can drag an image from Photoshop into InDesign or a video clip between programs or to your desktop. Windows still doesn’t offer such fully integrated drag-and-drop support.

Video guys like Macs because:

In the past Mac OS9 with its QuickTime components was more capable video editing platform than Windows was. MS dropped the ball on video editing the way Apple dropped the ball on computer gaming and 3D hardware acceleration. Neither thought of it seriously.

Now, it’s Final Cut Pro. Apple hit the nail on the head with interface, video people love FCP. They buy FCP not a Mac. And for home user iMovie is the best video editing program ever offered. There is nothing on Windows that comes close to the ease of use of iMovie. But it’s slow because Apple never bothered optimizing FCP and iMovie for their own hardware until recently. There have been video apps for Windows using CUDA hardware acceleration for over a year now and Apple just announced similar GPU hardware support for FCP.

So Mac OS has always been a mixed bag: you get ease of use, but it’s never cutting edge as Apple makes it look like. Mac OS usually lags behind with latest technologies. Then Apple implements those technologies with a big bang making it look like a revolution and Mac users believe that. That happened with OpenGL, USB/USB2, ATA/ATAPI, SATA, PCI, AGP, eSATA, PCI Express, GPU acceleration, etc. All those technologies came out for Windows first and Apple adopted them later making everyone believe they have revolutionized computing again. Their implementation would often be partial too, missing some critical features as it happened with ATA and SATA. And then we have crowds of misinformed Mac users believing that if it wasn’t for the Mac we wouldn’t have USB or PCI, duh.

So Apple hardware has always been underwhelming under the hood, it’s the looks and the OS that makes people stick to it and the OS/hardware integration. But don’t try to venture beyond what Apple included in the package or there will be pain and suffering 🙂

2 05 2011

Re Linux Mint

Mint is awesome but I discovered that Apple has devilishly integrated Linux incompatibility into its wireless transmitter so it won’t work with my D-Link adapter on a PC (transmitting from the Apple device). I did not even think that was possible. Anyway most people may have resistance to partitioning their hard drive to run Linux alongside another operating system, even though it’s really easy to do.

Also, while were trash-talkin’ Macs I would like to point out that I am typing this on a PC with a 2002 Intel motherboard with a 2002 Pentium 4 Processor that’s been in almost continuous use since 2002. I’ve dded a few bits in the interim (like a DVD writer, some cheap RAM, a CPU cooling fan that died because it got clogged up with city air pollution) but otherwise it’s original. It’s pushing its luck with some of the new memory-intensive graphics crazy software but it runs Photoshop, AutoCAD, Mastercam, Rhinocerous, Adobe Premiere Elements (a bit rough), Photomatix and a bunch of other stuff.

2 05 2011

Whew! Mac by choice at home and as a student ( since ’87?) PC by necessity at work (since ’93)

They are what they are and I like them for what they are.

3 05 2011

I love your blog and especially this article , Mac vs .Windows. I’m 60 and stick to a principle or two, one is KISS (keep it simple stupid) the other is unless it need’s fixing don’t play with it, these two principles have worked well for me in cycling and low level computing. My iBook G4 seized up on me recently so I upgraded to a 13.3″ Macbook pro, nice machine , my old G4 I wiped clean and proceeded to get it up and running again, I bought it in early 2006 and I reckon it has at least a few more years of service. As for Windows it didn’t fall into line with my two principles (no matter how hard I tried) ,so Windows 95 found out what a fall from a window felt like and the next Windows got the proverbial drop kick into the lake, then went a Redhat Linux system which was cool but frustrating , went to Mac and now have two laptops, an iPhone and no problems connecting any of my cameras or GPS units to them (other than lots of cables).Found many non Mac produced programs to run and also don’t use a lot of Mac’s chaff programs, that they fill up your new computer with. Told them to KISS but they don’t respond, probably too lazy or too ignorant, but who cares. All in all whatever works for you is what you should stick with and if it don’t work don’t fix it drop kick it. Have not stopped cycling just the rotations have slowed to a more leisurely pace.

3 05 2011
Steve Jones

And when computers and Mac / PC conversation threatens to drive me crazy I have a choice of five bicycles I can ride to escape from it. THANK GOODNESS!!!! Too bad it’s pouring down with rain right now…After reading this I really need to ride! Ha!Ha!

My computers have always been Macs.They aren’t perfect, the one I’m using now refuses to turn on sometimes. Would I change it to a PC? Not a chance. Macs have the cleanest design and the O.S. requires less clicks to get things done. simple as that. I don’t need more complexity in my life. ALL my friends using PC’s are always complaining about problems, installing anti virus programs etc.and they STILL have problems. I just roll my eyes and wonder why they don’t buy an Apple product.
Say what you like, the Macs are reliable and easy to use. Of course if you want to waste time messing with D-link adapters, Alien skin (really? 🙂 ) and KPT plug ins.. whatever these things are..please don’t tell me..( I’m overloading already!!!! )well I can’t say I need any of that stuff in my life thanks!

I’m with Vic. Bikes, Macs, a beer or two and in my case the love of a good woman, preferably without Alien Skin and GPU acceleration ( because I can only pedal so fast and I don’t think I could possibly keep up with that stuff)!!
Hey, thanks to Apple, I don’t HAVE to! And for those of us happy Mac users that is probably the point!

The Cross-Check’s looking nice Vic. Saw the pics on Bow cycle’s site.

3 05 2011

“I don’t enjoy messing around with my computer. I just want to turn it on and get to work.”

Various distributions have come a long way towards minimizing the ‘messing around’. When I came back to Linux after a long break, I tried Ubuntu and was surprised to find that it worked right out of the box. Updates are easy, installing new software is fast, free, and easy, and for the most part, applications work with a minimum of fuss.

3 05 2011

I used to try Linux every few months, just for kicks, including Ubuntu, Kbuntu, Mandriva, Red Hat/Fedora, SUSE, Debian, Xandros and bunch of small distributions for Atom netbooks. Nothing ever worked for me. None of them ever detected my video cards properly, WiFi usually didn’t work, sound was choppy, GUI was laggy. Even in the most polished distributions there is obvious lack of coherence and integration and um… polish. All those distros feel like something slapped together by a schizophrenic programmer. There is rampant disregard for basic principles of GUI and human interface design as well as aesthetics in Linux everywhere.

Asking a Mac user to try Linux is just, I don’t know… funny? Why would a Mac user even bother trying Linux is beyond me. Going from the polished, pretty, stable OS/GUI to the mess that Linux is, is… um… completely unnecessary. For Windows users who just want to use web, email, chat and do some light office work, Linux may just barely cut it.

I came up with an idea that we should punish unruly Mac users by taking away Photoshop from them and have them use Gimp for a few weeks. However, we later decided that would be too cruel and people might end up with some mental and emotional disorders, like PTST or something.

3 05 2011

One of my good friends is PHD is something computer related and run Linux at home I recall settling in at his place one evening to watch a movie. He started some command line shit and cursing and more command line action. I was nearly done my first beer by the time the movie started.

I remember thinking to myself this guy is 5 times as smart as me when it comes to computers – maybe 20 times. I wouldn’t get my email before noon each day!

3 05 2011

Vik, yeah, that sounds about right. As the saying goes: “it takes 5 minutes to set up a web server on Linux but a week to get a printer working”.

4 05 2011
Raymond Parker

“I don’t enjoy messing around with my computer. I just want to turn it on and get to work.”

I hear you.

I’m just so glad to be rid of PC hell. I “converted” to Macs 3 years ago and have never looked back, except to say: “why didn’t I do this sooner?”

That is all.

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