Mac vs PC

March 24, 2008 Off By Chris Hinton
Xbox vs Playstation…
Linux vs Windows…
Mac vs PC…

There are so many battles going on in geekland that it’s hard to keep up! Fanboys abound on all sides, and if you spend long in any forum devoted to a particular make of equipment, you’ll soon find someone pointing out that it “sux” and that “xyz” is the only way to go. I once read a quote, though, that made me laugh. It was just before the xbox360 came out (and I’m paraphrasing, because I can’t remember it exactly):
Let’s forget all the rubbish about which will be better: xbox360 or Playstation3, because we all know that if you had the money, you’d buy both of them!
So, with that attitude in mind, I want to tell about when I switched from PC to Mac, what I like about the Mac, and what I miss from my PC days.
I switched about 18 months ago because I’m attracted to shiny things. Oh, and because my PC was dying… I bought a Mac-Mini for £500 and I love it. It’s so small and quiet (my PC sounded like an aircraft was trying to take off under my desk). So what do I really like about being a Mac user?

  • Visuals: The computer itself is a delightful white box, about the size of a box of hankies. It just looks nice. But when I switched it on the visual treat continued. Shiny menus… the dock… even the desktop wallpaper all had a lovely clean look to them that sucked me right in. I’ve done a bit of study on NLP, and found that I’m a very visual person, so it’s no surprise that the visual niceties of MAC OS X and of the computer itself had such an effect on me. I know that I could have re-skinned Windows XP (and I did that a few times), but I liked MAC OS X’s look better!
  • Security – some say this is because nobody would bother writing a virus for a computer with such a small user-base. I don’t care, there aren’t many viruses for Macs and I don’t mind why that is! There have been some recent cases of Mac viruses being discovered, but they aren’t widespread. Still, it pays to be careful, so I have Clam AV on my Mac and I use the built-in firewall.
  • Simplicity – I used to call Macs, “PCs for people who don’t want to think”. Admittedly, not a very catchy put-down, but I honestly thought that’s all Macs were. I actually value the simplicity, though, because it means that many of the programs living on my computer work the same way… that’s not brain-dead, it’s good interface design! I’m also impressed that the OS does a good job of hiding many of the tasks and processes pretty well, so you only need to dive into the complex stuff if you really want to.
  • Simplicity again – I couldn’t think of a better title for this one… when you buy a Mac, you know you’re getting standardised hardware. Everything comes ready to go, and you know you won’t have any driver issues due to non-compliant hardware being installed in the base-unit. There’s a trade-off there, though.
  • Cheap software – iWork and MAC OS X itself are pretty cheap compared to MS Office and Windows. For a Scot like me, that’s important! No, seriously, I was surprised to discover that iWork was so cheap, especially given that it’s a great piece of software. I realise that high-end pieces of software like Aperture and Final Cut Pro are still exceptionally expensive, but for a home-user like me (who will never use those applications) the apps I want represent pretty good value.

Now… what do I miss from my PC days?

  • Cheap hardware! – There’s no denying that Macs are expensive. I know Apple say that they’re no more expensive than a high-end PC but, come on, for £500 I could have got a desktop PC with a 3d graphics card and a bit more memory than my Mac-Mini. Actually, yesterday, I saw a Vista laptop for under £500 with 3d graphics…
  • Easy upgrades – in the olden days, I would regularly open up my PC and swap out a component with a new item. That’s not so easy now, because the Mac-Mini is essentially a sealed unit. I realise you can upgrade the high-end Macs (like the pro), but I couldn’t afford one!
  • Software – Actually, this one is becoming less and less of an issue as time goes on. When I first switched, I struggled to find software for many of the tasks I’d been able to do on my PC. It’s still the case that I have to search a bit more for Mac programs, but they are there… it’s just that many more programs are written for PC than for Mac (supply and demand, though, isn’t it? There are more PC users so there will be more stuff written for them). My main bug-bear is that my dad has a more advanced version of Skype than me, simply because the PC version is on v3.0, while Mac is on v2.7.
  • Understanding – I used to understand the inner workings of the PC and Windows pretty well, while I find that I’ve never even seen the insides of my Mac and I’m having to re-learn about Unix while learning about Mac OS X. I could just let MAC OS take care of everything for me and I wouldn’t have to touch Unix, but I really want to know how things work under the hood so I couldn’t go down that route 🙂

The thing is, there are pros and cons to both platforms (and I could have thought of more for each). I’m happy with my decision to switch, but there are things I’m having to get used to, and things I miss about my PC. I guess it’s like anything else, really, there are always gains and losses in each decision (man, that’s getting a bit deep!).
Have you switched from one OS to another lately? What did you think? I’ve completely missed out Linux because I don’t have much experience of it… any Linux users out there want to chip in?