Mac or Windows? Mac or Windows? I want to buy myself a new computer,
and all weekend I’ve been asking myself the question: Mac or Windows?
It’s such a simple question, but everything I do with technology for the next
three or four years hangs in the balance. Which path I take affects the productivity
software I’ll be able to buy, or not buy, it affects how easily I’ll be able
to collaborate with coworkers and authors, it affects the availability of games
and peripherals, it even tends to drive whether I buy a PocketPC or a Palm;
the impact even extends to my cellphone.
Many have been faced with the same dilema, I’m sure.
Apple makes cool hardware, and their new, Unix-based OS X operating system
is, in my mind, a good thing. On the other hand, my first notebook computer
ever was a Macintosh Powerbook, which I bought back in the 1992-1993 time-frame.
I well remember the feeling of walking into a CompUSA and finding that 90%
of what they stocked didn’t apply to me. I remember not being able to buy
games for my daughter, because they were Windows-only. Apple is still a small
percentage of the market today, and its future seems a bit shaky from where
I sit. They sure don’t seem to have a competitive CPU offering, and that bodes
ill for their future.
Related to all this, I just today upgraded the family PC from Windows 98 to
Windows XP Home. My first task was to reformat the hard-drive. When installing
an operating system, I find it best to begin with a clean slate. That left
me in a rather interesting predicament: because my hard-drive was clean, the
Windows XP Home upgrade required me to prove ownership of a prior version of
Windows by inserting my Windows 98 CD. Only I didn’t have a CD for this particular
box, because I’d bought it after Microsoft forced resellers to stop including
such a CD with their systems. Temporarily flummoxed, I inserted Hewlett-Packard’s
(this is an HP box) recovery CD. Perhaps that would work? After all, Windows
98 is on that CD somewhere. But no dice. I couldn’t prove to Microsoft that
I owned a previous version of their operating system, and the reason I couldn’t
prove this to them is because they themselves deprived me of the means! They
deprived me of the very CD for which they were now asking me. How ironic!
Dreading the thought of having to restore Windows 98 and all of HP’s bundled
software (all useless junk) from the recovery CD, and then installing XP Home
on top of that mess, I recalled an extra Windows 98 CD in my basement. This
was from a Dell I’d bought before the ban on distributing operating-system CDs
with new computer systems (I run Linux on that Dell, by the way). I found this
old CD, shoved it into the drive, XP Home was happy, and I went on with the
install. Good grief! The things we have to put up with sometimes.
Now, the people who work for Microsoft aren’t stupid. They know full well how
inconvenient it is not to have an operating-system CD, and they surely know
customers like me would be greatly inconvenienced after reformatting our hard-drives
in preperation for installing XP only to find that we then needed to reinstall
the operating-system we’d just erased in order to upgrade it. By getting their
customers, by getting me, into such a confusing morass, Microsoft shows
a complete and purposeful disregard for the people who buy their products,
for those whose money keeps them in business. I’m insulted by, and resentful
of, such nonsense.
By the way, have you actually sat down and read a EULA lately? I hadn’t, so
I read through the one for XP Home today, and it’s horrible. It actually prohibits
me from connecting to my XP HOME PC via my network for anything other than file
or print services. Technically, that seems to mean I can’t install something
like Apache and run a small website in my own house. It also probably means
I can’t install Oracle on my PC for learning purposes, because then I’d be accessing
a database service, which the EULA doesn’t appear to allow. The only
saving grace is Microsoft does not yet have the technical means in place to
enforce such draconian terms, but it sure does seem like they intend to head
down that path.
So what do I do? Mac or Windows? I feel like I’m faced with something close
to a Hobson’s
choice. On the one hand, I’m very annoyed with Microsoft right now, so I’m
inclined to start moving away from them by making my next computer an Apple.
On the other hand, the Windows/Intel platform is the clear winner when I look
at performance-for-the-buck, and also in terms of knowing that I’ll be able
to buy the software and hardware that I need two and three years down the road.
For that matter, software such as Visio, that I depend on now, is simply not
available for OS X. And then there’s that hidden cost of switching: I’d need
to buy again software such as Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Fireworks,
and Microsoft Office, software that I already own for the Windows platform.
Maybe I just won’t buy a new computer at all.