PC vs. Mac: What's the deal?
Which OS Is Better?
When it comes to deciding which operating system is better for your computer, it might at first seem that the odds are stacked in favor of Macintoshes. After all, Windows just can't match up to the performance level (or graphics quality) of Macs can it? I mean, even now that Windows Vista is out, the incompatibilities that come with the sleek new look (and the users that unfortunately do not like the new look anyway) prevent Windows from gaining the recognition it truly deserves. No one seems to want to understand WHY Macs outperform PC's consistently, or WHY people like me still choose Windows over Mac any day. There are quite a few reasons for this choice, and some of them may surprise you. Then there's also this whole "Linux" thing, right? How does that OS fit into everything? What a confusing market this is; I can indeed understand why no one knows which is better. That is why I have written this hub to explain the differences between the operating systems from a developer's perspective. To understand you really need to get behind the scenes and see what the operating system is truly up against. If you're interested, please read on.
Because they are the simplest to explain, I will cover Macs first. Where to start...first of all, the user interface is simply unparalleled in graphical superiority. I think most mac people would agree with me here. While I can get this exact same look out of windows, I find it too "candy-land"-ish to look at for very long. It's like eating the same piece of candy over and over and over while I'm trying to type a report. It just doesn't work for me. I understand, however, why a lot of users prefer it to the "fisher-price" thing that windows xp has going on. I'll just say here that I don't much care for the look of xp any more than mac. The thing is though, with mac, you're stuck with how it looks. With XP, at least there are programs that can change it, such as WindowBlinds (if you're interested in this sort of thing, check out my hub on windows skins).
After the user interface comes the actual operating system. It hardly ever crashes or has incompatibilities or bugs, all those little "surprises" that windows wrote the book on. But do you know WHY? The reason macs perform so well is that everything inside a mac is made by the same company, Apple Inc. EVERYTHING. That's why your mac works so good. It's locked as tight as a bank vault, and often looks like one. All the software available for macs? It's been developed by ONLY mac people who know exactly what to do.
So what makes macintoshes unique? It's the exact same reason that I can't stand them--they prevent the user from screwing up the computer! You heard me correctly, and let me repeat what I said--macs prevent user error. They bend over backwards to make sure that there is no way the user can screw up the computer. The operating system cleverly hides most of the common options that are available in windows, only allowing a few, idiot-proof administrative tasks to be accomplished by the user. Macs basically assume the user is a complete moron, and then whether or not that's the case, it's probably the best OS out there, for that user.
For nerds like me, however, it's a different story. I want to have CONTROL over my computer. I want to be able to tell it exactly what to do and when. I want to be able to change EVERYTHING about it. This "user policy" doesn't make a good match with a macintosh, which restricts and limits the user as much as possible without decreasing productivity.
Windows, on the other hand, allows you, the user, to screw up your computer. This accounts for probably half of the phone calls Microsoft gets. If you give users control when they have no idea what they're doing, then you're guaranteed to end up with problems. In fact, if you put a new-looking button clearly labeled "print" in a different spot than it was in the last version, the users will go to the ends of the software to find any other place to print besides the new button, even if you make it flash prominently. If that's the only place you can print, then it's likely that the user will make a nice binary mess on their computer before giving up and calling the software company. It's what I call the "new" syndrome. Users will cling desperately to how things were before simply to avoid having to <gasp> use brainpower to figure out what to do. The writers of the mac OS knew this, and used it to their advantage.
The problem with windows is that, unlike mac, all of its hardware comes from every other manufacturer besides mac. That means for every possible printer, scanner, hard drive, and so forth, SOMEONE has to write a software driver for it. If that driver isn't 100 percent up to date with the hardware, there's going to be a problem. Who writes these software drivers? Anyone who gets around to it. Sometimes it's the manufacturer, and sometimes it's Microsoft. Other times, it's neither. This inconsistency creates a lot of the problems that can't be attributed to user error. Then there's viruses, which really can't be written on macs because macs don't allow users enough control to write malicious software. If it were possible, there would be just as many viruses for macs as there are for windows. There's also the fact that mac users have no intention or desire to write viruses, and I doubt most mac users would have the necessary programming skill anyway.
Linux: The Underdog Alternative
Now it's time to talk about Linux. It goes along the same lines as windows, in that it grants the user a nearly-unsafe amount of control. Usually, only "power users" or advanced nerd types will have any use for Linux. However, if you're willing to put forth some effort, then you can save some serious money going this route. It will definitely take some getting used to if you've never delved into anything new before, but it can save you from the limiting factors of mac while eliminating the problems associated with windows. It's like the best of both worlds. Compared to an average operating system, Linux is blindingly fast. It also contains auto-detection support for pretty much any hardware you might have, and has excellent drivers for all of it.
Linux is probably my personal favorite, but I haven't had the chance to use it for lack of a free computer, and because windows likes to hog your entire hard drive in one enormous partition, which, conveniently enough, can't be resized by any built-in tools without losing all your data. Linux software is a hodgepodge of code from many, many different authors. What makes it so good is that it is all based on the same underlying concepts, but each author has made it unique. It's a typical hierarchy system--Linux branches off into all of these other products, each one as unique and useful as the next.
Examples of good distributions include Kubuntu, Slax Linux, Linux-Mandrake, Red Hat Linux, and Knoppix. These are by no means the only ones; in fact, there are so many distributions now days that you'll never be able to check them all out. Just pick one you think looks good and go for it. They're not all that different once you get into them and figure out what to do, although they have more awesome features than you'll ever be able to use (I might mention multiple desktops, built-in skins, and other graphical feats that would make mac users' jaws drop). I'll leave you to ponder this: Linux is probably the best operating system out there, given that it requires the most effort to get comfortable with.
So, regardless of which OS best suits your needs, I hope you learned a bit more about why people say that windows sucks so bad. Maybe now you'll have a more informed view of the situation, and might have something intelligent to say next time a hard-core mac fan boldly declares "Macs rule, Windows stinks, and Linux isn't worth it."
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