Mac vs. PC

This is not a regular article, but more like a follow up on Brad Harrison’s Mac vs. PC article last month. Brad you told the world why Macintosh knocks the competition cold, and I want to tell how it does just that. Worry – it gets technical. ;-)

Menagerie of Macs

1. Speed

It’s true, the PowerPC is cool, in every meaning of the word. Although it might, or might not, be as snappy as claimed (since all sides of the ‘war’ cheat with their benchmarks), a PowerPC is definitely faster. But how?

The answer is “age”. Intel will not admit it, but even today’s newest Pentium IIs and the like are actually based on designs and concepts that date back to 1974, if I’m not mistaken. That is over 20 years – which in the computer business is a very, very long time. PowerPC is, on the other hand, free from baggage, as it was created from scratch in the early 1990s.

As a matter of fact, the Pentium IIs are scaringly fast considering their heritage. But here’s another difference between the two: For a Pentium to be fast, it requires hand-optimized assembly code. Not easy. PowerPC’s barely need anything extra to speed them up, since they are designed to be fast!

2. Ease of Use

Oh, here’s my favourite. The very reason I am actually staying with the Mac. I could actually write an entire series based on my experiences in school, where they force WinDOS (pun intended) onto us. (Yes, that’s right: I’m studying for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and I don’t even get to choose a Mac.)

How about a real world example? Let’s refer to what Brad wrote about screens. Yes, Windows warns you about changing resolutions, but it’s for a cause. You see, a regular Wintel computer does not know what kind of hardware is attached to it unless you tell it. A Mac does.

It’s as simple as this: In a standard Mac monitor connection there are so-called “sense lines”. These are used at startup by the Mac OS – imagine the system waking up and asking the screen, “Hi, what can I expect from you?” That’s exactly what goes on, except it is a bit more technical – of course.

The Wintel world, on the other hand, does not have this kind of functionality. Were you surprised? I actually saw someone at school install Windows NT on a computer and set the screen to maximum resolution. That is, he set the graphics card to it’s maximum; the poor screen could not handle it and blacked out in panic. Luckily for him, today’s screens know what they can tolerate, and if they get a signal beyond their capabilities, they will simply turn black.

Let’s go back to these sense lines one more time. As noted, they are in fact the reason for the Mac to have non-VGA connectors. And as the Wintel world’s standard, VGA does not have such sense lines, what does one do?

Correct. Buy an adaptor – which contains sense lines of its own, to fool the computer it’s a Mac screen.

Incidentally, those adaptors can also be used to force certain 15-inch Apple screens into higher resolutions, but that is a totally different story…

3. We Make More Money and We Get More Work Done

What can I say? Completely true. And do you know why Mac users get more done for less money? Because Apple is thinking different. Microsoft cares about how much money it can make. Apple also cares about how much they can make their customers earn. Get it? This is where you’ll find the biggest difference between the two companies.

Please God, don’t let Apple stop thinking this way. That is what made the Mac so cool, and it is what will make the Mac even better.

4. The Year 2000 Bug

I never do stop smiling when I hear about the so-called Y2K bug. I know for sure that my computer will not stop working just because it hits a certain date – alright, it might stop working in just under 28,000 years, but that’s a long time. The only thing that risks freaking out are certain applications that do not use the Mac’s standard time routines.

As a matter of fact, I would be surprised if any of Microsoft’s applications proved to be “Y2K compliant”. It’s the usual Microsoft way: Slap on a few patches, see if they compile without errors, remove the most obvious flaws, and release it. And let people call MS tech support, because it’s the user, not MS, that has to pay for those calls. I’d bet that even Microsoft’s tech support lines make a profit.

5. Mac OS X Is Coming

No! Please! Noooooo!

Don’t ever use this as an argument – at least not until OS X has actually arrived. Try to point out what is just around the corner, and there are two responses you can get.

First of all, if you are talking to a more “regular” Windows user, you will probably get Windows 2000 slapped in your face. True, that OS will not be around for at least three years after OS X (when has Microsoft ever met a deadline?), but they will throw it at you anyway.

Even worse is a Wintel person that has the least insight in Apple’s history. The first sentence that will leave his mouth at that occasion is sure to contain both words “Copland” and “failure”. It’s funny how people tend to remember what Apple has done wrong all the time.

Anyway, here is my point. Mac OS X is good, no question about it. Mac OS X will be great. But as far as evangelizing the Mac is concerned, what will be isn’t yet. Keep that in mind.

Closing the Arguments

Just to be sure not to fool you into open war, let me remind you about what was said in the last issue. First of all, the Mac is cool – that alone is worth pointing out! This thing is not about performance (the computer is still faster than you anyway), stability (although it helps), multitasking (a far too regular Wintel argument), and so on. It’s about usability – and coolness.

Being a Mac user is about three things: Thinking different, having one of the coolest existing computers, and getting some serious work done. Over and out.

These necessarily biased opinions were brought to you by Janko Luin, a too-freaked-out Mac user in Sweden. Yep, that’s Europe for those of you who slept through your geography classes. ;-)

Go to Menagerie of Macs #2 home page.