It’s been a lively day around the old blog! Keep those cards and letters coming
MacDuff noted in a comment on my observation that I have become a Mac user during the last year:
Super! It was surely a difficult thought process to go through. I totally understand the hesitations that frustrated Windows users can experience when mulling The Big Switch. And yet, YOU DID IT! Why? These reasons may also be just some of the reasons why that choice should be recognized “out there”. Let’s face it; you most surely didn’t do it just for the pretty boxes Apple makes, right? There HAD TO BE some pretty damned compelling reasons to switch offered by Mac OS X and many of Apple’s other technological creations. So, why surrender to the status quo, when that status quo may not be the best solution. Is resistance truly futile?
First of all, I don’t deny that there should be choice and heterogeneity in computing – and I even frequently argue for interoperability based on open standards – that, after all, is what the Internet is all about! But there are lots of forces that push against supporting heterogeneous computing environments – it’s easier to support lots of complex interdependent functionality in single environments (Microsoft Exchange is the example that we keep coming up against lately), and it’s usually perceived to be cheaper to support a single environment than to account for multiple ways of doing things. I merely meant to observe that these forces are at work in the academic environment as well as in the coprorate world, and those of us who want to fly the banner of open, interoperable systems have a constantly uphill struggle, perhaps most like Sisyphus.
There are indeed reasons why I switched most (not all) of my computing to the Mac platform over the last year:
- Much like modern cars, I have found it increasingly difficult to understand how Windows operates as it has gained complexity with each successive version. Unlike modern cars, I find that Windows systems become erratic and unreliable as I use them over time. The interaction of these two factors makes it very difficult for me to troubleshoot problems with aging Windows systems. The usual answer to this is to reformat your hard disk and reinstall Windows from scratch. I’ve always found that to be a problematic approach to fixing things (just burn it to the ground and start over again), and with the current security scenario, you’re never sure if you’ve reinstalled all the patches.
- I like OS X’s stability. My desktop iMac frequently goes a month or more between reboots, and I can consistently put my PowerBook to sleep just by closing the lid, move to a different wireless network environment, open it up and have it work. That has never been the case for me with Windows systems.
- I do a fair amount of work from a plain-text terminal environment, and OS X supports that better than Windows, due to its unix underpinnings. The integration of tools for working with multiple environments is just better – kerberos works like it’s supposed to, for example.
- I can run standard unix server kinds of processes on my Macs without having to buy or install additional software. The ability to ssh between my Macs is worth a lot to me. In many ways I view OS X as being the “Unix for the rest of us” (that being those of us too lazy or time-deprived to take on the administration of a full-blown linux system).
- Last, but not least, I do indeed believe that OS X is more secure than Win XP, for all of the kinds of reasons frequently cited, most recently by Lisa Spangenberg here.
But that’s not to say that the Mac is perfect (just last night iMovie crashed on me right before, of course, I saved the work I had done for an hour of editing footage of my son’s t-ball team), or perfectly transparent (can anyone really explain to me where OS X keeps track of the associations between mime-types, file extensions, and applications?).
But isn’t it a strange world where you can’t figure out how to have a conversation with development teams at Apple, where the OS is based on open source, yet Microsoft developers are writing blogs?