Right away, I’ll tell you which type of computer to buy. The one that you’re most comfortable with. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. Now, we’ll move on to the rest of the article, which will focus on the Mac.

Personal Experience
The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIe. I was soon writing code in BASIC, and was allowed to essentially develop my own curriculum when I was eventually able to take a programming class (since I had already covered the course’s subject matter on my own). I was later introduced to Macs, and thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

For the last twelve years, I have worked in the systems department of a very large company – supporting a user community that uses solely Windows PC ☺ I even fix broken PCs for co-workers when asked.

Nonetheless, I remain a Mac guy. My home contains two Macs that are plugged in – a two year old (soon to be three years old) Mini that we use for most things, and a seven year old eMac that I write these blog articles on. Peek around the house and you’ll see an old Powerbook 5300, a Mac SE, a Mac Plus, and even a Newton Messagepad. You’ll also see the carcasses of a couple of PCs. I do not have the Amiga any more, as I sold that back to Frank (who, in turn, conned someone else out of good money).

Cost
Oh, you’ll pay more money for a Mac. If purchase price is your sole determining factor, get a PC.

Lack of software
One argument that you’ll hear from the anti-Mac crowd is that there is a dearth of software for the Mac. While it’s true that there is less software, the available software does a pretty good job of covering the bases for most users. If you’re a hard core gamer, you’re probably better off staying with Windows. But if you’re going to mostly use a browser and email client, either platform would be a good choice.

If you’re looking for Office, Photoshop, Quicken – they are all available on the Mac platform. I’m a bit of a tinkerer, and over the years, have played with a lot of stuff on the Mac. I have edited video, run a web server using PHP/MySql, installed a J2EE environment, and even done a bit of coding with the developer tools that are included (at no additional cost) in the OS. Mac OS X is actually built upon BSD Unix – which means that a lot of unix application will run on the Mac. For example, the graphics program GIMP runs on OS X under the X11 environment. At the cost of FREE, GIMP is hundreds of dollars less that Photoshop and provides much of the functionality. (Yes, I hear you, power Photoshop users, it doesn’t provide 100% of the functionality). Many of the graphics on the site (such as the lion header) were created with GIMP (in spite of my lackluster graphic skills).

Single Source
If you buy a Mac, you’re getting hardware and software from the same company. (One quick caveat – in theory, you could hack together a setup that allows you to run OS X on a regular Intel-based machine, but if you have the skills to do this, you’re probably not reading this article.) This means that there are a relatively finite number of possible combinations, and that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. If there is a problem, nobody can point fingers. Regardless of whether it’s a hardware problem or a software problem, it’s an APPLE problem. Contrast this to the PC world, where Microsoft and a PC vendor could each blame each other for a problem.

Speaking of the actual software, Macs come with a full copy of the operating system on DVD. As far as I know, Macs have always come with a full version of the OS. For reasons that I can’t fathom, some PC makers ship computers without as much as a restore disc. If your hard drive dies (and I actually mean WHEN your hard drive dies, because it is guaranteed to die at some point) you have to contact the computer maker to get a restore disc – and pay shipping for the privilege!

Viruses and Malware
For a variety of reasons, viruses and malware are less prevalent on Macs than on PCs. Mac fans say it is due to an inherent superiority while Windows fans will say that it’s because the Mac user base is smaller, and less not as big of a target for hackers. Quite honestly, I really don’t care what the exact reason is – I’m just happy with the result. Several of my co-workers have impressive horror stories about their virus/malware experiences. A couple of days ago, one of them said “Maybe I should have taken [Kosmo’s] advice and just bought a Mac.” I think it’s quite likely that he’ll do that when they buy their next computer.

I run my computers naked (er, I mean to say, without anti-virus software) and have never had a problem with a virus of malware. Is this the safest idea in the world? No – it would certainly be safer to spend the money on antivirus software. I’m willing to take the slight risk avoid the cost of antivirus software. If the worst were to happen, I’m confident in my ability to wipe my system clean and restore data from backups in roughly an hour.

Would I ever suggest that the owner of a Windows machine forgo anti-virus software? Hell no.

Best of Both Worlds?
With the newer (Intel-based) Macs, you can actually install Windows and have a dual boot system. You would have to purchase your own copy of Windows to do this. Alternately, you could use a product such as Darwine which allows you to run Windows application without having Windows installed. I actually tried out Darwine as a proof of concept, and it seemed to worked reasonably well. I just use it that once, though – Darwine sits on my hard drive gathering dust today. I simply don’t have the need to run Windows applications.

In closing – buy whatever computer best suits your needs. I do ask you to take a fresh look at the Mac if you haven’t worked with one in a few years.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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