Mac vs. Windows

December 23, 2009

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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).

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.

Apple and Microsoft

October 24, 2009

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How Do You Like Them AAPLs?

If you had bought shares of Apple Computer (AAPL) in July of 1997, you would have paid $13 per share.  At the close of the trading day on Thursday, shares of Apple were worth more than $200.  Certainly, having an investment return fifteen times your original outlay twelve years later is a great return – it would be an annual rate of return of 25%!

That’s only a quarter of the story, though.  Apple’s stock has also had two splits (2:1 splits) during the timeframe – meaning that one share in 1997 is the equivalent of 4 shares in 2009.  Your original investment of $13 would actually be worth more than $800 today – a 40% annual rate of return.

Michael Dell, founder of the company that bears his name, when asked what he would do with Apple, once remarked “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”  Apple’s market capitalization of $180 billion is now roughly six times that of Dell – and also more than that of IBM ($160B) and Cisco ($140B).  In fact, Apple’s market value is even approaching that of longtime rival Microsoft ($250B).

In 1997, Apple was on the brink of disaster.  The product matrix had become quite muddled, and the company appeared rudderless.  In the midst of the chaos, the company turned to co-founder Steve Jobs.

Jobs has co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak (Woz).  Woz was the technical genius, while Jobs was the savvy salesman.  Jobs was forced out in a power struggle with CEO John Sculley in 1985.  Ironically, it was Jobs who had hired Sculley.  (So, what happened to Woz?  He left the company in 1986 and is heavily involved in philanthropy … when he’s not Dancing With the Stars).

When Jobs was booted out of Apple, he didn’t pout about it.  He took some cash and bought an animation studio from George Lucas for $10 million.  He took more cash and founded a technology company  – NeXT.  NeXT’s computers were technologically advanced – and very pricey.  NeXT eventually transitioned into a pure software company.  Apple bought NeXT in 1996 for $429 million.  Apple had been struggling with their next generation operating system, and NeXT’s NeXTSTEP technology served as the foundation for Mac OS X.

Shortly after Apple bought NeXT, the board of directors fired CEO Gil Amelio and hired Jobs as the new CEO.  The rest is history.  Jobs quickly discontinued many projects and supervised a new, more focused future strategy. 

Under the leadership of Jobs, Apple has launched wildly popular products such as the iMac, iPod, and iPhone as well as the cash cow iTunes Music Store.

While Jobs is a highly compensated CEO, it might be hard to find many investors who would complain about the cost of his leadership – clearly, the company has thrived during his tenure, and shareholders have reaped golden rewards.

And whatever happened to the animation studio that Jobs bought from George Lucas?  Disney bought that studio in 2006 for $7.4 worth of Disney stock.

The name of the studio?  Perhaps you’ve heard of it – Pixar.

Microsoft Windows 7

In an effort to confuse anyone who is trying to decode their product naming system, Microsoft launched Windows 7 on Thursday.  Old version, Vista.  New version, 7.  Yep, definitely a natural progression.

I’m also unclear on why this is Windows 7 when I can think of at least nine different versions (1, 2, 3, 95, 98, Millennium, XP, Vista, 7).

The strongest selling point of Windows 7 is that it is not Vista.

In Japan, Microsoft partnered with Burger King and introduced a product to help promote Windows 7.  I know what you’re thinking – a 7 patty Whopper.  You people have crazy imaginations – that would be just nutty.

I mean, yes.  That’s exactly it. A 7 patty, two thousand calorie burger.  And it doesn’t even come with cheese!

Microsoft Overlooks Windows 7 Upgrade Process Issues

August 19, 2009

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Today, we welcome James Bathgate on board as the technology writer.  He will write a monthly column, Reality Bytes.

It has been 3 years since the release of Windows Vista and a new version of Microsoft’s operating system is just around the corner. Windows 7 looks to be a more streamlined and user friendly version of Windows Vista. The developers at Microsoft have taken strides to make their operating system more secure, easier to use, and less of a general headache that Windows Vista was. Microsoft, however, seems to have overlooked one area when designing Windows 7.

When upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista many PC owners had to upgrade their machines in order to run the new operating system. This caused confusion in some of the users of the operating system who did not know how to upgrade their machines.

Now, when upgrading to Windows 7 it seems the majority of people upgrading are going to require a clean install. This means that anyone who does not qualify for an “in-place upgrade” is going to have to back up all of their data from their system before doing the upgrade.

(Click to enlarge)


A user who bought their machine pre-installed with their operating system which included software bundled with that operating system will now lose that software. Even worse, people who do not understand what a clean install means will end up wiping out all of the information on their machine without knowing. In many ways, I think this is even worse than requiring people to buy some new hardware for their machine.

Some may argue that it is a necessary task for people to wipe their machine and reinstall everything now and then and I agree with that, but I do not think anyone should be forced to do this without knowing what they are doing in order to upgrade their operating system. This upgrade is going to cause some unknowing grandmother to permanently lose the pictures of her grandchildren. Some confused self-employed person is going to lose some indispensable business data. Some poor student is going to accidentally lose an essay they are working on when they upgrade their operating system. There has got to be a better way.

Saturday Stew

July 18, 2009

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Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince opened in theaters at midnight on Wednesday. It broke the record for a midnight screening with $22.2 million is is well on its way to a huge weekend. I’m not fan of the Harry Potter series, but I am definitely a fan of the J.K. Rowling story. Rowling was on welfare before writing the Harry Potter series and becoming a billionaire. What a wonderful rags to riches story. We often hear stories about people who are on welfare for decades and have no real desire to work. Here’s a story about someone who took the assistance offered by the government, and used it to get back on her feet and become a success. The money the British government spent on welfare payments to Rowling ended up being a great investment – as they made it possible for Rowling to pay tremendous tax bills on her subsequent income!

Apple shuts down Palm Pre sync

When the Palm Pre launched, one of its features was the ability to pretend that it was an iPod, allowing it to make use of Apple’s iTunes software. There was some debate over at Lazy Man and Money regarding whether Apple would allow this to occur, or whether they would release a future update to block non-iPod devices. I thought that they would indeed block the Pre, and felt that they had the right to do this, asserting that it was not an unfair barrier to competition to force Palm to bundle a iTunes-like product with the Pre.

On Wednesday, Apple released iTunes version 8.2.1. According to Apple, “iTunes 8.2.1 provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices” – in other words, if iTunes can’t verify that your device is an iPod, you can no longer sync with it. Palm is suggesting that Pre own simply cease upgrading iTunes to retain the ability to sync.


Google has announced plans to launch their own operating system, Chrome OS. Chrome OS will be a simple operating system that is based on Linux. Chrome is not expected to be as feature-rich as operating systems like Apple’s Mac OS X or Microsoft’s Windows. On the flip side, the computer should boot more quickly (fewer things to load) and run faster (due to the operating system requiring fewer system resources). Chrome OS will essentially allow a computer to run Google’s Chrome web browser. Will Chrome OS be a solution for everyone? No. But if you spend nearly all of your computer time in your web browser, it may be a good fit for you.

Google’s free web-based productivity suite Google Docs will face competition from Microsoft, as the software giant has announced plan to release a free web-based version of Microsoft Office next year. The web version won’t include all of the features that will be available on the desktop version of Office, but it might be a good solution for many people.


The country of Ukraine has banned the Sacha Baron Cohen movie “Bruno”, saying that the movie is immoral. This will certainly be a death blow to the movie, ensuring lackluster crowds.

Oh, hey, just kidding. What I meant to say is that Sacha Baron Cohen will use this publicity to bolster his “bad boy” image, and that the banning will make more people flock to the theater to see what all the fuss is about.


Bank of America, which is not one of my favorite companies, charged a New Hampshire man 23 quadrillion dollars for a purchase at a local gas station where he often purchased cigarettes. The man was also charged a $15 “over the limit” free. After two hours on the phone, Bank of America removed the charge and the fee from his account.

Capitol Shooting

Officers shot and killed a man near the US Capitol on Wednesday. The man was trying to elude police. He jumped out of his car and began shooting at officers. I stumble across this sort of story occasionally, and always wonder what on earth is going through the person’s head. Do they think that the cops aren’t going to shoot back?

Sears Tower

The Sears Tower is no longer the tallest building in the United States. What happened? Did someone sneakily build a taller building? No, the Sears Towers was renamed Willis Tower as part of an agreement with Willis Group Holdings. The 110 story tall tower opened in 1973. Sears moved out of the building in 1992, but the Sears named has been retained until now. I wonder how many years (or decades) will pass before Chicagoans begin referring to it as Willis Tower?


The Yankees recently signed Damian Arrendondo, a 16 year old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, to a contract worth $850,000. (Note: international players may be signed as young as 16). Major League Baseball invalidated the contract when it was determined that the player was not actually named Damian Arrendondo, and that he was older than 16. No word yet on whether he is truly a shortstop.

Why the fascination with ages of these kids? After all, if a player is good, he’s good, regardless of whether he is 16 or 18, right?

Not exactly. Take this outside of the baseball world for a bit. If a 1 year old can count to 10, he’s a genius. If a 7 year old can count to 10, you’re not impressed. Yet, it’s the exact same skill. It’s the same with baseball skills. A 16 year old may exhibit the exact same skills as an 18 year old, but the 16 year old is a better prospect because he’s ahead of his peer group in the development curve.