Monday, April 30, 2007

MAC vs PC: Aesthetics

Which hardware/software combination pleases the eye most.

That's a matter of taste. But the great thing is, this is my post, so it's my taste!

Its going to be very difficult to say MAC or PC is better because there are an infinite number of makes and models.

The release of Vista hast started a new era for PC's. The new operating system looks good. I won't please everyone, but its a great jump forward as far as I'm concerned.

I wouldn't say its better than MAC OS X, just different and I wouldn't call MAC OS X superior to Vista on looks either (in fact I feel it is starting to look a bit dated). That said the 'shiny' look of Vista can get a bit too much (especially with everyone adopting it)

All in all I'd say that for the OS, it's a 50/50 for MAC and PC.

Now lets get down to the hardware. Apple make slick looking machines, heck they make slick looking cardboard boxes that the machines come in. So what's going on in the PC world?

Other than a shift away from beige a number of years ago to grey/silver/black not much. The bulk of PCs come in various modern flavours along the same lines. They are cleaner, sleeker and smarter looking but still lack something that MACs have.

How do they manage it? Apple doesn't employ all the designers in the world so how is it that they are the only ones who constantly come up with a top class look.

One can't deny there is a great amount of innovation in PC's. Alienware PC's have a distinct look and there are thousand of modified cases made by enthusiast with one thing in common. They all look like shit.

There are some bright lights on the horizon in the PC world, and I would go as far as to say just as many funky looking PC as MACs (considering the amount of manufacturers there should be).

Noteworthy is the new Sony Vaio VGC-LS1 (though the name doesn't quite have the same ring to it that iMAC does). It's a desktop computer with a real Vista look (on the outside). It houses the computer in the monitor (much like an i- uh... never mind). The attached keyboard flips up to cover half the screen and when this happens a screen saver type thing displays date, time, weather and music now playing. One has to wonder it doesn't just have a normal screen saver (and use the whole screen to add other items of interest: new items, rss feeds etc.).

But in any case it's looks great (I'd go as far as to say it's a contender).

But where are the rest? Couldn't a couple more PC makers sit down and say “rather than adding a coupe dozen more processor cores and ramping it up to 10 zillion squizahertz, let make this one look good.

All in all, the OS is too close to call and what the PC world lacks in style it makes up for in shear numbers to suit everyone's taste. Compare that with Apples consistent and industry leading computer case design and I'm giving this one (boring though it is) a tie.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

MAC vs PC: Software Availability

There is only one consideration to make as far a software availability goes.

Do you count the fact that due to their Intel architecture, you can install Windows Vista on an Apple MAC?

If you do, then obviously a MAC has more software available to it.

In fact the MAC has three ways you can run windows software on it.

  1. With a dual boot, so you can shutdown the MAC OS and boot into windows.

  2. Parallels visualisation software allows you to create a virtual machine into which you can install windows and it will run within a window not 'knowing' it's not the only operating system running. This gives one near equivalent speed (theoretically) but without the need to reboot and with some MAC OS integration.

  3. Crossover is a program by codeweavers which allows one to install a Windows program directly 'onto' the MAC OS, allowing the program to execute as though it were running in Windows. The advantage is that you don't need a Windows license to run it. It also mean tighter MAC OS integration, but at the expense of speed and stability. Only a certain number (growing all the time) of Windows programs have been tested and are know to work with Crossover.

With all of these options the MAC does windows software well, and would be the clear winner if not for one thing. Games.

In my post I'm going out on a limb.Although Apple provides drivers for Window XP, I am generally talking about Vista here because its the latest release. Further more, Apple states that it does not support Windows on it machines (fair enough since Windows is more or less the competition). This means that none of the three options could be said to run Windows Vista optimally. That my friends, means everything to gamers.

The only way to get you OS at peak performance is to have the latest high performance support files (drivers for PC's, kext for MAC OS) and to have the OS unhindered (by running in a virtual machine – Parallels, or with api emulation - the way Crossover fools widows programs and the MAC OS into thinking they were made for each other).

With Apple not supporting Windows on a MAC we have to say that for most people its not going to run as well for games.

There is also the confusion that if you install Windows on a MAC, you'll need one copy (license) for that machine. Forgive me for the blatantly obvious but that makes it a MAC that is also a PC. The argument here is MAC or PC. Incidentally the term P.C. Originally meant 'Personal Computer', now it generally describes (as in these posts) 'machines which run Windows or Linux'.

So if we talk about an Apple MAC of the current line up, it can run windows programs and run them well, but I say it's still not the platform most used, and most trusted for games. And the are thousands of games out there.

There have been good speed tests of MAC's running Windows Vista but those normally have Vista installed and tweaked by experts.

Gamers need Windows unhindered, therefore software availability still goes to PC's.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

MAC vs PC: Ease of use (or; Along came Vista)

The MAC OS ease of use is legendary. If you’ve ever used one for any length of time you’ll know what I mean.

In my experience, the only people who have ever argued the point are those who have actually never used it or are the type of person my friend Jesus is. He is a “computer guy” (FYI so am I). He claims to be able to fix any and all PC problems (FYI so can I). If you visit his house you would see the panels of every PC and when you ask him, all his computers have some kind of problem that he's “working on”. You see that’s what he want his computer for, to fix/upgrade/tweak. He doesn’t want to run programs or actually do things, he wants to fix his computer and is perpetually doing so. Defrag this, re-install windows that. Thats why the MAC OS doesn't suit him less thing that need attention (FYI my PC works just dandy, and I spend time doing stuff rater than tweaking).

I not really his fault, Windows has always been famous for having to be re-installed after some months the keep it running smoothly (because it simply becoms slugish and problimatic over time). Not to mention unstable. Can you say “blue screen of death”? The problem was then, that you have to be the type of user who can deal with that. Most users aren't.

However with the introduction of Wndows XP, the Microsoft OS offering was finally becoming acceptably stable with a longer install life span.

Theres no question that the Windows family was heading towards user friendliness. On the other hand, MAC OS X has gotten a bit more complicated. No real fault of Apples though, MAC OS has been getting more complicated just as the computing world itself has been getting more complicated. The better the processors become,the more we can do with out computers.

Was it now too complicated? I once wanted to change my OS X so it would auto log on, allowing it to boot without user intervention. So I asked my brother to do it. He had hardly ever used a MAC before and had never used OS X. It only took him about 4 minutes (we timed it) to find the setting and change it (and two of those were me just showing him some non task related MAC things). Yes it would seem that the learning curve on an Apple MAC is still palpable for noobs.

What about Vista, can it claim the same? When I installed Vista I was immediately impressed with its sleek new look. After about five minutes I was shocked to discover the looks are about the only things that have changed for the better. So much had changed that one had to reacquaint oneself with where to do common tasks. Had this been an improvement I would have had no gripe, but burying programs under new topic names is not intuitive. After playing for 10 minutes I was even less impressed, these changes where going to make things harder for a lot of people.

One of the big problems with Windows is that it gives one the impression it was designed for geeks, by geeks. Vista I'm sad to say is not an exception. If anything it the OS that proves the rule. I shuddered to think of all the 'non computer' people who in this world will have to use Vista because they don't know any better.

One of the arguments people like this have always used is that they don't want a MAC because they don't want to have to learn a new OS. “Learning 'computer stuff' was already harder than it should be” (I agree). It always stuck my as a funny kind of argument “I'm not moving to something easy to use and learn because I've gotten used to something difficult”.

For anyone with XP thinking of going to Vista, Believe me, going from Windows XP to MAC OS X would be easier than moving to Vista.

MAC OS X is definitely easier to use.

Friday, April 27, 2007

MAC vs PC Part one: Value for money.

Value for money in my opinion is just about the only consideration PC owner’s appear to have and the area that MAC owners seem less concerned with. Indeed the PC I am using now I built for €400 and at the time price was my only concern.

When comparing the cost of both machines I’m going to take into account software (some comparisons are hardware only). Oddly enough some people just don’t seem to think this is important when buying a new computer. I see huge amounts of friends who buy a new PC and then don’t really get much use out of it because it doesn’t have much software. They buy Microsoft Office, use Internet Explorer to connect to the net, and of course play solitaire. That’s about it. Happens all the time.

But without software, the computer is nothing. Just a big bunch of components. Both MAC and Vista PC’s come with bundled software and are usable right out of the box, but MAC shines in this area for having the superior quantity and quality software.

MAC’s come preinstalled with a suit of lifestyle programs (for photos/videos music etc) that are integrated with each other and the OS. The PC has some of these built in. Vista is better than any of its predecessors for allowing you to edit and keep track of photos for example and Windows Movie Maker is not bad. For other things, most PC’s simply come with bundled demo programs which lack the complete feature set or are crippled in some way.

One of the things that annoys me on the internet with these type of comparisons is that nobody seems to take into account software piracy when comparing machines. I see post and comments on forums about people who obviously don’t give any value the software that comes with a MAC. That’s because a lot of them simply get their software without paying for it (i.e. they pirate it). For the sake of those legitimate software users its worth pointing out the added value given to the MAC OS because of it great bundled software. The MAC is plainly better value software-wise ‘out of the box’.

As far as valuation purposes go, the actual operating systems MAC OS X and Windows Vista are no longer far enough apart to warrant any difference in value (bundled applications aside). I actually think that the MAC OS is still somehow better. I say somehow because it’s hard to put your finger on it. It’s just a better ‘user’ experience that you’d never understand until you used one (for a reasonable enough time to get to know it). This to me actually holds almost all the value because it is the software we all use everyday and I would end the argument right there except this ‘magical’ ease of use is difficult to quantify or appraise. For the sake of this blog, the operating systems of MAC OS X and Windows Vista have a similar enough feature set (something measurable enough) to give them more or less the same ‘on paper’ value (imho).

So, I’ll move right on to the hardware:

People are always comparing MACs to Dell. I think it’s really only fair to do this with the MAC Pro line and the Macbooks. Unless you intentionally want to give more points to MACs. You see the iMAC’s and the MAC mini’s don’t have many PC equivalents. Recently I read a brochure from Media Markt a Europe wide computer/homeware/cd-dvd superstore which advertised a PC the same size as a MAC mini. It had pretty much the same specs except it was black and had Windows XP installed (this was six months ago. It cost about €100 more than the MAC mini). Likewise I’m still looking for a real competitor to the iMAC in terms of miniaturisation. The only one that comes close it the Sony Vaio VGC-LS1. ( I found the Sony at a web discounter for $1695, when configured with the same RAM, the closest iMAC has a 1” bigger monitor (20” unlike 19” for the Sony) and a far superior graphics card. It sells for $1674 from Apple).

I had an argument once with my brother about the iMAC coming with a corded mouse and how that takes up desktop space. Somewhere in amongst our debate, I asked him where is computer was. As it turned out he had the standard PC mini-tower sitting on top of his desk. Enough said. Credit must be given to the Macs in this are if you want to make a direct comparison.

If your were to compare computers of the same spec then adjust their prices based on miniaturisation then the iMAC and MAC mini come out clear winners.

By now (if you’re still with me) you probably think I’m a bit MAC biased and are screeming for the notebook and MAC Pro comparisons. I’m getting to those….

In my opinion the MAC line of notebooks is a bit lacking. They are great machines (as are many branded PC laptops HP, Dell, Sony Vaio for example), but I agree with my brother in that the MAC laptop entry level is not low enough.

My sister in law recently bought a laptop PC and I’m sure she would have bought a MAC if it was for those two factors: Cheap entry level (at the expense of processor power, but it is more than fast enough for her) and a big screen.

One thing is funny though; many people criticise the MACbooks for having smaller screens, but in case you haven’t noticed, laptop sizes are dictated by their screens. Give a laptop a bigger screen and the whole thing gets bigger. Sometimes a smaller screen (and therefore a smaller computer) is what you want, especially in a Laptop.

I personally prefer laptop with as large a screen as practical and therefore side with the PC’s on this.

One other thing common to laptops, is that Apple includes components into every machine that not everybody needs. Wifi, Webcame, Firewire etc. While I agree it would be nice to be able to buy the same machine for less without components that you deem unnecessary, because they’re already installed and the hardware is supplied by the operating system manufacturer, components tend to work better and require less user intervention.

Basically with MAC’s and good brand name PC’s, when the specs are similar you pay about the same, but the bottom line is, you can buy lower spec PC’s (or ‘no name’ PC’s with good specs) at far more affordable prices. Kudos PC’s.

My same criticism for MAC’s go to the MAC Pro line. I would like to see a far better entry level here. Instead Apple concentrated on other end of the market. 8 core machines. These computers have 4 processors with 2 processor cores in each. It’s pretty much 8 processors. But how many people are going to be able to use them? Most our processors are idle most of the time. As I type this, my AMD 64 3000 is hardly working above ‘idle’. To make use of 8 processors you need to have software that was written to utilise them, running on an operating system that was designed for them. Your computer will benefit from having a couple of processors running (dual core). It will mean you can run multiple apps and those in the background won’t have to take away power from you foreground applications. Unless your using specialist software (eg 3D rendering) you not really going to benefit that much. One would do better to buy more RAM (you can never get enough).

MAC pros have therefore the same problem that MACbooks have. No cheaper entry level. Some argue that if you want a cheaper machine, go for an iMAC or a MAC mini. But what if you want as much power as you can afford and I already have a screen? This is very common and it’s no less than shocking that there isn’t a better MAC Pro entry level.

I generally buy my screen at a different time to my computer. At the moment I’m ready to upgrade my machine so what MAC do I buy? A mini? No, too underpowered. An iMAC, and throw away my good monitor? A MAC Pro and pay more for power I don’t need and can’t really afford? There is a product missing from apples lineup. An entry level power machine (yes does sound a bit like a contradiction in terms) for those who already have a monitor.

For Laptops and Towers, I’m going to hand it to the PC’s for making things affordable to those who need it.

One last thing which affects the value is that Apple MAC’s are now Intel based. This means that a MAC can run Windows too. Apple also makes it easy to do so, with “boot camp” which automatically sets up a dual boot for Windows XP and writes Windows XP drivers for the MAC machine. There are other options too. “Parallels” is a virtualisation program which allows you to make a virtual machine in the MAC OS and run windows inside it. Or one could adopt “Crossover”, a product which emulates the Windows api inside the MAC OS (or if you prefer, tricks programs into thinking they are running in Windows allowing them to be installed on the MAC).

This is a versatility the PC doesn’t (barring running a hacked version of MAC OS X on a normal PC).

When it comes down to overall value. The MAC’s have it. No question. Why?:

1) Great bundled software.

2) Miniaturisation on the desktop for a better price.

3) Versatility (MAC’s run windows too – if you want)

Where the PC’s shine:

1) Lower entry level (all platforms).

2) Bigger laptop screens.

The only reason you might have to disagree was if either copy software (or already have a lot invest in PC software) or have never used a MAC for long enough (or both).

Coming up next: Ease of use…….

MAC vs PC (Introduction)

Hi all, I've decided to get down to one of my favorite subjects. The Mac vs PC debate. I can’t actually think of one good reason to exclude Linux (it is a modern feature rich operating system) other than complicating the argument further.

If you haven’t already tried it check out one of the best linux distributions here: , but that's another post all together...

I guess I’m going to focus on Mac vs PC because they are what most of us are using and most profession programs are available for at least one Mac or PC.

So which one is better?

We first let’s put the past behind us. History has no place in computing. When I did computing at school we studied early code breaking machines and the history of computers. What a waste of time! It may be interesting enough trivia to some, but the technology world moves far too quickly for that knowledge to be of practical use now. Same goes for anything that’s not still being commonly used right now.

So I’m not going to talk about Mac OS 9 vs Windows 98. Some Mac users could be accused of living a little in the past because Mac OS has always been ahead of Windows. PC owners either didn’t like to admit it (normally because they couldn’t afford a MAC) or genuinely didn’t realise that the Mac OS was better (because they had never used it).

Today it’s a different story. I’m a PC user and I am typing this using windows XP. With XP and Vista Microsoft Windows has caught up on many things and even surpassed the Mac on some features. This makes things more than just a little blurry.

So let’s get down to it. Which one is better and how do you quantify it. Giving the PC a slight advantage, I’m going to compare a PC running Vista, Microsoft latest OS with a MAC running OS X (10.4.9). My reasoning is that these are the operating systems that ship with current models. It gives Microsoft an advantage because Vista has just been released after five years and billions of dollars of development, while the MAC OS X is just about to be replaced with the new MAC OS X Leopard (coming out in October: -look for ‘Apple Statement’). The leopard released date has been delayed due to development of the iPhone.

The things I will consider in this argument are:

Value for money

Ease of use

Software availability

Aesthetics (both software and hardware)

I’ll put each one in a separate post (because I ramble a lot and if I don’t the information will be out of date before I post it).

Enjoy ;)