Oh, Nonsense

My friend Greg Swann speaks ill of the Windows-based world. Well, at least he has some experience in it. Mine is somewhat the opposite, though I think I maybe have more tech experience on the Mac that he does on the PC. I have tons of experience in not only the Windows world, but in multiple-server networked environments. We’ve consolidated into one office recently, but at one point, we were running four enterprise-level servers here, two at another location here in San Jose, and one up in San Francisco, all networked together, which is to say that it didn’t matter in which office you were in, you were on the local network and everything looked the same to everybody. I’ve also related my own digital madness and complete silliness with respect to me home networking here on this blog.

Unfortunately, some myths just never die. While it’s true that Windows 3.x was awful in terms of reliability (not to mention networking of any kind), and Windows 95 – 98me was still problematic, Windows 2000 Professional and now XP for both home and professional are very stable platforms. I have never, ever had an OS crash since I began using Win 2000 Pro 6 years ago (XP Pro for some time now), yet, I do have to hard reboot my wife’s Macs from time-to-time.

I’ve used Macs all the way up through 10.4 Tiger, the current version on my wife’s PowerBook, and I can network all versions since 10.2 into a windows environment, with file and print sharing, etc. I can even use Entourage to link up to MS Exchange Server, and if you don’t know what Exchange Server is, then you’ve probably not yet been in a highly efficient PC-networked environment.

Still, I’m not going to slam the Mac. They seem to still hold their advantage in the graphic design world. But that’s it, as far as PC computing goes. In a networked environment that requires high load interaction with a server for file transfers, database operation, and a host of other things that go on in a client-server environment, the Mac OS just doesn’t cut it, at least not when it has to interact on a Windows network, which it must. An Apple-only network is fine, I suppose, but you’re going to find very little that a business of any real size can use. A small publishing shop that only has to move files around? Sure.

I’ve gone through the enormous hassle of trying to get Macs to work properly on a Windows network. Hard, in spite of all that was touted with the release of Jaguar. I actually had to log in as root and reconfigure a bunch of low-level stuff just to get it to share a printer with the Windows boxes. Then, oddly, for it to keep working (and this was even in the documentation), you would have to go into the system utility and toggle on/off the file and print sharing after each restart of the system. And, also, it could not remember the Windows machines for future use. Each time you wanted to print, you would have to provide a user name and password, and there was no getting around it.

Print from 10.2 to a shared printer on a Windows machine? Oh, just forget about that! After hours and hours, I had to give up, and I told my wife to get her PowerBook upgraded to Tiger, which, thankfully, is a huge improvement in networking with Windows. I had it printing to a shared printer on a PC in minutes. And, all the settings hold! Thanks, Steve.

No, I like Macs. I really do.  In terms of elegance, simplicity, and design, they are a cut above everyone. No arguing that. I really like their entry into the music business. I wouldn’t think of having anything but an iPod/iTunes combo. Fantastic. Have you seen that new Nano? I bought Apple stock when that came out (and, Apple is a fundamentally strong company right now).

Anyway, I’m glad Greg likes his Macs. But, when his new R/E Brokerage gets to have a dozen agents or more, he’ll be switching to PCs, guaranteed. I suspect that if that turns out to be the case, it’ll be one of those "problems"  Greg will just love to have.

Update: Greg shoots back. Anyone care to comment in comments? I think his "arguments" are just…old. Then there’s the assertions. He can give us a few anecdotes, but then, I have my anecdotes about babysitting the 4 Macs my wife has had (she uses Macs because she’s a school teacher). Nowadays, both are very reliable, both do some things the other won’t, and both are very well designed. As far as GUI, I have a silly little theory, which I’ll get to in a second. For the life of me, I just hate the Mac interface. I hate the way folders and files are organized. This will never change, unless the Mac changes. I hate applications that can’t be individually configured down to very precise levels because, well, we’re simple. Anyway, my silly little theory is that the difference in user preference between the Mac and Windows GUI is unquantifiable in the same way you can’t quantify why some people prefer their left hand over their right, and vice versa.

Mac users are "left handed."


  1. Rich on October 10, 2005 at 13:13

    We've been running Exchange Server continuously since 1998, first on an NT 4.0 box, then on to Server 2000 / Exchange 2000 on the same box, then migrated to a new box, and a year or so ago, Server 2005 and Exchange 2005 on a new box altogether. We've never had even a small hitch, ever, and have migrated all mail / contacts / calendars / tasks / notes / etc. each time with no problem. I have email saved going back to 1998 that has lived on 3 different physical servers under 3 different Server OS versions and 3 different versions of Exchange.

  2. mojotek on October 10, 2005 at 18:50

    I'd have top agree that the perception of Windows being such a buggy OS even now is unfounded. Win2K and XP are leaps above Win95-Me, especially in the arena of reliability. Macs are still something I would consider getting the user who will never delve into computing much hooked on. Say, like my mom… but when you really think about it, User Interfaces are pretty arbitrary. They don't follow any laws of physics or science, they just follow what the designers 'think' is the most effective interface.

  3. fruey (Let's Have It) on October 10, 2005 at 12:54

    Hi Uncommon,

    I'm not sure that Exchange Server is that great. When you've had it crash with massive mailbox corruption you'll wish you never saw it.

    Macs and PCs don't play too well together, but a full Mac + Linux + Unix network rocks my world. A full PC / Windows / MS network is fine too, but what you really want is a good mix of all. For that, best to have Linux servers running the printers with SAMBA for the PCs and regular postscript sharing for the Macs. That's cool.


  4. Billy Beck on October 10, 2005 at 20:02

    I've been running Win2K for about five years now, and I measure my uptime in stretches of many months, only rebooting for the occasional hardware upgrade or software installation. I've seen applications blow up but they never kick the OS over. Had a small LAN going in the house for three years now (two computer, two printers — wireless since last year) and it's all background/forgettable. It just goes.

    As for "graphic design": everybody gets to go to hell in their own go-cart, of course, but I started hooting at the Mac snots almost fifteen years ago already. Delivering Targa images to print bureaus for output: they would stare and ask, "Did you really do this with a PC?"

    "Yeah," I'd say, with AutoCAD and 3D Studio in mind, "and you can't do it."

    I must say, though, that the dears have been catching up in recent years.

  5. Kyle Bennett on October 11, 2005 at 07:46

    I learned programming on an Apple when Apple was the only PC to be had (before they were even called "PC"s), but since then it's been strictly DOS/Windows. Back when it was a miracle if a Windows box kept running for more than a few days, Mac was not really a viable alternative. Now that Mac is viable, Windows is as solid and reliable as anything. It's still possible to fubar your system with bad drivers or the like, but it's not like it used to be, those drivers have to be truly incompetent now.

    Things have changed, the platform world is far more homogenized now than it was even a few years ago. I've heard glowing things about Mac, and not from the usual "Micro$oft Windoze" crowd, and I don't know what I would do without all the open source tools I use these days, particularly for development. (That list is impressive, even to me, I've never thought about how many of them I use now without even thinking about the fact that they are open source: Subversion/Tortoise, TWiki, Nunit/TestDriven.NET, NANT, CruiseControl, SharpReader, Python, UltraVNC, Firebird, Thunderbird, Firefox… The list goes on)

    These tools were mostly made with Linux in mind, but the vast majority of them have Windows versions available. Still, some of these tools run more naturally on Linux than on Windows, with easier installs and better integration (ever had to install and configure Cygwin just to get an Apache-based wiki running?), and there's still some that just won't run on Windows, so I think that these days any serious development house better have a Linux box as part of their network.

    I've been looking at getting both a Mac and a Linux box at home, not because I want to get away from Windows, but because these days no single platform fills all needs. It's the cost of both Mac and Linux (Linux is free only if your time is worthless) that are holding me back now, not any loyalty to Microsoft.

    To mojotek,

    UIs aren't quite as arbitrary as you make them out to be. MS puts a lot of resources into studying usability issues, and the stack of white papers and other articles describing the results would take a week to read through fully. Most of what makes a good UI is not just whim, it is based on very real and very quantifiable human traits and mental requirements. Apple is much more intuitive in creating a pleasing and natural interface, while Microsoft is often tone-deaf to such things, focusing more on measurable efficiency and often missing the big picture. I haven't used Apple lately, but I suspect that it would be far less efficient for the kind of work I do, while it is probably far more efficient for the kinds of things Apple users tend to do. There are differences that boil down to taste, but at their core, both are responses to the real needs of users, not some arbitrary decision by the developers.

  6. Rich on October 11, 2005 at 19:58


    Mindless style over efficiency and performance. It's been a very long time since the MacHeads have scared me.

  7. Rich on October 11, 2005 at 20:03

    By the way, mentioning telecom, our entire phone system has been a Windows Server for years and years now. Altigen:


    Our internal phone system extends to multiple locations from San Jose, to San Francisco, to Las Vegas via IP telephony. Don't know if Mac can do this, or not, but we've been doing it since about 1999 — with Windows.

  8. John Lopez on October 11, 2005 at 19:15

    It's interesting to note that PC technology is increasingly invading the industrial and telecom computing worlds but Macintosh hasn't made a visible dent.

  9. John Lopez on October 12, 2005 at 21:40

    Quibble: it isn't necssarily efficiency or performance, it's suitability.

    And thanks to a variety of factors, including open hardware standards and pricing, PC hardware and the Windows OS are suitable for a much wider variety of tasks than the Mac.

    Heh: do a site search on a major computer interface IC manufacturer's website for "http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2003-44,GGLD:en&q=site%3Awww%2Eplxtech%2Ecom+windows>Windows" and then for "http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2003-44,GGLD:en&q=site:www%2Eplxtech%2Ecom+macintosh>Macintosh". Hardware people support Win32 (and http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&c2coff=1&rls=GGLD%2CGGLD%3A2003-44%2CGGLD%3Aen&q=site%3Awww.plxtech.com+linux>Linux) like crazy. Macs? "Um, here, go talk to this consulting company". What good are "Three open full-length PCI-X slots" spec) if there's nothing to put in 'em?

    But you are totally correct about mindless style: . You buy a Mac, you're paying for the extra manufacturing step of engraving those "G5" logos inside the case. Contrast that with the PC to the left that's made out of stamped sheet metal, nice and cheap and good enough for the job. "Transparent internal air deflector" for no technical reason I can think of (air doesn't need a see-through deflector). "Unsightly wires" – who cares? Apple dorks, that's who. (Design a house with "neat internal wiring", charge triple for it, and see how many buyers you get).

    And for all of Apple's supposed design brilliance, they keep the classic PC blunder of putting the expansion ports and I/O openings at the back of the computer – you know, where it's as inconvenient as possible to actually plug anything into.

  10. Sally on October 17, 2005 at 21:32

    Rich wrote, "They seem to still hold their advantage in the graphic design world."
    Sorry – not so. I started doing my graphic designing on the Mac in 89 or so when it was the only graphics game in town. I avoided PCs for as long as I could until I was forced into using a PC about 7 years ago. By then, all the "professional" graphics apps were also available for the PC, so I grudgingly learned how to use "Ctrl" rather than the Mac Command key. Though I loved the user-friendliness of Macs, this formerly die-hard Macophile can create any graphic document quite nicely on the PC. (Of course, the price difference between the two is a big consideration! And, now "doing eBay" is much easier on the PC.)

  11. Rich on October 18, 2005 at 08:29

    Well, John, you're an artsy-fartsy kinda guy, so this is no big surprise?

    Pentium II? We're like on '4' and AMD's 64 bit offering (awesome, BTW) for some years now. This is like Greg basing his judgments on a notebook, fer chrissakes.

    Other than at the office, I've got state of the art digital studios from both Sony and HP at home, with all sorts of included software for every sort of picture, sound, or video editing you want to do.

    Get some up-to-date stuff, with lots of RAM (I have 3 gig on my machine at work), Windows XP, and then let's talk.

  12. John Sabotta on October 18, 2005 at 03:10

    In general,Greg is right. I own a Pentium II and a "Sawtooth" Mac G4 Tower. Everything involved in dealing with the Mac is vastly easier and less annoying, but the most significant difference is security. Every PC box I encounter, firewall or no, is infested with spyware, browser hijacking crap and a myriad of other horrors. The Mac OS X simply has no problems of this kind at all (or at least, not yet to any noticeable degree).

    The two platforms are better at different things. If I were setting up a video production facility on a budget, I'd run 3d rendering programs like Lightwave or 3D Studio Max on the cheapest and fastest no-name PC boxes I could get. Those programs did not originate on Macintosh and don't run quite as well on Macintosh (although one wonders how well Lightwave does on the G5) is what I – and they retain their maddening interfaces when ported to the Mac. But looking at the miserable wasteland that is the world of PC video editing (saddled with the horrible proprietary Windows Media file formats)the obvious choice is a Mac G5 running Final Cut Pro HD, along with Adobe After Effects (assuming Adobe doesn't throw Apple under the bus with AE as well.)Let me observe merely that in order to do anything serious on a PC in video you need Apple QuickTime. Need I say more?

    For print graphics Mac is vastly preferable, and not merely because it is the industry standard. Font handling seems like a small thing, but not when your printer gives you proofs with "Letter Gothic" automatically substited for whatever bizarroid Windows font you unwisely picked from the 14 dollar "1000 Cheap Ass Fonts" disk you found on the spinning rack at CompUSA.)* Let us draw a merciful curtain over the agonies of having to deal with some engineer's newsletter done entirely in Microsoft Publisher

    The "left handed" comment strikes me as meaningless. I don't draw deep psychological conclusions from platform preferences; I simply assume different people have different jobs to do and choose accordingly.

    *The wise will know that you can use fonts from the "1000 Cheap Ass Font" disc (assuming you are depraved enough to want, say, a woodgrain version of Dom Casual) if you convert to outlines

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