Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mac or Windows …

Back in year 2000, I got a chance to use an iMac for work. The first impression was, “looks were far better than its underlying software”. I found it extremely difficult to use, the mouse, opening and closing applications, ejecting an USB disk, opening a drive and browsing for files inside folders, …, it was tedious for a normal user like me. Our company was trying hard to write device drivers for this beautiful (yet not so useful) computers. I thought, that an iMac would (only) fit well on a front-office. May be harsh, but that was my impression. I thought, Apple made beautiful yet unusable products. I was impressed with the iBook too, an Apple product, it looked very cool, and that was all I could say about it.

The impression has not changed, yet, probably because, I never got a chance to work with Mac again. And on top of that, I was (very) happy with windows.

I had been a system software engineer, churning out, firmware, device drivers, and a lot of test applications, everything in or using Windows. I find it fast and easy to work in windows, even today, working with a hardware team developing almost everything in Linux, but I still use Windows ;-) …

Long back, I had my own complaints, like “the BSOD”, that popped up more often than the dialog boxes that I had created. The kernel issues, (mostly documented, and some undocumented), caused nightmares. But, things that you coded, would mostly work, and if not, debugging support was good. It helped *normal*, *non-geeky*, software engineers write working and commercially viable applications and drivers.

That apart, in my earlier job, Mac related developments were reserved for geeky engineers, who were, probably, above normal. I would say they were hackers, who would find undocumented stuff, prodding the web, or reading sample code, or in the worst case, reverse engineer some of the already working code. Mac had virtually no (good) debugging support, and simple issues would take developers days to fix. Not only the development in Mac, only geeks could use it.

Mostly after the iPod’s success, Mac came into Limelight…

Bad time for Microsoft started (continued …), with the much hyped Vista, ending up not even better than XP, Windows users were fed-up and started looking elsewhere. Jobs is very good at attracting people hating MS, because, he hates MS more than his love for Apple. And good time for Apple, Many people, were bored to see the “same old windows screen”, which changed little after ~95, thought a hell a lot changed beneath. They also loved the Mac’s looks and sometimes started living with the interior. It’s purely my guess, sometimes we just get married just for the looks, and then live with the (odd) issues. Apple, flush with the cash, from iPod sales, pushed Mac to new levels. The best move was to junk the expensive and power hungry PPC and move towards cheap and low-power Intel. Eventually, they are poised to be a serious contender for Microsoft.

Will Microsoft bet its fortune on Windows 7 …

One main difference which is Microsoft’s strength and Apple’s weakness, is the ease with which a PC running Windows can be configured. Addition of a hardware support is easy, a reason why, it beats Mac by 9 to 1 in sales, even today. But this weakness in Apple is slowly becoming its strength. As hardware additions becomes difficult or impossible, Mac is more stable as there are no third party drivers. Hackers spare Mac and target the PC, and this would prompt Microsoft to release patch after patch, and suddenly the system would become damn slow, just because of all those patches.

Though I said all this, I want to try using a Mac. I would say, I really want to be a geek ;-) … For the time being, its expensive, and out of my reach. Somebody please gift me your used Mac ;-) …

Note: All the impression about Mac are mine, and I guess it might be mostly outdated.


  1. If you were trying a Mac in 2000, what you used is essentially unrelated to what we have today. Apple unveiled OSX in 2001, replacing what was essentially a toy OS with something with meaty power.

    My wife is not techno-phobic, but not technical at all, but switching her to a Mac this summer was an absolute breeze. It's just intuitive to work with, so after explaining a few basic changes, she just went with the flow and figured it out along the way. She *loved* it. It just worked.

    Bolstered by that success, I eventually moved her folks to a Mac as well. Her dad once turned his new digital camera off three times in a row thinking that the power button was the shutter button, so that'll give you a sense of their lack of any geek gene, but they too had no troubles just working with it.

    I figure that someone like you would have the worst time switching, because unlike casual users like my wife and inlaws, you know a lot of tricks and shortcuts and nooks and crannies and idiosyncrasies of things -- a lot of domain knowledge that doesn't transfer -- so it would take much longer to come up to the same level of proficiency with any new system.

    BTW, there are third-party drivers for OSX. Printers, for example, have their own drivers.