I shoulda had a MacBook Air! [Sheri #3]

Today’s question is from Sheri @ Pause 2 Play, asking:

Mac, PC, or ? and Why?

Wanna know why I’m answering general questions from specific bloggers? Check out my explanation of the Liebster hat trick.


So, Sheri – you want to get political? Normally I don’t talk politics in polite company, but I’ll bite. What we’re talking about are different computer architectural paradigms, the Mac, the PC, and the other. When it comes to PC and other, we’re often talking about the same hardware, with the software running the whole show being the defining factor, whereas Macs represent a fusion of carefully controlled and tuned hardware and software. Each system has it’s benefits and its drawbacks.

English: A typical command line in PC-DOS.
A typical command line in PC-DOS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The history of the PC is by and large the history of Microsoft. The term “PC” Is really just an abbreviation of “personal computer,” as I’m sure we are all aware. In the computer world we call the older computers x86, after the original 8086 processor that kicked off the CPU revolution. That nomenclature applies to pretty much every processor created before the advent of 64-bit processors, which we know as x64. These computers can be run by pretty much any software designed to do so, one of the first of which is called DOS, for Disk Operating System. IBM was the first to make it, but I think they failed to legally protect it, so Microsoft wrote their own and they must have improved on it, because they got it into more computers. Then Microsoft made Windows, based on some of the ideas that were coming through the Mac OS operating system at the time. So we have Windows, which is technically laid over a DOS-like command line interface (CLI) at the core of the software. On the other hand, there’s a jillion variants of Linux out there, and those are all based off of UNIX, which was another early CLI. Those systems are fun, but you have to fiddle with them a little too much. To be honest, Windows is pretty much the same way, in terms of configuration and maintenance; but for what it’s worth, it’s been getting better.

Kernel panic in Mac OS X.
This is a kernel panic. If I saw it, I would panic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other hand, the best thing Apple ever did for their operating system was to scrap it entirely and to rewrite it from the ground up based on BSD, which is variant of UNIX. A lot of people say it’s Linux but really it’s not. Because Apple controls the hardware and the software in tandem, you have a product that works more or less as intended. You don’t get that kind of assurance in the PC market, because you’re dependent on one hardware manufacturer or another to make their hardware up to acceptable standards to run the version of Windows that’s on the computer. As far as I know, Apple also certifies third-party hardware so that everything is certified to run on Apple computers with OSX.

So in light of all this information there is a huge difference that puts PCs ahead of Apple for a lot of people: price. A lot of people like Windows over Apple because they can configure it more, whereas some purchase Windows computers simply because they’re a lot cheaper. Some think one or the other is more useable, But I tend to disagree with such views. When I was in the market for a laptop, the first thing I thought of was a MacBook Air, but of course I wasn’t about to throw down $1000 for a laptop no matter how cool and awesome it is; I’m just not there yet, I told myself.

See related blog post
There’s still hope for me though . . .(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In hindsight, it would have been a better move to get the MacBook.

So, long story short, I consider myself a Mac person first because I like the fact that it just works; I’m too old to screw around with my computer all the time. I need to get things done. However, I consider myself a Windows PC person second because of the price. If Mme. Ross hadn’t insisted on buying a Mac a few years back, I wouldn’t even have any experience with operating one on a regular basis – so I guess thanks to her – my BFF – I learned how to use a Mac.

Cross-posted. Thank you and goodnight.


This post was prompted in part by today’s Daily Post prompt.
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44 thoughts on “I shoulda had a MacBook Air! [Sheri #3]”

  1. I’ll stick with PCs. It’s a lot easier to tweak the hardware to exactly what you want.

    One thing missing in your history of PCs – IBM and its peers thought software should be given away to get people to buy hardware.
    Bill Gates realized software sales was where the future lay. By the time everyone realized he was right, he had licensed his MS-DOS to everyone else.

    1. That might be why IBM didn’t copyright IBM-DOS then. I always understood it to be an oversight of some kind. Of course, old Bill had it right because hardware sales is like furniture – most people won’t buy a new couch every year. But they might replace the cover now and then

  2. I remember the days – gosh this might date me – when computers were just beginning to go “mainstream Joe public” – but they were only usually affordable and available in private settings – like where I first made my debut -at a private high school. They were Apples (not MACs) but Apples – and we had to write code – talk about holy hell – and do flow charts etc. in order to work the OS and do assignments. It was beyond nuts.

    This has been my only experience with Apple/MAC – and although I own a PC – I’ve always desperately wanted a MAC. Absolutely 1000%. But oh, the prices!

    So for now – dying lap top and maybe in the near future (hopefully) I’ll be able to figure out which MAC I’d like – and be able to afford it. God only knows if I could work the thing – but I do know things have come so far since 1981 that it has to be easier and I won’t give myself mini-strokes using it 😉

    Great post – really enjoyed the techie end of business – which is surprising to me, but yeah, good job Rob.

    1. Thanks, I really worried I was geek rhapsodizing and that I’d be losing some people by it, so I tried to keep myself under control – you know, I work and I think about what I’m going to write, so in the few hours between break (when I started the post) and lunch (when I finished it) I basically went over the entire histories of Windows, Mac, Linux, OS2, and Microsoft Bob and would have been fully ready to write up a tentative outline for what would have been my Grand Computified Theory, the Computiverse in a Nutshell.

      Don’t write a book, Surfer Rob. You’ll lose them around dinner time for sure.

      You’ve dated yourself, kiddo – I got you around . . . 35-ish?
      😉

      When I was in grade school we played educational games on Apple IIe and IIg machines, but they mostly languished in the corner of the classroom as the teachers had better things to do than let us play computer games, and we almost never paid attention to them. Those were days when our sights were set on something else . . . Thundercats, monster trucks, G.I. Joes, et cetera. My first experience was with the little Macs they called “toasters” in high school, the little grey all-in-ones with glorious black and white screens (not monochrome green, orange, or yellow.) They ditched those and went to Windows 95 the year after I graduated.

      I also remember having some limited access to a Tandy computer in grade school, through a friend whose Stepfather had brought one home from somewhere – it was the Radio Shack brand of computer, and ran off of some programming language, as far as I could tell, and came with a book full of programs that you could type in and it would run the program. Thinking back, I think the language was BASIC because I never had a problem learning anything that resembled it later on.

      1. Lol – ah thank you for being so generous with my age 😉

        I just turned – sit down – don’t want you falling over – 45!

        Hah!

        Actually, I was reading your post and thought – shoot man, you better change the “tone of the voice” because you’re talking down, but lol – you caught yourself right at the correct moment and it became interesting and fun to read – lol – and yeah, it was just techie enough for me to actually learn something and then throw me back down memory lane.

        Ah BASIC – I remember having to learn that – I was not to great at the math end of things – I mean c’mon, grade school math – easy as pie – but high school math was a total nightmare for me – from beginning to end. Anyhow, I managed to get through it – but it was hellish. And so – all that computer language crap drove me right round the bend. My version of “logic language” is so not on the same frequency as the computer world’s. But through the ages, with the help of “geeky” friends, I learned a few tricks – and was actually quite good at some of the programming stuff – like HTML and I get a bit of CSS – but can’t be bothered to take it much further.

        Crazy how quickly and in such a short time span the computer industry changed – and keeps changing. The question is: when will the ceiling be hit?

        Great post and great comment/reply. 🙂

        1. Thanks. 🙂 As far as the ceiling goes, I’m not sure if there will be one. Just like with high school math, as we progress as a (global?) society, the bar will progress upward. It’s a fairly typical way to do business – when I was in high school I was expected to master Algebra at the least, whereas I hear of students nowadays expected to pass Trigonometry. Then there was college – to get a science degree I was expected to undertake three levels of Calculus, but then everybody was telling me I’d never use it – that’s what calculators are for. And that’s when I had this epiphany: if we keep pushing people to advance more at younger ages, when are we going to hit this point where you’re skipping over the basics, and how long after that are we going to lose sight of the basics, effectively hamstringing us in the event the crutches are kicked out from under us? Granted, the possibility of a catastrophic event taking out the human race becomes less of a sure thing as we advance technologically, but without the underpinnings of our knowledge in place we risk losing it altogether, at least hypothetically speaking.

          Or maybe I’m just alarmist. Long story short, we probably wouldn’t recognize the educational system a hundred years from now, just as a schoolteacher from 1914 would have a hard time coming to grips with what they’re teaching today. (“art, are you kidding me – don’t you know there’s a war on?”)

          1. lol – at the last comment —-

            Actually, I don’t think you’re an alarmist. What IS alarming is that, as you’ve said, the push is on to learn more, faster and at much younger ages, but this isn’t sensible progress. Because, truthfully, there is not enough emphasis on rudimentary basics. Most young people today can’t do simple math without a calculator. It’s not laziness (although this may be a factor) but most can’t remember or were so rushed through it, that it never stuck. All the foundation work is losing ground so quickly – and then, the question is, when will it all fall apart?

            1. I’m surprised that it hasn’t already – with laws that dictate how and what schools can teach, educators have been forced into this position where they either have to teach the students the answers themselves or to just do the tests for them; either way, they’re having to sacrifice the almighty method in order to raise generations of test-takers armed with calculators and spell-check! The fact that legislators haven’t revisited their errors shows just how blind they are, at least in the States.

              1. Hey, Canada isn’t much better. My 12 year old niece, for as smart and intelligent as she is, astounds me sometimes.

                Education is in such a sad state – which is questionable, considering we are “progressive and developed” countries.

                1. Maybe that’s the hallmark of a developed country – to develop beyond basic education to a state where the state of education is questioned because everyone is so smart they’re trying to figure out why their kids aren’t smarter?

                  It’s like a tongue-twister, right?

                  1. roflmao – oh I think you have completely summed it up – perfectly – which to my very tired brain – and I was about to say, a late Friday, but it’s now Saturday morning here – well, effort – beats me right out into the snow. You have once again, found the correct words and presented them in wonderful fashion, which will have me chuckling all the way to my bed. Good thing I’m here alone, except for the 4-legged ones, because someone might think I was quite mad 😉

  3. I did own an AMIGA once. Before that I had a friend’s Macintosh…then when AMIGA really DIDN’T take off, the (good) X bought me a Mac Classic. At school I was using Apple 2//e computers and PC’s. I’m kind of “whatever, if it works, I’ll use it.” I got a newer mac from a student who was returning to Japan a 460(?) a big hulking thing that could go on that new thing, the Internet, and had a color monitor. I replaced it with a MacBook G4 which I loved and replaced that with a MacBook and replaced that with a PowerBook that I would NEVER have stopped using but after 8 years it died (RIP my dear friend) and now I’m on a MacBook Pro. I use PC’s all the time as well. I think macs are worth the money. Yes, one of my macs did die, but most of my friends using PC’s deal with far more computer crashes and ailments and those things that I have had to deal with. I really enjoyed your concise summation of the history. I honestly did not know how it all went together.

    1. Commodore made some lovely computers. I remember a friend had a 64. My folks’ first computer, by contrast, was an Apple //e, and when I was studying programming on my own, I was working on a type-in program from a book that had versions for both C64 and Apple //e– I rather envied how the C64 handled things.

      There’s still love for Commodore computers– a well-known hardware mod guy modified a laptop to run the C64 OS and look like the old C64 desktops. There was also some hobbyist project running Amigas on specialized hardware– there are still some serious Amiga fans.

          1. There was great software. He showed me. I drew my dog and he scanned the drawing and soon we had a little animation of her turning her head. It was really cool.

      1. I think the vintage computer guys are cool in their right, but sometimes I wonder what the ultimate utility of emulating the old computers would be – but then again, some guys rebuild old cars, so who am I to criticize?

        A well-informed computer guy will tell you that the first home computer was the Commodore 64, and as far as I know they would be correct – but I may have seen one just once in my life, and I always thought of it as more of an early video game console.

        1. I don’t think it was the FIRST home computer– not by a long shot, but I think it may have been one of the first that was really successful, and that wasn’t essentially a kit (I have talked to users that used those Xerox Altos).

          I also think it’s a stretch to call it an early video game console, although, yes, it did open the doors very wide open to gaming on computers.

          1. Perhaps it was one of the first commercial home computers then – I don’t think they would count kits in such a metric. I hadn’t heard of the Xerox computers, so I Googled it – Wikipedia says it was one of the first designed for personal use but not as a home computer, so I suppose that sets it apart from a dumb terminal client. It’s interesting to see the difference in design when they’re pioneering something truly new, am I right? Just the description of the mouse is somewhat humorous. And it looks like Steve Jobs took quite a bit of inspiration from Xerox’ labs and applied it to the Macintosh in the 1980’s, so that the development of the personal computer is a modern taboo, a string of what would now be considered patent infringements.

            Of course, you have to patent a technology in order for it to be infringed, don’t you?

            1. Yes. I think that’s why patent law is so messy now, with battles over the smallest things. I saw “Pirates of Silicon Valley” and the portrayal did make it out that Jobs just blatantly stole ideas from PARC Xerox. I don’t know how accurate that is, but most accounts made it pretty clear that Xerox executives didn’t believe a graphical menu-driven interface was profitable.

              Then again, this shouldn’t be too surprising for anyone that follows technological history– what we remember really well is not innovation from scratch, but an someone improving an idea that was already in use. Henry Ford bringing the automobile to mass scale production comes to mind.

              1. Well two points – Jobs may not have intended to steal ideas, but to employ them, and we saw that back then turnabout was fair play when Microsoft employed the same types of ideas used in the MacOS for Windows – and point two, I think we remember those because they’re not so much innovating the idea as making it work for the first time in a big way, and in that I definitely agree with you that most often they were improving on already existing ideas.

    2. I’m definitely glad that it’s being enjoyed! I think that if you consider that the PowerBook ran for 8 years and died and that’s all you had to say about it . . . for the time, it had a good run; because knowing the hardware at the time, and Apple’s philosophy on hardware, it was probably one of their most difficult tasks to engineer it to run fast enough, stay cool enough, and be light enough to avoid giving you a permanent slump on one side from carrying it. The fact that it lasted the better part of a decade is a testament to how well they accomplished that mission, so RIP indeed. Macs are so worth the money.

  4. I am a converted Mac person, though I’m not too happy with their products at the moment. I detest my iPhone 5. I need to upgrade my computer and will probably get a MacBook Air, because I cannot keep up with my blog and such on mobile devices. (Sorry, my various Apple mobile devices.)

    1. In light of all you’ve said, is your problem the phone or the WordPress app? I ask because I’ve had to hold back from writing outright threats to the developers for what they’ve done to the app. It’s ridiculous. And to consider all the writing I’ve lost since I started using that app for posting . . . it’s mind-bottling.

      1. I am responding from my iPad now, and here’s what I don’t like: 1. I cannot even see what you said above in order to be sure I addressed your reply; 2. It stacks comments such that I fear I always miss one or two, and people only care that you didn’t respond to them, not the reason you didn’t; 3. It takes a shitload of data to read and manage, and that adds up on my mobile plan.

        I only use the app for posting in dire circumstances, because you’re right. It is unreliable.

        My iPhone battery is wonky. It stops working in the cold. It also doesn’t stay charged very long.

        1. I have the same problem with the cold. When I was going out for photography in the autumn mornings, it would be eighteen degrees outside, and after about half an hour, my battery would be reading low and then shut down the phone until it’s out of the cold. Since then it seems its become even less tolerant of the cold!

          Because of my problems with the app, I’m getting to this point where I feel it’s useless trying to socialize through the app, so I’ll post (despite the fact that the app will crash several times while I’m composing my post) but I’m starting to respond to comments and pingbacks solely from my laptop.

          The shame is, there used to be a third-party app that people liked to use with WordPress. Then <em<somebody bought it from the developer and made it disappear.

  5. A lot of people say it’s Linux but really it’s not.

    To be more nerdy-specific, Mac OS X and above uses the BSD kernel called Darwin. Jobs got it from his student days at Berkley in the ’80s, if I remember my sources right. Old kernel panic messages will reference that kernel by name: Darwin.

    Even the term Linux itself only refers to the kernel (which is shorthand for UNIX with Linus Torvald’s kernel). If I remember right, Linus was trying to come up with an open-sourced alternative for Minux or something like that. Really anal-retentive types will say GNU/Linux because of the original use of the GNU libraries– GNU being Richard Stallman’s creation.

    So to bridge the connection, the term *NIX was created– and that’s also to encompass other UNIX deriviatives, because there are others besides BSD and GNU/Linux. I seem to remember reading that some Mac users were hoping that Jobs would use BeOS.

    Yes, I like reading and remembering details like this– myself, I use Linux out on the Debian/Ubuntu fork, called Linux Mint. I’ve test-driven a few other flavors as well.

    1. You sassy lad, I love Linux Mint. I haven’t actually used it in a dog’s age, but it was definitely my favorite flavor and I had used it for about two straight years straight before I sold my last laptop.

      I’ve been under the impression that Linux was created because Sun Microsystems owns UNIX and so most of that code is proprietary and thus subject to licensing, so the idea was to create a system that worked with UNIX commands but was completely open-source and community-driven so that anyone could use it and improve it.

      1. Something like that, yes. I’ve done some reading and talked with programmers– the history is a little more complicated than that. Especially so since Oracle merged/took over Sun. Oracle makes the business folk happy enough, but a lot of rank and file coders/programmers are REALLY unhappy with how Oracle is doing things. The community at OpenOffice left in droves for the LibreOffice fork, for one thing. I can’t blame ’em– I could list many more things I don’t like myself.

              1. That’s unfortunate– I’m seeing this with Flickr. A lot of us are upset because of Marissa Mayer’s attitude and her insistence on turning Flickr into a competitor for Instagram.

                My father-in-law had his account deleted twice and banned once because Yahoo can’t clean up their dregs and if a user complains (even if they are up to scummy no good), down comes the hammer.

                  1. Sorry, I wasn’t too clear.

                    We have had problems at Flickr with a certain segment of users who are looking for prurient content. A few are pedophilic, and I was horrified to find one follower of my photostream wanted nude pictures of my children.

                    What happened was one such user took retaliatory action against my father-in-law; he had politely asked that the person not favorite a particular photo.

                    My experience told me that in cases like this, it’s best not to engage the offending user at all, because they can complain right back, and it’s hard to get recourse. My father-in-law has all his photos backed up, but at the time… I didn’t.

                    1. Well that is pretty much the most disgusting thing I have ever heard – like I know there are pervs and pedophiles out there, but I thought they went to sites that serves those interests, not innocent peoples’ Flickr accounts. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been subject to that kind of treatment.

  6. What a fun conversation! I learned quite a bit more about these systems here. I started with programming on a Commodore 64. I can’t believe I did that. But I’ve been a Mac person from the beginning; they just keep working. Some of the built in apps are very powerful and most people don’t even know about them, such as Preview and QuickTime. It’s interesting to hear people’s preferences in what works best for them. Thanks everyone for all the info! Great conversation, Rob!

    1. Hey, that’s-a what I do!

      It’s actually amazing how much venom can be generated just by installing Apple products on Windows computers, but once you experience them on a Mac you understand them way better. I’ve never been a Quicktime fan because of my experience with Quicktime on Windows, but it just works so much better on a Mac – just like iTunes. Needless to say, I spent a lot more time trying to get Windows programs to work on the Mac (Guild Wars) than messing around with putting Mac programs on a Windows PC.

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