The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why Not to Buy Vista

Windows Vista has better security, a flashy interface, an improved Windows Explorer, integrated search, and a Sidebar with gadgets. Sound exciting? I've been using all of those features for more than a year now, with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. As a PC Magazine analyst, I use several Windows PCs and Macs daily. But I do my most critical work on an iMac, because it's intuitive, smooth, and doesn't crash.

If you've been using a Mac, you can sense something tiresomely "me too" about Vista. Mac users famously don't worry all that much about viruses—yes, there are security flaws, but they're promptly patched and seldom attacked. We've got a Dashboard with widgets and the best darn search anywhere.

But even more than all that, Mac OS just works. I haven't installed a device driver since I got this machine, though I've plugged any number of devices into it. I don't get mysterious error messages when I boot up or open Entourage (the Mac version of Outlook). If I want to install a program, I just drag its folder into my Applications folder. If I want to uninstall it, I drag it to Trash. And if you've never used Apple's iLife suite, you're losing out big-time. The interface and inte­gration between iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, and iDVD are an order of magnitude smoother than anything on the PC platform. Vista will drive new hardware purchases, which I guess is good for hardware manufacturers. Tiger runs on Macs from 2002, on modern Mac Minis that cost $600 new, and on that $9,000 workstation that we all secretly want. Supergeeks have even gotten it to run on home-brew PCs, but I've never done anything like that. Nope. Nuh-uh.

Linux lovers, meanwhile, are flocking to Mac because it delivers what Linux has promised for years: a Unix-based OS with full command line control, that has an interface your grandma could enjoy, thousands of apps, and decent technical support. I tried Linux for a while. It was more stable than Windows, but the apps had rough edges that 20 years of Mac development have polished away.

Vista may catch up to Tiger in a lot of ways, but Apple isn't standing still. This year, Apple will bring us Leopard, with its multiple virtual desktops, further ­improved search, and—something Tiger has now—the ability to run Windows and Mac OS legitimately on the same machine. I could dip into Windows if I absolutely needed to. For now, though, I don't see any reason to leave the easy, powerful, stable Mac OS.

Sascha Segan, PC Magazine


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