Mac vs Windows: an amicus rebuttal

Michael Covington provides a detailed review of the state of things between Mac, Windows, and Linux. I don’t so much disagree as feel like some of the issues can bear a little more information. Refer to Michael’s page here so that what follows makes sense.

First, it’s true that all of these operating systems are quite similar in many ways. Still, there are differences, and to any given individual, those differences might loom large. But they are not, as Michael points out, inherently large.

Note: where I do not have anything to say about a given point, you can assume I think it is a point well taken.

Re: point (2) – I would argue that Windows doesn’t do a very good job of dealing with the different hardware it has to run on. (It may be that the job is impossible to do well, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole.) I was around when Microsoft made the decision to effectively abandon the secure ring-like OS structure that lasted through Win NT 2.1. At that point, drivers were given deep access to the OS; the separation of powers was mostly abandoned. This was the equivalent of farming out core code; it has gone badly, driver-wise, ever since. This is a weakness of Windows. (The Mac has driver issues as well, but at a far lesser level, mostly because the OS is able to provide good services and most hardware can use those services instead of requiring custom drivers.)

Re: point (4) – I agree here, but would add that by exposing more technical details, Microsoft is not always successful with a) making that reasonably accessible; b) hiding obscure stuff from casual users. It’s presumably true that the more complexity you include, the more likely it is for those things to happen, whether you are building a car or an operating system, so this is more of an observation than a criticism. Nonetheless, this is exactly the type of different that can loom large for a user. I’ve always been a power user, and I took a leap of faith when I switched to the Mac (that I would still be able to do what I need to, when I need to). Since the Mac is actually Linux underneath, I have been able to go to the command line (Terminal, in Mac lingo) whenever I need to in order to accomplish whatever I need. So both OSs expose themselves, but in very different ways.

Re: point (5) – In my experience, Mac hardware is one of the best ways to build a Windows computer. In my work world, we now build Windows computers on Mac minis, either as a simple stand-alone Windows machine, or as a dual boot. These have been, by far, our best and most reliable Windows computers. Good hardware is worth what you pay for it, in our collective opinion. 🙂

Re: point (8) – The graphic orientation is stronger than this implies. The design strategy of the Mac is based on the idea that graphics is the heart and soul of using a computer effectively. Windows evolved out of DOS and graphic ideas; the marriage has remained at some level  either a crutch or a pillar of Windows ever since. 🙂 Depends on your point of view.

Re: point (10) – I would say that this is more complex. Yes, games thrive on the PC, and (surprisingly, to me) are a minor part of the Mac world, relatively speaking. But the Mac has been much stronger in art-related graphics – design, music, etc. None of this is a clean division, but the whole reason I moved to the Mac was that I wanted my various arts — writing, photography, music production — to work more easily (or at all; I went through three Windows computers that all failed miserably at video production before I finally moved to a Mac, which was up and handling video from the first second.). Another area in which Windows rules simply because that’s what everyone does: industrial controls. I would have expected Linux; but it’s Windows, and PLCs, pretty much everywhere. (Science is more a mix of Windows and Linux.)

Re: point (12) – It’s possible that this ease has translated into allowing more poorly-written software to show up in Windows. A higher barrier to entry can have positive side effects. 🙂 I continue to program almost exclusively in Windows, partly because I’m familiar with Visual Studio, and partly because, well, it’s easier overall. MS really puts together a good development platform; there’s a reason that Borland and the others are no longer around (mostly).

Beyond the specific differences, there are also general, philosophical, and marketing differences. Those can be quite emotional, and, well, that’s what personal choice is all about, and I’m not going to go into those, either.


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