Apple personal computer versus Microsoft based personal computer

When we’re talking about the personal computer world we can divide the world into three camps; Wintel; Apple; and Linux. For the scope of this discussion and due to the almost frenzy of Linux advocates they’re out of the discussion. We’re talking about some of my perceptions of Apple versus Wintel since I swapped.

First, I did switch and I haven’t looked back. The switch from Wintel to Apple based products were easy and increased my productivity substantially. I’ve had zero failures while writing on my Apple MacBook Pro where as I had several BSOD’s a month with my Dell XP laptop. Chasing primarily software conflicts on my Dell running XPSP2 was becoming a full time job. The productivity win is totally in Apples court.

From a teaching standpoint I’m only suggesting Apple hardware to my students and fellow faculty. Though the transition for some is a bit difficult the learning curve is not steep and the resultant bliss is substantial. If I can’t suggest an Apple to somebody I won’t suggest a computing platform for personal use. The headaches of Vista (all versions) are to substantial. In the curriculum several of the applications we use require XP (which I use parallels for).

The applications we use won’t run on Vista and people end up having a Virtual PC 2007 running XPSP2 rather than running natively in Vista. Then you end up with issues on Vista of hardware compatibility. For flexibility I recount the printer fiasco. A fellow “swapper” was hunting on the Internet for a driver on an oddball Ink Jet Printer as she usually does when installing on XP. I said “Plug it in, it’ll work”. She did and it did. It just works. That’s the persistent theme in using the Macintosh platform. It just works.

Another point about Apple and in regards to OS X, iTunes, iLife, and even iWork. Though I teach technology most educators don’t. For most educators the idea is that technology facilitates learning some other field of study. Computers for math, graphics for art, multimedia for biology, some solution in virtualization using the computer as a delivery mechanism. We shouldn’t be spending valuable curricula units of time teaching the tool unless we have to. With Apple the computer becomes invisible to the cognitive effort of delivery and interaction and allows for expertise and knowledge transference. With Wintel barriers are erected in trust, acquisition, compliance to standards, and so many other areas of egregious user interaction. With Apple it just works.

A note for all those seething Linux users. Apple’s Mach kernel is based on BSD which was the original open source operating system before Linus Torvalds ever considered it. With Darwin and a few add-ons the hard core fanatic can run Linux based tools and applications natively on Mac OS X. So that makes the teaching of my technology students so much easier when they have Mac’s. They can virtualize Windows, Solaris, Linux, or run the applications natively in some cases on OS X. In either case the base operating system is much more stable than Wintel.

Finally though I’m moving away from Office 2004 (now I use Keynote, and Pages, and soon Numbers) I still have the options of running Word. I use EndNote extensively and with a native OS X version I can keep using it. I don’t have many issues with compatibility when sending documents to Office 2007 users, but I have banned my students from using Office 2007 formats because of my perceived security concerns.

So six months later… Mac it just works.

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