John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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November 11th, 2008 · No Comments

We are a triple-OS household these days. We have been for a couple of months now; first we added the Mac, when Sagrario started her web design course, and then Linux, when she gave me one of those cute little Asus notebooks for my birthday.
So what’s the big deal? If you believe the stuff that people say on the Net, particularly about Mac vs PC, they are complete opposites, like Laurel and Hardy, when not diametrically opposed, like communism and capitalism or the Force and its Dark Side. And as far as I can see, there just isn’t that kind of difference. True, the Mac is far more elegant and more enjoyable to watch films and so forth on, but there are reasons for that which have nothing to do with the OS as such – it is three or four years newer, the screen is enormous (Sagrario is a pro graphic designer, we couldn’t have her making do with a notebook), tons more memory, and so on. But the inner workings, the processes of installing a program, the kind of general maintenance you have to do on a regular basis (I call it the housekeeping), these things are not, as far as I can see, very much different on a Mac or on a PC.

Even Linux is much the same, at least at the outset. The Asus eeeeeeeee (there aren’t that many e’s, I just never remember if it’s three or four) comes with its own custom Linux set-up, with pretty well all you need to get by – the OpenOffice package, Firefox… Where it does become quite a lot more DIY is when you want to add software, which is not generally commercially available for Linux. This means you have to get the OpenSource version from somewhere and, even more radically, you need to use terminal access to the computer and install from the command line – this might frighten the young folks, but it’s easy-peasy if you have ever worked with DOS or other antediluvian operating systems.

So I just don’t feel myself pushed into any of the OS supporters’ groups and I especially don’t understand the denigration of the alternatives that seems to be entailed. Mac users are always running PCs down for their frequent crashes and general clumsiness, while PC users scoff at Mac users as image-obsessed and computer-disadvantaged. wimps I am prepared to believe that the Mac is less vulnerable to viruses and other malware than Windows, but have seen no evidence that that is intrinsic to the OS rather than due to the greater popularity of Windows. I don’t accept that the Mac is less versatile and that it is harder to get to grips with its inner workings – I simply haven’t found that. It may or may not be more stable, I just find it newer and more efficient, as is to be expected.

Linux does, of course, have the advantage of being Open Source, i.e. free, though for an extra 20-something euros, I could have had the Asus with Windows installed, hardly enough to make a difference. And I suspect that when the moment does come to upgrade the OS, that will not be all that big an advantage, if any – you have to find a Linux package that suits you, which may not be free either, and the installations I have looked at before have seemed time-consumingly complicated.

The state of play so far, then, is a three-way draw. Except for two things: the Mac is gorgeous, a beautiful 26″ iMac of breath-taking sexiness. It may be superficial of me, but it definitely adds something to the user experience (though I find I tend to stick to my homely old PC even when the Mac is free, which may say something about me).

And though this is not intrinsic to the OS but to the format of the computer, the Asus pulls women – they think it’s cute. Now, I’ve never had a sports car or a dog or a baby in a pushchair or any of the other appendages that traditionally make girls say “Aaaah (or wow!), isn’t he/it lovely/fabulous/sweet?” and stop and allow themselves to be chatted up. So it’s been a nice surprise that the Asus is an authentic babe magnet. I suspect that it won’t be in a few months, though, when they are a more common sight.

So this is the current score: iMac – 2; Asus – 2; PC – 1. Sorry, Microsoft.

Tags: Geekish

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