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The Big Experiment Part 4: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Conclusion) June 29, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apple Inc., Microsoft, Operating System, The Big Experiment, The Other Side of the Fence.
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I suppose it’s time to take a definitive stand, and this is as good a time as any.

I am a Mac user. The outcome of this experiment was never in any doubt, was it? But at least it comes with experience and authority now, rather than just unsubstantiated, uninformed tech bigotry and xenophobia.

Truly, Windows sucks. Without a doubt. Surprisingly though, not as much as I was expecting. But why does it suck at all?

Through no fault of the user, that’s for sure. If anything, the Windows user is complicit only because he tolerates the crap. No one should be made to go through the hoops that Microsoft requires its users. As Peter Finch screamed into the TV camera in Network: I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!

Fight back. Just say no. I think if enough people expressed that opinion Bill and Co. would comply.

It’s horrible that even the most basic things in Windows will screw up. Just booting up is an interesting experience. The simple task of opening or closing a window might bring grief, or installing a simple shareware app might cripple the system. To get the ball to just roll might require additional expenditure in terms of memory and storage, or of video ram; let us not even get into the complicated and arcane field of processor speeds or multiple processor cores. Think Vista, and experience despair.

Why does this have to be? I’ve mentioned this before in the previous post in this series. Windows is screwed up because it’s a step forward and five steps back; trying to live in (and for) their storied and profitable past is taking a major toll. Maintaining a relationship with that which should be obsolete might keep the revenue up and running, but at what cost?

The Gordian Knot analogy is apt. This knotted ball of problems is best cut in half, and starting over is the perhaps the only solution. This requires a penalty that Microsoft and its millions of acolytes mired in the glorious mess might not be ready to pay.

The ugly part is that Windows Vista users are doomed to work on a bright, pretty new system built partly on rotting foundations, akin to dollying up a cadaver with a wig, make-up and a nice dress.

Windows users worldwide are forced to live within limitations dictated by compatibility commitments sealed with blood years before. This continuing conspiracy and deception just prolongs the agony. Vista is supposed to be a sweep-the-table-clean, from-the-ground-up all-new animal (it sure took them long enough to make), but it still has leaden feet, since Microsoft refused to take brave, bold, paradigm-changing steps in fear of alienating their base.

So this jury-rigged structure of compromises that works only through drivers, dynamic link libraries, antiviral utilities, stop-gap hardware and software solutions and by the grace of God will always be at the mercy of the BSOD that will strike at any time, anywhere, when you least expect it. Contrast that with the Mac system, where the hardware and software are built by one company, thus skirting the entire problem.

Truth be told, working on a Windows system – Vista or no – with an adequate setup, legal software and proper configuration isn’t the agony Mac users would like to believe. Viruses don’t really bite you on the ass every five minutes; in the two months I’ve been using my Thinkpad T43, I’ve had virus trouble only twice, and nothing significant at that. BSODs only happen every three or four days. The system sometimes goes into a coma, but given enough time can revive itself. One shareware installation hosed the system, but I figured it out and uninstalled it, and things were fine after that.

In fact, Windows does some stuff way better than Apple does – gaming among them. And the crazy-quilt abundance of accessories, gadgets and software for Windows is a universe Mac users have yet to see and experience. Not to mention areas of the net where Macs are not yet welcome, or have difficulty existing in because of compatibility issues or unintentional OS discrimination.

In this country the ugly stereotype is cast in stone because of the Vox Populi: only, the bulk of the complaining Windows users are the ones that have no business complaining in the first place: they run pirated versions on budget clones with cheap components and cRAM (crappy RAM) and still think they have the right to gripe that their computers crash all the damned time. The good part is what with the right setup and certified, updated software with updated utilities you wouldn’t really have much to complain about, and I daresay Macs and Windows machines wouldn’t be all that different.

The bad part is the stuff that Windows needs to work on, and should have years ago. Windows often fails on the most basic things. Anyone who’s used a Mac for any reasonable amount of time can tell you this. Not to dwell on the details (and not to repeat Apple jingoism – which is unavoidable because it’s simply the plain and unvarnished truth), on Macs things just plain …work. And work reasonably well, and reliably. You don’t need a geek membership card – things are logically and intuitively designed, and done with a bit of style and class. And whether or not it’s because malware writers just don’t give it any importance, it’s undeniably more secure. To use a clear example of the differences between Microsoft and Apple outside of computers and operating systems, just put a Windows Mobile phone beside an Apple iPhone, and there you go.

That said, I continue my double-life. I work with my Powerbook for personal things, and the Thinkpad for office work. Or at least I try to. When there are really serious, work-intensive things to do, like video, photo or audio editing for example, I cannot help but turn to the Mac. It’s easier, faster and better. No fanboy-ism there. It’s just the reality.

The reality is also that Windows can now live on Macs, and Windows is steadily, if slowly, improving itself. And it’s also a reality that while Macs are a few leagues ahead, Leopard will pull it even farther ahead. Microsoft has its work cut out for itself. Meantime, I feel I’m getting the better deal on the Mac side of things for now. Which is why this blog exists.

So there.

The end.

Other posts in the series:

Introduction: Heresy

The Big Experiment, Part 1: Reboot Ad Nauseam

The Big Experiment, Part 2: The Little Things

The Big Experiment. Part 3: Sleeping with the Enemy

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