Apples and Oranges
December 14, 2010 5:38 AM   Subscribe

No really, what is the difference between a Mac and a PC?

I'm not looking for consumer advice here, nor am I looking for superficial distinctions. I mean, both are "personal computers," and it's not like Macs run on ether or unicorn tears. A home computer is, regardless of branding, a computer.....

I have a Mac and although--for reasons I have never bothered to fully articulate--I resent Apple, I must admit that this computer works better than any Windows-based machine I've ever used and has lasted longer than all 3 non-Mac laptops I've had put together. Even though it kills me (and my bank account), I would never consider going back to a PC. But I want to know how and why the operating systems work differently. I'm not a techie (or I probably wouldn't be asking this question), but I am curious to know what the technical differences are (in terms of software, not hardware). So, please don't dumb it down too much--this is an intellectual exercise for me!

And no, I don't care whether you think one or the other is better, I just want to know how they differ.
posted by oohisay to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Others can speak to the differences in the OS, but I think the fundamental reason why Macs work better than PCs is that Apple controls ALL of the hardware that goes into the Mac, which means that there are fewer devices to write drivers for. Unless you're making your own upgrades, every Mac Pro of the same generation, essentially, comes with the same motherboard, video card, sound card, network card, etc. Every MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mini--they're all identical to their cousins. In the PC market, each maker (and home builder) builds their boxes slightly differently, and the OS has to work with each setup. Bugs and incompatibilities are inevitable.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:46 AM on December 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


One of the reasons they are more expensive is that they use higher quality components*, and all Macs have the same components, so the software is optimized for it. On a PC, you can have different manufacturers and different quality control on every single piece of hardware inside it, and the software required to enable all these different components to work together is going to be more unwieldy and bulky.

* - At least, this is what they say
posted by Grither at 5:47 AM on December 14, 2010


Huge number of differences. One of the biggest: Macs are designed for "specific" hardware controlled by one company. PCs are designed to work with "generic" hardware from many third parties.
posted by blue mustard at 5:50 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Should have previewed. Yeah, what they said.
posted by blue mustard at 5:51 AM on December 14, 2010


Like you, I love my Mac but despise Apple. While I can't speak to the software side of things, Apple certainly does use higher-quality components and better thought-out design choices. For example, my fiancee's 1 year-old Sony Vaio recently had both its left and right mouse buttons break off. They were plastic held on by itty-bitty plastic tabs. Well of course those will break, repeated stress on plastic snaps it; how did Sony not think of that? In contrast, my soon-to-be 4 year-old Macbook Pro has held up admirably in the hardware department. Never have I had a single thing break or need to be replaced. The aluminum body is wonderful. I dropped it once and it dented. That's it. I'd die of shame if I dropped a plastic laptop and it cracked. Die.

It is, however, beginning to show its age on the software end. I notice longer boot-ups and slower performance as applications get more intensive. I do not look forward to replacing it with another $1300 laptop, but I will.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:55 AM on December 14, 2010


When Apple released OS X in 2001, they started over from scratch. Windows, on the other hand, has been a consistent evolution from the beginning. Apple's fresh start gave it a chance to refocus on a solid foundation without worrying about maintaining backwards compatibility for 1980s/1990s era software.

But they didn't rewrite everything from scratch; they borrowed an existing, stable, open-source operating system core (from BSD). Upon that foundation they added the graphics and other Mac-like aspects of the Apple computers you use today.

Today's Macs owe their stability in large part due to that solid BSD/UNIX foundation, coupled with a very persistent pace of development. When OS X came out, it was slow and not very stable, but Apple has released six iterations thus far, each time working not only on new features, but on cleaning up old code.

While the history is more involved than that (Wikipedia should provide a lot of historical background), more generally I think that the difference between Mac and Windows evolution can be summarized thusly:

Apple sweats the details; Microsoft doesn't. Details matter. Sometimes the important details aren't about new glitzy features; they're about maintaining and improving what's already out there in a consistent, contemplated way.

On preview: As others have pointed out, the fact that Apple controls their own hardware is what lets them focus on ruthless detail.
posted by singularian at 6:00 AM on December 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


The most basic differences:

Mac OSX: Based on Mach kernel and FreeBSD.

Windows 7: Based on Windows NT kernel.
posted by bbxx at 6:01 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


FOLKS: I am curious to know what the technical differences are (in terms of software, not hardware).

Here's an article that describes the architecture of OSX. I am having trouble finding a similar one for Windows 7. Maybe someone else can chime in.
posted by grumblebee at 6:06 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apple's hardware is integrated and intended to work as a cohesive whole, instead of hacked together from bits and pieces. Other PCs are kludged together from various components, and unless the manufacturer has an eye for quality and cohesiveness, things can feel disjointed. Some Windows PC makers have done an okay job here: Lenovo/IBM, perhaps Toshiba on their higher-end systems. It's tough to do this well.

Looking strictly at the software, Mac OS X is a UNIX operating system underneath the hood. With few exceptions, Apple rarely goes "off the reservation" in terms of setting up proprietary components, and OS X plays remarkably well with other UNIX platforms.

For power users, OS X does what Linux cannot yet do: merge a great and mostly consistent graphical user interface with a powerful and flexible command-line interface.

It makes use of a lot of open source components that make it work well with other non-OS X systems. You can take a shell script from a Linux user and it will likely work fine. Perl and Python are built-ins. You can SSH into an OS X box and it looks and behaves like any other UNIX workstation. The development tools are free and use robust open source components under the hood. If you write your software in a POSIX-compliant manner, it can usually compile on other POSIX systems. If you're a system administrator, you can use UNIX-standard authentication techniques to bind workstations to larger groups. If you want to run a customized web server, Apache is under the hood. Etc.

The exceptions are mostly to do with reselling music and video, which is now part of Apple's core business.

Windows, on the other hand, uses proprietary stuff pretty much everywhere, even down to how carriage returns are handled. You can't easily reuse shell scripts from other platforms. Batch scripting and PowerShell have IMO always felt glued on to Windows, not really first-class citizens in the Microsoft world. Some development tools are now free but are missing features in the paid versions, and it is difficult to port software from other platforms. Authentication and authorization are implemented in a Windows-only manner. All of it funnels users, developers and administrators into the Microsoft ecology.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:13 AM on December 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


I would recommend reading the Ars Technica Windows 7 and Snow Leopard reviews to get an appreciation for the current state of the art in both OSes.
posted by hariya at 6:13 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apple has a smaller product line and longer lifecycles for its equipment, and charges a steeper premium. This allows them to use more robust designs, cherrypick higher quality components, and spend a lot longer than other PC manufacturers getting small details right. The result is a notebook that can take daily use and abuse like no other.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:15 AM on December 14, 2010


Grumblebee, hardware informs the software. It's part of a whole, ESPECIALLY with Apple. A computer manufacturer that's vertically integrated knows what kind of hardware the OS will be running on, and can polish it accordingly. Windows has to work with just about anything you throw at it, from a $200 Wal-Mart special to a multicore graphics workstation. Thus, it just can't be as specialized and as polished.

The fundamental difference though is the kernel, as others have mentioned. Not sure intangible difference which you're referring to.
posted by supercres at 6:18 AM on December 14, 2010


But I want to know how and why the operating systems work differently.

I'm a Mac guy, always have been. When me and the GF, soon to be wife, moved in together, one of the first things I did was get rid of her Windows computers (with her ok, of course). I generally despise the OS and refuse to have it in my house or be in any way responsible for it in my personal life.

That said, my day job is PC only, so I work with XP every day and I have to admit, it does the job and can function well and even has a few benefits over Mac OS (Explorer vs Finder). But I still prefer the Mac and probably always will. Keep in mind, most of my day is spent in the Adobe Creative Suite, which is available for both platforms and designed to be pretty much the same on both platforms.

Generally speaking, I think the Mac does a better job of using a computer to do other things, instead of using a computer that you have to tinker with to do those things. I think this is more of a philosophy difference between the two systems. Take consumer video editing, on the Mac it's iMovie, on the PC it's Windows Movie Maker (or something like that). iMovie, to me, sounds sexier, it's all about ME and helping me do something great, make movies. Hell, who wouldn't want to make a movie, right? But on the PC, it's WINDOWS Movie Maker. There's this constant marketing pitch to remind you it's WINDOWS that does these things, makes movies, plays media etc, etc. The Mac feels like it's about letting me, the individual, do great things with this awesome tool. Windows feels like it's always reminding me that someone else made this tool to do these things, so I should keep buying WINDOWS to do great things, right?

I think that philosophy difference permates both systems software design which accounts for the difference. This doesn't mean that Mac always makes great software or that Windows software always sucks. But the Mac, I think, makes great tools for people because they like doing that and want to make gobs of money by doing that. Microsoft feels like it wants to make gobs of money and hey, software is a good way to do that, so yeah, they make stuff and beat you over the head with their branding to keep your loyalty. It's subtle difference, but a big one in my opinion.
posted by nomadicink at 6:28 AM on December 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses that work better for some than others.

Apple sweats the details; Microsoft doesn't. Details matter. Sometimes the important details aren't about new glitzy features; they're about maintaining and improving what's already out there in a consistent, contemplated way.

I would posit that they sweat different details.

For example: Apple has traditionally pushed whatever new technology they are in favor of HARD. When the new thing is in, the old thing is OUT. You have to buy new stuff. Microsoft, perhaps to their detriment, focuses a lot on backward compatibility.

cherrypick higher quality components

That was more true 15 years ago than now. They used SCSI disks, more advanced RAM, better processors, sometimes better displays. Now, it is pretty much all the same- spend the same amount of money, you get more or less the same hardware. What they don't do is have cheap versions of their hardware.

Windows, on the other hand, uses proprietary stuff pretty much everywhere, even down to how carriage returns are handled. You can't easily reuse shell scripts from other platforms. Batch scripting and PowerShell have IMO always felt glued on to Windows, not really first-class citizens in the Microsoft world. Some development tools are now free but are missing features in the paid versions, and it is difficult to port software from other platforms. Authentication and authorization are implemented in a Windows-only manner. All of it funnels users, developers and administrators into the Microsoft ecology.

Apple charges plenty (in dollars and hassle) for their own development tools. Less so now that they have a suite of BSD license stuff that they have to allow, but they still "git" you for their proprietary stuff.

And the rest of your complaints are true between every operating system. There is nothing more "right" about the UNIX way than the Windows way, any more than there is between UNIX and System/390.

Looking strictly at the software, Mac OS X is a UNIX operating system underneath the hood.

Reversing a common old-school complaint against Windows that Mac users loved to use: "Windows is just a fancy GUI sitting on top of a text-based system." Now it is the other way around.
posted by gjc at 6:42 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which version of Windows are you comparing with OSX?

From a software perspective, OSX is based on BSD with a good dash of NextStep.

The unix underpinnings give OSX a very big amount of stability and organization.

Additionally, the UI was redesigned relatively recently (~10 years ago). In fact, the whole OS was redesigned at this time. A compatibility layer was kept in for a number of years to support older applications, but that was removed at some point in the last few years.

Windows 7 was also heavily redesigned from prior versions of Windows. I can attest that it is much better than Vista, although I still prefer XP in some respects. But it still has to contain a large amount of backward compatibility. True, a lot of that has been extracted into "XP mode" which is in a virtual machine. There is still a lot of UI backwards compatibility which while making each new version of Windows retain some familiarity with people, still causes problems for the underlying system.

One thing that makes comparisons tough is finding equivalent hardware to run the OSes on. My wife just got an Air, and that thing feels so blazingly fast. My work computer, which is several years old and despite having almost identical specs (and runs Win7), does not do so. The main differences that would effect performance between the machines are that the Dell has a slightly faster processor and the Mac has a SSD. I expect that replacing my HD with a SSD would give my computer comparable performance. But, in the meantime, I am so jealous! :)
posted by reddot at 6:48 AM on December 14, 2010


But I want to know how and why the operating systems work differently.

This is a hard question to answer with concrete technical differences, because their history is just so radically different. If you want to put OS X into its historical context, this chart may or may not be helpful, and will at least give you a sense of the difficulty of the question. OS X and its immediate ancestors start showing up in the late nineties, a little before the middle. The chart shows only unix derivatives, so if it were showing all OSs, windows would be somewhere way, way off the edge of the chart, historically/taxonomically speaking.
posted by advil at 6:53 AM on December 14, 2010


Apple is a hardware company - Apple makes "systems", their OS software, their hardware. Tight integration and focus on usability.

Microsoft is a software company - they provide a platform (Windows) for other software from business apps (Office) to games. They have limited integration with hardware - how could they? they have no idea where you'll install it.

Everything else that's mentioned above flows from that distinction.
posted by anti social order at 7:19 AM on December 14, 2010




I'm also in the hate-the-company-love-the-product camp. I can't wait until someone else figures out how to crack this nut, because I hate being stuck in the Apple ecosystem.

Apple is a hardware company - Apple makes "systems", their OS software, their hardware. Tight integration and focus on usability.

This is true. Apple's integration lets them come up with an interface, then design software and hardware to make the most of it. They can strip a lot away. A lot of nerds HATE how few features Apple products have compared to PCs or Android phones or whatever, but everyone else appreciates how much less crap is cluttering up the experience.


That was more true 15 years ago than now. They used SCSI disks, more advanced RAM, better processors, sometimes better displays. Now, it is pretty much all the same- spend the same amount of money, you get more or less the same hardware. What they don't do is have cheap versions of their hardware.


This is true for the guts, but anything you touch on a mac has been meticulously designed. The trackpads, keyboards, mice, iOS touch screens and laptop cases are where they shine. It's like when VW started using soft touch plastics in their cars back in the late 1990's. All of a sudden they were being compared favorably to cars made by Mercedes and BMW. The car underneath was nothing special, but it didn't matter to the end user.
posted by pjaust at 7:49 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apple gives away its primary software development tool (XCode) with every system. Built into XCode's Interface Builder are the standard Apple Human Interface Guidelines, so that whether you use one of Apple's flagship products or a free app you downloaded from some hobby programmer, the program's interface elements are laid out and function in a predictable manner. The standard library of software functions to interface with OS X is also very carefully designed and documented. They sweat the small stuff, and every piece of software you use benefits from it.

Microsoft tries to provide a painless development environment with good documentation too, but (1) their tools cost money, so not everyone uses them, (2) their priorities are more focused on legacy support at the expense of clean code, and (3) the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines are a joke and they're not really enforced by convention or by code. The net result is that Windows apps all have a lot more edge cases and weird software idiosyncracies, and each app deals with them differently, and so they don't play nice together and they break more often.
posted by Chris4d at 7:50 AM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's the difference:

Bill Gates is a mega-nerd. Steve Jobs is an egomaniac. (I say this as a much bigger fan of the latter)

These two simple ideas inform the companies they founded to their core.

Windows is designed for nerds. No matter how much paint is splashed on it, there's still no getting around its hard corners, its maddening array of endless choices. You can get a lot done, but you've got to work for it.

Mac OS is designed around a philosophy of "Trust me, I know what you want to do." It's deliberately simple, with fewer choices and softer lines. To those who feel they need to control everything, Apple makes it hard for you, because why do you want to do that anyway? Did I not tell you to trust me?
posted by mkultra at 8:18 AM on December 14, 2010 [14 favorites]


... has lasted longer than all 3 non-Mac laptops I've had put together. Even though it kills me (and my bank account) ...

Sounds like it's helping your bank account, not killing it!

Anyway, while the underlying foundations of OSX (Mach/NextStep/BSD legacy) and Windows 7 (NT kernel/VMS legacy), they're both pretty fantastic and are both totally rock-solid. It's the differing philosophies in how everything else is presented to the user, combined with Apple's total hardware control vs. Windows' need to cope every piece of hardware ever made, that matter.
posted by zsazsa at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me jump in between the technical answers and the snark regarding a key difference in the GUI that I have not seen mentioned. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but if you switch between Mac and Windows a lot, you know it well: A primary concept in how the user interfaces are different is that in Windows you mostly manage windows, and in the Mac OS you mostly manage applications.

This is reflected having a universal menu bar in the Mac OS vs. menus in each window in Windows, and in the way the Dock works (or the Apple Menu in OS 9 and earlier) vs. the way Windows manages windows in a task bar, for example.

If you've ever helped a "switcher" in either direction, this is really key. They get confused by it because even though it seems like a small difference, it is at the core of how you interface with the machine. Most people do nut discuss it or think about it, but if demonstrate it the get it immediately.

(As an aside I use and enjoy both the Mac OS and Windows, but my primary desktop OS in recent years has been Linux. It is very funny to me that although Linux is not dislike the Mac OS in it's underlying construction, it is very much like Windows in GUI. The community will argue at length about certain distros or desktop environments being "Mac-like" but they almost without exception use primarily a Windows-like way of managing tasks.)
posted by quarterframer at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or: "Most people do NOT discuss it or think about it, but if YOU demonstrate it THEY get it immediately."
posted by quarterframer at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2010


Like every Mac/PC thread, this one is full of misinformation. And, of course, hardly anyone so far actually bothered reading your questions:

But I want to know how and why the operating systems work differently...I am curious to know what the technical differences are (in terms of software, not hardware).

Nearly everything you want to know can be addressed by reading more about Unix, but I'd begin with the OS X Wikipedia article and work backwards. This article has an excellent description of the technical differences.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:54 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apple is faster to drop technology that it doesn't see a future for, and faster to adopt radical new technology that hasn't been mainstreamed yet. Because they control the hardware chain, they can do this. Microsoft can't. Which is why Macs were the first ones to ship without floppy drives, the first ones to have FireWire everywhere, the first ones to drop VGA in favor of DVI, and then drop DVI for the mini display ports instead.

Sometimes this works out really well (who uses floppy drives any more?). Other times the tech doesn't catch on (FireWire isn't widely used outside of Mac systems; USB3 is probably going to kill it altogether). And once in a while this means that some stuff just won't happen, because Steve Jobs doesn't believe the tech has a future (hence no Flash on iOS, or Blu-Ray support on a Mac).

This philosophy holds true with software too. Apple is quick to drop support for outdated software and systems. Want to run software that only works on OS 9? Too bad. Want to run the newest OS on your PowerPC? Not gonna happen. They set a deadline and when the date passes, the software is no longer available. Microsoft... well, they've tried to kill XP over and over, but it isn't going to disappear soon. And some of the very first Windows programs will run just fine on new versions of the OS. (Assuming you have 32-bit Win7, you can run some 16-bit Windows 3.1 software!)

Microsoft's reasoning for this is not to be luddites. It's simpler than that - they see themselves as the OS of choice for businesses, and businesses are highly reluctant to change, because change costs money and change means instability. Old software that has been in use for a dozen years or more is in more places than you'd really care to realize. You might be shocked to know how ancient the code is that is responsible for keeping many huge companies afloat. And that's not even considering government offices! There is an astonishing amount of mission-critical intranet pages that were written to work with Internet Explorer 5 or 6 and won't work with anything else, stuff that should have been replaced or updated years ago but thanks to corporate inertia and a perceived lack of need (or lack of funds) will probably never be fixed. Microsoft makes these companies happy by making damn sure that new OS versions won't mean old software is now unusable. They have thrown a huge amount of work into virtualization for maintaining old code that simply cannot run except on old machines. You can download VirtualPC from Microsoft and run everything from DOS on up in a virtual container. They don't do this just so hobbyists can play around with old OS versions. Apple on the other hand have actually gone so far as to write software licenses that specifically disallow virtualization. They don't want you running old Mac OS versions on new hardware. They want you to own an Apple for every bit of Apple software you need to run. If you have a mission-critical bit of software that only runs on OS 9, you better have an OS 9-capable PowerPC sitting there to run that program. But really, they would strongly prefer that you just upgrade both the software and the machine. They don't make any money selling software for obsolete systems.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


You might also find this Apple documentation interesting.
posted by reddot at 10:35 AM on December 14, 2010


Mac OS is designed around a philosophy of "Trust me, I know what you want to do." It's deliberately simple, with fewer choices and softer lines. To those who feel they need to control everything, Apple makes it hard for you, because why do you want to do that anyway? Did I not tell you to trust me?

I agree with this statement when it comes to iOS. When I happen to agree with Apple's choices regarding how my iPhone works, I'm happy. When I don't, I'm pissed and shit out of luck. (Yeah, yeah: jailbreaking.)

But I've almost never felt constrained on OSX. Are you taling about OSX without the command-line? Because, sure, I have felt constrained in the GUI, but I've felt constrained in MS's GUI, too. GUI'S are always constraining: that's the trade-off for easy-of-use.

But if you learn to use Terminal, you have extraordinary flexibility and control. (And note a difference here: iOS devices don't have a command-line interface.)
posted by grumblebee at 10:45 AM on December 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm talking about the GUI. Very, very few Mac users even know a CLI exists, let alone use it.
posted by mkultra at 12:19 PM on December 14, 2010


I'm sure this was said above but it's basically a matter of testing. Apple makes a handful of computers, so they OS needs to be tested on those. Microsoft makes a generic OS that can run on an infinite number of possible PC configurations, making solid testing impractical. While I do like Macs, I admire Microsoft's ability to get anything working given the vast array of random crap Windows is supposed to run on.

There are other factors too. Windows PCs are almost always loaded with OEM crapware that is destabilizing. Another problem is that PCs support a much larger variety of hardware that need custom drivers. Those drivers are often writing by lowest bidder contractors who either don't care about quality or can't possibly do enough testing to get a reliable product.

Microsoft also makes it harder on themselves by providing some half a dozen versions of Windows (home/pro/ultimate/server/etc). Mac's have 2: Mac OS and Mac OS Server.

The vertical integration of Apple allows for narrow testing needs and stability but you lose on flexibility on hardware support. Microsoft is the exact opposite.
posted by chairface at 2:03 PM on December 14, 2010


Thanks for all the answers! I am inspired to seek out a book (I'm tempted to say history, but that would require me to admit that computers are not, in fact, newfangled, and that my entire childhood was indeed informed by the Commodore 64) on the development of code and personal computing more generally.
posted by oohisay at 2:04 PM on December 14, 2010


Like every Mac/PC thread, this one is full of misinformation.

Yes, I'm just going to cherry pick some of the Windows stuff as I'm more familiar with that thanks to work. At home I use Linux, though I feel I should point out that the opportunity to use Linux on low cost, Intel compatible hardware is one I enjoy largely thanks to Microsoft's efforts to commoditize the hardware market (for entirely selfish reasons).

Windows, on the other hand, has been a consistent evolution from the beginning.

No, it hasn't. Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista and 7 are an entirely separate development branch to Windows 98/SE/ME, 95, 3, 2 and 1.

Microsoft tries to provide a painless development environment with good documentation too, but (1) their tools cost money, so not everyone uses them

No, they don't, and in my experience everyone uses Visual Studio for Windows development, which is actually leads to other problems (IMO) - they have a large, high quality team working on Visual Studio, so issues in the development platform tend to get smoothed over in Visual Studio rather than getting addressed in the platform itself.

Windows' need to cope every piece of hardware ever made

Actually, that would be Linux. Windows, thanks in large part to it's market dominance, is able to drive the hardware market. As a developer on Windows, if I want to create a program which renders 3D graphics, I'd download a copy of Microsoft's Visual Studio, and then use Microsoft's DirectX API to do whatever I needed to do. As a hardware provider, if I want to have any chance of selling my graphics cards on Windows I have to write a driver which provides the Microsoft DirectX API. Thus Microsoft can sit in the middle, in more or less complete control of the features graphics cards can provide and developers can use, without having to do much more than write a specification.

As for answering the actual question is concerned, can I recommend the now slightly dated (because it pre-dates OSX) but still interesting "In the beginning was the command line":
Imagine a crossroads where four competing auto dealerships are situated. One of them (Microsoft) is much, much bigger than the others. It started out years ago selling three-speed bicycles (MS-DOS); these were not perfect, but they worked, and when they broke you could easily fix them.

There was a competing bicycle dealership next door (Apple) that one day began selling motorized vehicles--expensive but attractively styled cars with their innards hermetically sealed, so that how they worked was something of a mystery.

The big dealership responded by rushing a moped upgrade kit (the original Windows) onto the market. This was a Rube Goldberg contraption that, when bolted onto a three-speed bicycle, enabled it to keep up, just barely, with Apple-cars. The users had to wear goggles and were always picking bugs out of their teeth while Apple owners sped along in hermetically sealed comfort, sneering out the windows. But the Micro-mopeds were cheap, and easy to fix compared with the Apple-cars, and their market share waxed.
posted by robertc at 4:59 PM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mac OS is designed around a philosophy of "Trust me, I know what you want to do." It's deliberately simple, with fewer choices and softer lines. To those who feel they need to control everything, Apple makes it hard for you, because why do you want to do that anyway? Did I not tell you to trust me?

Actually, one of the things I found most frustrating about Vista (not sure if this is true for Windows 7) is how difficult it is to configure the system. There are all of these wizards and weird interfaces; the ones for the Mac just make sense. Instead of fiddling through a bizarre hierarchy of interfaces, you just choose one of several common ways of connecting -- Ethernet, Bluetooth Modem, Wireless, etc -- and then once that's chosen and a connection is created, the configuration is pretty much the same for all of them -- DNS, etc.

I remember trying to help a lady connect to the 'net who had Vista on her laptop. You literally couldn't set up a connection; for security or other reasons everything had to be done through a piece of software installed on the system by the vendor. Someone else took over the reigns and eventually just disabled all of the vendor software to get her connection working.

Windows is a more appealing target in terms of hacking, as well. I'm sure Windows 7 is far better but I remember that XP could be hacked in less time than it took to download the patches needed to make it secure (or at least that's what I heard).

I love, love, love that Unix is under the hood. Most of my non-Mac work is on Linux boxen, and it's great to know that I can recreate pretty much any kind of OSS setup on my Mac that I have set up on my servers.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:27 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


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