Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm a PC *and* a MAC

I've built a dozen PCs over the years, all worked great, all were reasonably stable and all were very inexpensive relative to name brands, and especially relative to MACs of the same power. So I can rightly be called "a PC" ... and yet I purchased my first MAC this year, a core duo MAC Mini, a rather nice little machine. I just got it back today from its 4GB upgrade and now I can rightly consider it a member of the family.

So what do I think about MAC's attack ads on the PC? I dislike them, of course. They twist the truth in ridiculous fashion and you'd have to be a moron to fall for them and run out and buy a MAC. But, at the same time, they are entertaining.

Anyway ... PCs are getting better and name brands tend to be fully set up out of the box. MACs are beautiful and the prices are almost tolerable since they went Intel, but you still pay a premium, and you don't quite get what you pay for any more, as Thom Hogan (Nikon professional photographer and journalist) alludes to in his What was Apple Thinking? article.

They seem to be losing their way as they have more consumer success ... something that also happened to Nikon when they stopped building the best compact cams and started pumping out me-too cams. Both companies arguably have the best professional gear in their respective markets, but both are getting weak in the middle of the market because of a too-strong influence from the high volume consumer end ...

Back to the MAC itself ... when things do not work on the MAC, good luck figuring it out. You need to go spelunking in the guts of FreeBSD to figure out what the heck went wrong. Sheesh ...

An amusing aside (to me, anyway) ... way back in the 90s, The Regents of the University of California put out a call for participation in FreeBSD. I answered and chose to write a pin-compatible version of CAL, the calendar program. I did that, and wrote shell scripts to test the old and new versions against each other and run diff on the results. Diff returns nothing when there are no differences, and after three days, all 10,000 calendars had been compared with no differences found. They really liked my version, and there are many evolutionary versions out there today, including the PerL wrapper for Linux that explicitly defines itself as an homage to my original implementation. The MAC OS X Server Install Manual still mentions my name as one of the authors of the OS. But the new version in the Desktop Tools for OS X does not ... I wonder, though, if this was a clean room rewrite, as mine was, or did they use my code as a base? In which case .... hmmm .... And by the way, I consider this the perfect example of one of my philosophies for how to respond to request for help ... the answer is always yes. Good things often come from helping out ... not that this has amounted to a hill of beans, but I still like being in some of the MAC manuals ...

Anyway ... I think the ads have done nothing but further polarize an already polarized marketplace ... if that's what Apple wanted, then they have done well. On the other hand, I have to agree with Seth Stevenson of Slate that the ads simply come off as smug. Prudence of Slate adds the word sanctimonious, and that seems to fit well too :-)

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