Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Daily Post - Tuesday

I didn’t wake up at three this morning.

No, just to be different I woke up at two and four before getting up and going for a walk with the dog at half past five instead. I’m going to need my torch in the mornings before too long, so I’d better find it and make sure that there is some oomph in the batteries still.

Being awake stupidly early does have the slight benefit of se... on Twitpic

One bit of minor yuckiness last night was watching an episode of True Blood (which is excellent, by the way) with a particularly gory ending and then wandering into the kitchen to find half a mouse at the end of a big smear of blood across the floor. Lovely.

I must say that I am getting heartily sick of all of the PC vs Mac systems advocacy stuff going round at the moment. I am very tempted to block one of my Twitter contacts who continually retweets Windows 7 puff pieces (including one that said that Windows 7 was better because it made piracy easier – wtf?).

If you use a pc and are satisfied with it, then all well and good – that’s fine and I’m very happy for you – please ignore the rest of this post and enjoy a picture of a cat instead.

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If you use a pc and complain about viruses, spyware, system slowdown, defragging, crashes, registry editing and having to rebuild it to sort out problems, but put up with it because it’s good for playing games then it’s your own look out.

I’ve been using computers for over thirty years, and pcs since the original IBM pc, and I’ve used pretty much every operating system that MS have released. The highpoint for me was probably MS-DOS 5.0 but after that it all started to go downhill. Anybody else remember having to edit config.sys files to squeeze a few extra bytes out of 640K base memory (which should be more than enough for anyone, apparently)?

Early versions of Windows were similarly idiosyncratic and I usually ended up rebooting into DOS to run anything. Windows 95 was fine in theory (and, yes, I did install the beta from 23 floppy discs), but the implementation of network protocols was shoddy. Win 98 SE was a bit better, but every iteration has patched layers of cruft over a shaky foundation. NT 4.0 was probably the most stable release, being built on a completely different kernel, but was still hamstrung by the same illogical UI. Vista was the last straw for me with features that tried to make life easier by hiding options that you still needed to use. The UAC pops up a warning for absolutely everything, but if you switch it off you can’t install some printer drivers properly. The hibernation never works reliably and network file transfer speeds are horrendous.

I still use an XP machine at work, but it is a continually frustrating experience. The mandatory weekly virus scan takes four hours to run, slowing down my machine for half the working day. It suffers from unexplained memory leaks and slow downs that are only cured by regular rebooting – a process that takes several minutes until the pc is in a usable state - nobody has ever been able to satisfactorily explain to me exactly what the machine is doing for the time between entering my password and the point at which I am actually able to run anything.

In contrast, I’m a relative newb to world of Mac and Linux (although I have been using Unix on various mini computers since the mid 80s – vi FTW!). If I boot my home pc into Windows XP the hard drive is being accessed most of the time and it’s slow – it I boot Ubuntu, I get to a usable desktop in forty seconds and an open browser not long after that, and it is blissfully free of hard drive chugging. My two year old Macbook is even better – it hibernates reliably so I can just open the lid and be on line in a couple of seconds. It rarely needs to be rebooted – in fact, it’s only after a software update that I restart it and even then it gives me the option of postponing the operation, unlike Windows which forces an automatic restart after ten minutes (which is just dandy if you’ve left something running over lunchtime).

Even the old canard about Macs being more expensive is something of a red herring. Sure, you can pick up a cheap laptop or PC for a few hundred pounds less, but I’ll bet that at some point in the next couple of years you’ll be rebuilding the operating system from scratch or you’ll be wanting to replace it for something faster, never mind all of the wasted time that you will have had over the intervening period. Try keeping a log of all of the time you spend tinkering and fixing things and then charge yourself £20 an hour, and you’ll soon have enough to cover the extra cost.

Rant over. Sorry.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I've had my iBook since 2004, and it's still a fine computer - just like your Macbook, it goes to sleep reliably, wakes up quickly, rarely needs to be rebooted. Mark influenced my choice since, as my in-house tech support, he didn't want to spend time maintaining a PC.