Sensible Windows vs Mac debate (NO FLAMES, please)...

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KB
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Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:50 am Post

This thread continues directly from the "will there be a PC version" thread here:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum ... php?t=1548

Naturally, given that Scrivener is Mac software, most users of this forum are most likely to have a preference for Macs and OS X, so I fully expect this to be somewhat one-sided, so don't feel you're being bullied if you are championing Windows. :) I don't need to say this, given that the users of this forum are all respectful and do not indulge in flame bait or "fanboy"-ism, but please do make sure that you don't insult anybody else for their preferences. They're just machines!

I suppose there are two parts to this debate: Mac vs PC and OS X vs Windows. The next part continues directly from the thread cited above:

...It would be interesting to hear why you might prefer Windows over OS X, for instance (Charlie Brooker posted a funny column in the Guardian not long ago about why he preferred Windows - all valid points, of course). I just bought my best friend a MacBook for his birthday (I had to make up for the fact that in the past he has bought me an Xbox and a projector for my birthdays when all he has got previously from me is books and DVDs...). He's already drooling over OS X and cursing Windows. The most likely reasons I can for sticking with Windows are: 1) As you say, not being tied to Apple hardware; 2) Related to 1), the ability to upgrade your machine yourself as and when you want; 3) If you play games, the PC is the gamer's platform - DirectX and so forth mean that the Mac doesn't get much of a look in with most games, and when it does, they come a year after their PC counterparts; 4) Familiarity - most workplaces use PCs, mainly because of 2), probably.

All the best,
Keith

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 1:50 pm Post

I was at my Dad's this weekend and he mentioned wanting to get a new laptop. I steered him towards a Macbook (and he used to use macs back in the pre-OS X days) and he said he couldn't do that because he didn't want to pay to cross-grade his software licenses.

Now, you can make an argument that with bootcamp and parallels the need to do this is a gray area, but my feelings are if you spend 50% or more of your time runnings Windows on a Mac, you're probably better off on a native Windows box.

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:11 pm Post

Well, it's not so much a preference for one platform or another; it really does depend on what I need to do and where I need to do it.

Development
===========
you can't beat Windows for sheer breadth of high quality development tools. You made a really good point, concerning the MFC; if Microsoft deserves to be sued for anything, it's for trying to serve up that dish of fetid dingos' kidneys as a development environment. It was just a heap of C code with a foul-smelling layer of macros used to poorly disguise the fact. Possibly the poorest framework I have ever come across. Your were quite right to run, and run quickly.
Point is though, you didn't have to use it. At the same time, you had Visual Basic, the excellent Delphi, the Object Windows Library, and few others. On the Mac, you're pretty much limited to doing it Apple's way, which means ObjectiveC and the Cocoa framework. Third party tools, even when they are cross platform, tend to work better on Windows. (even the Java based ones, but that could be because Apple's version of Java, isn't maintained at the same rate as everyone else's).
So when it comes to development, then I stick with Windows because I have more options than I have on the Mac.

Hardware
========
Apple has a nice line in desktop and laptops, but they are really falling behind the innovations in the WinTel market. The new Sony subnote book for example; a 12.1 inch screened sub-notebook weighs 1.8 pounds. 32GB of SSD memory and a battery life in excess of six hours. No weight, no moving parts and no heat. Just what I need for my next Safari ... :-)
And for jotting down notes in your writing journal, you can't beat a nice tablet ...

Software
========

Again, this depends. Software quality is pretty much on par on both platforms, so I can usually find what I want. It's often the case that a Windows app will do pretty much anything I need it to do, whilst the equivalent will not be as 'equivalent' as I need it to be. Mac apps usually have a better crafted UI though. Windows apps are often very cluttered (the price for extra functionality perhaps?).
Used to use the iLife suite on the Mac, but thought it was a bit limiting, so I gave Photoshop Elements a go and never looked back.
I discovered EverNote, which is possibly the most innovative note-taking app I've come across. I love the rolling tape metaphor, and the Search is phenomenal. I looked for the word 'stop' in my notes database, and EverNote not only found the one that I'd written, but it also found the word in a picture I'd imported. A panoramic shot of a street in Vancouver; there was a road worker holding a sign with 'STOP' written on it; EverNote highlighted it, and my jaw hit the floor.
So for me, Windows has the better range of software; even if the user interfaces for them is not nearly as good (and it doesn't have anything like QuickSilver to help you get around)

Operating Systems
=================

The Finder needs fixing. I find it slow aand it doesn't multi-task particularly well, but I can navigate around it much faster than I can in Windows Explorer. WIndows Search is a joke (and not a very funny one), compared to SpotLight, which hits exactly what I'm looking for every time. Windows Search has yet to produce a decent result, and is a whole lot slower while it's going about it.
When it comes to reliability, they are pretty much on a par, though I would probably give a slight nod towards WindowsXP; your mileage will vary ... :-)

At the end of the day though, my old G4 Powerbook is my writing machine, because of Scrivener. When folk ask for a Windows version of Scriv, I do wonder if it would actually be as good; not because of the work you'd put into it, but the environment it runs in. I think the clean, tranquil environment of the Mac UI lends itself better to this sort of application. I have tried to write on Windows, and I've never been that comfortable with it. Too distracting? Could be. So even though I'm an avid Window user, I find that some things are just better done on a Mac.

Incidently, I don't play computer games, I don't build my own machines and I'm perfectly happy in either environment, so doing the majority of my Windows is really just a matter of me being able to do it better in Windows. That's all ... :-)

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Rayz
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Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:25 pm Post

Crumpy wrote:I was at my Dad's this weekend and he mentioned wanting to get a new laptop. I steered him towards a Macbook (and he used to use macs back in the pre-OS X days) and he said he couldn't do that because he didn't want to pay to cross-grade his software licenses.


Your dad is probably one of the few Windows users who actually BUYS his licenses .... :?

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 2:27 pm Post

Rayz wrote:
Crumpy wrote:I was at my Dad's this weekend and he mentioned wanting to get a new laptop. I steered him towards a Macbook (and he used to use macs back in the pre-OS X days) and he said he couldn't do that because he didn't want to pay to cross-grade his software licenses.


Your dad is probably one of the few Windows users who actually BUYS his licenses .... :?


yes, and you can make that argument on both sides of this OS war.

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:06 pm Post

I work on a PC/Window machine at work with very good tech support. Nothing exciting but very darned reliable. I did a software rebuild on my iMac but that was me overreacting to a failing logic board and a bad memory chip at the same time. If anything the PC's I've owned have run better hardware wise but by comparison have been a pain software wise. There is nothing like starting up a Mac and just working. Updates can normally wait, no virii scans, no malware search and destroys; just getting to work.

Software choice in Windows machine does have different feel than on the Mac. And I can understand Rayz comment about a Mac just being what I would call more tranquil. Sounds artsy fartsy but it's true.

My ramble,
Iain
Moderation is for monks, enjoy your passions! - R.A. Heinlein

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:56 pm Post

Development
===========
...Point is though, you didn't have to use it. At the same time, you had Visual Basic, the excellent Delphi, the Object Windows Library, and few others.


The trouble with this, for me, is that none of these ever seemed quite as "native". I always hated downloading and installing Visual Basic programs because they ran slower and you needed all of the latest VB libraries to turn them, which could mean that you had to download 300MB of VB updates just to run a 3MB program. And all the cross-platform development tools always felt kludgy. Things such as REALBasic, for instance, are a real fish-out-of-water on any platform. When you run a REALBasic app on Windows, it doesn't feel like a Windows app, and when you run a REALBasic app on a Mac, it doesn't feel like a Mac app, and so on...

The irony is, though, that one of the reaons that I switched to a Mac was that I knew nothing about programming on a Mac, whereas I dabbled on Windows. I thought that if I bought a machine with an OS about which I knew nothing, I would be forced to concentrate on the writing as I wouldn't be able to do any coding on it. Boy, did that backfire! But it backfired because Apple's development tools are top-notch and easy to use. Perhaps more importantly, though, I think the books that have been written about programming for the Mac are just more accessible than the equivalent books written about programming for Windows. On the surface this has little to do with the platforms, of course, and all to do with the writers of the books. But, to my knowledge, there are no books that will get you up and running programming for Windows in the short time that the books by Kochan and Hillegass will get you programming for the Mac. If you know differently, please do let me know, though - maybe I can make my fortune after all. :)

Hardware
========
Apple has a nice line in desktop and laptops, but they are really falling behind the innovations in the WinTel market...


Again, ironically, one of the other reasons I moved to a Mac was that - at the time - the cheapest, most lightweight, most compact and coolest laptop was made by Apple. I bought an iBook G4 1GhZ, 12", for between £700-£800. All of the PC laptops with comparable specs at the time were more expensive, heavier and bigger. Whilst these days I am very happy with my MBPro 15" - mainly because I soon realised that my dreams of hanging out in coffee shops with my ulta-portable iBooks and writing my novel were just that, dreams, and that the reality is that I use my laptop nearly exclusively at home - I do think that Apple need to bring another 12" model to the market. There are a lot of users gagging for a 12" MacBook, and Apple would be stupid not to satisfy them. In fact, I think that Apple have been pretty stupid in not bringing out a 12" model right from the start, so I do agree with you there.

I also think that one thing holding a lot of users back from using OS X is that they have to use an Apple. On the other hand, Apple machines are damned lovely. My MacBook soured my view a little, but my iBook is still working as well as the day I bought it three years ago, my two year-old MacMini has never had an issue, and so far - touch wood - my MBPro is a delight. I think the Intel transition has caused some issues which are now getting resolved. Apple products just have the "wow" factor. I have no idea why the designers of PC laptops have not been able to equal this, but I have never seen a PC laptop that looks anywhere near as good as a Mac - even the Vaio looks poor by comparison. The Alien line of desktops - aimed at PC gamers - look pretty good, though. But going to an iBook from a crappy Toshiba Satellite (never buy Toshiba) was a revelation.

Software
========


I used PC's for more than ten years before converting to a Mac, and I'm trying to think of a piece of software that I miss... I did enjoy playing around with MilkShape (3D modelling software that costs $20), and there is nothing like it for the Mac, but I could alwasy run it on Parallels, I suppose. But when I moved to a Mac I was very happy to discover programs such as Ulysses and CopyWrite. (Although obviously not quite happy enough that I didn't have to write my own writing software. :) ) I really think both platforms are pretty much equal in terms of software.

Operating Systems
=================
...When it comes to reliability, they are pretty much on a par, though I would probably give a slight nod towards WindowsXP; your mileage will vary ...


Even though everyone says how stable XP is, I always found Windows XP buggy and had numerous crashes with it, even with the latest service packs. I have had exactly two OS crashes in the three years I have been using OS X, one related to an issue with my original MacBook hardware, the other to do with a dodgy memory stick used with my MBPro. To be fair, though, I always built my own Windows machines, so the XP crashes were probably a lot to do with the way I put together my PCs. :) I can well imagine that if you bought a pre-built PC with XP installed that it might be nearly as stable as OS X. Nearly. :)

The main thing for me is that OS X just feels so much, well, nicer. It's the difference between hanging out in the bar of a 5-star hotel because you want to and hanging out in a dingy motel because that's all the company could afford and will do until your conference is over. For a start, the fonts are smoother on OS X. (Yes, you can turn font smoothing on on Windows via some obscure Control Panel setting, and I have no idea why it is off by default even on Vista, but even with font smoothing on the fonts do not look as crisp, IMHO.) Icon design is less of an issue now that Vista has got rid of the retro look. But... I dunno. Steve Jobs was once asked what he most disliked about Microsoft, and he said their lack of taste. I have a lot of issues with Mr Jobs - really, I don't see much difference between Jobs and Gates - but I see his point on this.

And recently, I was at an educational ICT conference (ICT = information communications technology - it's what IT is called in schools in England) and hung around for the lunchtime session, during which we were promised we would be shown the new, up and coming technologies for schools. A lot of cool stuff, until they came to show us Windows Vista. The tech guys demo'ing this stuff got really excited and showed us such innovations as Windows Search - search for any file or application right from an easily accessible searchbox!, tabbed browsing in IE, lovely glossy windows and a new photo gallery style program. I was sitting there bewildered, because absolutely every new technology they demonstrated in Vista had been available in OS X for the past two years.

So, it's not that Windows is bad. I just think OS X is a lot cleaner and, subjectively, better.

That said, when it comes to buying computers for my school, I have to stick with Windows. I suppose as ICT co-ordinator I could cause a fuss and move to Mac, but I have to consider what the kids are more likely to use at home, and the fact that - and this comes back to software - most educational software is aimed at the PC. Though there is a lot of good Mac stuff out there, too...

Incidently, I don't play computer games, I don't build my own machines and I'm perfectly happy in either environment, so doing the majority of my Windows is really just a matter of me being able to do it better in Windows. That's all ...


I did all of these things on my PC. Now I have an XBox for games and my Mac prevents me from tinkering with the hardware and leaving us without a working computer for days on end. :)

Best,
Keith

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:38 pm Post

We have both flavors in the house, though most of my work is done on Macs. When we upgraded to a new PC last year (not Vista, thank heavens) it was an enlightening experience. When I bought a new Mac Mini earlier this year, it was even more of an eye-opener. Ease of use? Mac, hands down. No contest. Not even in the same solar system.

While there are some programs out there that I want that don't run on the Mac (in my case, hobby stuff), I've discovered that my reason for really enjoying - and staying - with the Mac is the software that's only available for it. Lovely little twist, that. :)

I'm talking not only Scrivener, but Devonthink Pro, Omni Outliner Pro, Circus Ponies' Notebook, Yojimbo, etc. All have become important to me in my flow of information and work and I wouldn't want to do without them.

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:52 pm Post

I use Macs at home and PCs at work. I prefer the Mac for two main reasons:

1: OS X is so much easier on the eyes. XP made a poor attempt to make the UI more elegant, and while it's much better than previous versions it's still light-years behind OS X. And I'm a very (very very) visually-oriented person. I can't stand working in OS environtments that like like someone just chipped the elements out of a rusty tin can.

I haven't seen Vista yet, but from my friends I've talked to it's nothing more than an abomination - and these are die-hard-PC-geek-Mac-hater friends, too. Opinions vary, but so far I haven't heard much good about it.

2: When I use Windows I feel like I'm fighting it the whole time to get things done. Bizarre windows are contantly popping up. The focus switches to random applications for no apparent reason (even while I'm in the middle of typing), interrupting my work. Stability? Windows doesn't know the meaning of the word. Navigating is an annoying chore. It's always sticking things where I didn't want them and can't find them anymore.

On the other hand, when I use OS X - It Just Works. People like to talk about the Finder's shortcomings, but really, it's a beautiful piece of work! Everything about OS X is so clean and crisp and easy to manage.

Now, the problem people often run into is that they tend to think that what works well for THEM surely must work well for everyone else, too! But that's not the case. Different brains think differently, they operate differently. Both machines and operating systems have pros and cons, and basically it boils down to your own personality.

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:55 pm Post

From what I've seen of Vista so far, it looks as though it's trying too hard. It wants to be futuristic - glassy and in your face.

I do quite like the MSDN developer blogs from the guys who work on Word, though...

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:05 pm Post

For me the question of Mac vs Windows is very one-sided. The current lack of viruses, malware etc. is significant for me. We only have Windows machines at work and I constantly find myself getting frustrated at how, at times, it can be a battle to get something simple tasks done. I also love the Unix under-pinnings of OSX.

However, in terms of Mac vs PC, I probably tend to lean towards the PC end of the spectrum. I think there are some really nice PC laptops out there that are much better value than the MacBook and MBP. I've always said that as soon as I find a version of Linux that is on par with OSX I'd switch to Linux. However, that still hasn't happened. Also, with Leopard coming out and some of the software I'm attached to (e.g. Scrivener) being Mac only it isn't likely to happen any time soon.

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Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:24 pm Post

I am not a techy, although I have always worked in the software industry. As a teenager, we had an Apple IIe at home, so I was never particularly averse to Macs, although my working life has revolved around PCs. Once upon a time, I knew Word, then Word for Windows, then Microsoft Office (Word and Excel parts) inside out -- every last feature, however pointless (fortunately, now long since forgotten, and long superceded by more recent versions). I have always pushed around heavy quantities of text, albeit mostly very boring, semi-technical stuff. And PCs (first with DOS, then with Windows) were the usual way to do this, although I did do a bit of DTP with some sort of box-shaped Mac in the mid-80s before finally settling on Ventura Publisher on my Compaq 386 dockable laptop (or was it a 286?).

Later, I moved from technical authoring into project management - and it didn't occur to me to think about changing platforms, since there weren't (and to some extent still aren't) any heavy-duty project management tools for the Mac, and since everyone in the whole UK business world seems to use Microsoft Office.

But five years ago, I wanted a Mac. It was to be my home computer, distinct from work stuff, just for me. I wanted a laptop. I wanted a pretty laptop with a cool, pretentious design. I wanted a computer that I could see as something for me to write on, not just as an extension of my work life. I bought a G3 iBook. It took me a long time to get into it properly, because it was so different to what I needed and used at work - but as luck would have it, I left that job, and for the past four years, my iBook has been my sole computer. I love it. I can't explain why I do, but it is a very real sensation. I have just about got all the software on it that I could possibly hope for (since buying Scrivener!), and I have just about got to grips with how to work it all. I can't see me using a Windows machine again - voluntarily, at any rate.

When I used Windows (no doubt on under-specced machines) I used to get frequent system crashes, and would regularly (almost daily, with large documents) lose data. On my Mac, things tend not to crash any more, although prior to my recent RAM upgrade, I used to get the scary beachball occasionally. In five years of Mac use, I have lost data only once, and that was with my new favourite software, Scrivener (through misuse of a feature - and it was only a tiny amount of data during my evaluation phase, so I'm not complaining).

My husband is a software engineer (Windows), and has bought himself a MacBook for home use, on which he runs Windows via Parallels (which he says is superb for what he uses - can't fault it) as well as running Mac-native things. He hates the MacBook keyboard but otherwise likes the machine. Our children have G4 iBooks, and love them; they have no trouble swapping between PCs at school and Macs at home; in a way, they are proud that they don't have "ordinary" machines like their friends.

For me, the acid test is whether or not I want to change or upgrade my machine. My iBook is five years old. It is out of date. It is larger than I would like (I would have bought the smaller screen if I had understood how Macs handle windows sizing). It dates from the faulty motherboard era so it has to live on a tray (personal quirk - I try to stop the case flexing, believing there is a link between that and logicboard failure!). My husband thinks I should upgrade to a MacBook, but despite being a sucker for new gadgets, and hating to have out-of-date hardware or software, I can't bear to upgrade this iBook! I love it in a totally inexplicable way. So I'm going to stick with it for as long as I possibly can.

I wish I could be unbiased on the subject, and weigh up pros and cons of various solutions, but I just can't. I have no idea why my iBook makes me feel something akin to love or affection. All I know is that I have never felt this way about any DOS or Windows PC. I do not feel that my iBook blocks my efforts in any way; it has become intuitive, and that means a lot to me.

Ma
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:41 am Post

Hi,

interesting thread, particularly to see people talking in favour of Windows and PCs. So I looked back into the stone age of my life and realised that even I should understand that.

I bought a 286 PC with 10 MB hard disk when I was a student and mostly worked with WordPerfect and OpenAccess (which included database and spreadsheet soft). Then I had some time at a university in England, and at my college I was forced to use those little boxed Macs with their small screen! I had to get used to them and found a certain arrogant attitude among those using the Macs particularly ridiculous. But I liked the Macs by the end of my stay.

After university degree I started graphic design in Japanese, and both Japanese and graphic design needed Macs. I did not like that I could not play with the autoexec.bat and could not boost the processor up etc. But I realised that the computer never crashed and somehow I started to work with the IIci in our company rather than showing off what I could do with the machine.

I sold my private PC and since 15 years only work with Macs. My already frequently mentioned husband uses Windows because everybody does. His computer crashes rarely, there are some quirks and inconsistencies, but his last machine -- a Panasonic notebook -- is small, light weight and works reliably since 3 years now. I used to set up the older machines, but this working with XP is OK. The machine looks ugly, the epic dialog boxes and noisy dolphins do not distract him.

There are sometimes hard times with the Mac, the horrible period between system 8 and 9, when the Mac was really behind, sometimes lack of exactly the machine you wish to have (12" notebook e.g.). But the peace and joy that I feel when working with this tool balances these shortcomings.

Love for machines? Not really. But I love my Nikon FM which took me through my fieldwork life as an archaeologist, I get a warm feeling of sympathy when I see my Powerbook 5300 that took me through hot months of fieldwork for my thesis (temperatures and humidity beyond the capability of a processor), and although I still don't really like the keyboard and monitor of the iBook I use now since several years, it is a reliable companion that has earned a loving attitude. I think it is more the feeling that they have been reliably on my side when I needed them.

Apple has always provided the OS and the machines that satisfied me. Sometimes they were not state of the art, but I am glad I sticked to the Macs. Nowadays I think they are top although there is not so much variety like in the PC market. I do not need that variety.

Maria

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Wed Apr 11, 2007 2:58 am Post

This has been a most interesting discussion. I’m grateful, particularly, for everyone agreeing to Keith’s request for moderation but I’m beginning to think that the “warsâ€

Ma
Margaret
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 3:20 am Post

I'll date myself, but my first computer was a Kaypro 2X that ran on CP/M. I've used DOS and Windows on multiple desktop and laptop PCs. I dallied with earlier Mac computers and I've even tried Linux. I'd probably still be in the Windows world, except that I saw an iMac and fell in love. Literally, love at first sight. The iMac is beautiful, it has a small footprint, and the screen display is wonderful. So is OS X's stability and rapid boot time.

One of the things I love most about an Apple computer is the number of innovative small programs that are available and the ability to actually talk to a developer. Apple software is fun to use and most of the programs can be downloaded and tested before you have to commit to purchasing them. Best of all, software is easy to uninstall. Try getting rid of software on a Windows PC by dragging an icon into the trash. It will be on your machine forever.

What Windows does have is mature programs with lots of features. Bloat is always an issue, but I know Microsoft Office well and can do almost everything I need to with it. I struggle with the limitations of Nisus and Mellel compared to Word. NeoOffice is functional, but it's a compromise program that misses out on the best features of both the Apple and Windows worlds.

What Windows doesn't have (aside from aesthetics and Scrivener) is reasonable software prices. Most of them are outrageous. Businesses may be able to pay several hundred dollars for a Windows or Office upgrade every few years, but it's a hardship for individuals. No wonder so many people pirate the software.

The bottom line to any decision about which PC or operating system to use is a combination of functionality, cost, and familiarity. It a PC won't do what you need it to do, you won't buy it. If it costs too much, you won't buy it. And if you don't know what it can do because it has such a small market share you've never seen or used it, you won't even consider it. Apple falls into the latter category and it's too bad, because it has a lot to offer.

Margaret