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

ja
janra
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:08 am Post

I have definitely come to prefer the mac. It has its quirks, but I just find it a nicer environment overall. I started with windows, moved to linux, then eventually moved to OS X. (Well, strictly speaking I started with whatever version of BASIC came with the TRS-80, but I didn't do much other than play silly little games until my parents got the Tandy 1000.)

I had what some of my friends called the most stable windows machine on the university campus. I had that thing *tuned* - not for speed, but for stability. I was the only one who didn't have regular crashes, slowdowns, and intermittent quirkiness requiring a reboot. It would run for months on end. Not bad for Windows 95.

Then I started using linux, and while the aesthetics weren't there the features made the switch a series of "wow, that's a handy feature!" moments instead of the frustration with a different mindset that most people seem to report. I dropped windows entirely, because I had gotten so used to the handy features of linux that using windows felt like trying to run while wearing leg irons.

Then in 2005 I got a new job that took me away from home a lot, and I borrowed an old iBook with a 15-minute battery to use while away. Like Windows and Linux, the interface had a few quirks that took a little while to get used to, but it wasn't long before I was finding new features all over again - while still having access to the crunchy unix goodness I was used to having at my fingertips.

I've started using windows again (at work) and despite having avoided it for five years and a couple of major version changes, I still seem to be the go-to person for anybody in the office who is having minor trouble with their computer. Again, my computer is probably one of the more stable ones in the office. It's not bad, I guess, although I occasionally want to put my fist through the monitor when using Word.

The thing that I started noticing about OS X vs. Windows though, was that it was the "little things" that made all the difference in how pleasant the system was to use. I'm not talking exclusively aesthetics, either, although that is part of it. For example, I am not hard of hearing but I like the screen flash "visual bell" that is turned on in the accessibility options. Everything glows for just a split second. At work, I turned on the same visual bell accessibility feature because I don't have speakers, and it's an ugly flash, everything turning black for a split second, but not always in sync with the screen refresh rate, so sometimes half the screen is black for a split second longer. So yeah, the little things.

Ra
Rayz
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 10:30 am Post

KB wrote: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...


Well, none of the libraries I quoted are cross-platform. I tend to agree that most cross platform software doesn't usually come out that well. This is one of the reasons that Java hasn't really taken off on the desktop. OWL for example, was an OO layer that sat on top of the Windows API, in much the same way that Cocoa is an OO layer that sits on of (or pokes into) the Carbon layer. So one is not any more or any less native than the other. The only real breakaway from this is .NET.

KB wrote: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.


Well, I'm not so sure about the 'top-notch' part. After all, Cocoa is only getting garbage collection after everyone else has had it for years. And I don't think its really an accident that only larger outfits (such as Apple and Microsoft) seem able to build the really big applications that you regularly see on Windows; I remember one of the developers on Adobe blogging on why it was taking so long to bring out an Intel version of their app suite; he basically said that they had trouble scaling the toolset for larger apps (though I reckon this must have improved by now).

The other thing is the sheer volume of third party frameworks available on Windows. You have often said that you will not implement a feature unless Apple supports it. I would probably find that a little limiting to be honest. Having no third party frameworks really restricts you to either coding everything yourself, or making do.
I'm often surprised by the number of people who ask you for lots more word processing functionality (some of which I understand, but most of which I just think 'why'?). Under .NET, I would just find a word processor component, like this one, and just drop it into the IDE. Headers, footers, stylesheets, footnotes, endnotes, exporting to the world and his mother, all sorted out without much effort.
Basically, programming under Windows has come a long way since the MFC (thank God).

KB wrote: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. :)


Well, that kind of depends on the authors, but I'll keep an eye out for you. Part of the problem is that .NET does more, and so the learning curve is always going to be steeper; there's no real way around this. What does make it easier, is that you can pretty much pick your language; c# (which I find much better than ObjectiveC and Java - those this shouldn't be a surprise since all MS had to do was copy the best bits and learn from the mistakes of others), Visual Basic, Eiffel, Ruby ...
Choice is nice ...


KB wrote: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.


And I agree that the last generation 12-inch Powerbook was the finest laptop of its day. I don't what I'm going to do when mine gives up the ghost. ... :-(
But these days, Macs are just PCs, and they're no longer the best you can get, or the most innovative. If you're looking for laptop innovation, then look to the likes of Sony, who already have tiny machines on the market that use solid state disk drives. They're not cheap though.


KB wrote: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.


The number of people who will buy a laptop based on looks, is surprisingly small. Most people view computers as a tool, not a fashion accessory.
Besides which, I think Sony machines look a lot nicer these days.

KB wrote: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.


To be honest, all Apple tech suffers from this (and they are not the only ones), but in this case it was I surprised because Macs are just PCs with a different OS. Same parts, same manufacturer. Other machines from the Asus line don't have the same problem, which is really odd.

KB wrote: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.


Ah, that is a matter of opinion; I think Vaios are really cool looking machines, much better than the Apple line; but they are really very pricey. I might spring for one of their SSD subnotebooks later in the year.

KB wrote:The Alien line of desktops - aimed at PC gamers - look pretty good, though.


Well there you go ... :-)
I hate the AlienWare line .... :roll:


KB wrote: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.


As I said; it all depends what you want to do. There is just no effective replacement for many of the applications I use on Windows.

KB wrote: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. :)


My experience is the exact opposite. XP has never hicupped in almost six years of use. And this is a box running three web servers, a J2EE server, IIS, numerous applications and God knows what else. To keep the Powerbook stable, I have to be very careful what I do with it. At the moment, it only runs Scrivener and Circus Ponies Notebook.
I even managed to crash it once by visiting a web site in Safar. I couldn't believe it, so stupidly I rebooted and tried again. Yup, down it went. Turns out the problem was related to this:

http://nvd.nist.gov/nvd.cfm?cvename=CVE-2006-1552

But still put paid to this 'invulnerable' nonsense that seems to fly around when folk talk about operating systems.

KB wrote: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.)


In a word; performance. Vista's entire UI is rendered by the GPU, and using the WPF, it can peform visual tricks that are quite literally stunning (have a look at the PhotoSynth application), better than anything I have seen anywhere else. Likewise, the Flip3D is nothing but a demo; not really that useful. The problem is that MS does not know the what machines that their OSs are installed on, so always has a tendency to default towards the lowest common denominator. Apple doesn't have this problem, because they only have to support a handful of machines ....

KB wrote:And recently, I was at an educational ICT conference (ICT = information communications technology - it's what IT is called in schools in England)


Mrs Rayz is a headteacher, so I know what ICT is .... :D

KB wrote: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!,


He'll be less impressed when he's been using it for a couple of weeks I can assure you ... :roll:

KB wrote: 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.


The whole notion of tabbed windows was actually invented by Microsoft, so I'm not going to give anyone else credit for that one. IE actually has had tabbed browsing for years, but only as a plug in. There is a lot of stuff in Vista that is not present in MacOSX, but it is mostly under the hood. The ability to use memory sticks as memory; support for hybrid disks. The XNA Gaming Engine. The SideShow interface. The UAC (not as annoying as folk like to make out), and of course the new managed code layer which they are using to build a whole new operating system.

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


The word is 'subjective'. To my mind, if you put the MacOSX UI on top of Windows, I'd have my perfect OS ... :-)

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KB
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 10:52 am Post

Under .NET, I would just find a word processor component, like this one, and just drop it into the IDE...


This actually raises one of the issues with Windows development, though. That component looks brilliant - until you see the price. Is it worth the price? Undboubtedly. But I would not have been able to afford that component whilst developing a shareware app, not knowing whether or not I was going to make a penny out of it. It would be the sort of thing that might get dropped into a 2.0 version when you've got some more money, I guess. When I was first looking at developing on Windows, I also found a great live spell checker, but that, too, cost £300 (at least on OS X that does come for free). So whilst there is more choice of components for PC, development costs a lot more. And that is probably why OS X is so good for quality shareware (and I'm not disputing that there is also a lot of quality shareware for the PC).

I do agree that it is frustrating waiting for Apple to add features, or trying to roll your own. But these are only issues if you are trying to write a full-blown professional word processor or such. It does seem that Windows has the edge there - but that is no doubt because there are more developers working on it. It would be nice if there were more Mac frameworks developed independently.

Best,
Keith

Ma
Maria
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:08 pm Post

Rayz wrote:...
The word is 'subjective'. To my mind, if you put the MacOSX UI on top of Windows, I'd have my perfect OS ... :-)


Rayz,

reading your post was so sobering. Somehow like Windows.

Is that raving? I don't mean to rave, it just looks like that to me: very detailed, informed, somehow not wrong, sometimes not charming (I do not feel to work with garbage collection when using Mac OS software), and just not exactly right. With the Mac OS I always feel it is exactly right (98%, OK).

I'm often surprised by the number of people who ask you for lots more word processing functionality (some of which I understand, but most of which I just think 'why'?). ...


We are all quite happy users here. I am glad somebody could just write this software with only paying for two books to learn the programming and then selling a great result for something like nothing.

All the best,
Maria
Last edited by Maria on Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ra
Rayz
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:43 pm Post

KB wrote:This actually raises one of the issues with Windows development, though. That component looks brilliant - until you see the price. Is it worth the price? Undboubtedly.


Weeelllll ..... that depends I guess. First of all, bear in mind that I just googled 'word processor component for .NET', and then just picked the one at the top of the page. That won't be the cheapest, and it won't be the most expensive either!

KB wrote:But I would not have been able to afford that component whilst developing a shareware app, not knowing whether or not I was going to make a penny out of it. It would be the sort of thing that might get dropped into a 2.0 version when you've got some more money, I guess. When I was first looking at developing on Windows, I also found a great live spell checker, but that, too, cost £300 (at least on OS X that does come for free). So whilst there is more choice of components for PC, development costs a lot more. And that is probably why OS X is so good for quality shareware (and I'm not disputing that there is also a lot of quality shareware for the PC).


Again, that depends. I have a different perspective on this because I do this for a living. I often have to decide whether it is worth spending money up front for something, and more often than not, the price of buying the component is a fraction of my daily rate to develop it!

KB wrote:I do agree that it is frustrating waiting for Apple to add features, or trying to roll your own. But these are only issues if you are trying to write a full-blown professional word processor or such. It does seem that Windows has the edge there - but that is no doubt because there are more developers working on it. It would be nice if there were more Mac frameworks developed independently.


Not all Windows components are built by large corporations, and not all of them cost money. In fact, since Windows has the largest number of free and open source applications of any platform, then you can build pretty much whatever you want for free.

Yep, I could wait for Apple to finish the framework, but that's a bigger gamble than buying a third party framework ... :)

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Rayz
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:55 pm Post

Maria wrote:
Rayz wrote:...
The word is 'subjective'. To my mind, if you put the MacOSX UI on top of Windows, I'd have my perfect OS ... :-)


Rayz,

reading your post was so sobering. Somehow like Windows.

Is that raving? I don't mean to rave, it just looks like that to me: very detailed, informed, somehow not wrong, sometimes not charming (I do not feel to work with garbage collection when using Mac OS software), and just not exactly right. With the Mac OS I always feel it is exactly right (98%, OK).



Mmm .. well, I think you've got a bit lost in the tecchy stuff there. It's really a conversation as to why Keith programs for the Mac, and I don't. End users don't really need to know about garbage collection on either platform. But it makes as programmer's life a damn sight easier ...

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Maria
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 1:08 pm Post

Rayz wrote:...
Mmm .. well, I think you've got a bit lost in the tecchy stuff there. It's really a conversation as to why Keith programs for the Mac, and I don't. End users don't really need to know about garbage collection on either platform. But it makes as programmer's life a damn sight easier ...


O, I do not think that I got lost, and I know quite well what a garbage collection is btw. Rather than lost I felt upset by the tone of the post.

Never mind, it is late in the evening here..

Maria

Ra
Rayz
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 1:18 pm Post

KB wrote: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.


Yes, I can't say I'm a big fan of the new look.

Ra
Rayz
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 1:23 pm Post

Maria wrote:
Rayz wrote:...
Mmm .. well, I think you've got a bit lost in the tecchy stuff there. It's really a conversation as to why Keith programs for the Mac, and I don't. End users don't really need to know about garbage collection on either platform. But it makes as programmer's life a damn sight easier ...


O, I do not think that I got lost, and I know quite well what a garbage collection is btw. Rather than lost I felt upset by the tone of the post.

Never mind, it is late in the evening here..

Maria


Really? There was something wrong with the tone?

Oh ...

I thought I'd been quite civil.

ha
halfbaked
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 4:53 pm Post

Ahhh the classic question:

Is it a spirited verbal tennis match or vitriol. :wink:

Evryone relax, we're still at the tennis match.

My 2 cents worth anyway,
Iain
Moderation is for monks, enjoy your passions! - R.A. Heinlein

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Khadrelt
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:07 pm Post

People used to say, "There are two things you should never talk about - politics and religion."

I think that's going to have to be changed to "politics, religion, and operating systems."

:)

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KB
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Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:58 pm Post

I think the tone has been very constructive. :)

For me, I just wouldn't want to write on a Windows machine, so creating Scrivener in Windows doesn't appeal for that reason, too. And I do really enjoy programming on a Mac - much more than my dabbling on Windows - so, whilst that is subjective and myself and Rayz differ on this, it is still real (for me).

And to stick up for Apple a little: their Cocoa developer lists are superb. Apple engineers regularly answer questions. I cannot count the number of times Douglas Davidson, one of the chief engineers of Apple's text system, has replied to my dev-list enquiries and given me invaluable help in getting to grips with the Apple text system.

The Mac development community are very friendly, too. I have shared code with Jesse Grosjean, developer of WriteRoom and Mori, Todd Ransom, developer of Montage and Avenir, and Jer, creator of Jer's Novel Writer. Martin at Nisus has given me help with more of the intricacies of the text system, and told me how to get around an RTF problem that caused crashes in Nisus. jda, BookEnds developer, is helping me add slightly improved support for BookEnds. And Christian at Devon-Technologies has helped me ensure drag-and-droppability between Scrivener and DT. And that's all just a drop in the ocean. By contrast, the Windows development forums I used to frequent were a little harsher (although they also had their fair share of helpful folk). There is also the problem that because so many people develop for Windows and frequent the forums, when you are starting out it is harder to get help simply because of the sheer amount of traffic. Not that any of this has much to do with the operating system itself, but it does impact your impression as a developer.

Best,
Keith

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Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:01 pm Post

You're so right, Khadrelt! Someone should do a research study on why we get
so attached to our systems. Obviously, we're all influenced by the basic human
tendency to like what we're familiar with and suspect what is alien. But somehow
with operating systems, there seems to be more going on. You don't see shoppers
fighting in the aisles of supermarkets over which potato chips are better. You
don't see people screaming at each other about their favorite airlines (not that
there's been any screaming going on here; we've been quite civilized), but for
some reason, people get pretty emotional about their OSes (I'm certainly not
immune!).

Anyway, gotta go. I'm in the middle of an argument with my neighbor
about the best way to get downtown. I'm right.

Tim
In theory, there's no difference
between theory and practice.
In practice, there is.

Yogi Berra

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Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:21 pm Post

You don't see shoppers fighting in the aisles of supermarkets over which potato chips are better... but for some reason, people get pretty emotional about their OSes.


Actually, I get pretty emotional about my crisps (that's Brit for "potato chips" :) ). In the UK, Walkers win hands down. McCoy's do a good thicker-set crinkle cut, but Walkers ready salted are a classic. But pitched against Lay's, it's a tough call. Are Lay's better, or is it just that they are a treat when I'm in the US or Canada? I don't know. The Norwegian crisps I tasted recently that had olive oil instead of vegetable oil were pretty damned good, but I think they'd get sickly after a while. Hmm. Walker's wins, I think. The best pack I ever had was on a boat in June '84, Best Before date September '84. Now, if anyone wants to tell me that KP make better crisps, I'll 'ave 'em.

Best,
Keith

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Wed Apr 11, 2007 8:08 pm Post

Pringles.

Oh, wait, were we talking about Macs and PCs??? OK, just to get back on topic:

I remembered another reason I much prefer the MacOS. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I absolutely can't stand how Windows has a menu bar in each and every window. I like the main menu bar up at the top of the screen.

I also dislike how Windows apps block out everything beneath them.

I also heavily dislike the name 'Recycle Bin.' :roll: Not that I'm nitpicking or anything...

However, one thing I do like about XP is how you can easily set a folder to display a picture it contains on it in Thumbnails view.