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Mac Corner: Why a Mac?  

By Larry Grinnell, Palm Beach Phoenix Apple Users Group

larry grinnellWho is buying all those Macs? Recent sales figures show that Apple’s market share is now in the 20 percent range, even though they usually cost hundreds more than their PC brethren. More amazing is that this market share is growing in one of the worst economic downturns in decades. Maybe because:

An Apple Macintosh offers the user more sheer value than equivalent Windows machines. It’s a computer that can be used, with ease, by every member of your family. It comes with more standard, usable software than the Windows product, though in fairness, Microsoft is trying to catch up with a decent free video editor, but no one has anything close to Garage Band, for those who need a digital audio production studio. Likewise, there’s nothing that comes close to iPhoto for sophisticated functionality in the way it manages your image library. Oh, and it’s free, too.

People keep their Macs far longer than most keep their Windows machines, and most owners of more “mature” Macs do not feel the performance penalty that Windows users suffer under. Within six months of a Windows PC purchase, it’s likely already becoming bogged down with invisible “temp” files, disk fragmentation, instability (blue screen of death, anyone?), and other things that go bump in the night.

Every PC I have ever owned or used in an office environment starts off all snappy and quick, but as I said, within six months, you start wondering where it all went. It’s not necessarily even the upgrades to your applications that add more bloat and kill performance, but other things related to garbage collection, and more and more entries into its “Registry.” Before long, you’re either complaining mightily, or you are looking to purchase utilities that promise to once again put a spring in your PC’s step. Mac users just keep on working and playing, without worrying about system slowdowns.

Viruses and malware are mainly a Windows thing. Admittedly, virus writers have ignored Macs, but the underlying operating system makes it much harder to be infected and attacked. If your Windows machine is slowing down, in all likelihood, it’s loaded with malware that is using your computer to send out thousands of spam emails without you being aware of any of it — other than the fact that you have begun to notice it’s running slower and slower.

Creators and distributors of viruses and malware have gotten very sophisticated, making it harder and harder to locate and permanently eradicate them from your PC. Mac users just keep on going, without the worry of such infections. Oh, several outstanding anti-virus programs are available for the Mac, but they are mostly used to make sure that files you share with other Windows users aren’t infected — only because those same Windows users gave you files with viruses. You see, these files can be opened and manipulated by Mac users without worry of infection of their Macs, but those same Mac users can pass on that same infection to others.

Macs are more compatible. Most Macintosh applications are able to open and manipulate most popular Windows file formats, and can save them back out into Windows-compatible formats.

How ‘bout you, Windows users? Can you do the same? Why do you insist upon being Mac haters when you write web applications that should be universal? I just had an experience with the car dealer that does all the service on my vehicle. Their brand new sophisticated service appointment system is only partially Mac-compatible. By partly, I mean that I can schedule appointments Monday through Friday, but cannot on Saturdays. I had to schedule the appointment from work on my office PC.

Are Mac programmers Windows haters? Why do I have to use only MS Internet Explorer for Windows to view reports from Microsoft Project? This forces me to have to maintain two browsers on my Windows machine, but I digress …

Another aspect of Mac compatibility relates to the rapidly increasing use of virtual machine technology, with products like Parallels, VMWare, and the open source VirtualBox. On the Mac side, you can install Windows, Linux, Unix, and other operating systems on one of these products. On the Windows side, you can’t run the Mac operating system.

With a big-screen iMac or even a MacBook or Mac mini, you can run multiple operating systems, making you completely compatible with anything your office throws at you, while still being able to do the majority of your work with the operating system you want to use. The only problem you might have is convincing your IT manager that this can be done without disruption to your company’s network, and that will be the topic of a future article.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Readers are welcome to comment on this or any Mac Corner columns by visiting the Palm Beach Phoenix blog as well as by writing the editor of Palm Beach

Mac Corner runs every Wednesday only in Palm Beach Click to read the previous column.

About Larry Grinnell: Larry has been working with Macintosh and Windows PCs for over 25 years and worked as a senior technical writer and IT support professional for a major midwest-based consumer electronics and telecommunications equipment manufacturer here in South Florida. His musings on a wide variety of topics from computers to jazz guitar to strange foreign cars from the 1950s can be viewed at the website. Click here to reach him by email.

palm beach phoenix logoWriters of this column are members of the Palm Beach Phoenix Apple User Group, a nonprofit organization for Apple Computing Device Users, recognized by Apple Inc., with the purpose of providing educational training and coaching to its members (students, professionals and seniors alike) in a cordial social environment. The club meets the second Saturday (1-4 p.m.) and fourth Wednesday (6-8 p.m.) of each month at the Fire Station #2, 4301 Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach (just two block south of Southern Boulevard). Click here to visit their website. Click here to reach them by email.

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NOVEMBER 3, 2010

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