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Mac vs Windows: the Boot Camp revolution

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Letters We've got lots of lovely mail for you today - although most of it is about IT industry vet Cormac O'Reilly's corporate view of Apple's Boot Camp announcement.

For the record, we're staying out of this one. Our opinion on the matter of Win v Mac must, for reasons of national security, remain a closely-guarded secret:

Great, so you justify your Faustian deal with the Devil for years by deluding yourself into believing Windows was *ever* better than the Mac and Mac OS. Windows, even in its Win95 and Win98 years, is a ghastly GUI fake-front to a command line C:> mentality computer system. It's GUI was a wholesale intellectual property right ripoff! But there you were on an expo stage, cheering yourself for not only beating Apple but also DEC. Hooray! And you've built a comfortable livelihood around the Big Windows Lie to boot. But now you're feigning being 'back in the Apple camp', renegade that you are. If one could summarize your IT career in one word, would 'phony' be appropriate? Perhaps you can redeem yourself before you have to face St. Peter by admitting, at least to yourself, that you were wrong, all along. And practice this redemption by going back to your country of origin and prosyletize Mac OS X until your ready for the baths in Bath. Go back and convert Shell and Schlumberger to Mac OS X, St. Peter is whispering....

Lefty


Hello Cormac:

Interesting article. In my (much-much-smaller) spin at a career I tried convincing a library to go from then Dos/Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and escape things like writing Windows autoexec files for loading a CD Changer, or having multiple boot options in Dos for various applications that took up too much of the 640K of memory. It failed, as the mentality was what clunked along was good enough. I think now an old Quadra would have been a godsend to them.

At a recent place I worked at, Exchange was a nightmare, and the high costs of Windows and related software kept everyone scrambling to look for open source solutions, even if none existed. Fortunately I was only an observer for those fights.

I never thought (or even knew that much) about Macs until I started participating in messageboards about 6 years ago. Since then I owned a G4 and a Motorola based Mac Mini. I sold them after the announcement to the Intel changeover. A lot of the major applications I use are still in a Windows only format, but the new ability to run x86 based applications in OSX is appealing.

I think for nonprofits and education institutions, a holdback for Apple was the proprietary hardware (since machines are constantly being repaired by robbing older parts) and the different look of OSX. To be honest, I don't care for it, but it's what's underneath that counts.

But today, with Vista coming and promising to be expensive, and Microsoft's insistence on charging top dollar for Windows XP means places with small budgets are facing a squeeze. An Apple, even if it would require buying new parts to fix it, looks appealing.

If it wasn't for some 3D graphics I do and a perpetual need to tinker, I'd buy an iMac, but since I'm in a career dry spell (read broke and marginally employed) I'll stick with my aging Athlon 64.

I think the real horror(tm) will beging if/when Apple releases an Intel based tower machine. This will start the droves of people trying to make drivers for unsupported video cards and PCI devices, and the Apples will start truly becoming PC's in pretty cases running BSD. Either way, it looks like some interesting times ahead.

Sincerely,

Scott Peterson


Mr. O'Reilly,

I enjoyed your article on Apple, especially in light of the Boot Camp announcement. Like yourself, I have had re-occuring love affairs with the Macintosh with long interludes of Windows use in-between with a bit of LAMP mixed in.

For several years, while I worked as a product designer at Microsoft, I insisted on having a Mac alongside my Windows box - much to the amusement of my dev team. (However, it helped that for most of that time we were under the same umbrella as the Mac BU). While working for other predominantly Windows-based employers I have always succeeded in sneaking a Mac into the system.

But at some point in the last two years I realized that most of what I do now - programming and database development - really didn't need a Mac. I still enjoy firing up Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, but for my purposes these days the Windows versions work just as well. And frankly, being handed Visual Studio, C# and type-safe, managed code has become more intellectually stimulating than anything I did as a designer. (I also work with PHP/mySQL on FreeBSD, but those leave much to be desired).

I'm more excited by the new features in SQL Server 2005 and being able to run virtual servers (for free now) under 2003 Server than hearing that you will be able to dual-boot to Windows. It seems that the major reason for Mac users to do that is to waste time playing games.

My point is that once I was hard-core Mac, willing to do anything to work on that platform and now I find it less and less compelling. I realize this has more to do with my own transformation, but I also think there has been a blurring between competing systems in their capabilities. Where's the differentiation, beyond the eye candy? For users in a corporate environment won't cost and network homogeneity still be the ultimate measure of adoption?

There's only one thing I would buy a Mac for now - video editing/production. There's nothing more exciting about the Mac than the thought of a souped-up dual-processor Mac running Final Cut under 8 Gb of RAM and 400 Gb of drive space with a couple 23" monitors thrown in.

Regards, Jonathan Nehring


Hi Cormac - loved the article. I completely agree - why Windows? I run my business completely with OS X - though I do use XP for the accounts and for specialist programmes but on the whole I get on fine without XP. However, the stuckness of the tech support people in big corporations and government agencies is severe. In a recent project with regional government in the UK I asked them if they'd set up an FTP site to ease transfer between consultants. They just said no and the reason I finally discovered was to do with the nature of their licenses with MS - it was either expensive or difficult. Irritated by this I bought Rumpus for OS X and set up a server on a spare Mac Mini - in an evening. And I am not a tech person. I think Boot Camp is a good thing but it won't be widely used.

Stephen Feber


"I think we are on the cusp of businesses allowing folks to buy and own their own business PCs and funding them through the expense system."????

I have seen that tried. The problem isn't supporting the OS as much as what happens when the hardware breaks. Everyone wants you to get their machine fixed no matter who made it. If it is a Toshiba they may be without their machine for a long time and get it back still broken. That user is going to be unhappy when a coworer's mac gets turned around in 2 or so.

The OS and the software load out is still a problem. Everyone's experience is going to be different depending on which vendor built the machine. A guy at work bought a sony for use at work since he refused our coorperate standard system. Turns out the USB drivers on this machine do not work and he can't use a mouse and keyboard. I don't have the time to help him.

Supporting systems has hardly gotten any easier in the last 10 years. The types of problems and complexity haven't been solved by the improvements made in other areas.

Wesley Horner


Cormac,

Great CV, even though you're not qualified for the job I'm recruiting for. And it is enlightening that your career mirrors the pressures that established the Windows monopoly in business.

What I would like to question is the phrase "significant economic business case". Most corporations seem to disregard the additional time employees spend using or losing stuff, and the lack of productivity that results from not being able to find or keep previous work, in favour of a huge IT support cost.

I do work that means I am often inside major corporations, with varying degrees of control that limit the work I can do. When I use CAD or Microsoft Project software, for example, I know that using a 23-inch screen lets me work, say 20% or 30% faster, but they will give me a 15-inch screen and happily pay me $150 an hour to work more slowly.

The last place I worked a big chunk of time, I could switch between my Mac and a Windows XP machine, and I gradually found myself using the Mac more, mainly because of improved productivity (i.e. less wasted time) in two areas: searching the network file heirarchy, using Mac OS X Finder's column view, and checking and searching mail using Mac OS X Apple Mail with its spam filtering.

Now I am working at a corporation that is still on Windows 2000 and is locked down as far as they can make it. I am back in the world of frequent crashes, freezes, re-doing work, losing work and spending several hours every day to wait for the technology to let me do my job.

A competing corporation has just switched its entire workforce to a nice set of iMacs, but they didn't justify the switch on an employee productivity basis either, they said it was justified by "stability and lack of viruses".

In both cases, the IT people want to ensure that everyone uses the same set-up, however crummy. Any "significant economic business case" completely overlooks the additional cost of that IT department and all the technical support, and likewise completely overlooks the additional cost of all the hours its employees spend re-doing lost work, re-sending trashed e-mails and scrolling around a tiny screen.

Except for that enlightened "competing corporation that switched to iMacs", of course. What makes you think there won't be others?

Andrew Sheppard


Wow!! So now we can combine the rock solid reliability of Windows with the fantastic value for money of Apple hardware. Who will be able to resist?

Steve Walker

Not us, that's for sure. Right, onwards...


Linguists' brains are apparently different to those of mere mortals. Something to do with more white matter, we gather. Our piece last week on the subject challenged readers to tell the difference between a French and Hindi "da". And the results are...

"* We gave it a go and couldn't discern the slightest bloody difference between the two. We have therefore concluded that we have beautifully symmetrical brains - as God intended - packed with grey matter and without wasting space on white stuff which serves only to tell the difference between Hindi and French."

I'm *supposed* to be linguistically gifted, and I couldn't tell the sounds apart either. This may well explain why I speak French with a powerful accent (no, not Hindi), but has anyone pointed out to these chaps that they were merely testing for the ability to differentiate sounds? What sort of result would they have got from, say, professional musicians?

I suppose if you can get a grant for it....

Rose Humphrey


"We gave it a go and couldn't discern the slightest bloody difference between the two" -- at first I thought you had a lousy sound system. After trying it for myself with *my* AKG headphones, I can confirm it: there really *is* no bloody difference between those. Them scientists are mad, it couldn't possibly be both you /and/ me at fault! Therefore don't worry, you don't necessarily have beautifully symmetrical brains - as God intended, but rather you have your brains indeterminately symmetrical or not - whichever way God intended. My qualifications for this verdict? I own AKG headphones, damnit, and I want the world to know!

Gutza


I'm well beyond the years where I need the reassurance that I'm 'different from other people', but the difference between these sounds is quite distinct. It didn't take me 20 minutes to 'get it', about 10 times for each sound.

And after that my French is still halfway to mediocre and beyond a few stray words I have no clue about Hindi at all.

Go back and listen carefully, it's not that difficult.

Jorge

The scale of Jorge's brain's asymmetry can only be wondered at. Or maybe that's not the reason...


Of course, this has predictive power in so far as it measures how quickly people will pick things up from the get-go, but it doesn't have predictive power for much beyond the person's current brain setup.

The brain grows and adjusts as it learns. Again on the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/677048.stm - London taxi drivers' brains grow on the job. Of course that's grey matter, but the same principle applies.

Barry Kelly

London taxi drivers' brains grow on the job? No comment regarding this astounding assertion is required.


It would be easy to draw hasty conclusions from these results. It may be that linguists *keep* more of the white matter than others: Since both types of "das" sounds tested are distinct in *any* of the Indian languages (not just Hindi), and one can be badly misunderstood by substituting one for the other, concluding that the difference is only detectable to linguists means that everyone who's successfully learned any of the Indian languages is a linguist. Or it means that all Indians have massive amounts of white matter that the rest of us don't have...and that may be, but I don't think it's the case. Perhaps it means that the Indians have more white matter than the French? I think the indication here is that we develop or keep the white matter depending on what faculties we use or work to develop.

There are lots of other implications of the study, but it goes beyond linguistics as a general study. For instance, is it the case that someone from an aboriginal society where the members may distinguish between subtle sounds (e.g., different songs from the same bird) that the (average) city dweller would find indistinguishable, has more white matter than the non-linguist city dweller?

Boffins should not be allowed to draw sweeping conclusions from their studies. Cheers, Matthew Barker


There's got to be a way to insert a 'cunning linguist' joke in there somewhere, eh?

Paul Renault

You're right...


Let me be one of the masses who point out that to make out the difference you have to be a cunning linguist...

Brett Weaver

Duly delivered. And finally...


...Her Maj Liz II sent her first email way back in 1976. We didn't have any details, but here are the facts:

In case you were wondering, the "army base" in question was the Royal Signals Research Establishment (RSRE) in Malvern. The network link was routed via University College London (as was all early ARPAnet and Internet communications in Britain). Much more early UK Internet history is covered in this history by Peter Kirstein: http://nrg.cs.ucl.ac.uk/mjh/kirstein-arpanet.pdf

Mark Handley


Here's a bit more, gleaned by Paul from the Association for Computing Machinery. He reckons it's pretty authoratative:

The ARPANET connection was inaugurated during a visit to RSRE by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty sent a message of greetings to the members of the HOLWG from her net account, EIIR, by pressing a red velvet Royal carriage return. Because the address list was long, it took about 45 seconds for the confirmation to come back, 45 seconds of dead air. Prince Philip remarked, joking respectfully, that it looked like she broke it.

Phil the Greek, eh? What a card. More on Friday, when we promise a postbag completely devoid of Win/Mac controversy. Maybe. ®

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