Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mac vs PC

For a few months I have been spending a lot of time using a Mac running OS/X for 40 hours a week. Recently a discussion started at a client site as to whether Macs or PCs should be used for future desktop machines.

The Apple hardware is very slick, everything fits together nicely and works well. For example my Apple monitor connects to my Mac via a single cable that supplies power, USB, and the video signal. My USB keyboard and mouse connect to my monitor. So my Mac has only three cables connected to it, power, Ethernet, and the monitor cable. The same thing on a PC would require an additional USB cable going to the PC and an additional power cable going to the monitor.

That is just one trivial example of how Macs are slick.

The advantage of a PC is that installing Linux is much easier and better supported (the vast majority of Linux users have PCs). The benefits of slick hardware are greatly diminished if it's only partly supported in terms of drivers and/or getting answers to technical questions on the net.

Another issue is that of software compatibility. When doing Linux work having a desktop machine that runs X is a significant benefit - even if all your work is text based. The Apple X server that I have installed never worked properly and it's a hack like the various Windows X servers. To make things worse the current versions of OpenOffice for Mac use X and therefore don't work for me - I've been told that the next version of OpenOffice will fix this.

Then there's the issue of price. For a Mac you would want to have a machine with an Intel CPU which means a recent and expensive machine. For a PC the benefits of a 64bit machine over an old P3 or P4 are very small. For all the work I do a refurbished IBM or Compaq P3 machine would provide all the performance I require, have better software compatability than a Mac, and cost only $120 for a machine.

Also I imagine that some common and cheap PC expansions (such as KVM switches) would cost a lot more for a Mac.

You can run Linux on a Mac, but what's the point? You lose some of the hardware features so the Mac becomes an expensive PC that's not entirely compatible. I'd rather have a P3 PC on my desktop than the latest Mac.

But I wouldn't rule out recommending a Mac to other people. People who have no-one to help them run Linux are best advised to use a Mac. Of course Windows isn't viable due to security problems.


Pharao said...

>To make things worse the current versions
>of OpenOffice for Mac use X and therefore
>don't work for me
did you try NeoOffice[1]?


hendry said...

I've been playing with my Dad's macbook.

I really don't like Windows. The flicking between them, overlapping them, minimizing and resizing. A lot of pain.

Mac's terminal is giving me head aches. The PGUP/PGDOWN don't work like they do for me in Debian.

Btw I've put together a Live CD, which I think is the "ultimate desktop" :)

Anonymous said...

Another problem with buying a Mac if you want to put Linux on it is that it will invalidate any hardware warrenties you buy (read Applecare) unless you virtualize Linux.

Sure you can backup your Linux partitions and wipe them if you have to take your computer in, but I would rather not have to uninstall my OS of choice and then reinstall it if I need to get the keyboard or some other trival component fixed.

Note that certain PC manufacturers will do this as well, but not all of them, and most certainly not most of them.