"Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute." — Abelson and Sussman

Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy PCs

Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy PCs

Why I Told My Sister to Buy a Mac

In my circle of friends, I am well-known as a computer geek. As a geek, people are drawn to me with all their mundane computer questions. I get calls all the time from people asking me how to speed up their system or what to do when their hard drive crashes. I tell them I am really a web designer and not a computer technician. I even have a T-shirt that says, “NO, I will NOT fix your computer!” But, I still have six computers in my office now, each in various stages of disrepair. Not long ago my sister called to get my help with a new computer purchase. Having recently bought a MacBook Pro, I tried to get her to convert as well. Here are a few reasons why I think Mac is a great choice for the average user, and an even better choice for the design professional.

First of all, and very important to my non-geek sister, Macs come pretty much loaded out with what you need. There are less decisions to be made about RAM and ROM and those other troubling issues that confound a PC user. Sis pretty much just plays games on her system. She wanted a computer that would run her games faster than her old PC. Right there is one problem with PCs. A computer novice tends to think if it is “new” that it will be faster. That is not necessarily true. On Black Friday my sister got up at 3:00am and raced to Best Buy to grab their advertised package. For $399.00 she would have a “new” system. It was a real let down when I pointed out to her that the new system was not really that much more powerful than her old system. Yes, it had 2 gigs of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive. But the processor speed was way low and the graphics card was totally inadequate to run the games she wanted to buy. With a Mac, there aren’t any tricks like this. The stats are clearly listed on a Mac and they come with a minimum level of sufficiency. If I send her to buy a MacBook, the lowest processor she could get would be a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. That would be quite sufficient for her needs. And the fact is, because the Mac OS is specifically built to handle the hardware that is installed, it is much more efficient and faster. Apple doesn’t license out its OS to various manufacturers. For example, Microsoft sells their OS to pretty much any computer company who wants to throw one together. That computer manufacturer will, in turn, purchase hardware from whatever source and software from another source and put the machine together. That means that the various hardware components will work together, but are not designed to work together efficiently. With a Mac, all the hardware components are engineered to work with the Mac OS. You get a system built by the same people who make the OS, the applications, and the computer itself. This means that everything works together flawlessly and efficiently. Whatever you can do with your 512 MEG graphics card and 4 gigs of RAM, I can do with half the hardware in half the time on my Mac. This is just plain amazing! So, I can trust my innocent sister to Apple and know that she will walk away with a usable system.

Another important thing to an innocent user, is the virus factor. I get lots of calls from people with all sorts of strange things happening to their system. The screen is shaking, or they are locked out of their files, or they’ve got a BSOD. I begged my sister to buy a Mac, because your chances of getting a virus are so much less. There are over 100,000 harmful viruses lurking out in cyberspace. Most of these are designed to infect PCs. Macs are immune to most of them, in large part due to its UNIX based OS. It is much more stable. In order for any software to mess with your system, you have to type in your password. Vista has tried to copy this innate security, but has failed miserably. Again, I have received countless calls from people with compatibility issues after upgrading to Vista. I have pulled my hair out trying to figure out why Vista has suddenly locked my clients out of their files or won’t let them use their routers. It’s like Vista has a mind of its own–and has LOST it! But when I upgraded my Mac to Leopard it was flawless. Again, Apple knew what hardware components were in my system and it just worked. I want my sister to have a system that “just works” because that means I can spend my time doing what I want to do, and not feel obligated to run over to her place to format and restore her system.

And that’s another issue with a PC. Every year or so it is recommended that you format a Windows computer. You can delay this by defragging every so often…but eventually it will get so bogged down that you just have to clean house. Now a lot of novices would just figure they have a virus or something, and go out and buy a new system at this point. You’ve got to wonder if this is really some diabolical Microsoft marketing plan. To avoid buying a new system, many users will haul their system into the shop where the techs there advise a format and restore. It’s truly sad. Bad things happen when I format. It seems I always neglect to back up some little file somewhere and end up losing something that was “irreplaceable.” With a Mac, it defrags “on the go.” You avoid all the hassle associated with defragging or formatting.

The other thing my sister was worried about, was being able to use the software that she already has. By software, Sis means games. She wouldn’t know a word processor if it jumped out and bit her on the …well you get the picture. But she can rest easy knowing that she can, in fact, play all her favorite games. And she has several choices about how she does that. If she wants to use a Windows game and wants all of her system resources dedicated towards that game, she can install “Boot Camp.” This program was created by Apple, and it’s FREE. Basically, it creates another partition on your hard drive, on which Windows is installed. With this program you can shut down your Mac, and select “Windows” as you boot back up. Your Mac comes up and acts just like it’s a PC. It may even run slightly better than most PCs. Then, you can use whatever games or applications that you ran on your old PC.

If you don’t want to have to restart your computer to run Windows, there are a couple of good third-party applications that let you work in both OSs. You have probably heard of “Parallels.” This program creates a file that runs the Windows OS, right along with the Mac OS. The two run simultaneously. You can flip from one OS to the other like a book. You can copy and paste back and forth between programs running concurrently in the two different OS’s. Your other option, and my personal favorite, is called VMware Fusion. This is another third-party application that is just incredible. It allows you to run your windows programs directly from your Mac dock. You just run through the dock and select that option. Then the program springs up and you can easily run the software you need straight from your dock. No muss, no fuss! However, the caveat to this is that when you run in the Windows pasture, you are going to step in the same dung that all PCs get mired in. You are going to be susceptible to viruses and that horrible NTFS is going to slow you down. Your system may begin to get spyware and malware and crash, just like a PC. That means you may have to defrag and format and all that crap that we thought we were going to avoid with a Mac. These problems won’t affect your Mac side, but they will sure get to your Windows files. In light of this, you want to try to get away from Windows and all the horror that comes with it. You can run a program called “CrossOver” for Mac. This program is truly the brightest thing out there. CrossOver emulates Windows in that it takes any windows application, and magically turns that ap into an executable Mac program. You don’t have to infect your Mac with Windows. Using CrossOver you can stay away from Windows completely.

Another great thing for my sister, is that Mac really has superb support. If, heaven forbid, I don’t answer my cell phone; she can call Apple. If she gets the AppleCare Protection Plan, she could call Apple with all her questions and problems for the next three years. I could have a life again! She would get world class support, based right here in the USA . If my sister bought a Mac, it would be a win-win situation for the both of us.

These are just a few of the reasons why I recommend a Mac to my friends and family. But there are even more reasons to recommend a Mac to a Web designer. First of all, I find that Mac is much faster than my PC. I’ve got to have a system that flies along as fast as my hyperactive mind. I hate waiting, and I find that my Mac glides along at breakneck speed. Again, that’s because components are all engineered by Apple to work together.

Another thing I noticed is that my Mac is able to run several different applications and not get bogged down. I can have Flash up and running, and also have Photoshop and Fireworks there ready to go. To illustrate this, I can tell you that my PC has a 512 graphics card, 4 gigs of RAM, and a 4 GHz processor. With my PC, I could run Flash, Firefox, and Illustrator together at the same time. But if I needed to open up Photoshop or any other program, I would have to shut down an application to make room. These programs are all pretty big resource hogs and they maxed out my PC quite fast. But with my Mac, I routinely have 19 or 20 different programs up and running. I like to keep my mail program and IM open, as well as Safari, Flash, Firefox, Illustrator, Quicktime, Transmit, Coda , SK Edit, BB Edit, Fireworks, Photoshop, and usually iTunes . Of course, I have to have a browser with Webforumz open, too! You may not believe me, but I can run all those programs simultaneously, no sweat, on my Mac. When I switched to Mac it was like entering a time warp and being transported to the future. And, I am loving every minute of it.

Macs come with Apache installed. All you have to do is turn it on. Once activated, this allows you to test your code locally without having to upload it to a web server. This saves a lot of time. You can test your HTML and PHP/MySQL locally without having to download it and make edits, then upload it to test it, then repeating the process over and over and over. You can use Apache in combination with a program called “Transmit.” Transmit allows you to to synchronize your local files with your remote server. This means that you will always have the latest version of your code on your server, as well as in your local files.

As mentioned, Transmit is a great program. Mac has several of those great “can’t live without” programs for designer geeks. Another is Coda. Coda has great color syntaxing. This helps me a lot as I am slightly dyslexic and sometimes have trouble seeing coding problems. Coda lets me keep track of all my websites, and makes accessing them for edits a breeze. It also lets me view my sites in different browsers. When you get a Mac, deciding what programs you need can be a little daunting. I’m going to link to my favorite ones so you can study up on this yourself.

I hope that you will give more thought to a Mac. It has been a great choice for me. For some reason I wasn’t able to sell my sister. She came home on Black Friday with another PC. Gee, I wish she was a paying customer! I foresee many visits to her place in my future. But you geeks who are more savvy than she, may want to take the plunge. Once you go Mac, you’ll never look back!

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