What is it with Mac users?

I’ve decided to try and take my mind off this insufferable nose dribbling man cold by giving myself as long as it takes for one of the last Tylenol left in the bottle to take effect, which I brought back from the States (note to UK drug manufacturers, start selling this dynamite stuff here please) to wade precariously back into the murky waters of the Apple Mac versus Windows PC debate.


Jordan, in the comments to an earlier post here, made a point we loyal Mac users hear time and again about networking–and I thought it would be useful to first provide some definitions. I’ll try avoid boring jargon, but start by addressing this particular complaint.

Apple’s OS X operating system uses exactly the same networking protocols as a Windows PC. There used to be (back in the old days of System 9 and older) a special Apple-ized version of the TCP/IP stack, but that was abandoned as of OS X.

When you turn on ‘File and Print Sharing’ on a Windows PC, you are enabling, among other protocols, Microsoft’s Windows Network Server Message Block (SMB), which is a technology Microsoft licence to Apple for use in the ‘Sharing’ System Preferences panel of OS X. There is also an open source reverse engineered version of this data transport mechanism known as Samba, which allows machines running Linux to play nice on Windows NT networks.

The idea has quickly taken root in various network admin circles (not helped by so much of the training in this field being done under so-called Microsoft Certified programs) that “those Apple Mac things” don’t like being hooked up to a network–as if Apple are incapable, or wilfully belligerent in implementing networking standards. This is clearly not true–however the misconception exists that there is some black art to connecting Apple machines to a network, or that they simply don’t work properly in this kind of mixed PC / Linux and Mac environment. I simply say, again, OS X Apple Mac machines run exactly the same version of SMB as Windows. If you’re experiencing problems, that’s where you should look; and not for the first time in the direction of something coded by Microsoft.

Horses for courses

Lucy, my dearest, loverly, sexy, playful, angelic Lucy has hit upon the idea that, analogous to the Evangelical Christian versus Dirty godless Atheist debate, Mac users are to Sarah Palin what Christopher Hitchens is to the PC. Cleverly, she’s forced me to acknowledge how my allegiance to all things Apple might appear comparable to the arrogant certainties of the blindly religious. However amused the reader may be, to see the gobshite Englishman finally get his comeuppance not simply on a subject he probably deserves to be taken down a peg or two upon, but at the hands of the woman who he loves and met largely thanks to this very blog, I would hasten to add some very obvious flaws in her thesis, while respecting her right to express an opinion.

Firstly, I have never tried to say Windows doesn’t work well for 90% of users. I have personally owned PC hardware that flat refuses to quit. Only last week a friend of mine finally threw away a machine I gave him 3 or 4 years previous, after owning it myself for as long before that, if not longer. It was barely turned off for that whole time and only suffered minor scrapes with virus and adware in its long and dutiful life.

Did it run music sequencing software? Yes. Did it edit video? Yes. Did it run Photoshop? Of course. Could you code HTML and CSS templates on it; could it run Firefox? Naturally.

What is it, then, with these annoying Apple Mac users? Well–and here’s the part people who’ve never used a Mac (or are simply hard wired by social conditioning to dislike them without any really good reason) will perhaps never understand. Ready? OS X feels better. That’s right, it has a tactile feel to it.

I’ve desperately tried, on more than one occasion, to convey how ugly Windows feels to use after the elegance of an operating system who’s engineers spend months pouring over the minor details. But what does it really matter that when you drag and drop a selection of files onto a folder, in OS X, it blinks twice before opening; that you can technically traverse the entire hard drive in this way? What is the real use of a Dock that expands and contracts as you sweep the mouse over it, or a desktop that can be divided up into multiple sections, so as to have your applications spread out like a ‘real’ desktop in Spaces? Well, in isolation, not a lot. But as a whole these are the little things that form a more coherent total experience; a feeling that the technology is transparent, while the touchy-feely amorphous character of the operating system is on your side. OS X wants you to do well, whereas Windows feels as if it’s trying to thwart your efforts to succeed.

What does it really matter?

It would be very 21st century of us, as a couple who met on-line, for myself and Lucy to not only have our first real argument about creative philosophies conducted via each other’s blog comments, but to base such a disagreement upon such an unresolveable argument as the oldest and perhaps most tired of the many nerd on nerd conflicts to have fuelled the internets, since it was first developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (on a Mac incidentally).

After-all, Microsoft have come on leaps and bounds with Vista – there’s no doubting that. The same friend I mentioned earlier has had a great experience of it and I don’t mind admitting to feeling quite proud of Microsoft for having finally ironed out some of Windows biggest issues–even if they did achieve most of this by, even in their own admittance, flat-out copying many of OS X’s features and modus operandi.

I, for one, don’t think Apple’s latest round of TV ads which accuse Microsoft of ignoring some of their latest operating system’s biggest problems (which undoubtedly do plague particularly business users) are very helpful in spreading the Mac message, which is as true today as has always been. If you want to use Windows, buy a PC–If you want to use a computer, buy a Mac.

Alright, chill out!

THERE he goes again! Why can’t he simply face up to the evidence in front of him that something like 85% of the people in this bum hole of a world who use a computer, use Windows and that there is–whether you like it or not–some perfectly good reasons for this? Fine! I’m happy to say whatever you want to me say about PCs and Windows–and not just because you want me to say it, on behalf of all Mac users, everywhere, but because it is, 99.9% of the time true.

Yes, Windows runs on hundreds of different types of machines; from medical scanners to £299 laptops free with special tokens on packs of Kellogs Corn Flakes–whereas OS X only runs on one breed of machine, made by one company.

Yes, OS X has it’s problems and Apple too are an incredibly frustrating vendor on the Windows platform. Quicktime is embarrassingly intrusive on Windows–like a poorer cousin to RealNetworks for its insistence on bundling with iTunes. That the iPod be bound to iTunes, even for non-DRM’d content, is exactly the sort of shit long-time Mac users like myself used to kick off about when Microsoft tried to do the same thing with bundling to force Netscape from the browser business.

I admit to finding it, after first coming back to Mac (following a brief period in the late 90s of being a PC user) particularly awkward to switch to iTunes from WinAmp, for example; where all MP3 files remain in the nested folder you put them in, when you download them or ripped them from CD, are under the iTunes method, now sorted into mysterious folders, somewhere on the hard drive.

But the half-arsed experience of the main three Apple applications you get on Windows, Quicktime, iTunes and Safari, tells you nothing about the flawless ease of using them on Apple OS X. You can’t begin to know how handy it is, for example, to have every photograph, MP3 and video you’ve ever placed on your hard drive, conveniently located in a searchable tab within every open and save dialogue box and Finder window.

I’ve seen Microsoft’s attempts to build their own iPhoto and Movie Maker, to clone those available in OS X and–partisan politics aside–you’d be forgiven for assuming many of those at Microsoft who understand the poor functionality arguments which Windows has traditionally been accused of, were livid that such blatantly unfinished and functionally redundant applications were allowed into the first release of Vista.

It must be especially embarrassing for this same group, within the Windows team who are genuinely trying to make Windows better, to simply have no answer to applications like iWeb, iMovie or Garage Band–the latter of which was sighted in a PC World survey (which I am desperately trying to find the link for and will append here when I do) as among one of the primary reasons given by first-time Mac buyers, or people who have traditionally replaced their hardware every 4 years with a Windows only machine.

A complete multi-track recording studio with effects, podcasting and video soundtrack editing, Garage Band is part of the OS X Apple operating system

A complete multi-track recording studio with effects, podcasting and video soundtrack editing, Garage Band is part of the OS X Apple operating system

iPhoto can organise and open any kind of image file, edit it and save it to any format.  iPhoto is part of Apple OS X's iLife suite

iPhoto can organise and open any kind of image file, edit it and save it to any format. iPhoto is part of Apple OS X's iLife suite

iMovie places the advanced professional video editing functionality only found in high priced software on the PC, in one effortlessly easy to use application.  iMovie also bundles free of charge with all new Apple Mac OS X machines.

iMovie places the advanced professional video editing functionality only found in high priced software on the PC, in one effortlessly easy to use application. iMovie also bundles free of charge with all new Apple Mac OS X machines.


5 comments on “What is it with Mac users?

  1. I’m sorry, but there IS a considerable difference between Apple’s implementation of SMB and the rest of the world and I’ll give you an example.

    On our network we have a 1TB NAS device. Every single XP based PC we have can connect to it and access the files perfectly fine.

    Every single Mac (dual core Intel based in case you’re curious) connects to it and… you get the spinning beach ball… For minutes at a time.

    Have you looked at Google at all on this issue?

    “Results 1 – 10 of about 223,000 for Apple SMB slow”

    Turns out it’s a known bug. Apple has been aware of it since at least 2005 and has done exactly jack all about it.

    And people wonder why network admins hate Macs.

  2. For me, I love to have Macbook but right now they say that quad core will be on Macbook pro that’s why I control myself to get one now.. Mac usability is one of my favorite feature of mac even though your a newbie on Mac platform you will not get lost.

    One thing is this is virus free, most of the sales agent in our place always promote and market with this reasons and it’s true..

  3. Yes, John McCain. Yes, I’m afraid you’ve rumbled us. Your powers of deduction have outsmarted us this time, but we’ll be back John McCain–we’ll be back!!

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