True and false

about the Mac

2007 version

Written by Ingemar Ragnemalm.

A balanced view on the most common prejudices concerning the Mac.

"Macs are slow"

FALSE beause most such statements compare an old Mac to a new PC/Sun/whatever. If you find a Mac LC slow, did you really compare to the PC of the same age? Take a 16 MHz 386SX, and then we can talk.

TRUE because although Macs tend to have a long lifespan, they don't get upgraded the way they should. Many Macs are expensive or even impossible to upgrade, and the upgrades don't drop in price over time to reflect that they get outdated. The glorious exception is the line of PowerMacs with a processor daughterboard. They are fairly cheap to upgrade, it is easy and you get a good speedup. However, even there you can't swap the entire motherboard, so you are stuck with the bus speed of 50 MHz that the 7600/7300/8600/9600 etc have.

FALSE in 2007 since now the Macs use the same Intel CPUs as high end PCs.

"Macs are expensive"

FALSE because you get a lot of good stuff when you buy a Mac. The price usually isn't noticably higher than a comparable brand PC package.

TRUE because you can't assemble a Mac from parts, there aren't any local PC builders (the kind you find in the garage) making Macs, and there aren't any cheap motherboards, so upgrades are expensive (see above).

TRUE AND FALSE in 2007 since you can install a cracked OSX on a cheap PC, but you can only install it on Apple hardware otherwise. Apple's prices are not too bad overall, but if you want a model with expansion slots, there is no low end model.

"The Mac is a toy"

FALSE because the classic argument for this is that it has such small toy-like plastic diskettes (instead of the REAL ones, the 5 1/4" ones), and it has that silly graphical user interface with mouse, menus and windows.

TRUE because they are fun to use.

"You can't network Macs and PCs"

FALSE because, well, you can!

TRUE because neither the Mac or MS Windows 95 comes with any software for accessing "the other side", other than by HTTP. You have to buy DAVE or MacLAN to make them use ech other's file sharing.

FALSE in 2007 since OSX has improved on this point.

"The Mac is a closed system"

FALSE because the PC of today (if using MS Windows) is a much more closed system, if you look at the OS.

TRUE because it isn't Linux. I mean, sure Linux is OPEN! There's nothing you can't do if you had infinite time and resources.

"The Mac is easy to use"

TRUE because it is a well considered design from the start, with no compromises. The one-button mouse is only an example, choosing simplicity over unnecessary features. The Finder was a great program from the start. The Mac system folder was a wonder of simplicity &endash; the bare minimum of System and Finder was all you needed, but you could plug in any extras you wanted. Power and ease of use! Wonderful!

FALSE because the Mac has constantly been moving away from the elegance it once had. The system folder isn't as cluttered as in Windows, but it gets worse and worse, and there are more and more dependencies between components, and more and more compatibility problems. When the Mac gets too complicated to configure without breaking it, it can't be considered easy to use!

"The Mac doesn't have multitasking"

FALSE because all Macs since 1984 has had some kind of multitasking, with desk accessories and Switcher being the oldest forms.

TRUE because interrupt-driven (preemptive) multitasking can only be used with great caution, so the Mac has that only in a very limited sense.

"The lack of multitasking is the reason why Macs often crashes"

FALSE because (1) the Mac is multitasking and (2) the problem isn't there, but in the lack of memory protection.

TRUE because although cooperative multitasking can't by itself crash the Mac, it certainly can lock it up. You can break out of such a lockup, but I know many users don't know how.

FALSE in 2007. OSX is at least as stable as any other OS, and a lot more secure than MS Windows.

"Preemptive multitasking is faster than cooperative"

FALSE because in theory, cooperative actually is faster. With cooperative multitasking, an application can control the time when it leaves control to other tasks, avoiding interrupts at times where that would cause unnecessary cache misses etc. I said "in theory", because the quality of the implementation can be better or worse.

TRUE because preemptive multitasking can check for user input all the time, even if some process wants as much time as possible. Frequent checks for user input means quick response times, which gives the user an illusion of speed.

FALSE in 2007. It is obvious, just compare OSX to OS9. OS9 is flying on the same hardware!

"Windows has caught up with the Mac"

FALSE because there are many points where it hasn't. In particular, Windows has lousy handling of the icon view, and the whole system tends to take over the PC so that you, the user and owner, don't feel that you "own" the computer. Other people decide where things should be. how it should work, and you must walk in line.

TRUE because, well, face it, I don't like Windows, but Windows XP is more stable than MacOS, at least when developing.

In 2007, OSX has pushed the limits and the question is whether Vista can catch up. Most reviewers say no.

"The Mac is a poor gaming computer"

FALSE because modern Macs are fast, there are fine 3D accelerator boards, there are quite a few good games, and, as a historical note, the Mac went to high-res graphics in games many years before the PC.

TRUE because no matter what we'd like to believe, the PC games are much, much more, and the top titles come to the PC about a year before the Mac. Sure the Mac games are better on the average in the sense that there are less junk, but we also miss many good ones.

"The Mac doesn't have any command-line interface"

FALSE because you can download MPW from Apple. No charge!

TRUE because Macs don't come with MPW installed. (But do you really need a command line interface in the first place?)

FALSE because OSX has the Terminal. I still think it should be unnecessary on a modern OS, but it is there.

"It is hard to do programming on a Mac"

FALSE because it is at least as hard to write programs for Win32 (MS Windows), actually a bit harder since the Mac is much more open to the programmer. Win32 is very secretive about what it is doing, which forces you to many workarounds.

TRUE because there is a steep learning curve when learning to program for any graphical user interface. Command-line style programs are much easier to write &endash; but you can do them too on a Mac! The only problem is that no real Mac user would touch it.

TRUE in 2007. The APIs have gotten a lot worse. Things that were easy in OS9 are much harder now. 2 pages of code turn to 20. The only bright point is that many known Unix technologies are now fully available, and OpenGL is a nice and useable API for 3D graphics.

Of course, the above manuscript is written by me, a long-time Mac user who finds MS Windows clumsy, inproductive and easy to break (which is entirely beside the point). Still, I think my points are valid, both in favor and in criticism of the Mac.

Copyright ©1999 Ingemar Ragnemalm.

Updated: April-2007