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Tom Briant

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Mac descends from the Maytag

Your 21st Century Mac: descendant of a 20th Century Maytag washer.

I recommend you look at Microsoft’s latest attempt to confuse you about Macs versus PCs. Go ahead, take a look. This is what the sowing of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt looks like.

After suppressing the urge to throw a cream pie at Steve Ballmer at the next Microsoft shareholder’s meeting, I thought hard about the Mac versus the PC.

Your 21st Century computer owes a lot to the predecessor, the 20th Century washing machine. Mechanically, both the Mac and the Maytag feature a motor with a shaft attached to a spinning object. Every so often, the mechanism, whether hard disk or washing machine, breaks down and has to be replaced.

You also process data the same way you process clothes. You put data or jeans in, add a program or soap to process, and take out the finished product at the end of a cycle(s). Simple as that.

You have more choices with a Mac or PC than a Maytag. Your “soap” can make the computer do a wide variety of tasks. You want to define what you want your computer to do.

Think about it. Don’t consider price of the computer or its brand. Just define what you want to do with the computer as specifically as possible.

Now find the piece of software that performs the tasks you specified. For example, consider word processing software.

Pages for the Mac has a default file format that no Windows program can open. Pages, though, will happily read and write in Word 97/2004 .doc format. It can save to PDF format, and now in ePUb electronic book format. Windows programs can easily open those 3 formats.

Microsoft Word comes in both Mac and Windows flavors with its latest file format, .docx, readable and writable by both programs. It can also read and write older versions of Word. The same applies to Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel.’s Writer program has a default file format, .odt, that its Mac, Linux, Windows, and Solaris versions share. It also reads and writes Microsoft Word files all the back to version 6.0.

Once you’ve decided what programs perform your desired tasks, NOW start shopping for hardware and their associated operating system (Windows 7 vs OS 10.6 Snow Leopard).

Now I get to deliver my pitch for Macs

First, how do you make a backup to ensure you don’t lose any data in case of system failures? Snow Leopard comes with the Time Machine backup software baked right into the system. You only need to buy an external hard drive of appropriate size. Plug it in and you can rest easy.

I tried Windows’ built-in backup software and it didn’t work for me. I finally started using a Linux-based system. I put in the live CD, reboot into Linux and it copies my Windows system to my external hard drive overnight. It works well, but it’s not as convenient as Time Machine.

Second, if you’d like to keep your tax accounting on a separate disk that you could detach and store in a fire-proof vault, it’s a royal pain to do that with Windows. With OS X 10.6, just use the SuperDuper! software to copy your internal Macintosh HD to an external hard disk. You then use the System Preference (Mac’s Control Panel) for the Startup Disk to switch to that external hard drive. Simple as pie.

Finally, consider aesthetics. The Mac’s interface simply looks better than Windows. A lot of Windows users have attempted to copy the Mac’s look for Windows. No one wants to copy the look of Windows for the Mac.

What do you think? Put your thoughts in the comments or e-mail me.

1 comment:

  1. Damn, and I thought it descended from a copier! That's the the last time I visit the PARC!




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