September 2003 Tony Lawrence
The other day I "sold" a Mac. That is, I recommended someone to buy a Mac rather than a Windows box. This was before I had read the link above, by the way.
You might think I recommend Macs all the time, but I don't. People often ask my advice about buying a computer for themselves, for a daughter going off to college, for their business. Most of the time, after thinking about who they are and what they need, I end up steering them to a Windows machine. I'm never really happy about that, but at this point I just can't see any way around it.
There are analogies in the world of cars. Maybe a Mac is the computing equivalent of one of those electric hybrids that my sister wants to buy. Or maybe it's a BMW with a diesel engine: very nice car, but the inconvenience of diesel can be a problem for some people. Inconvenience is probably just about the right word: just like the BMW, there may be lots of good things you wouldn't get with the Ford Taurus/Windows PC, but there are also little things like using diesel or that Windows only applications won't run (yes, you could run them under Virtual PC - we'll get to that).
For many of the people I talk to, some Windows application is the reason they own a computer. There may be a Mac equivalent, in fact it's likely that there is. But sometimes that's like offering someone milk instead of cream for their coffee. It's not the same. Some people adapt easily, some people don't. Don't try offering my wife anything but Coffeemate or cream, but I'll take it anyway you have it, including straight black. Some people are just not going to like having things be different, or are going to really need some Windows-only program.
Of course there would be good things too. Just like the Beamer, the Mac has charms not found in Windows or a Taurus. Almost complete elimination of virus and worm concerns, for one. Some Mac programs are actually much better than their PC equivalents, too. The power of Unix sits underneath the pretty Mac interface, and that's a big, big plus in my mind.
So why did I recommend a Mac to this particular person? Well, first because I know she is smart and adaptable. Secondly, she has owned Macs in the past and is well aware of the pluses and minuses. She doesn't mind the extra expense of adding Virtual PC to run the few Windows things she has to have, and none of them are so important that she'll be put off by the performance loss you get there. She is heartily sick of viruses and worms, and she played with my iBook for a bit and really liked it. She's a perfect match, and I had little hesitation in recommending she look at Macs.
If you are looking at a Mac, I do recommend that you load it up with lots more memory. Apple does themselves a disservice selling these with the base memory configurations they have: it's not enough, and will just cause swapping and unpleasant experiences for the new user. That's not what you want: keeping the sticker price down undoubtedly drives this, but it is short sighted and damaging to future sales. People are going to USE these machines; I run with far more open programs than I would with Windows and I think that's typical. Running programs need ram: feed the beast within.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence
The real problem is that programmers have spent far too much time worrying about efficiency in the wrong places and at the wrong times; premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming. (Donald Knuth)