The truth about Apple computers and the lies they spread.

I get lots of Apple computers in my shop for repair from very frustrated customers who have spent a lot of money. The percentage of Apple computers I repair is just about the same relatively speaking as the number of PC or Windows-based computers I repair. Because only a small percent of computers are Macs it will always be a very small part of my business. Most people expect to have some issues over the years with their Windows computers it’s the nature of the beast. But not Mac users, they paid a heavy premium and believed the marketing and the salespeople who convince them they bought a superior product.

My most recent visit to the Apple store was extremely pleasant. I was there to have them do a free diagnostic. While I was waiting I thought I would have some fun. I gather several of the young bushytailed salespeople and began asking questions.  I wanted to know where my clients were getting the idea that the components used in apples were special. So I simply asked, are the basic components, hard drive, CPU and RAM made especially for Apple machines? Each of the salespeople, nodded their heads and said yes. These are all specially made parts for Apple. So, the Intel chip is different, and Intel has a special factory to just produce Apple CPUs? And the same goes for Seagate and Western Digital to produce the hard drives, special factories just for Apple? They again, all nodded there heads in agreement. Well, I guess that answers my question. The typical Apple salesperson is passing on wrong information. Just so we are perfectly clear, all the major internal parts of Apple computers are exactly the same as any non-Apple PC. This means that for your hardware is no better or worse than any other computer.

When I got back up to the genius bar, I asked the technician the exact same questions. He quickly acknowledged that in fact nothing special about any of the Apple parts, and apologized for the salespeople’s naivety.

The MacBook Pro I had brought in required a complete reinstallation of the OS. As I found quite common, doing upgrades can cause a non-booting Mac. I have all the software I needed but was unsuccessful. As Lion will not allow a clean installation from a DVD disc. Forcing me to make an appointment and having to bring the MacBook Pro in for service. The actual experience was pleasant enough and I left with a working computer, sort of. Seems it has an odd malfunction on the motherboard that won’t allow the computer to work while on battery. For mere $762 Apple would be happy to do the repair.

I came across this article while I was looking for some help about the Lion problem and fits exactly to my experience. Enjoy

Why I prefer Windows 7

1. Start bar

Love it or hate it… well, actually, everyone pretty much loves it. The Start Bar is, some would say, one of the truly original innovations from Microsoft that debuted in Windows 95 and has been with us since. It’s evolved in Windows 7 but the primary function remains the same: the place to launch programs through the Start menu, the Taskbar to monitor running programs, and the System Tray for informative widgets. The Mac OS X Dock combines program launcher and taskbar, but it becomes cluttered very quickly with a lot of programs, which if they’re not on the Dock need to be launched from an equally cluttered Applications folder instead of easily navigated by menu as with the Start bar. Lion attempts to remedy this with the iOS-stylised Launchpad, but it’s simplistic and still not as easy to use.

2. The Taskbar

The Dock is pretty and all, but the Windows 7 Taskbar can have programs pinned to it as with the Dock, whilst maintaining the ability to manage running programs, make use of Jump Lists, and see a thumbnail preview of the window of a program with Aero Peek by just hovering the mouse over its name in the bar. Programs with multiple windows will display all open windows in the preview, and any one of them can be individually closed from th preview. The Mac OS X Dock doesn’t come close to this, and even though Expose allows previews, it also takes up the whole screen to do it (and when it comes to Expose, the Alt-Tab switching of Windows is quicker and less intrusive, but that’s for another day).

The Windows Taskbar and Aero Preview is leaps ahead of anything on Mac OS X Lion.

3. No global menu

Oh I hate it. And I know you do too. Mac OS X’s global menu (simply the Menu bar to Apple) tries to make things simpler for Fisher-price users, with a top menu that changes depending on which application is currently selected. But when you’re working with a few programs, and more importantly on a decent sized monitor with a large resolution these days, having to drag the mouse to the top bar and back to access common functions is antiease-of-use. The global menu was borne of a time before pre-emptive multitasking, when computers only ran one program at a time, but that’s ancient history now and Apple hasn’t moved with the times (lets not get into those old one-button mice! Thankfully gone, but I digress…)

Making the user spend more time navigating the screen instead of using the app is an impediment — the easiest to use operating systems are those that get out of your way, not in them.

The problem is compounded if you use multiple monitors, which given how cheap they are these days is a popular option. On Mac OS X Lion programs on a second monitor still have their menus on the main screen’s global menu, making for long mouse movements to use functions. Windows, by comparison, has excellent multiple monitor support.

4. Jump Lists

Jump Lists are much more than Mac OS X’s Stacks, providing a recently opened files list for any app you right-click on the Taskbar, making it a huge time-saver for accessing the documents you work with on a app-by-app basis. On top of this, Jump Lists let you select a program’s common functions specific to the app, for example: launching recently accessed sites, opening an independent tab, or starting private browsing mode for Firefox directly from the Firefox icon in the Taskbar. You can also optionally pin entries directly to a Jump List, and even exchange entries between Jump Lists if two programs work with the same file type. This applies to every app, dependent on the app. It’s exactly the type of feature you’d expect Apple to implement, but Microsoft beat it to the punch.

Jump Lists make accessing recent files, common functions, and special tasks for a program a cinch directly from the Taskbar.

5. Windows management

Lion includes the option to resize windows from any edge, finally bringing it up to speed with Windows — but it still falls far short of Windows’ management abilities. As above, Windows 7 has excellent multi-monitor support, and you can maximise a window to any monitor with Windows 7, something Lion can’t automatically do. And Aero, which drives the Windows 7 interface, has features like Aero Snap to automatically resize windows based on the edge you drag them to: so you can, for example, compare two documents side by side by dragging them to opposite ends and having them resize to fit the half the screen each automatically.

Similarly, managing running programs from the Windows Taskbar, especially with Aero Peek, is a simple point-and-click affair and while Expose and Mission Control try to make it easier for Mac OS X users, these quickly become messy when you have a lot of programs running, something the Windows Task Bar doesn’t suffer thanks to program grouping. Purely from keeping a hold things when it comes to managing lots of programs in this age of multi-application multitasking, Windows wins hands down over Mac OS X Lion.

6. Homegroups

Networking is arguably not the bees knees for many home users, but Windows’ Home Group feature makes it possible to share files and devices with other Windows 7 machines automatically, and even stream media. Mac OS X’s AirDrop is also automatic, but doesn’t allow you to browse. Homegroup still provides options to limit access, selectively share files and folders, or provide read-only access while still removing the hassle of configuring networking or sharing. It’s as easy as AirDrop, but more functional.

The key difference with Airdrop is that it can set up an ad-hoc wireless network, but connecting to wireless networks is automated with Windows anyway, as is is automatically joining the available Homegroup. The closest Mac OS X Lion has to Homegroups is Bonjour, which allows you to find shareable resources on the local network for Bonjour supported devices, but this is a shotgun approach as it covers a wide range of services and Homegroups focuses specifically on local LAN sharing.

6. Libraries

Libraries are a great way to group similar file types spread among different folders, and even different devices. For example the Music Library can contain music from your local hard drive, a connected external drive, or even on a remote machine over the network. And you can work on files in the library just as with any other folder. At any time the contents reflect the available resources (so if you remove the external drive, its contents in the Library won’t show up until connected again). Further, Libraries are shared by default with your Homegroup, so your Music Library can be automatically available to PCs on the network for playing.

The closest thing Lion has to this is Smart Folders, but these operate off a search term not location and you can’t, for example, create a Smart Folder drawing from multiple locations.

8. Maximise actually maximises

Contrary to common sense, the maximise button in Mac OS X doesn’t maximise. Or it does. If it’s a full moon, and your offering is accepted by the Great Turtlnecked One. It depends on the application, with some programs maximising, some only partially (expanding only vertically for example) or something entirely different, like iTunes which switches to miniplayer view. Mac OS X calls this ‘intelligent’ zooming — but why is your OS second guessing you? After years of *cough* feedback, Apple finally changed this in Lion: but it now requires the user to hold the Option key and click. Why the extra step? Why not just do it properly? And why are apps like iTunes allowed to break with consistency? Oh, and lets not get started on the ‘X’ quit application button that doesn’t actually quit, simply closing the window and letting it run in the background, requiring the user to forcibly close a program down from the Dock, or use the Command-Q combination (again, extra steps getting in the way of the user — see above re: operating systems helping not hindering).

Wait, can it be? Maximise and close buttons actually do what you expect them to do? Only on Windows.

9. Price

To get Mac OS X, you need to buy a Mac, something Dan forgot to mention. Mac hardware costs considerably more than PC hardware, even from big name brands like Dell. When you add the cost of the operating system to the platform to run it, it’s much more costly to go Mac OS X, a problem further exacerbated for us in here in Australia thanks to Apple’s region-based price discrimination — Federal Labor MP Ed Husic has even raised this issue more than once in Parliament. Despite Apple recently dropping the price of Apps for the App Store in Australia, we still pay more for apps, music, and Apple hardware than other regions, discrepancies that can’t be explained by importing, taxes and distribution costs. If you’re an Apple fan, why are you supporting what is a blatant rip off for you and fellow Australians? As the saying goes, a company will charge what the market will bear — send a message to Apple that its products are overpriced here by not buying until the prices drop, and you won’t be fleeced.

10. Games

Yes, Mac OS X has had games in the past. One, perhaps two. And now that Valve has released Steam on Mac and helped port titles across, there’s a muc larger catalog to choose from (approximately 240, in point of fact, from Steam). But it’s got nothing on Windows. There’s over a decade of quality gaming heritage (since DirectX 1 in 1995) on Windows, and all new releases, big or small, come on Windows first and foremost. You’re lucky if any of them make it to a Mac port, and even if they do it takes time.

Sure, Macs are good for work but when it comes to playing, Windows is your best option. And between work and play, which would you rather do?

I can hear the cries of ‘Bootcamp!’, but this requires you purchase Windows in addition to your shiny expensive Mac with Mac OS X, and you’re still playing games on Windows — and if that’s the case, why not just buy a Windows PC in the first place and get everything a Mac does and more, with cash left over (thanks to Mac products being overpriced) to buy the games you want to play?

Oh, and for the record, that sign documents feature that Dan mentioned of Mac OS X by holding up a piece of paper with your signature on it to the webcam, is very cool.

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