On Apple, Leopard, and being broke

05Nov07

I hate it when I read blogs that claim that “Leopard is the best operating system ever,” or something to that effect. Not that I think that they’re wrong; my experience is that they’re probably right. But I don’t know — I don’t have a Mac anymore, and I probably won’t have another one for a long time.

That’s the real problem with Apple — it’s a rich man’s platform. I got an iBook about 3 years ago. Put it on a credit card and spent a long time paying it off. The week I paid it off it stopped working. Out of warranty, too. And no, I didn’t buy the AppleCare plan because I couldn’t stomach the idea of turning a $1200 laptop into a $1400 laptop. Of course, at the time that I bought my iBook, everyone I knew was going the Mac route. And everyone I knew had hardware problems. My friend’s PowerBook’s hard drive died. Then his screen went out. He spent almost a grand getting it fixed, finally buying an iMac. My brother’s hard drive died. And another friend’s logic board went out.

And even before I started to have my own hardware problems, I could tell that I wasn’t in the right tax bracket for Mac ownership. About a month after I got my iBook, which came with a PPC processor and Panther, Apple announced the new Intel MacBooks and MacBook Pros, and of course, the slick new Leopard. Within months Leopard-only and Intel-only applications and upgrades were starting to surface.

So when I bought my current laptop, I went for a Windows machine. It came with a decent hardware setup and Vista preinstalled. It cost roughly 1/3 as much as a comparable machine from Apple. Which is exactly why I bought it — after all, I’m on a grad student budget.

No, I don’t like Vista, especially compared to OS X, but I don’t really have any problems with it. It has some of the usual Windows flaws. Sometimes it doesn’t like to wake up and for some reason zipping and unzipping files is really slow (of course, last time I checked, OS X didn’t even come with a built-in file compression utility). Vista actually looks pretty slick compared to XP, although it still doesn’t have OS X-quality eye candy and user interface integration. In other words, it’s not “the best operating system ever written,” but it’s not bad. The one problem that I have with any piece of commercial software is online activation and authentication. But since my Vista install came from Gateway, I don’t have to worry about that, there was no activation and there is no authentication.

I think that computer fanatics (I’m one too) get too caught up in these little details and forget about the practical things. I can sacrifice a little bit of the latest coolness if, in return, I know that I can afford a brand-new laptop in 2 years thanks to the money I saved. And I don’t have to have the coolest operating system ever made, as long as I have one that isn’t terribly outmoded, is relatively secure, and does what I need it to do. So for anyone who looks at PC users as stupid, stop. A lot of us like OS X way better than Windows, we just have better things to spend the money on.

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